Portugal- where summer comes early. It seems as though us Californians cannot get enough sunâ€¦well itâ€™s true. This is (yet not the only) reason why I decided to visit Portugal for a 4-day weekend with nothing but sunshine and good vibes. With it being the middle of winter, the capital of Portugalâ€”Lisbon, was giving me nothing but 65 degree goodness. Portugal was an incredible experience, as I got to take my spanish speaking skills to a new level of understandingâ€” portuguese. Luckily, knowing how to speak a latin language can easily help you somewhat understand any other latin tongue (or at least pretend to). Castles, tall towers, and delicious flaky white pastries all won my heart over as I share how to experience Portugal to the fullest in just 4 days.
With its endless red bridge, steep hilly streets, and famous old trams, itâ€™s no doubt that San Francisco can come to mind; however, Lisbon being one of the oldest cities of the world, we can know which city inspired which.
Named after the Carnation Revolution, this bridge connects Lisbon to the city on the other side of the Tagus River, Almada. Both the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the 25 de Abril Bridge of Lisbon were built by the same American Bridge Company.
Screeching through the streets and dating back to the 1930s, these well preserved trams are a fun (yet not the most time efficient) choice of transportation when you’re feeling touristy in sunny Lisbon. Single tickets cost â‚¬2.85 and can be purchased from the driver.
Liberate in the streets of Lisbon
Lisbon being one of the oldest cities of western Europe, it has many colorful gems that canâ€™t be missed. From white homes with red roof tops; rectangular tiles on every wall; and delicious red liqueur from old ladiesâ€™ windowsâ€¦ it can be hard not to fall for this vibrant city.
With Lisbon’s hilly streets, it’s easy to get a beautiful view of Lisbon and the Atlantic Ocean. Fun Fact: Portugal is the only european country to touch both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Portugal, being in the Iberian Peninsula, has much islamic-inspired architecture like the colorful tiles on the walls.
With summer coming early to Portugal, the sun as no mercy most year round. In order for the homes to keep cool, tile was cemented outside the walls to reflect the sun’s rays, keeping the heat out and the coolness in.
As you begin roaming the streets of Lisbon, you’ll encounter some things you never thought you would have, like an old lady selling illegal (because taxes aren’t paid) alcohol.
Made from scratch, DoÃ±a TiniÃ±a makes a living from selling cherry liqueur, famously known in Portugal as “ginja.” For just 1 euro a cup you can try this home made recipe tourists and locals go crazy for.
Taste the Culture
If the country is on a coastal landscape, what could be the most popular type of food? Yes, seafood! If you love seafood like me, youâ€™ll love Portugal. With fresh lobster, fish, and shrimp from the waters, itâ€™s hard to miss a restaurant that doesnâ€™t sell this delight! Don’t want seafood but want an entrÃ©e? Have some tapas!
As inexpensive as 5 euros, you can eat a deliciously home recipe of fresh cod fish, or any other meat or veggie dish of your desire.
Lisbon is a beautiful city o visit, but it’s far from being Portugal’s only beloved city. After spending 2 days roaming Lisbon, and turning every rock in every corner, it is by far recommended to take a day trip to the next gem…Sintra.
If your jaw dropped with the colorful tiles, open view, and delicious tastings, just wait until you see Sintra, Portugal’s hidden town inside an emerald-green forest. Just a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon, Sintra is one of the most beautiful and natural places of southern Portugal. From palaces to castles to wells underground; from waterfalls to gardens to secret hike trails, Sintraâ€™s Natural Park is one of UNESCOâ€™s treasured heritage sights. From 9h30 opening hour to around 17h30 closing hour, it’s impossible to cover all grounds of Sintra. However, the top 3 I recommend based on jaw-dropping gorgeous sights are: Quinta de Regaleira, Pena Palace, and Monserrat Palace, in order of preference.
See Quinta da Regaleira
With about a two hour estimate to visit this estate, Quinta da Regaleira has a mixture of gothic and renaissance architectural features that are hard to miss.
The first thing you spot when walking into this estates this magnificent, fairytale-looking castle that is absolutely jaw-dropping. This castle still stands 5 centuries later.
Visit Pena Palace
Take a bus up to the next destination, which is Pena Palace, a beautiful islamic-style palace full of colorful architecture.
This beautiful palace dates back to 1836, dating back to the medieval ages where this castle was but to our Lady of Pena.
According to Portugal’s tradition, this palace’s construction began after an apparition of St. Mary.
If you’re tired from all those stairs going up, enjoy the beautiful view this vivid palace offers from the top of the hill… an unforgettable one I assure.
Visit Monserrat Palace
If your feet are still attached to your body after all the walking, hiking, and going up the stairs, Monserrat Palace is the last estate your feet should visit. Enjoy the islamic arcs, beautiful and regional gardens from the borders of South Africa to the cultivating Mexican ones.
This palace was built by an english man by the name of James Knowles for the Portuguese court in 1858.
Beautiful from outside, it’s even more stunning on the inside. This palace appeared briefly on the 1996 series, Gulliver’s Travels.
Every palace has its hidden treasures, and most of them seem to be located in their backyards. Monserrat’s palace has its gardens separated in sections. From african, to latin american, the gardens filled with exotic plants and waterfalls is a must visit.
If your feet made it through those stunning 3 estates, I’m sure they can handle a walk to the original place where “quejaidas,” the traditional Sintra pastry. Right before returning back to Lisbon, just outside the Sintra station there lies “Sapa,” the home of quejaidas since 1753.
On the left, for just 60 cents you can enjoy a queijada, a cheesecake-like pastry. On the Right their lies the travesseiros pastry, and almond flavor, flaky pastry served warm. There is no describing, just devouring it.
After day 3 of long walks, it’s understandable to want the last day to be spent a bit more…relaxed, which is why on the last day of the Portugal 4-day excursion, visit the outskirts of Lisbon, a section known as Belem.
Last Stop- BelÃ©m
Derived from the Portuguese word “Bethlehem,” Belem is located in the southwestern part of Lisbon. Here in Belem lies a beautiful tower, monestary, royal carriages, and of course… more pastries! With a relaxed day, Belem is the perfect last stop to see on the sunny side of Lisbon.
Dedicated to Santa Maria de BelÃ©m, this monestery is one of the most prominent buildings of Portuguese gothic style architecture.
Visit the museum of early monarch’s form of transportation. Filled with carriages dating back to the 16th century, this Carriage museum has carriages from all over the world.
All of Lisbon you will find delicious pastries by the name of “pasteis de nata,” however, these pastries originated here, in Belem. Because this pastry’s name is pattened, no one else is able to call them so, which is why everywhere else they are known as Pasteis de Nata.
Dozens of people gather outside this bakery, and this is the reason why! These original pastries have a flan-like taste with flaky texture on the outside. If you visit Lisbon, you cannot leave without a pastei!
Whether looking for some sunshine, some delicious sweets, or beautiful landmarks, traveling is something I will always desire. Portugal was by far a magical place to visit in just 4 days, making it one of the most unforgettable trips I’ve had.