A Love Letter to Portugal

Portugal was the final destination of our Global Seminar and it certainly did not disappoint. (If you want to know more about our other destinations, click here). It winded up being my favourite destination and there are so many reasons why. We spent one week visiting Lisbon, Sintra, and Cascais.

Sintra

We took a day trip to Sintra and Cascais from Lisbon. Our first stop was Sintra, a beautiful Italian-like town in the mountains that is also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited the Pena Palace, a unique castle that has many different architectural styles due to being occupied by different royal families throughout history, all of whom have tried to put their own spin on it. I have seen plenty of palaces in Europe, but this one is unique due to the various influences, so I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Pena Palace
Pena Palace

We didn’t have very much time in Sintra to explore outside of the palace, so a few friends and I travelled back the following day to explore some more. We had a delicious brunch at a heritage site near the train station, which was amazing. We mostly wandered around and took lots of pictures. Sintra is a picturesque town that has a laidback vibe, with lots of small streets, shops and restaurants. We were glad that we decided to go back and explore some more. I would definitely recommend visiting Sintra if you are in the Lisbon area. It feels a little like you’re in a fairytale.

Sintra

Cascais

After visiting Sintra, we continued on our day trip to Cascais. The drive there is beautiful because it is right along the ocean. There were incredible views, jagged rocks, and as we got closer to town, sandy beaches. Cascais itself is a higher-class, beachside town; think South of France, Monte Carlo-type style (they even have casinos in nearby Estoril). Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time in Cascais, but we did wander around a bit, check out some stores, and we found a great restaurant with amazing pizza. We didn’t even have enough time to finish eating our pizza, so we snuck it onto the bus under my friends jacket. #madskills.

Since we didn’t have much time, we also came back to Cascais the following day after we went back to Sintra. My friend and I took a local bus to get from Sintra to Cascais, which wound up taking us through a residential area. We were not 100% sure if we would get to Cascais, but we made it, and got to spend some time wandering around near the ocean. A few days later, our entire class came back to Cascais for a beach day. It was so nice to spend some time on the beach, in the ocean, drinking sangria, and hanging out with friends. We all had dinner afterwards and watched the sunset. It was incredible and something I will never forget. I would definitely recommend visiting Cascais to spend some time on their incredible beaches, do a little shopping, and eat at one of their many great restaurants. The beaches are usually pretty busy, but you should be able to find a spot in the sand to relax, drink some sangria, and take a dip or two in the ocean.

Lisbon

Lisbon has got to be one of my favourite places. It strangely felt like home to me, and I know I wasn’t the only one who felt it. Our time there was amazing and inspiring. Lisbon has great weather, gorgeous views, beautiful tiled streets that are easy to navigate (which BTW are very slippery so don’t wear flip flops and try to run down a hill, it WILL end badly), stunning architecture, an awesome nightlife, sandy beaches, and delicious sangria! Plus, it is pretty cheap for drinks, food, the metro and taxis, which is great (especially for broke travelers like me). Man, it has everything. It’s no wonder I fell in love.

During the first few days, we had some lectures and spent some time exploring the city, eating delicious food, engaging with the multicultural atmosphere of Lisbon, and more. We visited the Canadian Embassy to learn more about their role in providing support to Canadians abroad. It was an incredible experience. We ran into a celebration outside of an Irish bar where everyone was singing at the top of their lungs, which was so cool to just run into. Afterwards, we ate delicious Mexican food at a nearby restaurant. There are so many different, multi-faceted things to do in Lisbon. I just love it.

That night, a big group of us went downtown and found this hipster bar/club which I think used to be a brothel. What an interesting vibe. The bartenders made us some amazing cocktails, the decorations were different, there was a grandma DJ (she was literally the grandma of one of the bartenders, it was hilarious) playing some interesting song choices, and for awhile, we were the only ones there. We had so much fun. We did wind up coming back here another night, but the drinks were not as good and the grandma DJ wasn’t there, so that was disappointing. I did a lot of running after people that night, ate some 3am McDonalds, and danced to Nelly Furtado outside of a club that we couldn’t get into. My friends and I were pretty upset that we weren’t considered “VIP.” (We needed lots of brunch the next day.)

We also found more incredible places in Lisbon: we went to a rooftop bar called Park, located on top of a parking garage. It had a great vibe, the view was awesome, and the sangria was delicious. We had a great time, and this quickly became our spot. We also found a really cool restaurant near our hotel that makes great burgers and has awesome cider available. Super neat place that we definitely went to a few times as well.

The view from Park rooftop bar

Next week, we spent time having lectures, exploring the city, taking in some incredible views, eating lots of Gelato Therapy, and drinking tons of sangria. We took a ferry across the water to see the Cristo Rei statue. It was great to explore the other side of the city and take in the view. In downtown Lisbon, we took Tram 28 to a viewpoint from a different angle. I would recommend taking the tram at least once to try it out (its a bumpy ride!); it’s a great way to see Lisbon. We also visited the immigrant community of Mouraria as part of one of our ‘lectures’. It was really cool to explore the community and talk to some of the people that lived there. It was actually one of my favourite lectures, it was so nice to be involved. We also went to Castelo St Jorge to explore and take in the views, which were amazing.

View from Cristo Rei statue

On our last day, we had our final lecture, spent some time packing, and then we all went out to Park. I also got the chance to meet up with a friend who I met last year during my three-week solo trip! It was awesome to catch up. After Park, a few friends and I joined a hostel pub crawl and got to experience the real Lisbon nightlife. We visited three different clubs, met some cool people, and had a great time partying until 5 am (and yes I did have a flight the next day). One of the best clubs we went to was called Urban Beach, located right on the water. I would recommend checking it out if you want a true nightlife experience! It was incredible. I will never forget the memories I made on this trip, and I am so blessed to have made them with such awesome people! #hotmessteam #getrecked

the best sangria with the best people

Must-Do’s in Portugal

It was really hard for me to narrow down this list because there are so many things I love about Portugal. I tried though. Here are my top suggestions for must-do’s in Portugal:

Enjoy the multicultural atmosphere

Go for a ride in a tuk-tuk (way cooler than a taxi)

Go swimming in the ocean and spend some time at the beach

Try various cuisine at different restaurants

Drink sangria on a beach and on a roof

Try Gelato Therapy in Lisbon (seriously this stuff is amazing)

Get up high for some stunning views (try Castelo St Jorge, Park, or Cristo Rei statue in Lisbon)

Go clubbing at Urban Beach in Lisbon

Ride Tram 28 in Lisbon without getting pickpocketed or falling over

Run around the entire city of Lisbon without getting lost or falling down and dying (yes it can be done)

Do you have any other must-dos in Portugal? Let me know below!

4 responses to “A Love Letter to Portugal”

  1. […] Writing the blog post about my experience in Portugal was really fun, because Portugal is my favourite place I have travelled to so far. Re-living all of those experiences while writing the post was amazing. I will definitely be back to Portugal in the future, and if you want to know some reasons why, you can check out the full post here! […]

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