Since I moved to Rome, a solo trip through Portugal had been on the top of my travel list. And this was the year I finally made it happen!
LISBON: Celebrating St. Anthony
Lisbon was my first stop of the trip, and while I loved the vibe of the city, what made the experience even more special for me was Home Lisbon Hostel. It was right in the heart of the city, and the hostel had many events scheduled like daily free walking tours of the city, day trips to Sintra and Cascais, surf lessons, daily dinners to meet fellow travelers which made the atmosphere very lively and happening. Definitely recommend staying there since through the hostel, I ended up making many friends who enriched my experiences in the city. But if staying in hostels is not your thing, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Here’s an itinerary that you can use to plan your trip to the city. The other thing that I loved about my visit to Portugal was the fact that it was June and the period of all the feasts being celebrated around the country. In Lisbon, to celebrate the patron saint of the city, St. Anthony, each locality organized parties in the streets every night! With cheap beer, good music and locals dancing right out in the streets until the wee hours of the morning, I don’t think there is a better way to party.
Where I stayed: Home Lisbon Hostel: The perfect atmosphere to meet fellow travelers and I also ended up doing the tour of Sintra and Cascais with them. It costs only 25 euro and it is definitely worth the experience.
Things to try while in Lisbon: Ginjinha: A local cherry flavoured liqueur, typically served in tiny edible chocolate shot glasses. Moscatel: A fruity sweet wine typically found in the region Pastel de Nata: The portuguese typical custard tart. Manteigaria and Pasteis de Belem are definitely worth a try. Licor Beirao: A local Portuguese liqueur that goes well on the rocks with a bit of lemon
PORTO: Celebrating São João
Porto actually turned out to be my favorite city from all I visited during my time in Portugal. And I definitely have my reasons for that. Mostly because it is where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter; the city had me in a magical trance with Majestic Café being truly majestic and Livraria Lello definitely reminding me of some parts of Hogwarts with its old-world charm. But leaving aside all the Harry Potter appeal, Porto definitely is beautiful and rustic with its colorful buildings with gorgeous tiled facades, each outdoing the other in beauty and intricacy.
And, I was lucky enough to reach Porto on the day of the biggest celebration of the year! São João, the feast of St. John, the patron saint of the city is celebrated on the 24th of June, and I happened to reach Porto in time to bring in the celebrations. Sure enough, it was a night of complete madness, with fireworks going off at 12 am, setting off Chinese lanterns by the river, singing and dancing along hopping from one part of the city to the other, all equipped with some chilled beer and a little plastic hammer that squeaked with every strike. It is custom for the locals to tap each other’s head with this hammer while passing by to wish each other good luck. And celebrations don’t end till 6 am!
Where I stayed: Hostel Nice Way Porto: Central location, clean and well maintained and offered free walking tours.
Things to try while in Porto: Seafood from Afurada: Afurada is a fishing village about a 15 minute drive from Porto with some of the freshest and tastiest seafood around. Armazem dio Peixe is the restaurant I went to, and believe me, I was not disappointed at all Typical food at Abadia: Abadia is a little restaurant serving the typical food of the region and is highly recommended by locals. Make sure to stop by to try some mouth-watering dishes Port Wine: Porto is the place from where Port Wine originated, cannot miss that for sure! For more fun things to do during your visit to Porto click here.
ALBUFIERA AND BENAGIL CAVES
Albufiera is a small town on the Algarve coast that is known for some beautiful beaches and a happening nightlife. It is highly popular with the English who come in hordes every summer to make the most out of their summer holidays. It is also frequented by groups of young people celebrating their bachelor parties, so be prepared to see groups dressed up in funny costumes parading through the strip of bars, pubs and clubs at night.
While Albufiera was great, the most beautiful destination for me was the trip to Benagil caves. I did a tour with one of the agencies, but later realized that the best way to visit the caves would be by swimming (It is just a 10-minute swim) from Benagil beach into the caves or just kayaking your way into the caves. That way you can actually get out on to the beach inside the cave and spend the afternoon swimming and lazing around. Another great thing about the Algarve coast is the fresh seafood! Clams, Lobster, shrimp, sardines, anything you want is available and is some of the freshest and tastiest seafood I had on the trip. So make sure you eat your share of seafood while you’re here.
Where I stayed: Hostel Casa Dos Arco: a boutique hostel, right in the center, a 5 mins walk from the beach. Things to try while in Albufeira:
Seafood at O Alentejano: I ended up eating at this restaurant thrice on my short visit to the city and I have to say, it was amazing. While all the sea food was fresh, my favourite dish were the clams AMÊIJOAS À BULHÃO PATO, a local preparation of clams in a butter garlic sauce. The Strip: Albufiera is the party destination on the Algarve and is frequented by the English who are looking to party and get some sun during the summer. And the strip in Albufiera is where they come for their party fix. With an endless line of bars, pubs and clubs, you will end up having a great night out! Shacks on the beach: You will find many shacks on the beach where you could treat yourself to a cocktail or a cool glass of sangria!