Since I love to travel and I do that quite often, I decided to introduce a new section to my blog, dedicated to my trips outside of Sicily. Hope you find it interesting or, even better, useful! Feel free to add any other tips in the comments below and share your travel experiences with the Secret Sicily community.
Last week, my boyfriend and I took a little road trip in Portugal. We didn’t have a lot of time to drive around, so we decided to stick to Lisbon and surrounding, including some nice spots in Sintra-Cascais, Arrábida Natural Park, and Évora. It was a truly great holiday and I can’t wait to go back and explore other parts of Portugal.
So, in random order, here are my top 10 favourite spots and things to do in your trip to Lisbon and surroundings.
1. Get lost in Lisbon
Literally. The first time I visited Lisbon – or should I say, that time I got stuck in Lisbon due to an airline strike – I only had two hours to visit the city before going back to the airport, so I decided to take the famous tram (Carris) to see as much as possible. Obviously, mesmerised by the view and enchanted by the beauty of the city, I got lost. As always, though, it was a great opportunity to see more of the city an go past the most touristy bits and I decided to do the same on my first ‘real’ visit of the city. My advice? Don’t even look at the map, just wander around until you find something you like – it won’t take too long.
3. Buy local handicrafts
Lisbon is a paradise for people who, like me, love hand-made crafts. One of my favourite shops was Nobre Povo, a little gem near the castle (Castelo São Jorge), where you can find well selected products from talented local artists, like Sandra Trindade.
Another great one is Lojas Aldeias do Xisto in Rua Augusto Rosa, 5, where I bought the lovely chicken brooch in the picture below. It’s a bit more expensive than the other one, but those unique pieces are well worth the money.
Finally, we stumbled upon Cor Do Cobre, a quirky shop where you can find some lovely handmade enamel and copper jewellery, like the ring and necklace below. The shop is hosted by a cultural centre called Chapito, which runs training and art projects for youth as well as a lovely terraced restaurant at the back of the shop.
4. Enjoy drinks and nibbles in Praça do Comércio
Right, I’m not a fan of main-square-touristy-traps, but after checking the menus and smelling the lovely sea air in Praça do Comércio we decided that an ‘aperitivo’ on the main square was well in order. And it was lovely. We fully enjoyed a couple of Tulipas (medium beers) and some codfish and beef croquettes in the sun and felt grateful to be far away from our expensive and crowded London pubs.
5. Have a draft beer and Portuguese tapas at Corvo Azul
If you push yourself a little bit further the crowd of Castelo São Jorge, you’ll discover this tiny little shop and café called Corvo Azul. Here you can enjoy some amazing local craft beers as well as delicious Portuguese tapas that will blow your taste buds away. We opted for a cheese platter, a charcuterie selection, marinated sardines and an amazing sheep’s cheese called Azeitao. The guy who runs the place is really nice; he described the food and drinks in great detail and offered us some cherry liquor and chocolate sweets at the end of the meal. Definitely a must go!
6. Enjoy the Ocean
We drove around Sintra-Cascais Natural Park on the lookout for the best beaches and ocean views and we were not disappointed at all. Here are my favourite spots:
1. Praia das Maçãs – a must see if you love sandy beaches, sunsets and surfing.
2. Azenhas do Mar, a lovely little village featuring an ocean pool, for those who like to have a safe swim in the Atlantic.
3. Capo da Roca – the he farther west point in Europe. Enjoy the stunning view along the cliff, possibly far away from the masses of people taking the exact same selfie.
7. Enjoy a seafood galore
If you’re a fish lover, Portugal is the place to go. Here are some of the dishes we enjoyed during our trip.
8. Visit Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra
An enchanted garden full of grottoes, wells, towers, fountains, waterfalls and secret passages. It’s like walking through a giant maze dotted with architectural wonders. The Barons of Regaleira clearly knew how to treat themselves.
9. Walk to the top of Castelo Dos Moros and Palacio de Pena
It you look up to the castles from Sintra town centre, it might look like an exhausting long walk, but it actually isn’t as bad as it seems. We took a lovely 45 minute trek in the green and it was totally worth it. If you’re not into trekking, you can always grab bus 434 from the main square for 5 euros return.
The Moor Castle is a real beauty and it will give you some of the best views to the city of Sintra. We didn’t have time to visit Pena Palace, but it’s definitely worth a go and it’s just 15 minute walk away from the first castle.
10. See the dolphins!
Arrábida Natural Park is one of the only three places in Europe where you can see dolphins swimming in the wild. One of my biggest regrets of this holiday is not being able to join one of the dolphin-watching tours in Setubal. A must do for next time.
I’m leaving a lot things out of this post because it would take a whole book just to describe what we’ve seen in six days. Feel free to add more top tips in the comments below!