From Coast to Capital: Portugal's Algarve and Lisbon
For those seeking a mix of beach relaxation and urban exploration, consider heading to southern Portugal. The Algarve offers stunning coastal landscapes, delicious seafood and charming fishing villages, while Lisbon captivates with its historic charm, striking architecture and lively arts and culinary scene. In southern Portugal you can enjoy both the serene beauty of the beach and the vibrant energy of the city.
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Where to stay in Portugal's Algarve and Lisbon
Palácio Ludovice Wine Experience Hotel
Indulge in a captivating wine journey at Palácio Ludovice Wine Experience Hotel, where history, luxury, and exceptional wines converge.
In the heart of the Old City, this design hotel has a winning mix of apartment-style rooms and a neighborhood-favorite rooftop restaurant.
Bela Vista Hotel & Spa
Experience ultimate luxury and panoramic views at Bela Vista Hotel & Spa, where timeless elegance meets modern amenities on the stunning Algarve coast.
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Things to do in Portugal's Algarve and Lisbon
Here's a little-known fact: Portugal averages 300 days of sunshine a year, making it one of the sunniest regions in Europe. The Algarve is an ideal year-round destination with its Mediterranean climate of warm summers and mild winters. My husband and I visited in August, flying into Lisbon and renting a car to drive south to the Algarve. If you're heading to the Algarve, you can also fly into Faro airport to bypass the 3-hour drive, but we wanted to explore some places in between and decided on a road trip. The Algarve is full of beautiful sand beaches and therefore a popular summer destination so we anticipated there would be traffic and crowds everywhere. We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to get into any restaurant on short notice and the traffic going from town to town was virtually nonexistent. The roads are well maintained and there are many well-marked roundabouts moving things along. Our objective during the three full days we had in the Algarve was to check out a few villages, visit some landmarks, enjoy the fresh seafood and do some hiking along the coast. Our "relax" time is typically in the afternoon, back at the beach or hotel pool, following the adventure of the day.
The active traveler will not want to miss the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Spanning the coast from Praia da Marinha to Praia do Vale de Centeanes, this easy-to-moderate hike offers rugged terrain and stunning vistas of cliffs meeting the sea. A trip to the Algarve wouldn't be complete without a visit to the sea caves dotting the shoreline. The Benagil Cave is the most popular so it tends to be crowded with kayak and boat tours, if you are seeking a more exclusive experience rent a small Portuguese boat that will take you through several other less popular but equally breathtaking caves lining the shore for miles. In the town of Carvoeiro, you can explore Algar Seco, a network of rock formations and cliffs along the coast and top it off with a drink at Boneca Bar. Head to Sagres to see Cabo de Sao Vicente, the most southwesterly point in continental Europe. Located just 5km outside of the popular tourist town of Lagos sits Praia da Luz, a beautiful beach surrounded by a promenade of restaurants and shops.
It's important to note that there are several routes you can choose to drive between the Algarve and Lisbon. There is the coastal route with several towns to explore or the A2 motorway, further inland with a more rural feel. The Alentejo region, known for its wines, unspoiled sand beaches and small villages is worth a stop for a taste of authentic Portugal. Try Comporta for the laid-back beach vibe or find a vineyard to stop for lunch and a wine tasting.
Once you arrive in Lisbon, ditch the car and put on your most comfortable walking shoes. Stroll along Avenida da Liberdade, a wide, tree-lined street filled with statues, fountains and luxury shops. Enjoy the panoramic view of the city from Edward VII Park, the largest park in central Lisbon. Visit the Alfama neighborhood, Lisbon's oldest district, with its narrow alleys and small squares lined with shops and cafes. Here you can find several miradouros, lookout points with sweeping views. When your legs need a break from all of the hills you can flag down a tuk-tuk, a compact vehicle driven by a local guide who can navigate through all of the winding roads. A visit to Lisbon wouldn't be complete without taking a ride on a tram. Tram 28 is the most scenic, passing through several of the city's historic neighborhoods and famous landmarks. If time allows for a day trip, hop on a short train ride to Sintra. Explore the old town, visit the charming palaces and stroll through the lush gardens.
Places to eat & drink in Portugal's Algarve and Lisbon
O Camilo - The menu features traditional Portuguese dishes, with a focus on seafood. The location on a cliffside in Lagos adds to its unique appeal, allowing for beautiful views during the dining experience.
NUMA - This hidden gem located in the busy city of Portimão uses high-quality ingredients and creative presentation to elevate the dining experience. The husband and wife owners, Nuno and Manuela, make you feel like you're dining at a family member's home.
Ababuja - Located directly on the harbor in Alvor, come for the fresh seafood and stay for the beautiful sunset views.
Tasca Jota - Offering a range of local dishes, the cozy and relaxed setting makes this a great choice for lunch or dinner in Lagos.
Mini Bar - Located in the Chiado neighborhood and created by Michelin chef Jose Avillez, this lively restaurant features creative cocktails and a variety of innovative tapas. On most nights you can experience live entertainment.
Taberna Sal Grosso - This cozy, casual, reservation-only gem in the Alfama neighborhood has a line of people waiting outside when it opens, hoping for a no-show. The menu is written on a large chalkboard wall and the food is fresh and traditional Portuguese cuisine.
TimeOut Market - A can't miss experience, this food hall with restaurants, bars and shops offers it all together under one roof.
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This guide is a part of our ongoing series on travel to Lisbon.