I’m all for a relaxing vacation every once in a while, but for the most part when I am on a trip I like to see and do as much as I can in the time that I am given. In the summer of 2016 I was studying abroad in Leon, Spain and we just happened to have a free weekend with nothing scheduled. I was set on seeing Portugal even if it was just for a weekend! I ended up convincing four other girls from my cohort to tag along with me. I am so glad I did because Portugal ended up being one of my favorite countries I have been to.
We left Leon on a Friday night at midnight by bus and arrived at the Madrid airport at just around 5 AM. We took a 7:30 AM flight to Lisbon and arrived by 9:00 AM. Sleep deprived, yet excited we decided to dive right in to what Lisbon had to offer. Our first stop was Time Out Mercado da Ribeira for an early lunch! There were so many different options at this market and the food was amazing! I highly recommend stopping here.
After lunch we decided to head on over to Belem Tower as this area has a lot to see just by walking on foot. Once we were done with that, we decided to head over to our hostel in Almada (about a 20 min ferry ride from Lisbon) and change so we could hit the beach! We took an Uber to Costa da Caparica and spent a few hours hanging out and soaking it all in!
If you have ever been to Spain or Portugal, you know that the restaurants often serve dinner right in the plaza which makes for an amazing outdoor dining experience. Luckily, we just had to go downstairs from our hostel and there were several options for dinner in the plaza. We ended the night eating the best tasting salmon I have ever had, as well as some “green wine” as they like to call it.
We woke up early and took the ferry back over to the main area of Lisbon. From there we got to the train station and took a train to Sintra. Sintra is a magical place with palaces and amazing architecture. However, it’s hard to see on your own without a tour guide. When you get off at the train station, expect to be bombarded with different tour companies all trying to convince you to pick their tour. We ended up finding a small company with a single driver in a van who offered a 6-hour tour. Since there were five of us we agreed to split the cost and just go for it.
Our tour guide first took us to Quinta de Regaleria which is a huge estate with gardens, secret passages, and gothic architecture. I won’t give away all of its secrets, but in my opinion, it is a must see! It felt like a castle with so many enticing rooms and passageways. Next our driver took us to Cabo de Roca which is the most Western point on the European continent. The turquoise blue water and the panoramic views made every bit worth it! Our guide also took us to another secret viewpoint (pictured below) and stopped and got us the most amazing cheese and chorizo! The only place in Sintra that we did not see was Pena Palace which is a castle on top a hilltop known for its bright yellow exterior. If you go to Sintra I highly recommend seeing this place as it looks wonderful!
After our tour we headed back to our hostel and went to bed early as it had been a long day. We flew out the next morning. Two whirlwind days in Portugal but all very worth it! If you are ever in Spain or France and think you can squeeze it in you should definitely think about it! A quick flight to a country with kind people, great food, and a lots to explore.