Jaillan Yehia

5 Places You Need To Visit In Portugal

Written by Jaillan Yehia

Post Categories: Continents | Europe | Opinion | Portugal | Savoir Escape
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Portugal

I’ve been visiting Portugal for decades – from my first ever post-uni package holiday by the beach to a tour of upmarket boutique hotels in the countryside – and the destination has done nothing but grow on me over the years.

After 5 separate visits to the Iberian Peninsula’s West coast nation it’s safe to say I’ve fallen in love with the slow-paced rhythms and holiday vibe of its coastal resorts, I adore the sleepy rural idyll of the country’s interior and always relish the buzz of its picturesque cities.

These are the top 5 places I think you should seek out in Portugal  –  all of which I’m personally longing to revisit…

My Top 5 Places to Visit In Portugal

1 Lisbon

Sunset views of Lisbon from one of the many miradouros

Sunset views of Lisbon from one of the city’s miradouros

I will admit that the first time I visited Lisbon I had some qualms about it – the city is absolutely breathtaking by any measure, and packed with culture, incredible viewpoints (known as miradouros) and upbeat nightlife, but somehow a combination of bad weather, too many run down neighbourhoods and a lack of food options conspired to leave me a little disappointed.

But fast forward a few years and I gave the city another chance, which turned out to be a brilliant idea: by now the culinary scene had exploded, the city had been cleaned up, and (sensitive) regeneration was to be found around every corner, along with the jaw-dropping views with which the city is synonymous, meaning Lisbon makes the perfect European city getaway.

Why I loved it (and think you will too):

If you’re a dessert queen like me, there’s a lot to love about Portugal in general; the Portuguese really have a soft spot for sweets but the legendary Portuguese pastry Pasteis de Nata at Lisbon’s Belem bakery are a reason to get on a plane all by themselves.

Belem

Pasteis de Nata

Apart from that there are characterful shops and flea markets to browse, quaint yellow trams to board, and of course oodles of cobbled street wandering to be done, snapping photos of Lovely Lisbon along the way – making this my kind of holiday.

2 Sintra

sintra

Sintra’s Pena National Palace, snapped from the hills

Usually visited as a day, overnight or even weekend getaway from Lisbon, as it’s just a 40 minute train ride away from the Portuguese capital, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that arriving in Sintra is like stepping into a fairytale.

A Unesco World Heritage site which is most famous for its incredible architecture and historic connection to Lord Byron, it makes the perfect forested antidote to urban Lisbon and a lovely place to unwind and enjoy some Portuguese specialities such as Ginjinha – a sour cherry liqueur, often served in an edible chocolate cup.

Why I loved it (and think you will too):

Sintra has been delighting visitors for years – myself included. It’s not often that I would take the same excursion from a city twice but on both visits to Lisbon I made sure I popped over to Sintra; the views and atmosphere are incredibly memorable.

Sintra

Sintra in the sun

The only downside is its (deserved) popularity, making it prone to being packed. So my advice from experience, is to hire your own set of wheels so you can visit outside peak hours (and ideally outside peak season) – meaning you can really slow down and enjoy the place at your own pace.

3 The Algarve

Portugal has perfect beaches

Portugal has perfect beaches

The Algarve is right up there in British affections as the perfect Portuguese holiday location – in fact last year the region topped a poll of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations, largely due to the enduring popularity and number of options when it comes to Algarve villa holidays as well as the region’s famous golf courses, and of course the ease of accessibility from UK airports.

One of the things that’s most appealing about this family-friendly stretch of the Portuguese South coast is that it caters to every type of holidaymaker – if you’d like a quiet week with your family in the hills surrounded by nature, that’s certainly an option, but if you want a bit more buzz, need a nightlife injection, or are into All Inclusives, the resorts have these in bucketloads too.

Why I loved it (and think you will too):

The Algarve was one of my first ever solo holidays, and I will always treasure the sense of freedom I felt when, after snapping up a last-minute low cost week in the Mediterranean sun, I realised that I could go anywhere the wind blew me along Portugal’s South coast from my base at a holiday apartment in The Algarve.

Can I live here long term please?

Can I live here long term please?

I proceeded to explore beaches and marinas, and was completely tantalised by the possibilities of not traveling with someone else – an attitude that hasn’t changed much!

4 Porto

View from The Yeatman Hotel Porto

Porto seen through a glass of Port

Porto is Lisbon’s little sister, slightly more rough and tumble and a bit later to the tourism party, but that’s probably because it was busying itself with all that Port making and local wine producing so had quite enough of a part on its hands anyway.

The city has a charming river, which gets greener and cleaner the farther out o the city you venture, a modern buzz and an attitude to architecture that calls to mind lego and jenga all at the same time.

Why I loved it (and think you will too):

I have a tendency to love a second city, an underdog. I like Sao Paolo more than Rio, Aarhus more than Copenhagen, Stavanger more than Oslo  – you get the picture.

Porto

Porto by night

I loved Lisbon, but there’s something even more exciting about Porto – and the youthful atmosphere and spill-onto-the-streets nightlife doesn’t hurt either.

5 The Alentejo

Almendres megalithic site

Almendres megalithic site, Alentejo

Any traveller likes to uncover an unsung hero, a secret destination, and get that feeling of discovering somewhere truly special. The Alentejo region of Portugal, is all of this and more.

The area isn’t what you’d call popular with tourists, but a smattering of them find their way here every year, and the rewards are pretty special. There’s cork farms, sleepy villages, whitewashed churches and rocky coastlines, and authenticity is the name of the game. The Alentejo is also a photographer’s dream.

Why I loved it (and think you will too):

Whether it’s a city break or a beach holiday that is on your wish list, Portugal has you covered, but The Alentejo is definitely for those seeking an off the beaten path destination that you’ll be raving about at dinner parties for years to come.

The hardest decision here is Super Bock or Sagres

The hardest decision here is Super Bock or Sagres


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