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While many travel blogs focus on long-term travel, I think it is absolutely possible to discover the world one bit at a time, with short vacations. In only 12 days, we went to the best places in Portugal.
Being one of the most affordable country to visit in Europe, it seduced me with its delicious food, its history, and its beaches.
Here’s my complete itinerary to visit Portugal, without a car!
*Because round-trip were less expensive, we decided to arrive and quit from Lisbon. If you have a little more budget, I would suggest to arrive in Lisbon, and quit from Porto, or vice versa, to avoid back and forth.
I almost exclusively used Airbnb for my accommodation during this trip. Sign up to Airbnb with this link and get a $25 credit towards your first stay!
Day 1 – Getting to Lisbon
We arrived in Lisbon after a direct flight from Montreal and took the subway to Chiado, where we rented a room on AirBnb.
I can count on one hand the number of direct flights I took during my life and I can’t say how grateful I was about that one. I always try to pick the less expensive flights and that generally means at least one stop. Going from A to B in one shot was a-ma-zing and let us enough energy to start exploring the town as soon as we landed.
On that first day, we explored Praça Dom Pedro IV and walked the touristic Augusta street. The day ended up at Cais do Sodré to look at Taugus river. But first thing first, get the Lisbon Card to get access to 23 touristic sites.
Discover My 5 Favorite Things About Lisbon
Day 2 – Lisbon
We spent the day exploring Alfama. We wanted to take the famous Tram 28 to get there, but it was super crowded even early in the morning, so we decided to take our favorite kind of transportation, our feet, and walked from Chiado to Alfama. A nice walk where we had the pleasure to admire the traditional azuelos on many buildings.
Must-see: Castelo São Jorge. I was really impressed since it was the first castle I saw of my life, but, to be honest, it’s more ruins and amazing points of view over Lisbon than a princess dream come true. I enjoyed the view more than the castle. If you decide to visit, make sure to use book « skip the line » ticket.
In Alfama (or should I say, in Europe), churches and cathedrals are everywhere! We visited the Cathedral (Sé, in Portuguese) and the Santo Antonio church.
I couldn’t go to Lisbon without stopping at Santo Antonio church. Not only he’s the Saint of Lisbon, but he is also very important for my grand-mother. Each time we lose something, she says we need to pray Saint Anthony to find it back.
Another must-see in the neighbourhood: the Museu do fado. This music! These voices! I was completely charmed by the museum where you can spend hours listening to great musicians of this traditional Portuguese music. If you are curious, listen to Amália Rodrigues.
I dare you not to have goosebumps!
Day 3 – Sintra
It’s a short train ride from Lisbon to Sintra and you’ll be there in no time.
Palácio da Pena has nothing to do with the castle in Lisbon. It is impressive, colorful, and massive. I took about 100 pictures of the castle and couldn’t stopped! I won’t lie, it’s one of the most visited site close to Lisbon. Expect lots of people and make sure to book your ticket in advance.
Just a quick walk from Pena, you’ll find the Castelo dos Mouros, a fortress of rocks and cliffs, situated on the highest point of the Serra de Sintra.
Sintra is a perfect mix between outdoors and cultural visits. The walk through the national park to go from a castle to another gives a break from the crowded sites and is very enjoyable.
Wear comfortable shoes, since the amount of stairs at Castelo dos Mouros is impressive!
Money Savings Tips : Buy your tickets online to get a discount.
Day 4 – Obidos
On your way between Lisbon and Porto, you may be tempted to skip the stop to Obidos, but I highly suggest you don’t. This small village is the perfect place for a time-travel to middle age and to drink Ginjinha.
This 2-hour tour take you to secret spots while the guide tells you medieval tale about the city.
You should read: Why You Need to Visit Obidos, Portugal
Day 5 – Porto
One thing I learned in Portugal is that even if it’s small, it can sometimes be very long to travel by bus! We had to take 4 different bus to get to Porto, but I tried to see it as a way to relax and look at landscapes. The road is more important than the destination, they say?
For this first day in Porto, it rained so we did a little sight-seeing and spent the afternoon in a cafe. We discovered the Franscesinha. A Portuguese sandwich made with bread, ham, steak and covered with melted cheese and a hot tomato sauce served with french fries. I swear you can survive on one of these for a whole week! It’s huge!
Must-see in Baixa:
- São Bento Train Station
- Lello Librairy
- Torre dos Clerigos
- Santo Ildefonso Church
- Rua Miguel Bombarda
Day 6 – Porto
A complete day visiting the caves in Ribeira and Gaia. Yay!
We walked on the famous Dom Luís bridge as a warm up before porto tasting. The view is breath-taking, and this is where you’ll take the postal card pictures of Porto.
Visiting the cave, we learned the making of porto, the difference between the categories of porto and, of course, we enjoyed the tasting. I didn’t know there was pink porto! Did you?
Day 7 – Tomar
We came back to the Center of Portugal to the legendary town of the Knights Templar to get lost in the Covento de Cristo.
This Unesco World Heritage site is the highlight of my trip to Portugal.
Day 7 – Tomar to Lisbon
As I said, Portugal is more like a line than a circle, so if you’re in public transportation instead of a car, you may have to come back on your way to change direction.
This is what happened to us when we decided to go south to the Algarve.
Of course, when coming back on my way mean spending another day in Lisbon, I am totally fine with it.
Arrived for dinner, we explored Bairro Alto, the festive neighbourhood of Lisbon, and the place to try fancy restaurants. I must say I had the most delicious salmon tartar ever,
If you want to party, Bairro Alto is the place to be. We were there on a Tuesday night and the atmosphere was comparable to a Saturday in Montreal. I cannot imagine what it is on a real Saturday night!
Day 8 to 11 – Lagos
Yes. We spent 4 days in Algarve, to enjoy the beaches in Lagos.
Maybe we should have gone to more than one town and less to the beach. Do I regret it? Absolutely not! Ahah!
There are more than 10 beaches in the small town and you quickly feel at home. I could have stayed there forever. For a touristic place, I found Lagos very calm and relaxing. Each day, we tried a new cafe, or a new restaurant, and we walked a lot by the beach.
Ending a trip in Portugal in Lagos is a good way to refuel your energy. In the beginning of June, the water is very cold though. Not perfect a long swim. Take that time to explore caves and grotto.
For that region, it might be easier to book an hotel than an Airbnb, especially if you are last minute. I suggest you take a look at this website because I found them to have the best prices for hotels in the region.
If you are not a fan of beaches as much as I am, I suggest to visit Évora. There’s a church made of bones!
Day 12 – Lisbon
Back to Lisbon to catch our flight the next morning, we explored Bélem.
It was a Sunday and, if I can give you one advice: don’t go there during the weekend!
The line up to visit Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Torre de Bélem and to eat Pastéis de Bélem were monstrous. To be honest, we gave up and took a look from the outside.
We preferred the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to the Age of Discoveries, facing the water.
It was a very hot day and we consumed a shameful amount of ice-cream and lemonade and we said goodbye to Portugal.
Have you been to Portugal? What would you recommend? Any questions about this itinerary? Let them in comment below.
To avoid the stress of booking last-minute train tickets, I would suggest to book in advance on RailEurope. This website compare the prices of different train companies and gives you the best price.
To figure out other transport methods, the website Rome2Rio is always a good ressource.
It’s easy to withdraw cash in Portugal or to pay by card. You shouldn’t worry about that.
If you’re looking for more traditional accommodation, check Booking.com. They have a very large choice of hotels all around Portugal.
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