We are nowdays well past the times of great explorers like Ferdinand Magellan and James Cook. As internet-reliant beings, we scour the web for our vacation destinations and more often than not, utilise the wealth of accessible information to our planning advantage. I’m a cynic in the Instagram-addled world of edited photos and built-for-nothing expectations. In an unusual move, I set off to Portugal on a whim, after seeing a picture of the Algarve coast, repeating a mantra about maintaining “cautious optimism”. This is the type of thing you say to yourself after being hurt by a polished Pinterest picture that turned out to be a testament to the publisher’s photo-editing skills instead of the beauty of the location.
If you have ever searched up information about travelling to Portugal, you would have been flooded with a downpour of love letters about the country. Travellers leave reviews filled to the brim with praise about some sort of ‘magical charm’ that the country has, with the capability of capturing your heart. There are travellers professing that they have fallen in love with the country and who trapeze their way back to Portugal season after season.
The fanatics are not exaggerating, Portugal is the love you do not lose! There is a vibrant spirit in the streets as patrons of eateries overflow onto the streets, taking advantage of the ever-sunny weather and engaging streets. The people are as lively and bright as the perfect houses that line the streets.
The capital, Lisbon, is all about the energy on the streets. Everything from dining to living is made to make the most of the sunlight that floods every corner of the city. As per the cliché, there is ‘something for everyone’. Lagos, a coastal town set along the scenic Algarve, the Southern coast of Portugal, has more than its fair share of beautiful spots to swim and sunbathe. Sandstone cliffs that have eroded into arches and caves lining the blue-green water’s edge. Speed along the coast on a boating expedition or slow things down by just relaxing at a beach. Both of these places are confirmed to be positively lovely, and yet, Portugal is often overlooked in favour of nearby Spain… Let me introduce you to Lisbon and Lagos. Keep your expectations high, Portugal will not disappoint you.
Feel more like a Lisbon Local at The Lisboans, a set of apartments decorated with a boho chic vibe. Set in the lively Baixa neighbourhood, The Lisboans apartments are decorated to take full advantage of the almost year-round sun. The down-to-earth colours give you a relaxing hideout after a day or night out. If the self-catering aspect concerns you, do not worry, a breakfast spread is delivered to you daily and you’ll be out exploring Lisbon for the other two meal times anyways.
Flora Chiado Apartments
A minimalist dream with Portuguese flair is the best way to describe Flora Chiado Apartments. The classic tiles of the interior, mimicking those often found decorating the houses of Lisbon, together with the pine floorboards provide a stylish option to be your home base within Lisbon. The apartments are also in a neighbourhood surrounded by well-recognised, exceptional eateries. The details and location ensure that you will have an artful exploration of Lisbon.
The hotel alternative to the aforementioned apartments, features design that boasts less of a classic Portuguese style, but offers its own stylish quirks. It is located in the older part of town and is actually a shoe polish factory done up in modern splendour. To top it all off, the rooftop terrace features a red tiled infinity pool, a bar and views you don’t want to miss.
Visit Jerónimos Monastery
Filled with archaeological and maritime facts and artifacts, as well as a world history run-down, the Jerónimos Monastery is both a beautiful building and a good place to learn about the country you’re about to fall for. It is also a stone’s throw away from Belém Tower, a medieval defensive structure and landmark. If you are an art and architecture lover, take a stroll down to the MAAT museum along the waterside for a different city view.
Ride the Tram
Yellow trams are all around Lisbon; take the historical uphill Elevador da Bica in the afternoon and stay on the top steps for beer and wine, and a lively crowd. Take Tram 28 for a scenic route around Lisbon if you are not pressed for time.
Explore the Streets
You’ll find hidden bookstores, classic cafés and be able to appreciate the unique architectural style that Portugal is famous for. Take the time to gaze at the tiles that decorate the houses of Lisbon and appreciate the sun hitting the balconies that hang over the streets. If you’re looking for a vantage point to see all the red tile roofs, take a walk up the Church of Santa Engrácia.
Portuguese tarts (Pasteis de Nata) at Pasteis de Belem
Sweet tooth or not, you will need to try the essential Portuguese tart. These egg tarts are most famously made at Pasteis de Belem, a store near the Monastery and Belém Tower.
Peixaria da Esquina
A dedicated seafood restaurant pumping out impressive takes on Portuguese comfort food is not to be missed in the coastal country. Trust Chef Vítor Sobral, celebrity chef admired for his role in restaurant innovation in Portuguese hospitality, in handling the native ingredients of Portugal.
Belmar Spa & Beach Resort
Located an easy walk away from the beach, Belmar Resort is a premium location for a relaxing vacation. It provides you with the option to either enjoy one of the five resort pools along with a spa treatment or explore the coast by foot. The views, refined décor and on-location restaurant make it the perfect getaway resort.
Onyria Palmares Beach House Hotel
Away from the main beaches of Lagos, the Onyria Palmares Beach House Hotel is an vacation situation worth the effort. Golf course, ocean views, and a pool all meld into the surrounding environment giving you a sense of the coast without removing any luxury.
O Camillo, located right above Praia do Camilo, is an ideal lunch location with both outdoor and indoor seating. Their Algarve cuisine focuses heavily on seafood, with a huge variety offered daily. Make sure to call up for a reservation before you arrive to avoid the long queues that build up at this popular beach eatery.
BARBOSA Bar & Kitchen
Barbosa is the place you visit in Lagos for high-end, well-presented Iberian cuisine. It prides itself on its contemporary attitude and its wide range of local wine and craft beers. This is also a great place to celebrate your vacation as there is often live music or performances at night.
The beach hidden under a cave that has been crafted by years of water movement is accessible only by ocean starting from the small fishing village of Benagil. You can either take a boat tour, paddle board or kayak yourself to the caves. The natural splendour of the large sea caves are not to be missed if you are along the Algarve.
Go on the hunt for a beach
Although a lot of the beaches along the Algarve feature similar rocky views, they all differ in size, and atmosphere. The easy way to hunt is to walk from North to South, or vice versa, through the following: Praia de Batata, Praia dos Estudantes, Praia do Pinhão, Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo and Praia da Balança. Without stopping, the walk will take up less than half-an-hour.