Travel: 10 day guide for Lisbon to Lagos

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Earlier this Summer I visited Lisbon & Lagos and it's taken a loooonng time, but finally I've managed to narrow down my detailed guide for a 10 day city to beach break. It's hard to think back to a favourite past trip and re-place the exact feelings of contentment that made that holiday your best. I say this because I've been to some of the most iconic cities and beaches of Europe but I stand firm by my decision that Lisbon has to be my favourite place ever. One of the most cultural destinations I've ever had the pleasure of visiting, and I hope that I can continue to remember these feelings of sheer fulfilment. Hopefully this post will take me back, whenever, wherever.  

When arriving in Lisbon, we were welcomed with the bright and beautiful decorations of the Festas Sardinhas street parties in Alfama. The small, narrow streets of this little old town become unrecognisable with makeshift bars, BBQs and traditional decorations. Our apartment couldn't have been more authentic, overlooking the famous Tram 28 lines and the Praça do Comércio. We climbed hundreds of stairs to the very top floor where inside, ageing patterned 18th century tiles lined the walls, and the floorboards dipped and creaked. When I think of our apartment I can hear the party outside and smell that sardine BBQ breeze. 

It goes without saying that when you're in Lisbon you must stop at Casa Portugesa for a traditional Pastel De Bacalau. People queue around the corner for one of these cod fried, Serra cheese filled treats. We spent our first days exploring Alfama as well as Belem, which is guarded by the beautiful Belem Tower. Just a short bus ride from the centre of Lisbon is the LX Factory; a converted warehouse now quirkified with concept and design stores. Hungover from the festas, we chilled and had the famous cake of Landeau, sifted through books in Ler Devagar ("Read Slow") and, just took our time. 

Out & About 

There's quite a selection of rooftop bars in Lisbon, but our favourite had to be Park. It's quite surreal entering your everyday multi-story carpark, to then walk out of a lift onto a packed terrace, overlooking the bell towers of St. Catherine Church. The view of the city is breathtaking and the atmosphere is chilled, with that 'just finished work' vibe. For breakfast we walked from Alfama to Chiado for eggs Benedict at the cool and sophisticated sit in bakery, Tartine. For lunch we ate at Royale Cafe, going on the one day that it rained and poured. We sat and ate their signature burger listening to the storm pummel against the canvas shelter, and still the vertical garden looked as lush as ever. It was like brunching next to our own little rainforest; the rain seeped through the cracks, ran down the leaves and we sat there outside as if it was sunny and 35 degree heat. For dinner, we re-visited again and again Trigo Latino in Alfama. The food is excellent with a wide range suited to all eaters. We also had our best gin & tonics here, which had a classic portuguese twist with added coriander and lime. 


As we only had five days in Lisbon we wanted to get as much as possible packed in to the itenerary. We devoted one of our days to Sintra which is a mini-trip you can not miss! We rented a car and before driving West, stopped off at the quiet and beautiful Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira. We were pretty much the only people there and peacefully wandered the gardens, which were bursting with exotic leaves and colourful flora. Tiles adorn the garden walls and are mosaiced so beautifully into every facade. This hidden gem is not to be missed!

From there we then went onto Sintra. This small town is set within the clouds, winding up and up, with palaces and castles dotted across the hilltop skyline. The gothic mansion and gardens, Quinta da Regaleira was mind blowing. Built in 1900, it felt surreal to explore these Gaudi-esque gardens with secret passages, and illusive buildings every way you turn.

We peered through the arched gates of the Seteais Palace, which framed our view of the wondrous Pena National Palace. We caught the last bus to the top of the mountain and again, we beat the crowds of tourists and explored this grand palace alone. We walked along the turrets of the towers, nearly being knocked over by the wind - we were so high up and minute.

My favourite museum of the trip has to be the National Tile Museum. We visited on our rainy day and got lost in thousands of reclaimed traditional tiles. It was a great day.

So after five days in Lisbon we got the train down to Lagos and as I've said in my recent Makana Home post, we stayed in a cute & quaint B&B. Everyday we packed the car up (which by the way is the cheapest we've ever experienced in Europe) and drove along the South-West coast in search of secret beaches and alcoves. Our favourite beaches were Praia de Carvahlo, Dona Ana and of course Benagil. At Praia de Carvahlo, the cliffs were scarred with tunnels and steps, which we were only brave enough to walk to the top of. The locals edged around the cliffs like ants, ending up in what I can only imagine were the most beautiful secluded spots. When we went out by boat, you would see the odd couple sitting high above the sea on the littlest of ledges, almost camouflaged into the cliff face. Tiny and remote with only themselves and the sea as company. I just wish I'd been brave enough to have explored and experienced the sea in such a raw and un-human way.

On our second to last day we drove further North along the coast line and arrived (by white road) at a small town set in the hills, Bordeira. Welcomed by two donkeys, it was a delightful pit stop exploring the traditional and of course tiled cottages. Our other favourite town was Budens; nice view and cheap pizza - need I say more?

The one thing I miss about Lagos is our daily trip to Lidl. Yes you can do this anywhere, but you can't have your pick of tinned sardines and within minutes be at the beach, eating them with a plastic fork.

I've not had sardines since our trip to Portugal, it just wouldn't be the same.

For any more info on my Portugal trip feel free to ask away in the comments box below! I have so many pictures, so many stories, and of course I'm happy to talk and advise as best I can. 

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