This last June, I had the pleasure of taking a road trip with some special ladies I met while teaching in Sevilla, Spain. Today I am gathering our top photos and recommendations so you too can grab some friends and hit the road.
This past year I met Shea and Emily at our weekly writing group which Shea started back in October. We would meet every Sunday at 3pm with a few other girls and do an hour and a half of writing. Our shared love for travel and all things adventurous inspired the idea, “Why not take a roadtrip to Portugal?” Don’t have to ask us twice, we’re there.
First I have to give a big THANK YOU to Shea and Emily. They were the brains behind the trip and we couldn’t have made it without them. They figured out everything from the car rental to accommodations. They also had the brilliant idea of starting a google Dropbox to keep everyone updated on prices and destinations. Great to use if you are planning on traveling with a large group. Our friends Bill and Ryan also came along for the ride.
We started our trip in Sevilla, Spain where we rented a car at the SVQ airport. From Sevilla we drove to Porto, Portugal (6 hour drive with a lunch stop in Badajoz, Spain). We stayed in Porto for two days. Then from Porto we drove to Lisbon (3 hours) and stayed for two days. The last stretched was to Portimao (3 hours) where we stayed for three days enjoying the beach. At the end of our trip we made our way back to Sevilla which was another short, 3 hour drive. Since Shea had the rental under her name she felt most comfortable driving the car. Probably for the best since none of us had driven in a year!
Porto, in my opinion, was the best city we saw during our road trip. It had everything from coastal viewpoints to a lively city center. To me the center felt like it had kind of “Scandi chic” vibe. A phrase coined by a Swedish friend when describing modern day Scandinavian street fashion. Most of the buildings had this grey “Scandi Chic” vibe as well but they were also adorned with unique colorful tiling, a trademark of Porto. Another pleasant surprise was the eye catching street-art we came across. Porto has a street-art scene that would make any aspiring illustrator feel they’ve reached a place of pilgrimage ( myself included ).
Sleep, Eats, Sights.
In Porto we stayed two nights at the Oporto Sky Hostel. Great central location, free (but limited) parking in the back and helpful and friendly staff. They offered complimentary breakfast but did not have Gluten-Free options for Celiac or Gluten intolerant guests. (Side note: I always advise my fellow Celiac friends to pack some Gluten-Free food before traveling. You never know what to expect in another country’s grocery store and options can be limited.)
As for dinning we mostly stuck to making our own meals at home (pro tip) but did come across some lovely cafes during our coffee breaks. One in particular was called, Ponto Dois. Great cafe that serves quality food and also supports the local illustrators by exhibiting their work for free. Located Northwest of the city across from “Casa de Musica”.
As for sights, walking all over Porto was like walking through a museum. But for all my Harry Potter Fan’s out there, Porto is where the famous “Harry Potter Library” is located. Entrance is 4€ and you can use that money towards any book purchase.
Lisbon is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Portugal. It is the country’s capital and the most popular area to visit. The city reminded me a bit of San Francisco with it’s steep hills and yellow trams making their way up and down the city. Lisbon also had a great street/Urban art scene similar to Porto. In Lisbon you can get a shot of the classic orange tiled white buildings, facing the pacific coast. (As pictured in the first photo)
Sleep, Eats, Sights
In Lisbon we stayed at the Lisbon Chillout hostel. There was no onsite parking at this hostel so we had to leave our car at a parking garage down the road. Location was a bit far from the center but the hostel was fun and full of travelers passing through. There was a big garden and indoor community space for people to hang out, Staff was nice and helpful. They had a great complimentary breakfast with good coffee and gluten free options.
We bounced around a few cafes in Lisbon and even tried out the infamous Pop Cereal Bar. Cereal is literally the only thing on the menu. They have toppings as well like whipped cream and m&ms. You can choose up to three cereals to mix in a bowl (plus toppings) or choose from their pre-made menu.
As for sights, I’d recommend walking up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte park to see the orange tiled rooftops stretch out to the pacific ocean. This is the money shot seen in most Lisbon travel guide brochures. Also, if you have the time and transportation, try and make your way out to Belem. We did not have the time and I wish we did! This little village is known for it’s beach tower and sweet pastries called, Pasteis de Nata or Pasteis de Belem. You can find these pastries all over Portugal but apparently the best ones come from Belem.
The BEACH! We finally made it. We had been itching to get to the coast all spring so the minute we arrived to the south of Portugal we were ready to hit the beach
Love this picture that Ryan snapped of us on the balcony. A very real photo of us trying to budget the last of our money in Portimao. “Tallying travel costs on an eight floor balcony. No one jumped!” -Ryan
Sleep, Eats. Sights.
Since we were spending most of our nights in Portimao, we decided to rent an Air bnb for the last stretch of our trip. We stayed three nights at a beach apartment between Portimao and Lagos. Having the car made it easy to drive from beach to beach. I would say that Lago’s was my favorite spot. There you will see natural, arched rock formations contrasting with the blue pacific ocean.
As for eats, Portimao hands down has the best food. We splurged a little bit more in Portimao and went out to eat most evenings. Two restaurants hit the top of our list, Churrasqueria Mercado de Alvor and Ol’ Bastard’s Fish and Chips. Churrasqueria Mercado is well known for serving the popular Portuguese dish, Piri Piri chicken. If you are a fan of spice, look no further. The best spicy dish I’ve had since leaving Texas! They also offer fish and Salad. All items are gluten free.
Old Bastard’s was a restaurant we stumbled upon on our last day in Portimao. We had just finished a day at the beach and wanted to find a place that served seafood. We took a walk into the center and came across Old Bastard’s ( their modern black and white signs really stick out ). I was pleasantly surprised that they offered Gluten-Free Fish and Chips. They are the first restaurant I’ve come across that makes such a dish.
As for sights, other than the beach I would recommend stopping in Sintra, a town just north of Portimao. Here you can visit the Palace of Pena which is world famous for it’s vibrant yellow/red walls and breathtaking view points. Tickets to enter the palace were 10 euros. I believe you must purchase another ticket to view the royal gardens. You can also buy a combo ticket to see both.
Last Minute Tips
If you are renting a car for you trip to Portugal make sure you are prepared to pay for gas and tolls. Gas came out to be about 80 euros for a full tank. I think we filled up about 4 times throughout the trip. As for tolls, you will go through some booths but you will also drive under cameras that will take a photo of your license plate and charge you later. For these tolls, I recommend going to a gas station when you enter Portugal and buying a prepaid card. These will work for the camera tolls but not for the booth tolls. I would budget maybe 50 to 75 for tolls. Also make sure to bring sunscreen! That Portuguese sun will sneak up on you.
Most people in Portugal speak three languages, Portugese, English and Spanish. Here are some helpful translations if you would like to try communicating with locals in Portuguese.
Good morning- Bom dia
Good evening- Boa noite
Thank you- “Obrigado” (when speaking to a male) “Obrigada” (when speaking to a woman)
How much is.. – Quanto custa ..