Ah lovely Lisboa by the sea…a picturesque memory I will hold in my mind forever…
Considering a trip to Portugal? If not, you should. I took a mini-break (also known as a mini vacation to US folks) to Portugal a few years ago, and I still remember it as one of my favorite European trips. Why you may ask? Well Europe has a lot to offer in general, but this was an unexpected treat, and a country which I remember as the “California of Europe”. I visited in November, when it was cold in most of Western Europe, and picked Portugal because it was the furthest south I could go. It was a random trip turned wonderful, on the seafront and beyond.
Check out my itinerary for your mini-break to Portugal.
- Day 1 -2: arrive and explore Lisbon
- Day 3: drive to Oporto and enjoy some Port wine
- Day 4: Explore Oporto and drive to Sintra
- Day 5: leave Lisbon
Day 1 – 2: arrive in Lisbon in the evening, grab dinner and walk around the city at night. Spend the next day exploring the city on a walking tour. We did a Lisboa Walker tour of the Old Town (Alfama) and Downtown areas, to get a sense of the city. Note: If you are walking around Lisbon, be sure to bring comfy shoes as the streets are covered in limestone, and may cause treacherous walking in heels. Also, if you are into sweet day drinks, try the Ginja, which is a cherry brandy loved by all the locals.
Next we headed out on our own to check out the Castello de Sao Jorge, on the hilltop above the city. And explored the waterfront area, rich with beautiful museums, cathedrals, and history.
Lisbon’s history is rich in sea-faring travel, so it’s apt that they salute one of their best Navigators, Henry (monument pictured above). After a busy day exploring and eating through the city, we ended up in the Barrio Alto for dinner and drinks. This is my favorite part of Lisbon, as it is super lively, boasts great food, and attracts locals and tourists alike. Imagine a Friday night here, where people pour into the streets with drinks and music, grab a Capirhinia and chill out in the crowds.
Day 3: The next day, we headed north bright and early, to make the drive to Oporto (about 4 hours away from Lisbon), which is the city of Port Wine on the Douro River. You can cruise the river and visit wine stores, or you can explore the city like we did. We hit up some wineries, first and foremost, to taste delicious Port. I admit, until this trip I never tried or liked the idea of Port, but after it I was sold. We visited Taylors, Croft and Sandman, and picked up some Port wine learning and bottles along the way.
Compared to Lisboa, Oporto is a crazy and packed city, situated around the river on two hills. Its breathtaking and amazing to visit, but best done by foot except if you are visiting the wineries. After our wine, we headed for a mediterranean-style dinner of branzino and more wine (Vinho Verde this time – which is a “green” wine from Portugal).
The next day we explored Oporto in the morning, before heading back south towards Lisbon. I made sure to grab some roasted chestnuts, which you can find all over the country, for the road trip back.
Day 4: We made it to Sintra (just south of Lisbon) in time to explore the lovely and magnificent Quinta da Regaleira, a palace/garden/grotto which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the most beautiful enchanted palace/garden you will see in a while, and was a blast to explore. It came complete with views of the Castello at Sintra.
After another tiring day, and a short drive to Lisboa, we munched on a dinner of seafood risotto and grilled vegetables in the Barrio Alto, and packed in for the end of the mini break.
Day 5: sadly leaving Lisboa was our activity on this last day of the mini-break. While there was so much more to see, I am confident I will make it back and get to visit the Algarve (the ritzy southern coast), or try out some Pousadas (old palaces which you can visit and stay in all over Portugal). I also recommend trying the Solar de Lisboa – an institute celebrating the wine of Portugal, where you can taste wine and relax in the busy city.
Hope this gives you some inspiration to visit Portugal on your next European mini-break, it’s a Haute Travel must do!