I fell in love with Portugal—the country of over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and 850 KM of amazing beaches. If you didn’t know, Portugal is located next door to Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, and includes a wide variety of terrain: mountains, deserts, forests, and beaches.
Finding a direct flight to this majestic country from Atlanta is, how one can say, difficult and expensive. I myself had to stop in Paris before I could view this country’s beauty. Many major airlines (including Atlanta based Delta Airlines) do not currently offer direct flights to Portugal. This is because traveling to this country has not been very popular in the US, since most people chose to visit places like Spain, Paris, or Amsterdam. However, there has been a great increase in interest to travel to Portugal due to recommendations from frequent travelers and the countries low prices in comparison to other European countries.
– Chose to fly directly to Paris or Spain (Prices: $650-$1,200 USD for standard and comfort plus seating)
– Purchase a separate round trip flight using a local European airline (Prices: 60-300 Euros for standard and upgraded seating)
If you didn’t know, Portugal has a very vivid history. It was first inhabited by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Iberians, Celts, and Romans. In the 700s, the Moors took control of the country until the mid-1200s when it became an independent country under King Afonso Henriques. After its independence, Portugal launched a great exploration initiative, claiming many countries and colonies as its own. As many of you know, Portuguese is the spoken language in Brazil, however, did you know that Portuguese is also spoken in Africa (ex. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique) and in Asia (ex. East Timor and Macao Special Administrative Region of China)? You can also see this diversity in Lisbon and other tourist locations.
After its many explorations, Portugal was then lost to Spain for 60 years. Once the country reclaimed its independence, it enjoyed roughly 100 years of great wealth and prosperity, until a major earthquake in 1755 erupted in Lisbon, killing thousands of people and destroying many major buildings.
In the 1900s, Portugal became a republic and survived a revolution. Now, the country strives towards attracting more visitors and increasing their growing economy.
After taking a quick flight from Paris, I found myself in Lisbon. This was my first time traveling internationally alone, and I can say that I felt comfortable and safe once setting foot in Portuguese soil. Upon stepping outside of the surprisingly luxurious airport of Lisbon, I immediately was greeted by the country’s radiant sunlight and some of the bluest skies I’ve ever seen—no joke. Be prepared, the weather is perfect in August, and the feeling of the Portuguese sun on your skin is almost to die for.
After a quick and immensely entertaining UBER ride to my $100 a night posh Airbnb, I found myself walking down the vibrant mosaic streets in Lisbon, feeling oddly at home. Everyone is nice, and the majority of the local residents speak perfect English (this caused some problems when I tried to practice my Portuguese). This theme continued during my stay in Portugal.
Be warned, while 99.9999999% of the Portuguese people are insanely nice and helpful, there are those who like to prey on women tourists. While walking down the streets of downtown Lisbon, one of the women that met up with me during my trip was almost pick pocketed right in front of me. After we caught the man tugging at her purse, he merely looked at us and calmly walked away. (TIP: When exploring the city, carry a small purse that goes across your body. Make sure it locks securely, and walk with the bag in front of you. DO NOT WEAR IT BEHIND YOU. If you are traveling with camera equipment, purchase a book bag that has a secure lock and a small zip up pouch in the front for stashing your cell phone, debit cards, money, and IDs.)
Okay, back to the good stuff…
Food is everywhere—be prepared
Lisbon offers a wide variety of food to choose from and it’s delicious. Whether you want traditional Portuguese food, pasta, sushi, or hamburgers, it’s available and the competition is intense. Don’t be surprised when people come up and try to talk you into eating with them, and don’t feel obligated to eat at a restaurant just because you’re approached. They do this to everyone and they’re good at it. Lisbon offers any food that you could possibly want, so choose what you’re craving. If you want to try something more traditional, try the Cod, it’s amazing, fresh, and literally everywhere. (TIP: table water is free in Portugal, however, the bread is not. Every restaurant will offer and even place a basket on your table, but don’t eat it unless you are willing to purchase it.)
Portugal is not only known for its delicious food, but also its picturesque beaches, and there are many. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the most famous ones, however, I was able to make my way to Cascais. Although this might not be the “prettiest” beach town in the country, it is absolutely beautiful. The beach town is booming with great music, delicious restaurants, and insanely good looking and fit people.
WIFI is everywhere. Yes, you read that right. It is EVERYWHERE in Lisbon and the surrounding cities, and free! WIFI is available in all hotels/Airbnb, restaurants, buses, metros, and trains, and even the beach! I, unfortunately, do not have an international phone plan, however, I didn’t need one while in Portugal. During my trip, I was able to connect to any open WIFI channel, and make calls using WhatsApp or Google Talk. This is important to let your family know that you are still alive… (TIP: if you have T-Mobile, you are able to make international calls for free.)
Night life in Lisbon is hard to describe…
I can honestly say it was the best night life experience of my life. As soon as the sun goes down, the entire city of Lisbon transforms into a night club. From the streets of Bairro Alto to the upscale fashion avenues, there is music and dancing at every corner. The Portuguese really know how to get the people dancing, and love to have a good time any day of the week. My favorite memory of the entire trip was dancing at a free neighborhood block party outside of a Louis Vuitton store to House, Rap, and Hip-Hop on my last day in the country, which happened to be a Tuesday night.
Due to my limited time in the country, I was only able to venture around the Lisbon area. Although Portugal is a small country in comparison to others, it has many amazing places to visit. The best way to view these locations is by using public transportation, which is easily accessible, relatively clean, cost-friendly (TIP: 24 hour passes for trains, buses, and metros costs 6.50 EUROS), and air conditioned. The locations listed below are all places I visited during my 5 day stay via public transportation, UBER, or walking. (I will do a more in depth review of each of these locations in another blog post.)
LISBON (LISBOA): Praça do Comercio, Sao Jorge Castle, Bairro Alto, Santa Justa Lift, Rossio Square, Restauradores Square, Avenida Da Liberdade, TimeOut Market
SINTRA: Palacio Nacional da Pena, Praia Grande, Castelo dos Mouros CASCAIS: local beach, bars, and shops
BELEM: Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, Pasteis de Belem
In five days, I experienced a life changing trip that sparked my interest and confidence to travel alone. As this was the second European country for me to step foot on (I had stopped in Paris shortly before for less than 48 hours), I was completely unaware of what to expect, however, Portugal made me feel safe and at home. I will definitely be back!
Until I see you again, Portugal.
IMPORTANT MESSAGE: since my trip in 2016, Delta announced that they will be providing direct flights to Portugal (Lisbon Airport). Stay tuned for more announcements.
For additional information about Portugal, please visit https://www.visitportugal.com/en/
(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2016. All Rights Reserved.)