10 Things to Do in Portugal: Lisbon and Albufeira (Algarve)

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Almost four years ago, in 2008, I headed to Portugal – armed with just a point and shoot and five months before my big sabbatical “that started it all“. A friend and I spent a few days in Lisbon, followed by a couple of days in Albufeira (Algarve region) for some beach time. Portugal is a place I hope to revisit – if only to walk those hilly cobblestone alleys again, sip on red wine, devour a pastel de nata every morning and some delicious (cheap!) seafood at night to sound of fado music. And I can’t not mention the beaches and that rugged coastline. Or the fact that Portuguese men are oh-so easy on the eyes (just throwing it out there for the single people!). Portugal is affordable and has a friendly, laid-back and almost “tropical” vibe.

Here’s more on what you should do and see, and some of my “old” images:

  • Savor a “pastel de nata” at Pasteis de Belem, a historic Portuguese pastry shop and cafe in the Belem district. The pastel de nata is a traditional Portuguese tart made of thick custard. Need I say more? (This is the first thing I did in Lisbon, straight from the airport and jet-lagged as can be!)
  • Take a cruise on Lisbon’s Tejo River for a breathtaking view of Lisbon from the water.  It’s a two-hour journey down the Lisbon coastline, highlighting off the city’s landmarks and history. Well worth it.
  • Visit the Castle of Saint George (Castelo de Saõ Jorge) in the Alfama district. There’s an option to catch the Tram 28 up to the Castle — Lisbon’s cute vintage trams are actually a form of public transportation, and will remind you of San Francisco. Once up there, the views of Lisbon and of the river will have you snapping away.
  • Stroll down Rua Augusta: Located off Praça do Comercio, Rua Augusta is a pedestrian street with independent shops, cafes and a fabulous ambiance. Grab some gelato or sit outdoors. You’ll find this area filled with locals.
  • Spend an afternoon at the Parque de Nações: Built for “EXPO ’98” – a world exposition held in Lisbon – the area includes a park, an aquarium (the largest in Europe) and cable car rides. On the other end are more cafes and restaurants, most playing music.
  • Walk through the Baixa/Chiado districts of Lisbon: The Baixa/Chiado neighborhoods have many cafes and shops, and this is where you’ll find Lisboetas enjoying their afternoons and  weekends.
  • Book dinner at an authentic Portuguese restaurant for some seafood and “fado”: Fado is a form of Portuguese music with melodious and mournful tones. The songs evoke “saudade” (or sentiment). Prepare to fall in love if you’re out on a date – even if you don’t understand the words.
  • Dance at one of several African nightclubs that are open until dawn: A large community of African immigrants exists here, and they hail from Portugal’s former colonies like Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and Angola.  They have their own restaurants and nightclubs and the party goes on well into six in the morning. Just don’t head out until 2 am, the place will be empty. Ask around to find out which club is the current hotspot.
  • Head south to the Algarve region to experience some beach and Portugal’s beautiful coastline: About forty-five minutes by plane from Lisbon is the Algarve region – beach town after beach town, each with its distinct character and framed by gorgeous cliffs and rock formations. Old Town Albufeira is ideal for a day or night out – with cobblestone alleys and waterfront restaurants, bars and shops. Villamoura is another good option for a day excursion – with a gorgeous marina and boardwalk. This is where you can catch a cruise to go up and down the Algarve coastline (a must-not miss).
  •  Last but not least, throw in some basic Portuguese and you’ll win fans fast (“obrigada” for thank you and “bom dia” for Good morning).

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller. Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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12 Comments

  1. Emanuele 12 April, 2012 at 3:51 PM #

    Sintra is also a nice place to visit, not far from Lisbon. Oh, and the silver coast, which is where my sweet half is from 🙂
    Definitely one of my favourite country and now also a sort of home abroad to me.

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 12 April, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

    It’s funny you mentioned Sintra, I heard of it and wanted to visit for a day but just never made it. Another reason to head back!

    And now I know who to ask for any other tips on Portugal in the future. 🙂

  3. Lindsay 13 April, 2012 at 7:00 AM #

    These photos are so nice!! I’ve always wanted to travel there esp since I’m Portuguese.

  4. Lebawit Lily Girma 13 April, 2012 at 11:43 AM #

    Thanks, Lindsay! I had no idea you were from there. 🙂 You should definitely go back.

  5. Italian lessons 14 April, 2012 at 5:47 AM #

    Very awesome pics, always wanted to go to Portugal, it looks beautiful. I like the pic of the (I guess they are) penguins. Very cute.

  6. Lebawit Lily Girma 14 April, 2012 at 9:17 AM #

    Thank you! Are you currently in Italy? I would love to go back to Portugal as well. It was laid back and very different from the rest of Western Europe (as much as I love Spain also)! And the people were friendly even when they didn’t speak much English.

  7. Italian lessons 14 April, 2012 at 10:03 AM #

    Hi, no I live in Florida, USA, but have been to Italy many times. I have Portugal and Spain on my list, but whenever I am over there, I have family in Italy, so I like to spend time with them, since I don’t see them often. However, I’ve heard Spain is very beautiful as well. I love their cuisine too. Larry

  8. Lebawit Lily Girma 16 April, 2012 at 8:46 AM #

    Hi there, I can see how time can run out quickly visiting family! Spain is absolutely wonderful. After my first time there, I came back to the US and ran to the bookstore to buy “how to live and work in Spain.” 🙂 I have no idea where I put the book now, but I went back to visit twice more, over the next 2 years. Their food is delicious, the tapas life is awesome, the long naps, the parks, the fashion, the museums etc. Spain is amazing. 🙂

  9. pilar 4 May, 2012 at 12:08 PM #

    vistar Oporto y pasear en barco por el Tajo.
    visitar Aveiro (la Venecia Portuguesa)
    Tomar una bica y una boliña y si es posible tomar un trozo de biscocho de natas frescas.
    probar el vino de Opporto en una de las bodegas o en un restaurante.
    Ver la puesta de sol en cualquier playa del Algarve pero si es posible en punta de la Piedad.
    Disfrutar de un arroz con marisco y una botella de vino verde y cualquier plato de carne .
    Cruzar en barquito cualquier isla de la Isla de Formosa.

  10. Lebawit Lily Girma 6 May, 2012 at 10:43 AM #

    Obrigada! 🙂

  11. Jason Hightower 29 May, 2012 at 9:51 AM #

    Excellent information. I am headed to Lisbon next weekend (only for 2 days) and this helps me out a great deal. Obrigado!

  12. Deirdre C 1 July, 2014 at 6:53 PM #

    Ola! This post is excellent. I, too, am a black woman from the DMV that travels solo often. I’m headed to Lisbon and Sintra for 10 days this month and now have some ideas for what to do. I love the pictures and hope my Portuguese app is not leading me astray!

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