If you know me then you know that winters are not my favorite season and ski vacations are not my jam. 😉 That is premise enough to why we chose to visit a warmer place during the Fasnacht break this year. After careful consideration we narrowed it down to Portugal, and I can tell you that we were not disappointed. I had been to Lisbon in 2015 on a work trip and had loved the experience, I was quite keen to revisit and this time with my family.
The vacation was special for a couple of reasons:
- 7 years ago, when I spent 2 weeks alone in the magical city of Lisbon – I had wished that our family moved to EU for some reason. It was a random wish, but hey, a year later we moved to Basel, Switzerland.
- After a long time, this trip had both elements – family + “mother – daughter”. We explored Lisbon as a family and Porto was reserved for the fabulous duo 😉
- And finally, despite some eye rolls and weird expressions on my choice of destination (from my husband and my daughter) – I stood my ground. Not only did I decide where we were heading during the break (there were NO majorities considered, pure dictatorship for a change) but also enjoyed every bit of it! This was refreshing!
Since those reasons aren’t convincing enough, let’s get down to the 8 (+1) reasons you need to consider:
If you live in the EU, easy jet makes this super simple. Our departure from Basel to Lisbon and then our return from Porto to Basel was under 3 hours, which made the location even more enticing.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, recovery or negative test required before departure.
It’s one of the world’s greatest historic countries, with renown sights, monuments, historic towns, and UNESCO Heritage sites that make it a delight for travelers all over the world.
My personal idea of a vacation inches more towards city-scapes and life, cultural spots, great food, a bit of shopping and a visit to all the noteworthy cafes in a new city. And if all these activities during the day can end with a glass of great wine and a visit to a spa – I think it’s my personal recipe of a day “well spent”.
Lisbon, Sintra and Porto were the main cities we visited and there was enough and more from my recipe that featured all through the 5 days. My top recommendations – Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, Praça do comércio, Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon, a ton of palaces and cliff view points in Sintra and the Luís I Bridge, Porto Cathedral and São Bento Station in Porto.
In a word, the weather is fantastic! Summers can get HOT if you’re going to be in Lisbon (have experienced this first-hand during the month of June, however, visiting from India – my perspective then was widely different) and winters are mild (in comparison to Switzerland). With plenty of sun and the perfect temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, early March turned out to be a delightful time to visit.
Well, the good thing about Portugal is great weather throughout the year which makes it a great beach destination for most part of the year as well.
The service and hospitality culture in India is a norm, but after living in Switzerland for over 6 years now – one gets fashioned to almost no service and straight faces. It’s not like that in Portugal, the people, in general, were quite warm, the service at all restaurants was on point and our hosts at both our hotels were lovely.
It’s a matter of perspective – sure, but while researching for this article I wanted to verify my belief on “affordability”. After living in Switzerland, any place might seem affordable, but Portugal turns out to be the cheapest country in the Western Europe. Be it coffee shops, restaurants, shopping in general or staying in 5-star hotels – everything is a notch below your usual EU travel standard rates. I believe that the price point can sometimes be a game changer when planning a vacation. #justsaying
#6 Food and Wine
Or should I say Wine and Food, you find great quality table wines (both red and white) at reasonable prices along with a ton of variety. And it is customary to have port wine even if you’re a non-drinker, the most famous wineries can be found in the regions – Douro, Alentejo, and Dão.
During our time in Porto, we could have clubbed our itinerary with at least one visit to a port wine cellar; however, I think I’ll wait for my daughter to turn older to add such experiences to our trips 😉 All in all, this is definitely recommended.
Whoops, I almost missed talking about food, if you love seafood – you’re in for a treat! Codfish, sardines and octopus top the gastronomy ranking but so does all the cured meats, breads and pastries. The Portuguese are very serious about their sweet delicacies and let’s be honest, you can never have too many “Pastel De Nata’s”.
We stayed at the Marriott Hotel in Lisbon for 3 days and in the Torel Avantgarde in Porto for 2 days. Both being 5-star hotels, a lot of comfort can be taken for granted however, our experience with both the hotels was amazing!
While I loved our room, the breakfast spread and the staff attentiveness at Marriott I absolutely loved the proximity to the noteworthy sites, excellent food and services at the Torel Avantgarde. Whenever I decide to visit again – I’d be very happy to reside in the same properties I chose during this trip.
Pristine beaches and natural parks can be found all over the country. Since we visited during the colder months chilling on the beaches or a dip in the ocean wasn’t favorable but some noteworthy mentions – Marinha Beach, Praia do Camilo and Ursa Beach located in Sintra.
For more outdoorsy spots, some places to check out is the Peneda-Gerês National Park near Braga and Sintra-Cascais Natural Park are my recommendations. For stunning views, one could also visit the Cabo Girão, a lofty sea cliff located along the southern coast of the island of Madeira which is also a starting point for hikers.
#9 Bonus – Try AirBnB experiences
While I have never been a big fan of AirBnB lodging, a new thing I discovered during our autumn vacation in Paris was the section – experiences. This time we booked the following experiences and I loved all of them immensely. It was also an easy way to navigate a new city, socialize and go back to places which really appeal to you.
The Sintra experience was with a group and the tuk-tuk ones were private 2–3-hour tours suitable for our family. In my opinion, this is the best way to explore cities in Portugal due to the tiny lanes, numerous elevations, and maximal coverage.
Have you traveled to places in Portugal? Which ones are your favorite? Share your tips and experiences in the comments section, I’d be so happy to share them with the MSS readers and tag you on our Social Media channels.
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