The first stop on our trip to Portugal was Cascais, a city between the more well-known cities of Sintra and Lisbon. We stayed at an adorable airbnb (with absolutely no heating) fairly close to the beach. A highlight from our stay in Cascais came on the first day, when we went to lunch. We went to a restaurant called Paladores de Barrida, a questionably empty space with a very attentive owner. He greeted us upon our arrival, and rather than giving us menus, asked us what we felt like eating. This was intriguing, and the delicious pan of grilled fish he brought out to show us was even more so. After agreeing to the grilled cod, he brought other starters to our table. After what ended up being a feast, it was time to go. It was truly an authentic experience and an amazing first meal to kick off our trip.
We decided to take an uber into Lisbon after a very windy walk down the beach, and many stops to pet a seemingly endless amount of stray black cats. It began to rain as we arrived, so we quickly found refuge in a cafe called Bowls & Bar. It had checkered floors, comfy couches, and refreshing acai bowls; we were set to wait it out until the rain lightened up.
On our second day in Cascais, we decided to take a day trip to Sintra, a city located in the mountains, most known for housing the Pena Palace. It’s a small city, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in egg tarts and beautiful views. Of course, after a quick lunch, we set out to find the Pena Palace, which proved to be more difficult than we anticipated. What we thought was a simple hike to the palace ended up being a forty-five minute hike completely uphill. Don’t do what we did. Take a bus up like everyone else did.
The Pena Palace is characterized by its Moorish architecture, is the centerpiece of a lush plot of perfectly-manicured otherworldly gardens, with panoramic views of the city beneath it. It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and ended up being worth the trek. We opted to take a bus down, and had dinner at a small restaurant called A Raposa, run by the most adorable old couple.
Porto is a coastal city in the northern region of Portugal, and is the namesake of port wine, one of Portugal’s biggest exports. We were starving when we got off of our three-hour train ride, but since it was Easter Sunday, our only option was McDonalds. They had cool options, like veggie burgers and beer, but at the end of the day, it was still McDonalds. After lunch we acquainted ourselves with the area surrounding our airbnb, and then walked along the river. We had dinner at a riverside restaurant called Tempêro d'Maria, a low-lit dinner place with incredible seafood.
When we woke up the next morning it was raining, so we decided to buy passes to a sightseeing bus in order to see as much of Porto as possible. It was a slow day, but a much needed rest in the middle of the trip. We ended our day with a visit to what has been described as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world: Livraria Lello. This two-story wood furnished bookstore had books in multiple languages, and a small room in the back where a woman could be seen restoring old book covers. For anyone who loves reading, this is a must. We ended our night by cooking dinner in our airbnb, and getting a good night’s rest before leaving for Lagos.
We spontaneously decided to take a five-hour bus ride to the southern coast of Portugal to a town called Lagos, unsure of what to expect. We were met with some of the world’s most beautiful grottos and caves, and saw some of the most serene beaches we had ever seen. Although we only had about twenty-four hours in Lagos, we went on two different boat tours, and covered a lot of ground. Our tour guides were knowledgeable, and fearless when it came to navigating the boats through large rock formations and dark caves. One of our tour guides even brought the boat out to a scenic view of the coastline and toasted to our afternoon with small glasses of port wine. Our diets consisted primarily of gelato and lemonade, along with leftover granola bars in our backpacks. It was the least structured part of our spring break, but ended up being the most fulfilling and relaxing.
Lagos was the perfect conclusion to our spring break in Portugal.