I first visited Portugal 7 years ago when I was pregnant with Luna. If you can even call it “visiting”- we were on a 2wk European cruise with the whole Teo clan about 33 of us! TBH I didn’t love Lisbon but then again, how much could you really see in 8hrs??? - that’s cruise life.
This time around I chose Portugal as our summer vacation’s starting point because it’s an easy flight- direct from Miami and only 8hrs! After researching different cities in Portugal I realized, this is a country I judged way too early.
Lisbon is a hopping touristic city, full of bright streets paved with cobble stones and beautiful street art in every corner. The views everywhere are spectacular as it’s surrounded by water. The locals are super nice and would rather speak in English than Spanish- not sure why but you get a little attitude if you speak in Spanish?!? It’s easy to get around either walking, cable cars, tuktuks (super fun but bargain they can be pricey) or uber (super cheap like 2-3e and easy). We stayed in an area called Madalena, which is a great area-walking distance to everything, including the famous Arco da Rua Augusta, the bustling streets of Rua du Madalena (super touristic stores and restos) and walking distance to other sites. Another area I really liked and more upscale is Avenida du Libertad, which houses the upscale shops, some restos and cute cafes.
The first days I tried to resist the tuk-tuks knowing they’d be totally expensive tourist traps. Ubers in the area are actually really cheap and all new clean cars unlike other places. At some point while visiting the LX factory - a super cool renovated area which was an old factory now made into multi-restaurants and stores - a tuk-tuk driver offered me 2hrs for 40e - I could’ve haggled but I know he was hard working by his appearance (he had a white collard shirt with tiny holes) so I didn’t mind paying him. Anyway, this was such a fun experience. He knew all the cool spots (including the bougainvillea spot Bar Terraco de Santa Lucía)-and other local areas. He took us to the best look out points and cutest most picturesque places. He was such a nice guy & great with the girls that I regret not taking a pic with him to add to the memories of photos. The girls had so much fun cracking up but at some points I thought we’d be pushing his tuk-tuk to help it climb the ups and downs of the steep streets of Lisbon. So definitely take a tuk tuk at least once during your stay.
Another outing you should consider is a day or two trip to Sintra. It’s about 30-45 min from lisbon but tends to get super packed especially on the weekends so plan accordingly. It’s one of the most picturesque towns I’ve been to with gorgeous antique houses and lush greenery everywhere. Their main attraction is the castle which you have to stand in line for (prebuy tickets online and the bus pass unless you want to walk uphill 5-10min). We went on a Wednesday and there was still a long line but it moved quick. They don’t allow photos inside the castle but it’s cool to see how they lived in the past and the beautiful architecture. It’s not huge and not overwhelming and my girls enjoyed it and weren’t bored at all. They have plenty of snacks and food there but make sure you eat in the town of Sintra...again súper touristic but super cute! There’s lots of cobble stone streets with cafes, bars and small local shops. I think if I did it again I would stay in Sintra at least one day to really explore all of it. The surrounding houses are amazing!! Apparently really expensive but some of the prettiest houses I’ve seen!
On to Porto - I pre-bought train tickets- first class is more comfortable and not much more - you have to load your luggage yourself which is a pain especially traveling with 3 large heavy luggage’s 😂 . The trip from lisbon is 2.5 hrs and easy, we slept almost the whole way, it’s not super smooth and those prone to motion sickness beware.
Porto’s main attraction is the Douro River. It has lots of locals selling their artistry and lots of restaurants (some of which are total tourist traps) lined up and down both sides (Port and Duoro side). The old city or main center (Port side) has lots of beautiful streets each with pretty houses and tiled walls. Every turn has a street worth photographing. I found amazing empanadas from Argentina at “el Argento”, a small shop who’s enticing food literally called us in from the streets. There’s lots of beautiful churches, parks and small stores - a little gem called Downtown by Mr Joias, has lots of cute clothes and jewelry. Another nice area is Galleria’s with lots of stores and cafes. Nearby is Livraria Lello ranked one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and it’s only 100 yrs old 😳! It’s also been said that it’s the inspiration to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. It’s quite the scene and a bit of a mission. You have to buy a 5e pass per person, two stores down (all kids under 4yrs pay-trust me I tried to say Luna was 4 hehehee) you must put bags and backpacks in a locker for 1e, then stand in cue to get in. Once you’re in it’s quite impressive even though there’s a mosh pit of people there. The design and woodwork are simply spectacular. The tickets I bought for 20e don’t go to waste- each one goes towards one book... they’re smart and are clearly selling lots of books. Right next door is the perfect flower gelato, Amorino Gelato, which Soleil says is Ahhmmmmazing!
Another beautiful place to lunch and maybe even take a dip in their pool is at the Yeatmen hotel. It has the most amazing views of the river and city and it’s away from all the tourists. There’s three restaurants there, we ate at Orangerie which was pricey but delicious. They have two pools - the outdoor is reserved for guests and the indoor by the spa. Technically you’re supposed to reserve and pay 50e per person to swim.
One of Europe’s top 10 beaches is located in Porto, Praia Miramar, a locals mostly beach. There’s a small church on the actual beach. If you know me you know I have an obsession with churches and on the beach, that just makes for perfection. The backdrop is a photographers dream. There were maybe 6 wedding/ engagement shoots the night we were there. It was such a perfect day, my girls raced in the sand, found treasures, had competitions and just had such a blast. Watching them play made me realize how amazing childhood is. We also visited another great beach for kids and adults where a lot of the affluent locals live, Foz do Duoro, Praia do Homem do Leme. This beach has a cute castle playground and a beach bar right next to it. Perfect to get drinks & food while the kids play. The surrounding area has so many cute clothing stores a must if you like shopping or a must even if you don’t, its a great area away from the tourism.
The food in Portugal for the most part was great. We only hit one tourist trap, otherwise everything was fresh and really delicious. Their traditional food includes bacalao which I did not taste, but apparently there’s 365 ways of making it- one for every day of the year hahhaa.
In Porto, on the river try Cafe do Cais, Porto Cruz winery/restaurant and their rooftop cafe. Next door is their ice cream shop which Luna and I beyond loved. Luna loved it for their ice cream and I loved it for their 2.5e deliciously flavored white port! At the very tip by the bridge on the Port side, there’s a little restaurant which is worth a visit for a picture, a drink and maybe quick bite (breakfast) . The view is spectacular and the Late delish ( I asked for a tea and he understood Late - but it turned out to be a good mistake even though I don’t drink coffee). Towards Foz do Duoro check out Bocca or Fuga.
We also visited Aveiro which is about 45min from Porto and is said to be the Venice of Portugal, on a much much much smaller scale. It’s small and they have gondolas, cute houses some cute stores but unless you go to the beaches I don’t think it’s worth the journey. Pics included below. The beaches nearby are soft sand and very pretty.
Portugal was a beautiful experience a great spot for families to visit!