Travel Diary: Globetrotters Share Their Favorite Spots in Portugal

Whether you’re seeking rich culture or breathtaking landscapes, Portugal seems to be offer something for every type of traveler. Luckily for us Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo, the duo behind Of a Kind and the cult-favorite podcast A Few Things, are here to share their favorite spots that will fascinate your mind and feed your wanderlust.

 

How to Decide Where to Go…

There’s a reason why Portugal is having a moment — or, a bunch of reasons, rather. It’s relatively cheap ‘n’ easy to get to by European vacation standards, your American dollar goes far there (we’re talking one-euro glasses of wine with lunch), and it’s beautiful, with a stellar sense of design to boot. 

Another big perk: Because the country is only 349 miles from north to south, you can hop between regions with no prob if you set yourself up with a rental car (and don’t put diesel in it — let that be our lesson to you). Both of the two larger cities are worth hitting: Lisbon is cosmopolitan and cool, and Porto (our favorite!) has buckets of charm with its winding streets and staircases and port history.

But get outta town too! Alentejo, an up-and-coming wine region (less established than the better-known Douro Valley), has amazing small hotels and vineyards, with more opening each year, it seems. Comporta is a beach town just over an hour outside of Lisbon that’s protected — so no high-rise resorts! — that the locals swear by, and now we do as well. If you’re looking for more sun and sand action, the Algarve along the southern coast is where it’s at. And it should be noted that the seafood is good everywhere.

 

 

Lisbon

Source: Danielle Moss

Source: Danielle Moss

Source: Danielle Moss

Source: Bon Traveler

 

What to See

 

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

If you spend, oh, three hours in this city, you’ll probably have about 200 photos of the amazing ceramic tiles, or azulejos, on your phone, and at this museum, you can do a deeper dive into their history.

 

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

You could spend an entire day in this really beautiful and well-done art museum, but you’ll want to save plenty of time for the surrounding gardens that span a whopping 19 acres. Say hey to baby chicks for me.

 

Jardim Botanico Tropical

Not like you’re going all the way to Lisbon just to feel like you’re somewhere else, but wow is this exotic plant paradise transportive.

 

Source: Of a Kind

 

Where to Stay

 

Santa Clara 1728

Flawless hospitality and mind-blowing, thoughtful design — from João Rodriques, who also has three (soon to be four!) other spots around the country. He’s incredibly inspiring and very hands-on with his projects.

 

Baixa House

This little cluster of apartments is super centrally located — with so many interior-design tips to steal! I stayed in Estrela, and, when I came home, I totally copied the super-smart nightstand set-up in its bedroom.

 

Source: Of a Kind

 

Where to Eat

 

Graça do Vinho

I can’t even remember how we stumbled upon this low-key, totally unassuming spot for a vinho verde-and-cheese snack, but when I give people Portugal recs, it’s always a winner — it’s the kind of place that makes you feel like a local.

 

Cervejaria Ramiro

We lucked out and didn’t have to wait in line for this famed 60-year-old seafood joint, but it would have been worth if it if we did. Bring a sense of adventure and order lots of different plates of shellfish — even the varieties you’ve never heard of.

 

Horta dos Brunos

If you do a fancy dinner in Lisbon, do it here. It’s a tiny, romantic spot where the staff really gets to know you and makes sure you’re tasting all the right things from their (recited, not written!) menu of traditional Portuguese food. Everyone else in the place seemed to be a regular, which is always a good sign.

 

 

Where to Shop

Conserveira de Lisboa and Loja das Conservas

If you don’t already love canned fish before you travel to this country, you will by the time you leave. These two stores are wall-to-wall with tins, and you might need to go to both — like I did — if only to admire all of the pretty packaging.

 

Under The Cover

If you’re one of those people who goes nuts for rare art and fashion magazines, you’ll easily kill an hour in this place, despite it being only marginally larger than a shoebox.

 

 

Porto

Source: Danielle Moss

Source: Danielle Moss

Source: @shepolinas 

 

What to See

 

Ramos Pinto

After touring this port house, I became a total Ramos Pinto devotee. My favorite bottle is the ten-year-aged RP10 — I’ve seen it on the menu at Gramercy Tavern, so you know it’s good.

 

Clerigos Tower

I did my best to keep my claustrophobia under control in order to navigate the narrow, winding stairs of this tower, and I was glad I did. The views from the top are one of the best ways to get a handle on the terrain and layout of the city.

 

São Bento Station

This is one stunning train station. And get this: It took the artist who made the 20,000 ceramic tiles that cover the walls 11 years to do so.

 

Trams

Whenever you get tired of climbing all the stairs: a nice, easy way to see the city. And the vintage cars are real cute!

 

 

Where to Stay

 

Flattered Porto

Slick, minimalist, and by the water — these apartments are a little removed from the heart of things, in a nice way. They deliver breakfast to your door every morning in a straw basket, and that’s as awesome as it sounds.

 

Source: @marinanina_

 

Where to Eat

 

Mercearia Das Flores

If you want to people-watch on Rua das Flores — and you should! — do it at this chill little spot with lots of regional products.

 

Source: @anaimcosta

 

Where to Shop

 

A Vida Portuguesa

Everyone will tell you to go to this shop — which has locations in both Porto and Lisbon — and everyone is right. Even just browsing gives you a great sense of the wide array of things that are Portuguese-made.

 

 

Alentejo

Source: @zely49

 

What to See

 

Adega Mayor

This place is probably known as much for its architecture as it is for its wine. Even if you’re not a drinker, the grounds and the building are stunning enough to be worth a visit.

 

Herdade do Esporão

The only thing wrong with this place is that there isn’t a hotel on the premises — because after visiting, all I wanted to do was to spend more time there. Until that’s an option, go for the super-educational wine tour, stay for an outdoor lunch (If you eat late, you might have the place to yourself like we did!), and take in the scenery as long as you can.

 

Where to Stay

 

Torre de Palma Wine Hotel

One of those places that makes you want to quit everything and learn to be an architect. If that’s not enough: There’s a pool (replete with roaming horses!), great food, gorgeous gardens (growing the veggies you’ll eat for dinner!), and an amazingly attentive staff.

 

Villa Extramuros

This place! It’s a stunning property surrounded by olive, cork, and citrus trees and flocks of sheep (but with an infinity pool, too). The drive that gets you there is notably epic.

 

Where to Eat

 

Botequim da Mouraria

Évora is the capital of the Alentejo region, and it’s a town worth spending a day exploring even if you don’t stay over. When you do, please eat here — there are only nine seats, all at the bar, so your best bet is showing up early.

 

Where to Shop

 

Rug shops in Arraiolos

Embroidered wool rugs have been made in this teeny town since the Middle Ages, and you can still buy them from the artisans there, wonderfully.

 

 

Algarve

Source: sashajuliard

 

What to See

 

Novacortiça

Cork is a very big deal in the region — you’ll see a lot of trees if you do any driving — and touring this factory is enlightening. You end up learning a lot about wine and Champagne in the process!

 

Fabrica Beach

When people say ‘unspoiled,’ this is what they’re talking about. During high tide, you can grab a boat to shuttle you there, and during low tide, you can just walk.

 

Where to Stay 

 

Pensao Agricola

Portuguese hospitality is big into a delicious breakfast, and I am too. This farmhouse-esque B&B has the best I encountered, and, hey, there are two donkeys on the property! Be sure to say hi to Ernesto and Julia for me.

 

Where to Eat

 

Restaurante Fábrica do Costa

If you do an afternoon at Fabrica beach, eat here, eat here! I recommend the awesome clam and rice dish, but I’m willing to wager that all of the seafood is top-notch.”

 

 

Comporta

 

What to See

 

Sublime Comporta 

When I first went to Comporta, an awesome, protected beach town a little over an hour’s drive from Lisbon, this place wasn’t open yet, and you could tell the area was hungry for it. It’s very luxe-y with great food — we went to an absolutely beautiful wedding there. But there are also tons of great Airbnbs in the area with private pools, like this one that we stayed at, if that’s more your scene.

 

Surfing

Our husbands took a surf lesson together here and had a grand ol’ time — we have the photos to prove it.

 

Where to Eat

 

Sal
This is what beach-restaurant dreams are made of. Set on one of the prettiest, least crowded stretches of sand you’ve ever seen, the seafood is only rivaled by the views.”

 

Where to Shop

 

Gomes Supermercados

Okay, this is going to sound weird, but one of my favorite places for souvenirs is the (admittedly fancy) grocery store in Comporta. It has classic ceramics from Bordallo Pinheiro, oils and vinegars made in the area, and locally made baskets — along with beach snacks!

 

Vintage-Department

Comporta, for as tiny as it is, boasts a surprisingly high volume of beautifully-curated home decor shops. This place mixes vintage and new, with a healthy dose of traditional Portuguese items thrown it. If it doesn’t force you to stop and wonder how insane it is to try to fit a rug in your suitcase…you’re a more rational person than I am.

  

Have you visited Portugal? What were your favorite spots? Tell us your own travel recommendations in the comments!

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