Four Days in Portugal
If you like your travel rich in history, food, and experience look no further than Portugal.
I recently spent four days with one of my friends there and I was mesmerized by the beauty of it all. From noshing on delectable Pastel de nata, to trekking up the side of a hill to get to Pena Palace, to taking in Fado music for hours, Portugal is not going to leave you disappointed. And I’ll say four days are certainly not enough, but it is doable for a great getaway.
Four days in Portugal
Day One: Exploring Lisbon
Lisbon is a vibrant and colorful city filled with history, culture, and delicious food.
We took a red eye and arrived in Portugal around 11 am. For me, all travel is centered around food. I believe there is no greater way to experience a new culture than to eat like the locals. This meant our first stop was at Mercado da Ribeira, or Time Out Market. This is a huge food hall with several restaurants. Pork being one of the typical foods, I had an Iberico Pork Sandwich that was mouth-watering and delicious.
Time Out Market
Fueled from lunch, we met up with Sergio, our tour guide, for a private Tuk Tuk tour. I highly recommend doing a private tour. It is the perfect way to see so much of the city, and it’s great after a red-eye flight! Nothing better than being driven around the streets of a city in an oversized golf cart.
Our tuk-tuk tour started with a visit to the famous Belém Tower and the nearby Jerónimos Monastery, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Both were a sight to see!
We then wandered through many other landmarks and neighborhoods, including LX Factory and Ponte 25 Abril, which looks like the Golden Gate Bridge and is named after the Carnation Revolution. My personal favorite included a stop to try Ginja, a Portuguese cherry liquor served in a chocolate cup. We ended with a breathtaking view from Miradouro de Santa Luzia.
During the tour, Sergio showed us around the Alfama neighborhood and mentioned it is the best place for Fado music…more to come on that.
That evening we had dinner reservations at BouBou’s, which was hands down the best meal I had in Portugal. We devoured foie gras, ox tongue, hake, and goat cheese ice cream, to name a few. It was a dinner event up to European standards. A dinner that spanned over four hours, we sipped a series of Portuguese wines as we ate dish after dish that our server brought to our table.
Dinner finished after midnight, so needless to say, we called it a night! We had an early start the next day!
Day Two: A Day Trip to Sintra
We opted for an Uber ride for our day trip to Sintra instead of the train. Sintra is about a 30-minute drive from Lisbon or a $25 Uber ride.
Sintra is a magical place filled with palaces, gardens, and some pretty stellar views. Unfortunately, on our day at Sintra, it rained like cats and dogs for a portion of it, so we only visited Pena Palace.
Inside Pena Palace
Pena Palace is a colorful and eclectic palace that sits on top of a hill. The colors didn’t seem real. The gardens leading up to the palace were stunning and seemed like something out of a fairy tale.
After the palace visit, we slowly made our way down the mountain to the old town, where we had lunch at a quaint spot. I wish I remembered the name, but up for lunch were lots of cod! Portuguese love their bacalao.
After lunch the rain started again and wasn’t letting up, we ducked into a shop and bought some souvenirs from a lovely lady and learned that the word for rain is “chuva.” I don’t know or remember a lick of Portuguese, but I will always remember chuva!
Still, with no respite from the rain, we decided to head back to Lisbon.
We spent the evening wandering the streets of Lisbon and made our way over to the pink street. I’m sure it’s much more exciting when it’s not dreary and rainy, but I did not understand the hype.
After a quick beer and some sardine shopping, we called it a night! Sardines are incredibly popular in Portugal and they have entire stores dedicated to them. Who knew?!
Day Three: More Lisbon
We were scheduled to go to Porto on day three; however, a crazy ice and rain storm was happening in Porto and my friend came down with a stomach bug, so we skipped Porto. That’s a good reason to come back!
On my way to a morning of exploration, I stopped and marveled at the Elevador de Santa Justa, it’s a large outdoor elevator that connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo. The Santa Justa Lift is a significant landmark in Lisbon's historic city center. Its design is unique for its use of iron as a construction material, its ornate neo-Gothic style, and for being powered by a steam engine until it was later converted to run on electricity, making it an important example of late 19th-century transportation technology. I didn’t ride it as the line was incredibly long!
Santa Justa Lift
Next, I headed over to Alfama neighborhood, one of the oldest and prettiest (in my opinion) neighborhoods in Lisbon, and hit the Feira da Ladra. The Feira da Ladra is a huge outdoor and indoor market that takes place every Tuesday and Saturday. The finds range from straight-up junk to beautiful antiques to handmade jewelry and lovely paintings.
The National Pantheon is right by the market, so I toured it and climbed the stairs to the top. The view didn’t disappoint! I highly recommend it for the views alone.
Next, enjoy a nice lunch. I didn’t have plans, and I stumbled upon Casaita Maria, delectable food, great service, and delicious wine! I had a sheep’s milk cheese that was total oozy goodness, followed by more cod, and two glasses of port.
There is something about those long, leisurely European lunches that just hit differently.
My friend was feeling better so I swung by our hotel and grabbed her.
Recharged, it’s time to head to the National Tile Museum. We walked to the museum and it was quite a hike. I definitely recommend taking an Uber or train. The National Tile Museum is a less visited location, but it is definitely worth the trip if you like tile!
National Tile Museum
We hit Liberty Avenue, Lisbon’s Fifth Avenue, for some shopping and exploring. Then we had a quick bite for dinner and called it an early night.
Day Four: Cascais
We woke up, planning on hitting Porto, but unfortunately, all trains were booked until 1 pm. It’s a little over a 3-hour train ride, so one pm was too late for a day trip. On to plan B! After three busy days of exploring, relaxing at a beach town sounded perfect!
Cascais is a charming seaside town located about 40 minutes from Lisbon. We took an Uber and our driver dropped us off right at the beach. We spent our day soaking in the sun. We walked lazily along the beach and through a beautiful park. Stopped and marveled at Boca Inferno, a big sea arch and cliff formation. Enjoyed a delicious pizza lunch overlooking the water, and topped it off with listening to some live music in the town square.
We headed back to Lisbon.
Once back, we hit Alfama for some Fado music. Fado music is melancholic in nature. It is typically performed by a vocalist, a person on a classical guitar, and another person on a Portuguese guitar.
I was mesmerized by the music and could have listened all night long! The female singer gave me total Edit Piaf vibes. I told my friend Fado music was going to be my new “cooking dinner music” when I got home, and I wasn’t lying…I’ve listened to Fado music nearly every night since the trip!
After a day of leisure and entertainment, we called it a night.
In conclusion, four days in Portugal may seem short, but with the right itinerary, you can experience some of the country's most iconic landmarks, charming towns, and delicious cuisine. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure. I know I will certainly be back soon.