Some of you are going to Portugal this term. Excellent news. Portugal is one of the most curious, underrated, cheapest and most charming places on the planet! I could ramble on about its beautiful winding streets, shrieking fishwives, monstrous meat sandwiches and other worldly bookshops…but I won’t! Here are a few key tips for travelling in Portugal. Aproveite.
Say ‘Obrigada’ (if you’re a girl) ‘Obrigado’ (if you’re a boy). That means thank you - the Portuguese are very traditional about good manners. However, you will find (especially in Lisbon) that most people speak excellent English and are eager to practise!
Eat the small plates of food waiters will bring out to you when you sit down at a restaurant. This is not the free tapas that you often get in Spain! Portuguese food is very reasonably priced; however, these small dishes (tourist bait!) will cost you a lot extra. Politely decline and just order what you want.
Be prepared to see and be approached by a lot of homeless people. The sad truth is Portugal’s economy is in a bad way and there are still lots of injured/disabled homeless soldiers from the colonial wars in the 1980s!! Be polite and confident when people ask you for money, just say sorry and no.
Eat little custard tarts. These are called ‘pasteis de nata’. They will improve your life considerably. For breakfast eat ‘Torrada’ (pronounced ‘Tohada’) it’s huge fluffy white toast dripping in butter.
Waste time going to the beach! Portuguese beaches are lovely, but cold and very windy. It also can be quite time consuming getting to the beach (although the train/tram rides there are very scenic). The cities are too good to miss!
1 Day Porto:
Noodle around the city centre (torre dos clerigos, avenida dos aliados, by the riverside (O ribeiro) and make sure to wonder over the bridge into Gaia (the neighbouring city) where you can visit the Port caverns and try the delicious wine.
1. ‘Liberaria Lello’ the world’s most beautiful bookshop. You will feel like you are in Harry Potter.
2. ‘Palacio de Crystal’ This is a stunning park that sits on a cliff overlooking the city. It’s my favourite place in all of Portugal. It has wild chickens, peacocks and rabbits dancing around it and spectacular views of the city.
3. ‘Centro Miguel Bombarda’ is a small mall with tiny art galleries, vintage boutiques and the best café in Porto. Breakfast is served until 10:00 and costs 1.50 euros. The cake here is huge and delicious.
Around Praça de Parada Leitão there are lots of reasonably priced churrascarias (typical bbq restaurants) this is a great place to be in the evening, as the famous student bar ‘O Piolho’ is on the square. You will see lots of mad Portuguese student rituals involving people wearing cloaks wielding huge spoons.
Galerias de Paris (Galer-iash de Par-ish) – Lots of cheap, cool bars and the best nightlife in town.
Maus Habitos (Mowsh Habitoosh)- A very cool rooftop bar opposite the Porto Coliseum.
2 Days Lisbon:
Lisbon is all about the miradouros (the viewing points that look over the River Douro). Try and cram in as many as you can. All are gorgeous but the ones in Bairro Alto and Alfama (by the Cathedral).
Take the 28 tram from Martim Moniz square (in the city centre). This gives you the best and cheapest tour of the whole city!
‘Carpe Diem’ (Rua Formosa) a palace turned modern art space in Bairro Alto.
Churches. Visit as many as possible. They are brilliantly baroque and give you a glimpse of Portugal’s fabulously rich and powerful history
The Ginginhas these tiny little kiosks sell one thing: shots of cherry flavoured liquor. All the little old ladies go there at 11:00am to get a nice fix of booze that will get them up the steep hills to do their shopping! (Largo do Domingos and Praca do Comercio - at this kiosk they serve the shot in a cup made of chocolate!)
Bairro Alto (Bye-hoo Alt-oo). This whole neighbourhood becomes a party after 9:00 (nearest metro chiado)
Casa do Alentejo (Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 58). A former Palace that has been converted into a very well hidden, cheap, AMAZING restaurant!
Day 2 (you need a full day for this!)
Sintra (a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon’s Rossio Station)
A small town filled with nothing but palaces and pleasure gardens. Pictures do it better justice than words: