The next stop on this world-wind tour is Lisbon, Portugal. I was super excited to come here because it was another I had never been to before, but also because this was starting point for the actual group vacation.
Over the past couple of years, tourism in Portugal has sky-rocketed. All of the bloggers and influencers are traveling there, telling you the best places to eat, where to take photos, and best cocktails to try. Now, here I am doing the exact same thing. So, here ya go!
I can’t quite tell you when my desire to visit Portugal grew. I think I saw photos of the beautiful color houses in Porto, somewhere in magazine, perhaps and I made a mental note. All I heard was how good the seafood is and how beautiful the town is.
I originally had our group slated to go to Porto based on the reasons above. But I kept hearing how great Lisbon was too. I knew that we didn’t have enough time to really do both cities, so I needed to choose. I spent hours and hours reading other people’s blogs and magazine articles trying to decide which city would be best for our group.
Porto is a much smaller city, more quiet, but is also the home of Port wine which sits on the Duoro Valley region. They had some nice beaches, a very cool library which is where J.K. Rowling started crafting her idea of Harry Potter (FYI) and so many other cool things to do.
Lisbon, on the other hand, is much more lively, with a rich and developing culinary scenes, awesome bars, and much more metropolitan. A city I knew my group of friends would love and appreciate.
When I started to look at flights from Porto to our next destination, I realized that they really didn’t have many great options and it was slightly more expensive. So, there you have it. I chose Lisbon because of the flights and because amount of things to do in the city.
The group that was in Barcelona took a quick flight to Lisbon via Tap Portugal-a budget airline through Portugal. The flight is about and hour and half long. Flight itself was about 60 USD.
Intercontinental Lisboa– Lisbon has a ton of hotels to choose from. Ranging from boutique properties to brand name hotels, like Marriott or IHG. Choosing a hotel for my friends and me is always difficult. Some of the key factors are the room types, views, amenities, service and if I have status at that hotel. It all matters to me. If I am giving you my money, I want to be sure that I am going to be satisfied with my selection. There is nothing that I hate more is a terrible hotel. It can totally ruin your experience.
I have Platinum elite status with IHG, meaning I get complimentary room upgrades. This was important to me because with having people share rooms, I want to make sure that I can get them the largest room to make sure everyone is comfortable.
The rooms at the Intercontinental were stunning! The hotel recently went through a massive renovation. All the hard goods (furniture, flooring, bathrooms) and soft goods (bedding, curtains, lamp shades, etc). I love seeing the accent pieces upgraded as well. The shower had a push button to turn on the water instead of the using the nobs. The bathroom also had a bidet, floor lighting so that you can see where you’re going at night. Little details change your entire experience.
While there are a lot of good things to say about this hotel, I do have some cons. First off, it doesn’t have a pool. I didn’t think it would bother me not to have one, but the weather was so nice outside, it would have been more enjoyable to be in a pool. Next, the hotel bar doesn’t open until 5:00 PM. Not to say my friends and I are alcoholics, but it would have been nice to have a drink during lunch time while we waited for everyone to arrive. Lastly, their restaurants operate at unusual hours. Their main restaurant is only open for dinner. You have to go upstairs to another room to have breakfast and it’s only buffet style. And nothing was open for lunch. You had to order snacks from either room service or from the lobby area. Again, not the biggest deal, but not having access to things when you want them can sometimes ruin the experience.
Eat & Drink
- Time Out Market Lisboa– This was the very first Time Out Market to open! It’s a place where collective chefs can showcase their restaurant to a wide mass of people. There are over 25 restaurants and eight bars for you to choose from. You can make it a leisurely outing, or stop by to grab a quick bite during your lunch break. Cost: $
- Prado– A very modern restaurant with tons of bold flavors. There is a heavy influence of seafood on the menu. A lot of the items I didn’t know, but ask your server! They are extremely and go above and beyond to make sure you have an excellent experience. We ordered the bread and butters, tuna tartar, fried chicken thigh and crispy rice, and the octopus. Cost: $$$
- Infame– Our group stumbled upon this place when we couldn’t get into the restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro. It had a three-hour waitlist. This was a short jont across the street. The food has a Mediterranean feel with some Portuguese on the side. The food was good, but I wouldn’t run back. We ordered the “Kung Fu Ragu”, “Keep Calm and Carre On” and the “Aussie”. Cost: $$
- Paco Real- A quick casual place to dine while exploring Sintra. Order the octopus risotto and the sangria! Cost: $
- Pavilhao Chines- A traditional Portuguese bar with tons a fun knick-knacks on the wall. Very fun cocktails!
- Lux Fragil– If you are in need of a night out, check out this club. The music is an ode to the Disco area. A side note: The club doesn’t get going until about 1am – 2am. Yes, you read right. Arrive early to avoid the insanely long lines and outrageous cover charge (guys- 300 euros per person)
- Forno d’Oro– I absolutely loved this restaurant. I didn’t find it through a magazine or online. Our group was looking for a last minute place to grab dinner. Somewhere close to the hotel. We found this restaurant which was only a five-minute walk from the hotel. This cute Italian joint had fantastic food and awesome service. My friends and I can be extremely loud during dinner, especially if we’re drinking. I didn’t even need to ask-they put us in a private section of the restaurant. Not a private dining room. But basically half the restaurant! The food was fresh and flavorful. They also had a great wine selection that paired perfectly with all the pastas. It was such a hidden gem! I ordered the Risotto ai Funghi Porcini. Cost: $$
Food & Wine Walking Tour-I typically don’t do walking tours when I’m on vacation but I think they’re boring. I don’t have the patience to walk at a slow pace while we look at a wall and you tell me a story about where the crack in the wall came from. But I food and obviously alcohol are some of my favorite things to learn about. So, I thought let’s give it a try. And I have to say that I fell in love with this tour. Our tour guide was perfect-very knowledgeable.
We first went to A Ginjinha (once visited by Anthony Bourdain on the show “No Reservations”) to taste their local liquor “Ginja” made out of sweet cherries. Why this particular shop stands out is because it has the highest proof of alcohol, 23%. The only store in the city that serves a high proof. Afterwards, we stopped at the small hole in the wall and tried a “bifana”. Lord, let me tell you, this was so tasty. It’s made out of slow cooked pork marinating in delicious sauce. The bread was so soft and folded right into your mouth. The next stop was small bar where we learned about “green wine” and sampled their croquettes. You’ll see all kinds of variations of croquettes, but the traditional kind is made out of codfish.
Arrabida 4 x 4 Tour– We booked this tour through Kart Arrabida. It includes a eight-hour tour outside of Lisbon. You get to ride 4 x 4 for about two hours You make a handful of stops along the way to capture some group photos. Side note: do not ride close to the driver in front of you. You will get dusty. Also…don’t wear white. After the 4 x 4, you stop for lunch and then go to a wine tasting.
Cristo Rei Statue- Inspired by the infamous Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro. You can go all the way up to the top for spectacular views of the city.
Day Trip to Sintra– Sintra is a small town about 30 minutes outside of the Lisbon. Home to a royal sanctuary with many enchanting castles and palaces. I’m sure many of you have seen the many photos of the color Pena Palace. You can take a cheap train ride from Lisbon into town or you can take an Uber, which was about 20 euros. Make sure to first visit Sintra National Palace where you can get tickets to access all of the villas at one time, versus waiting in line at each location. Make sure to get their right when the park opens. Fun tip- you can take a local bus in town which will make stops at all the venues. The bus runs pretty frequently and is and is about three euros per person. I highly recommend spending your day in Sintra, as there tons of cute little shops filled with tile, plenty of places to eat and drink while catching the sites.
Day Trip to Berlengas– Take a day trip out to Berlengas Island where you go hiking, snorkeling, dolphin watching and visit some caves.
Futbol Game– By luck, there was futbol game going on while we were in town. A bunch of the guys are futbol fans, so they were pumped to see a game. The ever-hunky Cristiano Ronaldo is from Lisbon, Portugal and a hometown favorite. Currently, he plays for Aventis, so the guys didn’t get to see him. But I’m pretty sure they had the best time ever.
Half-Day Fishing Tour– After I missed the opportunity to go fishing last year and after not catching a single fish in Alaska, going on a fishing excursion was non-negotiable. One of things I knew I wanted to do was having the ability to go fishing and then eating whatever I caught on the boat. This tour allowed me to do it. I picked the 4-hour tour- I figured that would be enough time on the water, plus it allowed my friends and I an opportunity to do something else afterwards. When we got on board the captain had some snacks prepared for us, which was perfect because we were all deathly hungover and were on about two hours of sleep. We jetted off onto the river and found our spot, casted our lines and waited patiently. We were a little worried because it has been sunny for the past couple of days, and our chances of catching a fish when the water was slightly warmer would have put us at a disadvantage. But it was overcast and slightly chilly. Not sure if that was really a win for us, but we listened to some music and had some beers and about an hour in, Brittany caught the first fish. It was too small to do anything, so we let it go. Shannon caught the next fish within minutes. We took it off the line and got it ready to cook. What I liked was the tour was kind of based on we only get to eat if we catch anything. Mind you, we’re all starving, so it added a level of competitiveness. The captain did have some back up food, should we not catch anything-so he threw some chicken and pork on the grill and we got to snack some more.
After about another hour, I caught the next fish! I did! ME! Even though he wasn’t that large of a fish, he tasted like a million dollars! Overall, it was a fun time, I would may be see if there’s another tour you can go on where you can go out onto the Atlantic Ocean and catch the real fish.
Tram 28– I heard about this tram while doing some research on the city. Then I saw a bunch of influencers posting pictures and like every basic girl, I naturally needed to ride this tram and take photos as well. Outside of the tram being Instagrammable, the train does take you through several different neighborhoods in Lisbon.
One in particular that caught my interest was Alfama- I saw the most beautiful, bright, purple colored trees with the sea in the background. Tons of people were sitting outside at restaurants or either just leisurely walking. I desperately wanted to explore but didn’t have enough time. The Tram is super popular, so either get there first thing in the morning or right in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll be waiting in line for over an hour. The tram is very small and compact, so try not to bring a bunch of bags with you as you won’t have much room. But I recommend that you ride this tram first thing on your vacation. See the sites of the city that sometimes walking can’t take you.
Additional Things to Do
- Visit the Belem Tower
- Try Ginjha and bifanas
- Take a day trip to Porto
- Visit wineries
- Visit the National Tile Museum
- Visit Jeronimos Monestry
- Eat at Cervejaria Ramiro- visited by Anthony Bourdain. A seafood lover’s heaven!
- For more bars, visit Red Frog, Gin Lovers and Mini Bar
- Visit the Algarve beach
- Don’t ever be in a rush when you go out to eat. Service is very, very slow. It is difficult sometimes to get their attention. But that is how most of Europe is. But just a heads up.
I know this was a long ready, but I hope you all enjoyed! As I mentioned earlier, there are tons of things to do while you are in Lisbon. You may need a second trip to knock everything off your list. If you have any questions, don’t forget to comment below. Until next time…Xoxo!