3 Days in Sao Miguel: Azores Itinerary for a Quick Trip

I’d wanted to do an Azores road trip for years. I have a thing for rugged and wild islands, the kind that you feel you could have been shipwrecked on centuries ago.

And smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic 1,400 kilometers from the nearest continent, the Azores certainly fit that description.

Though, to be fair, these islands are so beautiful you certainly wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked there.

Created by volcanoes a mere 15,000 years ago – a blink in the geological timeline – traveling the Azores is unlike anywhere else I can think of.

It’s most often compared to the Hawaii of Europe.

But lacking Hawaii’s massive resorts, body slam of tourism, and huge price inflation (seriously, the Azores are about as affordable as Lisbon, which is to say they’re not expensive at all), I find this comparison doesn’t do the Azores justice.

bright sunlight on a portion of the park which illuminates plant life

My friend and I had a limited amount of time to travel the Azores, so we focused only on Sao Miguel.

Luckily, even though it’s the largest island in the archipelago, it’s still rather small. Driving from Ponta Delgada on one side to the other of Sao Miguel (past Nordeste) took one hour.

We had 3 days in Sao Miguel and found it to be a great introduction to the islands but wished we had a little more time for our Azores itinerary.

However, one of my methods when traveling is to often leave a stone unturned – just to ensure I return to that destination. 

And having missed one of the Azores’ best tourist attractions due to weather (more on that below), I’m doubly certain the Azores will get a return visit from me, as it’s truly one of the best Portugal road trips out there.

A Few Notes on Planning Your Azores Itinerary

Don’t discount the weather. 

The Azores are an island chain in the middle of the Atlantic, so storms, intense fog, and unpredictable rainstorms are not uncommon. There are plenty of sunny days, but they are not the norm.

In fact, we had to shuffle around our Azores itinerary quite a bit and double back to a few destinations simply because the weather wouldn’t cooperate.

Plan your most desired destinations first, so you can return if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Here is where we slipped up. 

We planned my most anticipated places – Lagoa de Fogo and Caldeira Velha – for our final day. We made it halfway up the mountain where the Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa offers the most incredible view over the Azores’ most famous lake. 

Then we hit what felt like a white brick wall of fog, promptly both got insanely nervous driving in zero visibility, and turned straight around and retreated to sunny lower grounds.

a dilapidated house with lots of fog around it

Lagoa do Fogo is notoriously fussy.

While Fogo literally means fire in Portuguese and refers to its volcanic origins, the ‘fog’ in its name would be just as accurate of a descriptor. 

The specific microclimate of this region often means that a dense fog cloud sits on top of Pico da Barrosa like a tight-fitting hat, which means that it’s not only terrifying to drive but also often just plain pointless, as you won’t be able to see anything from the miradouro. 

While I did Lagoa do Fogo on my third and final day, I recommend doing it the first (and this Azores itinerary will reflect that) so that if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can try to return on a later date.

This Sao Miguel itinerary assumes that you have your own rental car. 

However, I know that not everyone can drive or feels comfortable driving abroad, so I will always list a guided tour option when available so that this itinerary is more accessible to everyone.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental in the Azores here.

No car? Combine this East Sao Miguel day trip as well as this West tour to cover nearly all the sights on this itinerary.

This Azores itinerary also assumes you’ll be staying in Ponta Delgada. 

However, the island is quite small, so it isn’t too much of a change if you are staying somewhere else.

Just note that the driving times to the first and last destination may be different if you are staying elsewhere.

street art of two men's portraits on a garage door. yellow and red.

Be willing to adjust your Sao Miguel itinerary based on the weather. 

Most of the spots here are outdoors or involve viewpoints, neither of which are that enjoyable in the rain. 

If it’s raining out for one of the days of your trip, I recommend shuffling around your itinerary to spend time in Ponta Delgada.

There, you can spend time exploring the pineapple plantations as they’re mostly in greenhouses.

You can follow that up by checking out some of the natural hot springs in Furnas, as it’s quite a nice feeling to relax in warm water while being soaked by the rain! 

Luckily Sao Miguel is not so big, so you can re-adjust your itinerary pretty easily (we did several times over the course of our trip to accompany the whims of the weather.

That’s just what traveling in the Atlantic islands is like, and something I learned when crafting my Faroe Islands itinerary!)

FAQ About Visiting the Azores: Travel Guide

What is the cheapest way to get to Sao Miguel island in the Azores?

view of lisbon city skyline and rooftops with a palm tree on a sunny day with view of river
Stop in Lisbon first before heading to the Azores!

It depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from Europe, it’s often easier to fly to Mainland Portugal first.

Then you can book a connecting flight from Lisbon or Porto to Ponta Delgada (capital of Sao Miguel), airport code PDL. 

Ryanair offers cheap flights from Lisbon and Porto — this is how I got there, and it cost about $30 each way. They also offer cheap flights from Frankfurt and London.

If you are coming from the United States, there are direct flights to the Azores (Ponta Delgada, specifically) from Boston via Azores Airline, which is a 5-hour flight. They often are fairly inexpensive compared to other transatlantic flights.

TAP Air Portugal is another option if you are flying from the U.S. or Canada – take advantage of their free stopover program to enjoy some time in Lisbon at no extra cost!

What is the best way to get around in the Azores?

a white car with a red roof in the azores
My cute little rental in the Azores!

By far, renting a car in the Azores is the best way to get around. These islands are made for road-tripping! 

I had a little trepidation about driving in the Azores, assuming it’d be difficult like driving in the Westfjords of Iceland (far different than the Ring Road!) or the windswept Faroe Islands.

However, it was actually pretty smooth sailing, and I’d definitely suggest renting a car to anyone who is comfortable driving in other European cities. 

Granted, street parking in Ponta Delgada is harrowing, but that goes for all European city centers. However, the alternative is booking several day tours, which can get really expensive!

Not sure whether you want to rent a car? I wrote a whole guide to renting a car in the Azores that explains my experience doing so!

How many days do you need in the Azores?

view of the rugged coastline of sao miguel from one of the many miradouros on the island, a must on any sao miguel itinerary

As many as possible! If you are just visiting Sao Miguel, as this Azores itinerary lays out, then sure, 3 days is perfectly fine. 

But if you are visiting other islands, like Faial, Flores, Terceira, Santa Maria, Pico, Sao Jorge, etc., you will want at least 2 days per additional island to account for travel time. 

Not sure where you want to go in additional to Sao Miguel? Check this travel guide to the other Azores islands.

Although it is the largest of the Azores islands, Sao Miguel can be seen pretty extensively in 3 days, though 5 days would give you more time and let you see it at a more leisurely pace. The other islands are quite small and can be seen in a day and a half.

Is the Azores worth visiting?

a trail leading to a waterfall with lots of tropical-looking plant life

Absolutely! This unique landscape is hard to find elsewhere in Europe. 

Where else can you find pineapple plantations, tea farms, geothermal springs that mix with ocean water to create pleasantly hot water like a bathtub, waterfalls, and stunning views around every other corner?

I grew up going to Hawaii often as a kid and while I found the Azores to be fairly similar in terms of landscape to Hawaii, I found the Azores to be less touristic, more untouched, and more magical-feeling.

It’s one of the most special places I’ve ever been! 

What is the best month to visit the Azores?

fields with a lighthouse on it overlooking a cliff and the atlantic ocean in the azores

We went in late March and honestly, the weather was pretty great!

On the whole, I think March is a great month to visit Portugal (and Lisbon in particular), and I’d imagine that year-round, the Azores is worth the trip.

In late March it was a little bit chilly, but we had no rain and just a small amount of fog. It was cold in the mornings and perfect by mid-afternoon! 

April or May would be even better. June through August experience the summer glut of tourists, so avoid the summer months if your schedule allows.

September or October would also be lovely and usually have good weather, better than spring!

Your 3 Day Itinerary for the Azores: Day 1

a church covered in azulejo tiles in sao miguel azores

Keep in mind my advice about the fog: Lagoa de Fogo is notoriously finicky and there will likely be fog obscuring your view. 

Therefore, I’ve recommended an alternate day 1 itinerary (what I ended up doing after we got too afraid to drive in the heavy fog) as well, in case you end up unlucky with the weather as we did.

If you have good weather, I recommend visiting Lagoa do Fogo and its two best viewpoints – Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa and Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo – first, before heading to Caldeira Velha for a soak in the hot springs. 

Then head back to Ponta Delgada, making a stop at the pineapple plantation on the way back, to enjoy the city’s unique architecture and funky street art. 

Alternately, if Lagoa do Fogo is too fussy, I’ve also included what we did instead (it helps to have a backup plan in a place with weather so dramatic!) in the below section so that you can adjust on the fly.

Whale Watching

whales diving into the water

One of the best things to do in Azores is check out the incredible whales who live around these Atlantic waters and call them home!

There are many great whale watching cruises which depart from Ponta Delgada. Tours last about 3 hours; this tour begins at 8:30 so it still allows you to have a full day of sightseeing afterward.

On a whale watching cruise  in the Azores, you’ll be led by expert guides who try to point out as many of the 28 cetacean species (whales and dolphins) that can be found in the waters around Ponta Delgada.

This tour in particular is great because if you fail to see any whales or dolphins on your tour, they allow you to reschedule it for free! Besides whales and dolphins, you’ll also get to see sea birds, turtles, and other marine life on these tours. 

Book your whale watching excursion here!

Lagoa de Fogo

the colorful waters of lagoa de fogo when there is no fog covering it

One of the most picturesque places in Sao Miguel, the Lagoa do Fogo is the typical postcard photo you probably have in mind when thinking of the Azores.

Unfortunately, that postcard-perfect view is rare to find, as fog and clouds typically obscure the top and make the winding roads to the viewpoints of Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa and Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo quite onerous! 

So I advise you to throw this on the first day of your Azores itinerary so that you can shuffle things around if necessary and return for the perfect view.

While I didn’t make it here myself, I’ve read that you can hike down to the lake level in about 45 minutes each way, though to actually hike the perimeter of the lake would take the better part of a full day.

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Prefer a guided hike? This guided Lagoa do Fogo tour will take you there.
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Caldeira Velha

a woman in a bathing suit stairing at the waterfall in front of her in a thermal pool on a sao miguel vacation

On my initial itinerary for the Azores, I had planned for us to head onwards from Lagoa de Fogo to Caldeira Velha (Ancient Boiler in Portuguese)

However, the fog kept us from getting to experience this place and that’s truly one of my biggest regrets about our trip to the Azores. 

When I researched it, this place seemed amazing – geothermic waters in a Jurassic Park-esque setting (minus the whole stressful impending dinosaur attack thing).

Alas, we didn’t get a chance to visit (though we visited plenty of other hot springs during our time in the Azores that made up for it), but I’m still putting it on this Azores itinerary as I’ve heard nothing but great things about it and was gutted to miss it.

A quick note: the water will stain your bathing suit rust-orange, just like the waters at Terra Nostra, so be sure to bring a dark-colored bathing suit or a suit you plan on throwing out after your trip.

Ananases A Arruda

a teeny tiny azorean pineapple

Another image you’ve likely seen from the Azores is the insufferably cute tiny pineapples that are grown there! 

The only place where pineapples grow in Europe is the Azores, and Ananases A Arruda is a can’t-miss, just a short drive from Ponta Delgada.

You can walk through a few greenhouses spotting Azorean pineapples in different sizes and phases of growth (they take two years to fully mature — even though they’re tiny).

Pineapples are not native to the Azores, but rather were imported from Africa in the 19th century due to the shared history of Portuguese colonization. However, they do grow surprisingly well in the subtropical environment of the Azores!

The Azorean pineapple farmers bred their pineapples a bit differently than the standard, creating a smaller fruit with a tinier crown and a more robust, sweet pineapple flavor.

Ananases A Arruda is free to visit, but just try to leave without bringing home some pineapple jam or pineapple liqueur that they sell there!

There is also another pineapple farm, Plantação de Ananás dos Açores, which you can visit if you’re just crazy about these pineapples or want o

Ponta Delgada

This first day of your Azores itinerary is a little light on things to do compared to the other two days, because I think it’s important to dedicate sufficient time to explore beautiful Ponta Delgada. 

Depending on where you’re traveling from as well or what time you’re getting in, you may be tired as well from traveling, so this day is purposefully lighter than the others as a result.

Of course, if you are not staying in Ponta Delgada but rather somewhere else on the island, I’d explore Ponta Delgada first (since you will be flying into the airport and driving past it) so that afterward you can head to your hotel elsewhere.

a brilliant church on a hill on a cloudy day

I’ll have a full post on what to visit when you go to Ponta Delgada soon. 

For now, I recommend checking out the iconic Pontas de Cidade arch gate, Forte de Sao Bras, and my personal favorite, Jardim António Borges which is full of rare plants and transports you to a Jungle-Book-like world without ever leaving the city center.

Alternate 1st Day in Sao Miguel Itinerary

black sand beach next to a restaurant on the ocean

Our plan for the day we visited Lagoa de got foiled because of the terrible weather so we made a few adjustments.

Instead of going to Lagoa de Fogo, we instead headed to Caloura for a seaside lunch at Bar Caloura, which was fantastic.

There is a natural swimming pool in the middle of the ocean here which seems to be free to use. However, considering that mid-March is a pretty god-awful time to soak in the middle of the Atlantic, we didn’t test it out.

On the drive down to Bar Caloura, about 200 meters before the restaurant, you can’t miss the beautiful Caloura Convent with its traditional azulejo (blue and white Portuguese tiles) facade.

It’s a stunning work of symmetry and tilework and definitely worth a quick photo stop (in fact, I recommend parking here instead of Bar Caloura).

Afterward, we headed towards Praia Pequena de Água d’Alto, stopping at Miradouro do Pisão for a lovely viewpoint over Caloura on the way.

At this point, you could go back to Ponta Delgada to spend the afternoon exploring the town, but since you are pretty close to Lagoa de Congro you could do that instead. 

Be sure to stop at Our Lady of Peace Chapel in Vila Franca on the way if you do! (More on this in Day 3 of this Azores itinerary.)

Your Azores Itinerary, Day 2

people enjoying the thermal waters in a natural pool in the azores sao miguel itinerary

This day is all about lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and miradouros – pretty much all the things the Azores does best.

A few things to keep in mind… again, fog will potentially be your enemy when it comes to the first two miradouros on this itinerary. 

You may need to double back or visit another day if there is fog or bad weather when you visit (we had to).

However, the fog in this area is definitely less bad than in Lagoa do Fogo. Here, you’ll probably only encounter fog if there is an actual storm as there was when we visited. 

Meanwhile, at Lagoa do Fogo, the fog sat stubbornly all day – when we drove back past it several hours after we re-routed and changed up our day’s itinerary, the same lid of impenetrable fog was still perched exactly where we saw it.

Finally, one last note about day two: you’ll need to check the tide forecast (click here to see it) and use that to plan when to visit Ferraria, as it’s best visited just before or just after low tide.

 The reason for this is that it’s a geothermically heated pool that mixes with ocean water, and you have to get the balance of thermal water and ocean water just right to get that perfect, surreal, floating in a bathtub while feeling the ocean current vibe. 

We visited about 30 minutes after low tide and stayed for one hour and it was perfect, but the tide was already starting to come in stronger and if we had come much later it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno

a volcanic crater filled with lake water and a lake down below at a popular miradouro viewpoint in sao miguel

While the nearby Miradouro da Vista do Rei is more popular for some reason, this was actually one of my favorite miradouros on all of Sao Miguel (which, trust me, is a hard distinction to make – there are so many beautiful ones).

We parked in the nearby parking lot on the right rather than driving all the way to the
miradouro, but we definitely could have driven it as the road was not as bumpy as I was worried about. 

Still, it’s less than a 1-kilometer walk and it lets you make a quick stop at one of my other favorite places, Lagoa do Canario, on the way to or from the miradouro.

The walk up to the best point of the miradouro from the end of the drivable road takes about 10 minutes (~20 minutes if walking from the main parking lot). 

There is some information in both Portuguese and English there detailing how the landscape was formed – which is super interesting if you’re a geology nerd like I am, telling you about the volcanic crater formation and history.

Lagoa do Canario

peaceful water forming a still mirror image in the lake surrounded by trees

Just a quick 5-minute detour on the path to or from Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, this lake should be more crowded but thankfully isn’t! 

It remains one of the most peaceful places on the island despite being so close to some of the most popular tourist spots.

When I visited the lake was perfectly still, sheltered by all the beautiful trees around it, making a gorgeous mirror image. I don’t know why more tourists don’t stop here, but I’m sure glad I knew about it!

Miradouro da Vista do Rei

This was one of the most crowded places I visited on my Azores itinerary so don’t expect peace and quiet here! 

Personally, I much preferred the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, but since this one is so close, I still recommend visiting both.

This is also where you’ll find the so-called ‘abandoned hotel’, Hotel Monte Palace. Though to be honest, it’s barely abandoned at all… considering that it’s at the doorstep of one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Azores and people are constantly there! 

Some people go inside despite the signs telling you not to enter. I personally don’t advise entering, especially since there are plans to reopen it in 2021, and I would imagine the new developers don’t take kindly to trespassers.

Sete Cidades

scenic white church surrounded by tall moss covered trees in sete cidades

Heading down from the mountain views, the town of Sete Cidades is definitely well worth a stop (and perhaps a quick lunch break – we ate at Restaurante Lagoa Azul)

It’s worth it to make a stop after you’ve crossed the bridge dividing the lake in two to stop and take photos from eye level, which has a much different visual than from above. 

I also loved visiting the church in Sete Cidades, with its ghoulishly beautiful row of trees framing it like something out of a movie.

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If you prefer someone else to drive, this 4WD Sete Cidades trip is an adrenaline-pumping experience!
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Ferraria

many people in the water with ropes enjoying the cool and hot waters of the ponta da ferraria

Visiting Ponta da Ferraria was truly my favorite thing I did in the Azores and absolutely a can’t-miss, in my opinion. Here is where geothermically heated waters from the ground mix with the cold, brisk waters of the Atlantic, combining to lukewarm perfection in a natural pool formed by rocks.

While in many other places in the world, they’d alter the hell out of the landscape, the approach in the Azores is thankfully rather minimalist – I mean, why mess with perfection? 

All they’ve added is a ladder and some ropes for safety. The rest is all as the earth intended it to be (there are some bathrooms and changing rooms nearby, though).

Sitting in the waters, feeling the geothermal hot springs sweep past me on one ebb of the tide and the cold Atlantic waters rush past me on another, was truly my favorite experience of my entire Azores trip. 

I must have sat there for at least an hour murmuring “this is magical” over and over again. Something about the combination of the hot and cold waters and the peaceful yet powerful feeling of the ocean water repeatedly flowing in and out was truly spectacular.

Note that it is rather popular and there is a limited time period in the day where you can experience Ponta da Ferraria at its best. 

Come exactly at low tide and the water will be too hot in some places, come too close to high tide and the water won’t be warm at all because it’ll be too diluted by ocean water (plus it seems like it would be dangerous at high tide, judging by where the water line was). 

I visited about 30 minutes after low tide passed (check out the tide forecast here) and it was perfect. I stayed for about an hour and noticed the water level rising and the general water level getting cooler by the time I was ready to leave.

I visited around 10:30 AM and it was quite crowded with people who also had the same idea but still very, very enjoyable! 

However, keep in mind that the tides vary from day to day so be sure to plan your itinerary around this and shuffle things around if needed to come at the optimal time.

There’s also a lighthouse in town that you can visit, but we just checked it out from the nearby miradouro, halfway between the town and the thermal pools.

Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

miradouro on the edge of the azores with cliffs and a town in the distance and sea stacks in the water

This rarely-visited miradouro on the way to Mosteiros is absolutely worth a quick stop because it’s absolutely breathtaking.

You won’t need much time here, maybe 10 minutes or so, but I couldn’t leave it off this Azores itinerary! 

Mosteiro

This small Portuguese town is known for its black sand beach and beautiful sea stacks. There are also some small natural pools that form due to the rock formations and the tide. 

However, when we visited the weather was extremely windy and the tide was churning strongly, so it didn’t look safe to enter the water.

However, I’ve seen photos of it at other times and people are swimming and enjoying the water, so it’ll depend on the weather as well as the tide. 

It was too cold in March to even think about getting in, so consider your time as well, because this is just straight-up ocean water and not geothermally-warmed waters mixing with ocean water in like Ferraria.

The black sand beach with its view of the sea stacks and the natural pools are located in different parts of town so you’ll likely prefer to drive between the two as they are a little far apart.

Ribeira Grande

the peaceful town of ribeira grande with its river, church, park, and bridges
the

About halfway between Mosteiros and Gorreana Tea Factory (Cha Gorreana), your next stop, is the beautiful town of Ribeira Grande (big river). 

We had but a quick stop here, but here are a few of the things worth checking out.

There’s the Miradouro do Castelo (not sure why it’s called this as there is no castle to speak of!), the Jardim Municipal de Ribeira Grande with its many bridges and beautiful trees, and the traditional Azorean church Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Estrela.

Gorreana Tea Factory

tea plantations next to a road and trees

The only tea plantation in Europe, Gorreana Tea Factory is a wonderful stop on any Azores itinerary, located on the north coast of Sao Miguel.

Normally, the European climate is too harsh for tea to truly prosper, but the unique Azorean climate is different. The first plantation was created by the Azorean Jacinto Leite in the 1820s, who imported tea seeds from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil while he was stationed there.

The crops grew in importance when the trade of oranges declined (around the same time as pineapples began to be cultivated in the Azores as well), as agriculture has always been a crucial part of the Azorean economy. 

The plantation you can visit today is Gorreana Tea Factory. It was founded in 1883, after hiring some Chinese tea experts to consult on how to improve their tea plantation.

The Gorreana Tea Factory has 32 acres you can visit and you can visit some of the machines they use to dry, process, and produce the tea leaves. 

You can do a hike in the area, and if that doesn’t suit you, you can just simply walk around the tea fields for a bit, depending on the weather. Or you can simply enjoy a free (yes, free!) cup of tea inside the factory!

While to be fair, I know very little about tea, I started every morning in the Azores with a cup of Gorreana green tea and found it truly exquisite – never would I imagine that this was tea grown on a misty, moody island in the middle of the Atlantic!

Parque Natural das Ribeira dos Caldeirões

One of the biggest surprises of my trips to the Azores was this small natural park filled with beautiful views, flowers, and flowing waterfalls.

Loosely translated, Ribeira dos Caldeirões means river of boilers, named so for the many thermal waters.

It’s smaller than I expected but it was packed with so much beauty that I hardly minded – especially because my visit coincided perfectly with golden hour.

There is one waterfall inside the ‘park’ proper, but don’t miss the larger waterfall just a little ways up the road which is even more impressive and beautiful.

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If you want to go here without a car, join this Nordeste day trip as neither the West or East Sao Miguel tours cover this or the Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego below.
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Faro do Arnel

lighthouse at the edge of the azores

A quick stop at the scenic lighthouse of Faro do Arnel is a must on the way to Ponta do Sossego.

The road is steep (cars are allowed, but I didn’t want to risk driving), so you have to walk a bit to reach the actual lighthouse proper, but it’s worth it! 

I cannot emphasize enough how steep it is, so only go if you are confident you can walk up and down that hill safely!

Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego

pink hydrangeas at the ponta de sossego lookout

Sossego means ‘calmness’ in Portuguese and that’s exactly what you’ll find here in this picturesque miradouro just past Nordeste, pretty much as far as you can drive from Ponta Delgada without plunging into the Atlantic Ocean!

Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego was one of the most spectacular places on my Azores itinerary.

It is quite far from Ponta Delgada and does make for a long drive back at the end of the day, I can promise you that it will be worth it. The views of the cliffs are incredible, and there are stunning hydrangeas everywhere you look.

Just a little way further is the Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada, which also offers incredible views and is worth driving a little further to if your time permits. We weren’t able to go as the sun had already set. 

Madrugada means ‘early morning’ in Portuguese, so I’m thinking this is likely a phenomenal sunrise spot! 

Personally, I loved Ponta do Sossego and found it to be the most beautiful place I visited on all of Sao Miguel.

Your Azores Itinerary, Day 3

This day is all about tying up loose ends on your Azores itinerary and ticking off a few of the greatest places on the island of Sao Miguel!

Get ready for some amazing snorkeling, beautiful churches, natural beauty, and so many hot springs!

Snorkel with dolphins

pod of dolphins swimming underwater in the azores islands

Start your day in the most memorable way possible with an incredible snorkeling tour that gives you the opportunity to swim with pods of curious wild dolphins.

Note that these are wild animals in their natural habitat, so you are not guaranteed to see the dolphins…. but it is quite likely!

Several types of dolphins call the waters near Ponta Delgada home, including the common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, and Risso’s dolphins (aka gray dolphins).

This half-day tour starts at 8:30 AM and will keep you busy until noon, which allows you plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your final day in Sao Miguel.

Bring a fresh change of clothes and a towel so you can dry yourself off and enjoy the rest of your day!

Book your snorkeling with dolphins tour online here!

Our Lady of Peace Chapel

One of the most Instagrammed places in the Azores, my foolish self didn’t realize that this place was actually in Sao Miguel (for some reason I thought it was in Terceira!) and failed to actually go here… Whoops. 

As I like to say, being a travel blogger is basically just being a professional mistake-maker so that our readers can have a more seamless experience than we do!

It’s called Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz, which translates to the Hermitage (or Chapel) of Our Lady of Peace. And it’s stunning.

When creating the maps for this Azores itinerary I realized that I was literally in the town where this famous chapel is… and left without seeing its most famous attraction. 

I had been at the black sand beach in nearby Alto do Agua, where we could see the beautiful islet of Vila Franca do Campo.

We stopped to get gas in Vila Franca do Campo (and tried and failed to see a ‘secret waterfall’ that proved too secret for us to indeed find)… and left before seeing this spot which had been on my Azores bucket list.

So while I can’t offer any firsthand advice, I can tell you it’s on the way to Lagoa do Congro and would make a great stop on the final day of your 3 day Azores itinerary.

Lagoa do Congro

allison standing on a log looking at the green lake lagoa de congro

A note to all my fellow nervous drivers out there: the road to Lagoa do Congro is a tricky one! It’s quite narrow and really uneven, with places that made it seem like we could easily get our tire stuck in a rut. 

We ended up parking well before the parking spot at a place where there was enough room for cars to pass us and walking the rest of the way.

If you have a taller car (I highly doubt that is the actual technical term, but let’s roll with it), you may feel fine, but I was doubtful.

Anyway, stressful road aside, this is a peaceful, 20-minute or so hike down to a brilliantly green lake totally surrounded by trees. It’s not particularly strenuous so it’s an easy hike to add if you’re out of shape like I am. 

It’s also not super on the tourist trail like Lagoa do Fogo, Furnas Lake, and the Miradouro do Visto do Rei all are, so it’s rather peaceful. 

We actually enjoyed a picnic here as our hotel thoughtfully gave us breakfast in a picnic basket every morning (will share more details on where we stayed at the end of this Azores itinerary!)

Capela da Nossa Senhora das Vitorias

One of the coolest places I visited in the Azores was the abandoned Capela da Nossa Senhora das Vitorias on the perimeter of Furnas Lake. 

You can’t go inside, but it is hauntingly beautiful to visit and imagine it in its prime. Seeing it so empty and overgrown has that wonderful kenopsia effect that I enjoy when visiting abandoned or neglected places.

I highly recommend continuing to take a walk around Furnas Lake (it took us about 2 hours going slowly and taking lots of photos) so you can get photos of it from all angles.

Furnas Lake & Fumaroles

We took the time to walk around Furnas Lake and it was absolutely magical! 

I know with just 3 days in Sao Miguel it can be tempting to hop in the car from photo spot to photo spot, but I was so glad we took the extra time to wander around the entire perimeter of the lake – about 2 hours with stops. 

The colors of the lake changed dramatically depending on the angle, hour, and distance from the lake, making it a magical experience.

It’s also an extremely easy hike – in fact, I don’t even think you could class it as a hike, as it’s pretty much entirely flat. It is basically a long walk along a path for most of the hike and then alongside the road for the final bit (but there is a pedestrian area sheltered from the roadway).

Along the way we stopped at the Furnas Fumaroles which is where we saw a lot of tour buses stopping for lunch of hot steaming cozidos, stews cooked in the geothermic heat of the earth.

If you don’t want to walk around the entire lake, you could simply park near the abandoned chapel and visit that separately then come here. There’s a parking lot by the chapel, at quite a reasonable price of 40 cents per hour.

Then, you can get back in your car and drive about 5 minutes to the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas. There is parking and an entrance fee of 2 euro per person for doing so, which you can avoid if you do the ‘hike.’

Terra Nostra Park

If you’ve started researching your Azores trip you’ve undoubtedly come across photos of Terra Nostra and its strange orange-gold waters! 

The color comes from the iron-rich volcanic springs beneath it, which pump out hot bathwater-like mineral rich water to enjoy a soak in (especially rewarding after hiking around Lagoa das Furnas!).

The Terra Nostra Gardens date back to 1780, when it was created by a wealthy American living abroad in the Azores. It was made larger in 1935, and the 35-acre botanical gardens were extended dramatically. 

While I loved soaking in the giant gold pool, I loved walking through the gardens nearly as much! They are truly spectacular and definitely worth spending some time exploring.

You can also eat at the restaurant in Terra Nostra, although we didn’t due to running low on time.

I’ve read that if you eat at the restaurant you can get free entry to the grounds but I would recommend calling to confirm. 

Cozidos, traditional stews cooked in the earth, are available here. You can also order other traditional Portuguese and Azorean dishes.

Don’t miss soaking in the smaller springs near the changing rooms as well, which have warmer, clearer water and are surrounded by lots of plant life! 

Just remember that like at Caldeira Velha, the iron-rich water will stain your bathing suit, so be sure to bring a black swimsuit or an old one that you don’t care much about!

Casa Invertida

This quirky little stop is in the center of town in Furnas close to the bus station. 

It’s actually a power station of some kind, but it blends into all the other normal houses on the block. It’s a quirky and interesting stop while already in Furnas.

It’s interesting and easy to visit, especially since you’re already in Furnas, but it’s not an essential stop!

Poça da Dona Beija (Optional)

a small spring fed by mineral water on the azores islands

If you want to get in one last dip in the hot springs, add in Poça da Dona Beija! 

Honestly, after visiting Terra Nostra and soaking in the springs for a few hours, I wasn’t really feeling up to go to another hot spring, but I thought I’d mention it here regardless as it has quite positive reviews!

The entrance fee is 6 euros and you can rent a locker, towels, and hot water showers for 1-2 euro more per add-on. 

It’s also open quite late, until 11 PM, so you could also add it to the end of another day’s itinerary or explore further up the coast a bit to Povoação.

Here, you can hike to the beautiful Salto do Prego waterfall via the Trilha Salto do Prego

I didn’t have time for this on my own Sao Miguel itinerary, as it’s a bit out of the way and we had shorter days with less light hours, since we were visiting in March.

You can spend some time there before doubling back and checking out Poça da Dona Beija on your way back to Ponta Delgada. 

Alternately, you could visit here after catching a sunset somewhere on the coast, grab a great dinner, and then finish the night with a star-filled soak!

Where to Stay in Sao Miguel

I’ll have a post with more recommendations shortly, but I really loved staying in Ponta Delgada.

 It had a wide variety of restaurants to choose from and no place on the island is that far from it as it is quite central. The most I ever drove from Ponta Delgada to anywhere was 1 hour and that was the total opposite side of the island.

I stayed at Casa Ateneu and loved it, but I’ll also give a few more recommendations at the bottom of the post.

Casa Ateneu

We were traveling on a low to mid-range budget and I was so happy to find Casa Ateneu at a reasonable price (check here for current rates and availability). There are other options for those on a budget like Airbnb or VRBO but frankly I thought this was the best value and best choice.

We paid 35 euros per night for a double room with an ensuite bathroom and thought it was an amazing value. However, keep in mind we traveled a bit off-season near the end of March, so I would imagine the rooms would cost about twice as much in the summer.

The room was not huge but it felt really spacious with insanely high ceilings (seriously… like two stories tall high!), and lovely comfortable bedding, and plenty of outlets and places to store things. 

The whole interior of the house had a really lovely, homey vibe to it, and there was a kitchen that was free to use if you wanted to cook for yourself as well. We didn’t use it but it looked quite well-stocked!

One thing to note: the reception is not actually located at Casa Ateneu but just down the street from it. That said, check-in was super easy since we could just walk one block away to meet them to get our keys and get a tour of the property. 

The staff was always available to help us, even walking over with our printed boarding passes one evening, when the computer at Casa Ateneu was having trouble printing.

But my favorite part of staying at Casa Ateneu was the picnic baskets full of delicious breakfast goodies they gave us every day in lieu of a standard breakfast buffet.

This was perfect as we’d simply make a cup of coffee or Gorreana tea (free in the kitchen) first thing in the morning, head to our first miradouro or viewpoint, and have a picnic breakfast in gorgeous surroundings. 

They even included coffee and tea in the breakfast baskets, though you’d need a Thermos to hold some super hot water if you were going to make the coffee or tea.

Eating breakfast each morning out of a picnic basket overlooking a lake, surrounded by trees and the hum of birds, was one of the highlights of my Azores trip and I wonder why more hotels don’t do this!

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Ready to book? Check out Casa Ateneu or other Sao Miguel hotels here.
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10 Phenomenal Things to Do in Faial, Azores

Note: This is a guest post by Brady Trautman of SV Delos.

Sailing across an ocean is a humbling experience!

Over the past ten years, I’ve been fortunate enough to live a lifestyle that allows me to experience the world by boat, crossing vast distances by the power of the wind, and experiencing a way of traveling that in my opinion, is matched by no other.

Sharing our adventures on YouTube aboard SV Delos, a 53-foot bluewater yacht has taken our crew to some of the most remote places on earth.

Over the years we have had over 50 crew join us on our filming adventures. From tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean to far-flung anchorages in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Indian Ocean, we’ve visited places on earth that have inspired, exhilarated, and mystified us.

Our most recent passage saw us heading east from Bermuda, sailing 2,500 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean, arriving into the archipelago known as the Azores.

This sprinkle of land in the vast Atlantic Ocean, about 800 miles west of Portugal, offers sailors and intrepid travelers, a lush, volcanic sub-tropical wonderland, free of the many tourists, hassles and high prices found in mainland Europe. The island of Faial is the most central of the 9 islands of the Azores, offering those lucky enough to visit some truly memorable experiences.

This itinerary assumes you have rented a car in order to best explore Faial. If not, you’ll likely need to hire a taxi to take you around the island; however, it’s much cheaper to rent a car in the Azores.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental in Faial here.

Here are the best things to do in Faial, Azores!

Visit the Horta Marina 

The Horta Marina is perhaps the most famous in all the Azores.

Throughout the centuries, boats making their way across the Atlantic would find refuge in her sheltered waters after many days at sea, and after encountering some pretty gnarly conditions during our passage from Bermuda, we were keen to do the same.

Stepping onto the dock, the first thing we noticed were the murals that adorn almost every surface of the marina. Hand-painted logos left by previous sailors who had made the long journey across the North Atlantic, only enriched the experience of stepping onto land after so long at sea.

It became quickly apparent that the residents of this marina were a little different from those we had seen in the Caribbean, there were no flashy charter boats, just rough and ready ocean-going vessels, salty from the thousands of miles put under their keels.

As we walked the docks, the smiles and nods received from fellow sailors created an undoubted feeling of kinship, we had all arrived by sea, travelling across the globe in our tiny boats, eliciting wind from mother nature while desperately hoping we didn’t encounter her full wrath. 

Have a drink at Peter’s Bar

Landfall in Horta means a visit to Peter’s Cafe Sport (bar), a famous establishment run by generations of a Portuguese family.

The atmosphere is rich, the food and drink plentiful and the service welcoming. Horta’s history as a whaling town becomes obvious in the photographs, carvings, and unforgettable scrimshaw that adorns the bar’s walls. 

Scrimshaw, which is intricately carved ivory whales teeth, are truly works of art. Hauntingly beautiful pictures of tall ships, sunsets, wives, and newborn babies so delicately and painstakingly inscribed, bought, and sold in days of old as a way for the whalers to make money.

Although the whaling industry is long gone, its impact on Faial is long-lasting, and the local whaling museum found upstairs, gives a real insight into how these starving farmers could make a living. It was hard to decide what was more enjoyable, drinking beer with the Portuguese locals, swapping stories with other yachties or marveling at the bar’s paraphernalia.

Check out the vista at Capelinhos

Faial has one of the Azores’ most dramatic volcanic landscapes, located on the western peninsula, at Capelinhos. In the 1950s, volcanic eruptions created over 2km² of new land, this natural phenomenon caused massive damage to the environment and triggered a wave of emigration, as locals fled to America after losing their homes and livelihood.

The volcanic slopes can be observed from a viewing platform perched high on a cliff. Looking out at this baron otherworldly landscape, with the ocean pounding the rock face, is a reminder of nature’s power and beauty.

Observing what was probably the newest piece of the earth the Delos crew had ever seen was a reminder that Mother Nature is still doing her thing. The history of the volcano is well documented, and the Capelinhos Interpretation Centre, a building constructed entirely underground, has detailed exhibits that explain its formation, as well as how volcanoes around the world develop and the history of the lighthouse that towers over the center, which can be climbed for another viewpoint.

Join the locals at Porto do Comprido

When the sub-tropical sun is out, and the breeze is warm, the locals head to Porto do Comprido, a natural swimming pool formed in the jagged volcanic rock nearby.

This spot is a photographer’s dream, with the contrast of water, rocks, cliffs, and the lighthouse providing a perfect backdrop. Slipping into the cool Atlantic water of the pools, as the swell slowly rises and falls, gazing at the coastline before you, is truly a surreal experience — just be sure to stay clear of the phenomenally purple Portuguese Man-O-Wars that inhabit the area.

These interesting creatures float in the water, their little sail in the air, hoping the trade winds will blow them towards their next meal, or an unsuspecting swimmers leg!

Marvel at the Caldeira

Visiting the Caldeira is perhaps one of the most well-known things to do in Faial. Located in the middle of the island, it is a two-kilometer wide, 400-meter deep volcanic cone.

This nature reserve showcases the rare flora species found in the Azores, and with stunning views of not only the crater but the towering Pico island to the east, it is one of the best vantage spots in the Azores.

On a clear day, high atop the Caldeira’s rim, you will feel among the clouds, watching the mist flow in as the cool moist air blasts your face. For those who like to get down and dirty, it is possible to take a trek into the crater, however, to protect the natural plant species, the local tourism authority only allows a limited amount per day.

There is also a slightly more forgiving goat trail along the rim of the crater, where every vantage point of this incredible natural showpiece can be experienced.

Experience the countryside while horse riding 

Something we rarely have a chance to do as sailors is to throw a leg over a horse and gallop through the countryside, lucky for us, Faial has some great horse riding opportunities for beginners and the experienced.

The first thing you notice when riding your horse along a trail, or any road in Faial for that matter, are the hydrangeas lining the roadside. In full bloom, it is literally impossible to take a photo anywhere on the island without a purple green and white bouquet in the background.

They cover Faial in their tens of thousands, only adding to the magic of this European wonder. The sub-tropical climate means the Azores is lush with vegetation, which keeps the local cows happy as they munch on grass in the stone-walled fields.

The views from the rugged clifftop coastline are intoxicating, the air fresh and the water blue. Our horses took us through trails we would never have known to walk down and was a great way to see the local communities and to learn about the islands day to day life. 

Try your hand at surfing

The Azores Islands are well known among the surfing community for their uncrowded volcanic point breaks. Since safe anchorages or marinas are usually at the opposite end of the island than the surf breaks, you definitely have to put in the work to catch waves as a sailor in the Azores.

The time of year for surfing is from September to December, by constantly watching the weather and waiting for a low-pressure system to roll across the North Atlantic, you will have an opportunity to find the swell. The ideal time to jump in the water is just after a low swings past so the wind will switch to offshore.

Entry into the water can be tricky, having to jump off rocks and inevitably scramble back up them. There are also the ever-present Portuguese Man of Wars to be dodged!

Each surf is a challenging but rewarding mission that usually starts with walking a few hours uphill and often ends by sleeping in the rain on the beach. Anyone reading this may call us surfers crazy for going through all this trouble just to catch a wave, but for us, the challenge is all part of the adventure.

Hiking with surfboards and friends, catching rides with locals, exercising our bodies, acquiring some simple scars along the way all make for a good story. The moments when you find yourself in glassy water with chest high waves, offshore winds, and your buddies by your side makes it all worth it. 

Experience shark diving

The Azores is known as Europe’s premier whale watching destination. With pristine waters that descend to the black depths of the deep, whale and dolphin sightings are common, however, we were keen to do something a little different, diving with blue sharks!

After meeting up with one of the local dive shops, we organized a crew to take us out to an area known for mako and blue shark sightings. With our guide chumming the water to get the scent of blood out there (a practice we don’t necessarily agree with) the sharks soon turned up.

Diving with these amazing creatures in the clear cool Azorean waters was phenomenal. The blue sharks looked like 6 feet long puppy dogs, playful and inquisitive, not like the hammerheads and bull sharks we had experienced in other parts of the world. Watching these sublime creatures glide through the water was a massive rush.

Go scuba diving

Faial is known for some incredible diving, and it didn’t disappoint. Another area just off the coast of Faial is the Princess Alice Bank, a spot where the ocean floor rises and the water is only 35 meters deep.

Scuba diving here has a very different feel than close to shore, with open water all around and nothing but you and a few other dive boats, it’s a rare spot.

The 45 mile trip to this location was well worth the effort, as we found ourselves diving with massive manta rays as big as a dining room table.

In 100 meters of clear blue water, among a school of thirty of these graceful creatures gliding past, seemingly unknowing of our existence and with only the sound of air bubbles rising from our scuba tanks, it was impossible to not feel totally at peace. 

Take a quick visit to Pico

Although not technically on the island of Faial, it is impossible to avoid the allure of the neighboring island of Pico.

The incredibly high peak of this volcanic beauty, which rises almost 8,000 feet out of the ocean and is Portugal’s highest point, is not easily missed.

A very short ferry trip across the channel from Faial brings you to this towering beauty, which can be hiked but is not for the faint-hearted, taking 5 to 7 hours depending on your fitness level.

After registering with the authorities at the base of the mountain, and receiving our GPS trackers so they could track our whereabouts, we were free to explore the steep slopes.

It is possible to pitch a tent in the crater of the volcano and stay the night, and even though it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do, the evening sunset and the morning sunrise were spectacular, well worth the effort of lugging a tent and filming gear to the summit.

Looking out over the clouds, a perfect view of Faial and the vast Atlantic Ocean reminded us of the reason we travel far and wide over this incredible blue planet. 

***

The Azores is a place that has something to offer everyone, the Portuguese people are proud of their islands, their culture, and their long history. It’s obvious to anyone visiting this archipelago that the natural environment plays an important part of life here, and the people have done an amazing job of integrating society with it.

Although there are plenty of cafes, shops, and buildings, they are built in a way that ties them to the land, often created from stone and wood. The pace of life is slower, and people take the time to enjoy life’s little treats, like sharing a coffee with friends, enjoying a view or swimming in the volcanic pools.

If you decide to travel to the Azores, you will not find white sandy beaches with coconut trees, but you will find a lush, subtropical, volcanic paradise largely unspoilt by human interaction. 

About the Author

Joining Delos in 2010, Brady Trautman brings an essential element to the Delos brand.  With his easy-going vibe, infectious smile, and quick wit, he ensures laughter and love are felt by all those around him. Originally from Florida, Brady studied environmental engineering before making the transition to full-time sailing.

Brady’s skills in marketing, video editing and qualifications as a Dive Master, Dive Instructor and Rescue Diver have played a huge part in keeping Delos in the top echelon of YouTube sailing channels, all the while inspiring others to follow their dreams. With his charismatic personality, he is at home around people, no matter where in the world he is, he will find a way to connect with others and share the Delos love. You can follow Brady on Facebook and Instagram.

21 Practical Things to Know Before Visiting Lisbon for the First Time

Lisbon is beloved for its canary-yellow streetcars, delicious food, tile-covered buildings, and gorgeous viewpoints.

But there’s more to Lisbon than meets the eye, and this guide to the crucial things to know before visiting Lisbon for the first time will lay it out for you.

I’ve been to Lisbon twice and my husband used to live there, so we know the city well… however, this post is brought you to by a true Lisbon local, Marco Santos, who will truly lead the way on the best way to visit Lisbon. Below are his tips for visiting Lisbon, as written by a local expert.

Practical First Time in Lisbon Travel Tips

1. When to visit Lisbon?

Set at the edge of Western Europe, Lisbon enjoys almost year-round sunshine and some of the best weather compared to the rest of Europe, making it a great all year destination to visit.

Peak travel season in Portugal is generally during the months of July & August, which also happens to be Lisbon’s hottest months. This is also the time of year when accommodation and travel prices do tend to peak.

Although winter in Portugal is far milder than the rest of Europe and the festive season in Lisbon is well worth experiencing, the winter months do tend to be the rainy season. If visiting between the months of February and April, you are far more likely to encounter rain than any other month.

Personally, I love the months of May & June or from mid-September through to October.

One of my travel must-haves is a scarf that can help when transitioning from day to night, indoor to outdoor, street to church. This fashionable scarf has a hidden pocket which helps protect you from pickpockets! Stash your cash, phone, and passport in here and stroll around Europe worry-free.

2. How long to visit Lisbon?

Whilst Lisbon may not be the largest of European cities, there is still so much to see and do both in and surrounding Lisbon. It really amazes me when I hear of travelers planning to stay for one night in Lisbon.

In order to start scratching the surface of this incredible city, I would recommend you spend at least a minimum of 3 to 4 nights or more in Lisbon. You will honestly not get bored easily here, even if staying for a full week.

3. Where to stay in Lisbon?

In order to be smack bang in the center of all the action, I always recommend that travelers consider staying central in the areas around Chiado, Baixa, Rossio, Principe Real, or even along the gorgeous tree-lined avenue of Avenida Liberdade.

Avenida Liberdade is far less crowded and touristy but still an easy walk into downtown Lisbon. Whereas trendy Chiado, Baixa, and the area around Rossio is pretty much the heart of downtown Lisbon.

Regardless of which of these areas you choose to base yourself in, there is an amazing selection of good quality, well-priced accommodation in all of these areas, to suit all preferences and budgets.

4. Getting around in Lisbon?

Being a relatively small and compact city, Lisbon is super easy to get around in. If you’re staying central to downtown Lisbon, you can easily get by on foot when exploring all the top sights and attractions in Lisbon.

But Lisbon also has a fantastic public transport system, including a metro line that connects various parts of the city. At present, a one-way metro journey costs only €1.34 and you’re able to purchase a reusable transport card for €0.50, onto which you can top up funds in order to make use of the metro.

Lisbon also has a number of different cab-hailing services in operation. These include Uber, Bolt, and Kapten, to name a few. If you’re traveling as a group of 2 or more, it may in fact work out cheaper to make use of these cab services compared to paying for individual metro tickets.   

Note: Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills and can get incredibly steep and hilly in certain areas. Travelers with mobility issues should plan carefully when visiting Lisbon. Also make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes with a good grip as the cobbled streets can get slippery, especially when wet.

5. Is English widely spoken in Lisbon?

Most Portuguese, and even more so in the larger cities such as Lisbon, do speak fluent English, which makes traveling in Lisbon and Portugal in general a breeze.

In saying this, it wouldn’t hurt for you to learn a couple of key Portuguese phrases and greetings, which is always welcomed by the locals. But, they will no doubt switch into English soon after realizing you are a visitor who doesn’t speak the Portuguese language.  

6. Paying with credit cards in Lisbon

When visiting Portugal, you may wonder whether local restaurants and shops would accept only card or cash. Well, the answer is both, really.

Typically, larger shops and restaurants do accept cards although some may only accept local cards and may decline your international card. This is due to the higher merchant fees the provider will pay to process on an international debit or credit card.

Some shops and restaurants also impose a minimum limit of €5 before accepting any card as payment, whereas others may indicate that they only accept cash.

It really is a mixture and as such it’s always good to carry a mix of both card and cash when visiting Portugal.

7. Using ATMs in Portugal

Whilst on the subject of card payments, you will find plenty of ATMs / Cash Withdrawal Machines all over Lisbon. But beware! Whenever you withdraw money, make sure to use the local ATMs named Multibanco. These are the official ATMs in use throughout the country.

ATMs such as the lesser-known (but omnipresent) Euronet ATMs will charge you a fee to withdraw funds, so it’s best to avoid these at all costs.

8. Hotel tourism tax

Lisbon has a local municipal tourism tax that is applied to any hotel/accommodation stay in the city. As of 2019, this cost was set at €2 per night, up to a maximum of €14 per stay.

This charge only applies to travelers over the age of 13 and is usually payable directly at the hotel upon check-out.

9. Tipping in restaurants in Lisbon

Generally speaking, tipping in restaurants isn’t compulsory. Given that all companies are obliged to pay their staff a minimum wage by law, most waiters and waitresses do earn a basic salary.

In saying this, do bear in mind that the minimum wage in Portugal is really low (and the cost of living for locals is rather high), and a small tip would definitely be appreciated.

Also, when the service at a restaurant is particularly exceptional, then I would absolutely leave a tip too.

Tips for Making the Most of Lisbon

10.  What to eat and drink in Lisbon

Calling all foodies! Portugal is a food-lovers’ delight. With so many dishes, pastries, desserts, and drinks to try out, I’m certain you’ll fall in love with Portuguese cuisine.

Some of the main dishes and pastries to savor include the famous Bacalhau à Brás (Cod Fish), which is virtually the national dish as well as the Pastel de Nata egg-yolk custard tarts.

When it comes to wines, Portugal is known world-over for its incredible selection of award-winning wines and Port wines. Make sure to try out the fresh and bubbly Vinho Verde (Green Wine). Or take a shot of the popular cherry liqueur called Ginjinha!

Particularly, when visiting Lisbon, I would highly recommend you go check out the TimeOut food market in the Cais do Sodré area. It’s a vibrant and busy food hall and market where you can sample a selection of both traditional as well as non-traditional foodie options too.

11.  LGBTQ-friendly destination

The Portuguese are warm, friendly, and very hospitable and will welcome you with open arms. Perhaps it’s this open-minded approach, especially in the cities, that has made Lisbon a top destination for LGBTQ travelers. In fact, Portugal is known to have some of the most progressive LGBTQ laws in the world.

In general, gay travelers will have no issue visiting Lisbon and should feel extremely safe and welcome.

12.  Start-up and digital nomad hub

In the last couple of years, Lisbon has garnered somewhat of a reputation as being Western Europe’s new, up and coming start-up and digital nomad hub

Lisbon was thrust into the spotlight when the annual global technology conference, WebSummit, was hosted in Lisbon, which has also been announced as the official WebSummit home for the next couple of years.

Thanks to the relatively cheap cost of living, the fact that most Portuguese speak English, the fantastic weather, and overall balance of life, many expats and digital nomads have made Lisbon their home.

This has led to my co-working spaces popping up as well as various digital nomad meetups, events, and conferences being held in Lisbon.

13.  Lisbon’s incredible views

As already mentioned, Lisbon is a very hilly city. But this has the added advantage of offering up some of the most incredible views out over the city.

In fact, Lisbon is blessed with many ‘Miradouros’ (viewpoints) all over the city, from which you can enjoy gorgeous vistas out over the city and the river Tejo.

Of course, many restaurants and bars have taken advantage of these views too. So, when visiting Lisbon, be sure to head over to one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants such as Topo Chiado, Skybar, Rossio Gastro Bar and Park Bar to name but a few.

14.  Amazing day trips from Lisbon

As I mentioned earlier, there is honestly so much to see and do in, as well as around Lisbon. If you’re planning an extended stay in Lisbon then you should absolutely embark on a day trip from Lisbon.

Thanks to a great rail and coach network, you can easily get to many of the quaint and charming towns and villages surrounding Lisbon. One in particular that should be top of your list in terms of day trips, should be to travel to magical Sintra from Lisbon.

The gorgeous town of Sintra used to be the summer residence of royalty and nobility at the time when Portugal still was a monarchy. Today, you can visit Sintra to admire the many palaces, manor houses, and castles that are found throughout Sintra.

Responsible Travel Tips for Lisbon

15.  Hotels vs. Airbnb

Lisbon has experienced a revival of sorts in recent years. This is largely thanks to the many World Travel Awards the city and Portugal as a country has won, cementing Lisbon and Portugal as a top travel destination.

Both tourists and expats alike are flocking to Lisbon which has sadly caused somewhat of a housing crisis. Rental and Housing prices have skyrocketed in the last few years and so too the number of Airbnb properties. 

Many foreign investors have snapped up properties in downtown Lisbon, refurbished them, and now rent them out on Airbnb.

In fact, in recent months the Portuguese government has put a halt on issuing new ‘Alojamento Local’ licenses (a license required to operate an accommodation establishment), due to the surge in Airbnb properties popping up.

This has resulted in many local Portuguese moving out of the city into the surrounding neighborhoods.

As such, I always suggest to friends visiting Lisbon to much rather consider booking into an already established hotel versus booking an Airbnb.

16.  The truth about Tram 28

Lisbon’s yellow trams are undoubtedly one the most iconic shots you’ll get to see of the city. And one tram in particular has been gaining a lot of attention.

The Tram 28 that starts its route in the square in Martim Moniz has become a tourist hotspot with many bloggers and travel guides listing this as a top thing to do when visiting Lisbon.

But what many forget is that these trams actually do form part of Lisbon’s day to day public transport and the popularity of Tram 28 is causing major headaches for locals who rely on this tram to get around.

The situation has gotten so out of hand that it’s not uncommon to see a queue of tourists stretching several hundred meters line the start of the tram line. This has made it nearly impossible for locals to make use of this service in their day to day life.

As an alternative, rather consider booking one of official hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tours, or even the paid red tram tour instead.

17. Buying Lisbon tiles

One of the features that many visitors to Lisbon, and in fact Portugal, fall in love with has to be the stunning traditional Portuguese tiles, known as Azulejos. These tiles that often adorn many of Lisbon’s buildings, come in an array of different colors, designs, and styles and are simply too gorgeous.

Visiting flea markets, such as the well-known Feira da Ladra market, you may be tempted to buy some of these tiles being sold by the various street vendors. But, be mindful that many of these are actually illegally stolen by being chopped off buildings and then sold at informal markets or flea markets.

If you do want to buy a beautiful Portuguese tile as a keepsake of your holiday to Portugal, then rather buy these at official and reputable stores.

In downtown Lisbon, you’ll find one such store that specializes in the production of traditional Portuguese tiles. This store, Cortiço & Netos, is located in 37D Rua Maria Andrade and is a great place to buy stunning traditional Portuguese tiles from.

18. Support the tascas and pastelarias – eat like a local

My last tip in terms of responsible and sustainable tourism practices relates to supporting local restaurants and bakeries in Lisbon. Around every corner, you’ll find a local bakery (known as a Pastelaria) or a local restaurant (known as a Tasca).

These are almost always family-run businesses that rely on the community’s support. Plus not only is the food proper traditional Portuguese fare, but they are often cheaper than your mainstream restaurants.

We’ve often eaten at our local Tasca and ordered the menu of the day (O menu do dia) that includes a soup, a main meal, and an espresso, all for under €10.

So, why not ditch the tourist traps and go eat where the locals eat. You won’t be disappointed!

Safety Tips for Lisbon

19.  One of the safest cities in the world

According to the Global Peace Index rankings, Portugal is regarded as the 3rd safest country in the world. I can honestly say, in the last three years of living in Portugal, that I’ve never felt uneasy or unsafe.

Naturally speaking, any city will have its good and bad areas, and even in the 3rd safest city in the world, you may still encounter unpleasant incidents. But these are honestly few and far between.

The Portuguese police do take matters of crime very seriously and it’s not uncommon to see the police patrolling the party districts, such as Bairro Alto, late at night in order to keep the peace.

In the event that something does happen to you whilst visiting Portugal, you can report the incident at the local police station or you may also call the national emergency number which is 112. This is the general emergency number that connects you to both the police and ambulance services.

20.  Pickpockets

Thankfully pickpockets are not too prevalent in Portugal as a whole – but in Lisbon, you should pay a little extra caution. It goes without saying that you should always guard your belongings and items of value when traveling to a new country.

In Lisbon in particular, the Tram 28 has become a pickpocket hotspot, due in large part to these trams often being jam-packed with tourists.

As such, when in cramped spaces such as the Tram 28, always be on the lookout for suspicious activity and make sure to guard your belongings. 

While travel in Europe is safe, pickpocketing is a major issue. Thwart would-be pickpocketers with a chic, sleek backpack with double-interlocking zippers, slash-proof construction, & RFID blockers! I’ve carried this PacSafe backpack to 30+ countries with me, and it’s my #1 travel companion. Pick from one of seven colors — I have and love the classic black one!

21.  Drug dealers

I have to admit, one of the most annoying features of Lisbon has to be the pesky drug dealers that you’ll encounter in the tourist hotspots.

These harmless dealers will often walk up to you offering to sell drugs, although it’s a known fact that they’re probably selling oregano and other herbs instead of actual drugs to unsuspecting tourists.

However, all you have to do is to simply ignore them and continue walking and they’ll leave you be.

***

About the Author

Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 2 years ago. With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal and Spain (as well as throughout Europe) through his blog, Travel-Boo.

You can find him on social media on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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Planning to visit Lisbon, Portugal? This guide to visiting Lisbon for the first time is full of local tips for making the most of Lisbon. Safety, what to eat, where to stay, when to go, & the best things to do in Lisbon are all covered in this Lisbon travel guide!


17 Cutest Villages & Small Towns in Portugal

Portugal doesn’t sit in the shadows of more famous European countries anymore. The country’s beautiful cities draw millions of tourists each year.

But, you don’t have to put up with the crowds in Porto and Lisbon if you want to enjoy Portugal’s fantastic cuisine, historic architecture, and multicultural vibes.

The Portuguese countryside is a paradise dotted with quaint villages and towns. These 17 cutest Portuguese towns and villages represent the real insight into the Portuguese culture.

Marvão

Up high in the Serra de São Mamede Mountains lies a small medieval village called Marvão. It is located near the Spanish border. The village has been shaped by Jewish, Moorish, and Spanish influence.

It rests on a medieval 13th-century fortress. Aside from rustic religious architecture, Marvão is adorned with immaculate, white-washed houses. It’s historic relevance and beauty have earned it a spot on the New York Times’“1,000 Places to See Before You Die” list.

Walking in the cobblestoned streets of Marvão will allow you to peek into the country’s glorious military past. If you get tired of exploring Marvão, you can always walk to one of the castle walls and enjoy the enchanting scenery and top-of-the-world view from one of Portugal’s prettiest castles.

Monsanto

Villagers are proud to call Monsanto “the most Portuguese village in Portugal.” It’s hard for visitors to tell whether that’s true or not, but every visitor can tell that Monsanto is without a doubt one of the most extraordinary places in the world.

The village literally lies on a huge pile of moss-covered boulders. The picturesque traditional stone and red-roofed houses nicely contrast the town’s unique bedrock.

Monsanto’s streets and houses curve around the giant rocks. Some of the behemoth boulders form parts of buildings, such as doorways, walls, and ceilings.

Getting to Monsanto from Lisbon or Porto is roughly a 3-hour drive. It’s an ideal destination for a day trip. But, having dinner on one of the scenic terraces and staying at one of the cozy bed-and-breakfasts are good enough reasons to extend your stay.

Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima is the oldest town in the country. It’s also home to Portugal’s oldest villa. This charming and characterful town is no ordinary tourist destination.

If you visit the town, you may encounter a wave of pilgrims headed to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain, a famous and ancient pilgrimage site. Ponte de Lima lies along one of the trails that make the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela.

The pilgrimage is known as Camino de Santiago. Walking the Camino is another great way to explore the towns and villages of the Portuguese countryside, and Ponte de Lima is a great example of that.

Twice a month, the town hosts a huge market. The Monday market has been held since 1125. Walking the town’s cobblestone streets is a delight. You are sure to encounter many intriguing points of interest, such as the famous prison tower that’s been turned into a library.

Piódão

Piódão looks like a village that has never come in touch with the outside world. This isolated village lies in a natural amphitheater of a terraced hillside. Its tightly-clustered houses made from schist have stood there for centuries.

Schist is a type of dark-grey stone that is typical of the Portuguese countryside. To get to this remote village, you have to travel deep into the mountains of Serra do Açor. Serra do Açor is one of the thirty protected areas in Portugal.

Up until fifty years ago, the only way to reach this isolated village was by foot or on horseback. Since then, it has become a popular tourist attraction, but stills remains an incredibly atmospheric spot.

Óbidos

If you grow tired of walking the streets of Lisbon, Óbidos is just an hour away. However, you can expect to encounter a fair deal of day-trippers. So, it’s best to stay a bit longer if you want to properly experience the lit-up lanes, the calm sunrise, and the magical silent nights of Óbidos.

The town is also a great spot to enjoy the melancholic melodies of Fado, a form of Portuguese singing that can often be heard in cafes, restaurants, and pubs.

The town is filled with quaint historic churches and sumptuous dwellings. From the 12th century until the fall of the Portuguese monarchy, generations of Portuguese royals have funded their construction. On your way to Óbidos, you can enjoy the idyllic countryside landscape comprised of vineyards and cherry orchards.

Sortelha

This charming place will bring you back in time. The inhabitants of Sortelha have done a great job of keeping the village’s rich historical legacy. It’s famous for granite houses built into giant boulders.

There’s also the 14th-century parish church adorned with Spanish-Arab ornaments and the age-old Gothic gateway. Like many other Portuguese towns and villages, Sortelha draws most of its charm from its medieval atmosphere.

The village is located on top of a formidable crag. Sitting at an altitude of 2500 ft, Sortelha offers a breathtaking view of chestnut groves and granite boulders. The top of the castle tower may be the best place to enjoy the mesmerizing landscape, but you’ll have to climb it at your own risk.

Elvas

Elvas is a small town in Portugal that’s nestled in a star-shaped fortification. The town was once tasked with guarding an important crossroads between Spain and Portugal.

It’s unique shape allowed defenders to repel the advance of enemy attackers. Perhaps that explains why the fortification is still standing today.

The exuberant staff guarding the fortification is always happy to illustrate the town’s glorious past. If you are up for an adventure, you may get a chance to explore some of the fort’s hidden passages (make sure to check with the staff).

The inhabitants still use the town’s ancient aqueducts for freshwater. The beautiful cathedral in the Praca de Republica is another wonderful gem Elvas has to offer. But, many visitors say the best thing about this town is how quiet it is.

Not many tourists visit Elvas. If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy the city at the leisurely pace of the locals, Elvas is the place to be.

Castelo Rodrigo

Castelo Rodrigo is another small Portuguese town that has many historic stories to tell. And, like many other Portuguese gems, the town is nestled on top of a hill.

The town castle wears many scars from countless battles that took place over the centuries. Castelo Rodrigo is a much more peaceful place now, but it has retained its medieval charm. Like Ponte de Lima, Castelo Rodrigo lies along one of the Camino de Santiago routes.

Monsaraz

Along the main street of Monsaraz, Rua Direita, there are dozens of 16th and 17th century whitewashed houses that retain the town’s ancient atmosphere. The streets of the Monsaraz are perfect for those looking for tranquility reminiscent of days long gone.

But, if you want to enjoy a lively atmosphere, it’s best to visit in July. Then, Monsaraz becomes an open-air museum when visitors have a chance to get better acquainted with the habits and culture of the townspeople.

Lamego

Lamego is a Portuguese town wreathed in maize farms and picturesque vineyards. Its fine wine and Baroque architecture won’t leave you unimpressed. Of all the riches the town has to offer, the locals will tell you that Lamego’s sparkling wine is one of its biggest points of pride.

But, most visitors come to see the breathtaking Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. And, to get to the church, you need to climb the 700-step centuries-old Baroque staircase. So, it may be best to save the wine tasting for later. Aside from its world-famous wine, the town is known for its rustic and meaty cuisine.

Castelo de Vide

Castelo de Vide home to one of the best-preserved and most important Jewish Quarters in the whole of Portugal. Since the town is located near the Spanish border, many Jews fleeing persecution found refuge in Castelo de Vide.

The town is also famous for its archeological treasures and hot springs with reputed healing powers. Many of its antique buildings date back to the 13th century. Its cobblestone streets are packed with red-roofed and white-walled dwellings. Lovers of the Portuguese countryside are sure to have a field day in this charming town.

Azenhas do Mar

Perched on the rugged Atlantic coastline, this clifftop village in Portugal is perfect for a beach getaway. Aside from swimming and enjoying the lovely view from one of Azenhas’s terraces, there is not much to do in the village itself.

However, the surrounding region of Sintra has plenty to offer. One can spend days exploring the fantastic castles and astonishing buildings in the neighborhood.

The intricate architecture of Quinta de Regalia, Monserrate Palace, and Pena Palace is sure to leave a long-lasting impression on every visitor. Europe’s westernmost point, Cabo da Roca, is just a stone’s throw away from Azenhas.

Ferragudo

Ferragudo used to be a quiet fishing village in Portugal. While it’s not so quiet anymore, it’s still a great place for those who’d like to take a relaxing walk along the mesmerizing bayside dotted with Portuguese fisherman’s cottages. Even though the town has shifted its focus from fishing to accommodating visitors, it still hasn’t seen the worst part of tourism.

You won’t see any high-rise or neon hotels in Ferragudo. Instead, you’ll see a handful of local restaurants, cute cafés, and an ice-cream parlor. Most are located near the town square, Praça Rainha Dona Leonor, which is the liveliest part of Ferragudo.

Santana

By now, you’re probably thinking that every Portuguese village is packed with white-washed houses with red-tiled roofs. But, this quaint little town on the coast of Madeira Island offers something different.

The traditional architecture of Santana is represented by the village’s triangular-shaped houses with thatched roofs. Almost all of them look exactly the same, almost every house has a front door surrounded by three tiny windows.

Each traditional house is painted with blue or red trim on the windows and doors. Tourists are free to visit most of them. If you want to get better acquainted with the culture and history of the island, you can also visit the Madeira Theme Park.

Nazaré

This coastal town on the Atlantic has the best beaches in Portugal, according to the locals. If you have your doubts, do know that many surfers and spectators from all over the globe agree with them.

This little fishermen’s town has become famous for the gigantic waves that hit the coast every winter. In summer, the place is packed with beach-goers. But, in spring and fall, Nazaré becomes a quiet fishing village where time stands still.

Nazaré is halfway between Porto and Lisbon. The main town is located on top of the clip. When the beach is crowded in summer, this is where locals spend most of their time. So, even if you visit in summer, you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or glass of Vinho Verde.

Almeida

Almeida and Elvas have many things in common. This extraordinary example of a frontier town is located 10 miles from the Spanish border. And, similarly to Elvas, it sits in a monumental, star-shaped fortress. This tiny settlement is home to about 2,000 villagers.

The whole place is classified as a national monument. An underground labyrinth sprawls underneath the fortress. The villagers have turned it into a nice historic museum. But, even above ground, there’s enough history in the air to make you feel like you have traveled back in time a few centuries in this scenic small town in Portugal.

Cerdeira

Cerdeira is an isolated art village located in the heart of Portugal. This tiny remote village had been completely abandoned for decades. In 1988, It was rediscovered by a hiker. Soon after, Kerstin Thomas, the hiker that stumbled upon Cerdeira, spearheaded efforts to bring the village back to life.

Today, this cute Portuguese village has a small number of permanent inhabitants. It’s a great place for those who want to unleash their creativity far away from smartphones, computers, and other gadgets. Cerdeira has just 9 guesthouses and one art and crafts center, Casa das Artes, where you can try your hand at ceramics or wood-carving in an authentic schist house.

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About the Author

Anna loves hiking during the weekend and has completed a few long multi-day hikes, including twice on the Camino de Santiago for 4 weeks and then a Camino route in France for 2 weeks. She also had the pleasure of hiking up Ben Nevis, all over Ireland, and her favorite hike was 3 weeks in the Canadian Rockies.

27 of the Best Instagram Spots in Lisbon

If you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, get your camera ready — this is one of the most photogenic cities in all of Portugal, if not Europe!

As a blogger, I’ve been a victim of the mercurial nature of the Instagram algorithm quite often — but nothing revived my likes quite as much as my trip to Portugal.

People just love this candy-colored city, from its azulejos to its yellow trams to its colorful houses with laundry fluttering in the breeze.

I’ve spent a few weeks exploring Lisbon and while I’m not the best Instagrammer out there by a long shot, I have come up with a few of my favorite Instagram spots in Lisbon – including quite a few off the beaten path Lisbon photography locations you won’t find in just any guide.

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Want to find all the best Instagram spots in Lisbon, Portugal? Follow this guide to Lisbon photography locations! Besides must see Lisbon Instagram spots, it’s also full of the best things to do in Lisbon, must-sees like the Pink Street, miradouros & colorful neighborhoods like Alfama and Chiado, as well as awesome architecture, Lisbon hidden gems, best spots to see Lisbon trams and elevators, the best views in Lisbon & more!
Want to find all the best Instagram spots in Lisbon, Portugal? Follow this guide to Lisbon photography locations! Besides must see Lisbon Instagram spots, it’s also full of the best things to do in Lisbon, must-sees like the Pink Street, miradouros & colorful neighborhoods like Alfama and Chiado, as well as awesome architecture, Lisbon hidden gems, best spots to see Lisbon trams and elevators, the best views in Lisbon & more!

The 27 Best Instagram Spots in Lisbon

Ler Devagar

Literally “read slowly” in Portuguese, this hip bookstore in the lively LX Factory multi-use space is one of the best Instagram spots in Lisbon.

It’s photogenic from nearly every angle, but for the best shot, head to the upper floor and walk towards the front of the building so you can get the best shot of the whole upper and lower levels.

Tip: bring your best wide angle lens for this, or your smartphone will do in a pinch, but you likely don’t want any zoom.

Street art at LX Factory

Besides the ultra-Instagrammable bookstore Ler Devagar, there are some other Lisbon Instagram spots at LX Factory that you shouldn’t miss before moving onward with your Lisbon itinerary.

Don’t miss the opportunity to snap photos of some of the incredible street art decorating LX Factory, which change frequently but always inspire.

“Birds” of LX Factory

One of my favorite art installations in LX Factory are the “birds” which are strung up along the main walkway through the multi-function space, which look as if they are in mid-flight.

Taken against a setting sun, or from a low-to-the-ground angle, it’s a wonderfully artistic photo opportunity to explore in Lisbon.

Rooftop at Rio Maravilha

While at LX Factory, try to time it for sunset so that you can enjoy drinks on the rooftop of Rio Maravilha, which has stunning views of the Tejo River and especially of Lisbon’s “Golden Gate” Bridge and imitation Christ the Redeemer statue.

Rio Maravilha serves delicious cocktails as well as Portuguese and Brazilian inspired small plates, so it’s a great place to watch the sun go down while enjoying one of the best little-known yet ultra Instagrammable places in Lisbon.

Livreria Bertrand

Less well known in terms of Lisbon Instagram spots than Ler Devagar, the beautiful Livreria Bertrand is well worth visiting beyond just its photogenic exterior — it’s the oldest continually-running bookstore in the world, even surviving the devastation of Lisbon’s 1755 earthquake.

While I love the tile-covered exterior, the interior is a little less photogenic, but it’s still well-worth exploring while you’re visiting Lisbon.

Azulejos at Miradouro Santa Luzia

Some people can be disappointed that Lisbon doesn’t quite have as many azulejos (blue and white Portuguese tilework) as Porto, where they are at seemingly every other turn.

You have to do a little more hunting for the best azulejo Instagram spots in Lisbon, but one of them is located in a super prime location in Alfama — it’s a place that’s hard to miss.

Cemiterio do Alto do Sao Joao

Only in Lisbon would a cemetery make a list of the most Instagrammable places, but here it is! Of course, let me put the disclaimer here that this is a place of mourning and that you should be respectful when visiting — avoid obnoxious selfies and take photos of the beautiful grounds rather than of yourself.

Cemeteries in Portugal are unique because many mausoleums were built above ground to house the dead. Supposedly, this is due to the risk of earthquakes unearthing the dead – a bit creepy, but the result is quite beautiful and certainly unlike other cemeteries I’ve visited in my travels.

There are two such cemeteries in Lisbon, Alto do Sao Jaoa and Prazeres, both created after a cholera epidemic which swept through the city. Both are beautiful, so choose whichever one you’d like to visit based on what makes the most sense for where you’ll be.

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Dedicated to the history of this distinctly Portuguese art form, the azulejo, you shouldn’t miss this incredible museum in Lisbon which is both informative and one of the best Lisbon photography spots for tilework.

There are countless spots here at this museum that are worthy of being deemed Instagrammable, but the courtyard of the old convent, azulejo-tiled staircase, and wall of the church attached to the museum are my personal favorites. Give yourself at least two hours to explore this museum and take in both its information and its photography spots — it’s well worth it!

Lisbon Cathedral

The largest church in Lisbon is interesting to visit from the interior, as inside you can see a small exhibit on the work that was done to restore it after the horrible earthquake of 1755.

However, my personal favorite Lisbon photography tip for the cathedral is to walk a bit down the street from it and wait for one of the iconic yellow trams to come by! Be prepared to wake up really early for this shot if you don’t want people in it, as the Lisbon Cathedral is one of the most popular places to visit in the city.

Torre de Belém

One of the most iconic Instagram spots in Lisbon, you simply can’t miss visiting the Belém Tower. This is where many of the most famous Portuguese sea voyages started!

Show up really early well before it opens at 10 AM if you want photos like this one, as otherwise it’s incredibly crowded.

Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos

While in Belém, don’t miss the Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery) which is another fantastic photo opportunity as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site in Lisbon.

The historic cloister area is extremely ornate and is one of the best places to take photos. However, it can be quite busy, so I recommend coming here close to when it opens to avoid the crowds, perhaps after photographing the Torre de Belém.

The exterior is also really beautiful, so don’t forget to walk around it and take some photos of the outside as well, and be sure to check the small attached chapel where some of the most famous Portuguese heroes such as Vasco de Gama are buried.

Pasteis de Belém

Of course, while in Belém, you can’t miss one of the most delicious pastries, the pastel de nata, at Pastéis de Belém.

By chance, the pastel de nata is nearly as Instagrammable as it is tasty — especially when held against a traditional tile wall if you eat inside or with some creative focusing taken from the street.

Padrao dos Descobrimentos

One final Lisbon Instagram spot to see in Belém is the interesting Padrao dos Descobrimentos, an homage to the Portuguese Age of Exploration (and, uh, subsequent violence and colonization, but they kindly leave that part out).

The monument itself is very interesting, as is the mosaic map on the ground near the monument which traces some of the routes of Portuguese explorers most important historical voyages.

Supposedly, the view from the top of the monument is well worth seeing, but I haven’t gone up there myself!

Casa do Alentejo

It may look like a palace, but it’s actually a restaurant! While the exterior is plain, entering will reveal a gorgeous Moorish-style interior that blends the Arabic and Portuguese influences into its own divine style.

The food served here is from the region of Alentejo and is supposed to be quite tasty, so it’s worth a stop during your time in Lisbon, to dine as well as snap photos.

View from the Panteon Nacional

The Panteon Nacional is beautiful itself, but perhaps the best reason to go is for the views over Alfama and the River Tejo from its exterior terrace at the very stop!

You have to ascend a lot of stairs to get to the viewing platform, but I think that you’ll agree it’s worth it for those Tejo views!

Villa Sousa

While virtually every facade in Lisbon is basically picture-perfect, there’s something I especially love about this facade on Rua Largo Graça.

To find it, look for the restaurant O Botequim on Largo Graça 79 – it’s just a few doors down.

Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte

Built on the tallest hill in all of Lisbon, the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte is one of the best places for views in the city.

Not only do you have the most height, you also can see one of the more photogenic elements of the Lisbon skyline – the Castelo do Sao Jorge – prominently from this miradouro!

Miradouro da Graca

Yet another beautiful miradouro, perfect for sunset views over Alfama!

This one is a bit less crowded than other miradouros in the Alfama/Graça area, so it’s a nice break from the crowds you’ll often find around Portas do Sol.

Jardim da Cerca da Graça

With its beautiful porticos, make a stop at the underrated Jardim da Cerca da Graça.

It’s an easy add-on stop while you’re at the nearby miradouro for yet another stunning Instagram spot in Lisbon.

Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira

This Lisbon hidden gem is little known by tourists but I think it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Lisbon.

Since it’s a bit out of the way of the main tourist circuit, located near the Sete Rios neighborhood which is more residential, it’s not usually very crowded.

It’s located sort of nearby Lisbon’s main bus station so if you’re heading on a day trip out of the city or are about to go onwards to your next destination, it’s an easy place to stop on the way.

Praça do Comercio

If you haven’t been to the Praça do Comercio, it’s almost like you haven’t been to Lisbon. Visiting this praça (plaza) is basically inevitable when visiting Lisbon!

Set at the intersections of the Tejo River and the Rua da Prata, one of the more important streets in Lisbon, the canary-hued and enormous Praça do Comercio is one of the main symbols of the city and it’s a beautiful Lisbon Instagram spot! Its grand arch, its yellow buildings on all sides, and its wide-open space guarantee gorgeous photography opportunities abound.

Miradouro das Portas do Sol & Lisbon History Arch

This is a two-for-one Lisbon Instagram spot! Upstairs, you’ll find gorgeous views at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol — and a ton of crowds, as this is one of the more popular viewpoints in Lisbon.

Find some stairs to the side of the main miradouro area and go about halfway down and you’ll see the history of Lisbon sketched out in comic-strip like panels. It’s a bit of an open secret, but there will be far fewer people snapping photos here and you can do some cool framing (though you will likely have to wait a bit if you want a clear, people-free shot).

Ascensor Da Bica

One of Lisbon’s famous elevators, the Ascensor da Bica is, in my opinion, the more photogenic of the two I’ll list on this post.

You don’t need to ride the elevator to get the good views. Head towards nearby the Palácio de Xabregas on Google Maps and wait for the elevator to pass for some of the best views of the Ascensor da Bica (bonus: there are azulejos near the Palácio de Xabregas!)

Elevador da Gloria

The Elevador da Gloria is another typical Lisbon elevator, but this one goes up and down an open-air graffiti gallery.

It goes between the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara and the Baixa neighborhood, passing the outdoor Galeria de Arte Urbana (GAU) street art exhibitions along the way.

Again, no need to ride it if you don’t want to: you can pose by it while it’s stopped (…without blocking the flow of people who actually want to ride it please) or walk down along its pathway to see the street art on display.

Gare do Oriente

I wouldn’t necessarily say to come out of your way here just because it’s a Lisbon Instagram spot, but if you’re heading to another destination in Portugal in your trip by train, try to leave from the stunningly modern Gare do Oriente if you can!

I left out of here when heading to Porto from Lisbon and it was definitely worth heading a bit more out of town to leave from here and see the cool train station.

Carmo Convent

The remains of a convent that was largely demolished by the huge Lisbon earthquake has now been converted into an archaeology museum complete with mummies.

Despite being in a popular area of Lisbon, it usually isn’t too crowded, and I’m a bit surprised because I find it a really visually stunning place to photograph.

Castelo do Sao Jorge

Of course, the Castelo do Sao Jorge is one of Lisbon’s best photography spots…. but I put it last on my list because it’s basically the epitome of overtourism in Lisbon. I hope I’ve shown you through this post that there are dozens – no, hundreds – of awesome Instagram spots in Lisbon both on and off the beaten path.

There’s no reason to go to every spot that everyone else does, especially when stunning buildings, beautiful viewpoints, exquisite tilework, and surprising architecture is basically everywhere you go in Lisbon.

You can go to the Castelo do Sao Jorge, of course – just be aware that there’s often over an hour’s line to get in and the views from there are no better than at any other miradouro in the city!

So, what Lisbon Instagram spots have I forgotten? Any cool spots you want to add?

Where to Stay in Lisbon: Neighborhood + Hotel Guide

If you’re planning a trip to Portugal’s vibrant capital city, one of your main questions is likely where to stay in Lisbon for the first time!

I’ve cultivated this guide to the best areas to stay in Lisbon as a result of the three weeks I’ve spent traveling all over Lisbon. Here’s a guide to where to stay in Lisbon including my seven favorite Lisbon neighborhoods, all central to the city and a perfect gateway to exploring all that this gorgeous, hilly city has to offer.

Lisbon used to be a fantastic budget destination, but unfortunately, now that the secret is out about this charming Portuguese capital, prices for Lisbon accommodation are much higher than they used to be.

Still, I did my best to represent different extremes of the budget spectrum. I’ve included my top pick for each neighborhood in each of the following budget categories: budget (under $100 USD a night, and cheaper when a hostel is available), mid-range ($100-200 USD a night), and luxury ($200+ USD a night).

Of course, actual prices depend on a variety of factors, such as if you’re traveling in peak-season or off-peak, how many people are in your party, how far in advance you book, etc. I suggest booking your Lisbon accommodation as soon as possible so that the best places to stay in Lisbon aren’t sold out and so that you have the widest variety of options. Since Lisbon is so popular, there really isn’t much to be gained by waiting to book.

So, without further ado, here are my seven top favorite Lisbon neighborhoods and the best hotels in each!

Planning to travel Lisbon? Here is a guide to the best Lisbon neighborhoods and where to stay in Lisbon, from Alfama to Bairro Alto to Principe Real to Chiado to Cais do Sodre & beyond. Whether you want to be near the best things to do in Lisbon, the best restaurants, shopping, nightlife, or architecture, here are my tips for the best areas to stay in Lisbon, best hotels in each Lisbon neighborhood, & other Lisbon travel tips.
Planning to travel Lisbon? Here is a guide to the best Lisbon neighborhoods and where to stay in Lisbon, from Alfama to Bairro Alto to Principe Real to Chiado to Cais do Sodre & beyond. Whether you want to be near the best things to do in Lisbon, the best restaurants, shopping, nightlife, or architecture, here are my tips for the best areas to stay in Lisbon, best hotels in each Lisbon neighborhood, & other Lisbon travel tips.

Baixa: Lisbon’s Low-Lying Central Neighborhood

Baixa, often grouped with Chiado due to their proximity, is the lower part of the Lisbon city center, which makes up a rectangular grid of streets that are mostly filled with brand name shopping, larger hotels, and restaurants.

If you don’t love getting lost in Lisbon’s winding streets in Alfama or hoofing it up the hill to and from Bairro Alto, Baixa is a great choice as it’s flat, conveniently located for getting around by foot, and wonderful for traveling by metro.

The heart of Baixa is the gorgeous Praça do Comércio, a royal square with gorgeous views of the Tejo River. With its beautiful archway and signature yellow colored shops and restaurants lining the plaza, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Lisbon.

The archway will lead you to one of the main shopping streets in the city, Rua Augusta, which was designed by Marques de Pombal and has his signature architectural style.

Nearby to Praça do Comércio is the Lisbon Story Center, a museum that presents the history of Lisbon in a fun and interactive manner.

Another main feature of Baixa is the Santa Justa Elevator, which for a steep fee will sweep you up a steep hill in a gorgeous Art Nouveau-architecture elevator designed by one of Gustave Eiffel’s disciples.

The lines for the elevator are often extremely long and usually not worth waiting in; however, for those visiting Lisbon who have limited mobility, it can be a perk, as this easily brings you up to the Convento do Carmo and the Bairro Alto area.

Finally, don’t miss the hidden gem bookstore Bertrand Bookshop: it’s the oldest continually running bookstore in the world, supposedly! It was founded in 1732, pre-earthquake, and while it was damaged badly in the earthquake, it was rebuilt beautifully. It has a gorgeous tiled exterior and an excellent selection of both English and Portuguese-language titles, and it’s a must-visit for any bookworm visiting Lisbon.

Where to Stay in Baixa

Budget: Home Lisbon Hotel

Even if you are on vacation, the feeling and comfort of being home is something that Home Lisbon Hotel wants you to experience. This hostel gives you a choice of private or shared rooms. The private rooms are quite small, but the amount of space is good enough for backpackers looking for a good private room in Lisbon on a budget.

The bathrooms are extremely clean and new. However, toiletries are not provided so it is best to bring travel-sized shampoos and shower gels with you (check my Europe packing list for recommendations).

The décor game is strong here at Home Lisbon, despite the budget prices: perfect for people who want a place to stay in Lisbon that has personality. There are vintage black and white photos as well as colorful prints hung on the wall, which add a retro vibe.

In the shared rooms, the bunk beds have curtains that you can close to ensure privacy when you’re sleeping — something that I always enjoy, especially when an inconsiderate dorm-mate turns on the lights upon arriving late at night. You can also choose a mixed-sex room or an all-female room.

The shared bathroom has a seating area inside, where you can wait if someone else is using the mirrors or the sink. If you’re traveling with friends, a good option may be a quadruple room with a private bathroom. All rooms are hypoallergenic, non-smoking and soundproof. Heating and A/C is also provided, so regardless of the season you visit, you are surely kept warm or cool!

Guests will feel secure with their 24-hour service desk, and if they need any local tips or anything to photocopy then you can simply ask them. Just outside the hotel is Nicolau Café, which the hostel promotes to their guests as a delicious place where you can have lunch, dinner, or breakfast.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Home Lisbon Hotel here ««

Mid-Range: My Story Hotel Tejo

At this gorgeous boutique hotel near the Tejo River, you can choose from a private room (single or double) or an apartment-type room with one bedroom. All rooms are maintained daily by their housekeeping staff, and each room also has an ensuite bathroom that’s spacious and complete with all the toiletries you’d need.

The beds are also extra comfortable and a great place to relax due to the soft headboard, where you can relax your back and read a book or check the latest social media updates. There is also a seating area with a lamp, in case you want to write or work on something inspired by Lisbon!

If you plan on getting their apartment-type room, you will surely enjoy all the features like a kitchenette (where you can cook because it has its own oven, stovetop, and kitchenware), a sofa bed (where you can entertain guests or where someone can also sleep), and a dining area (complete with dinnerware).

There is a restaurant on-site, called O Poço, where you can enjoy a Portuguese buffet selection. Aside from this, they also have special menus for people with dietary requirements. You can also rent bicycles at the hotel so that you can roam around easily in nearby places (though I definitely recommend sticking to the streets of Baixa and the Tejo waterfront — those hills are no joke!).

If you’re traveling long-term, you can do your laundry easily for a reasonable fee. This hotel is a one-stop shop for guests who like to get things done quickly and easily in a central, convenient Lisbon neighborhood.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at My Story Hotel Tejo here ««

Luxury: Pousada de Lisboa – Small Luxury Hotels of the World

The word “pousada” literally means an inn, but this 5-star hotel offers way more than that with its 90 fully decorated rooms!

From afar, the building stands out because of its bright yellow color similar to the Arco da Rua Augusta. The lobby offers some refreshments like lemonade and fruit-infused water to quench your thirst after some sightseeing, and provides you with daily newspapers to keep you up to date with local news.

What’s great about their private rooms are the ensuite bathrooms with designer toiletries and bathtubs, high-speed WiFi internet, and well-stocked minibars. The floors are made from hardwood, and the headboards are decorated with embossing, flourished with intricately detailed wall panels that scream luxury. If you’re traveling with a larger group or family, they also have a family room that’s very extravagant and spacious, which is perfectly lit by a ritzy chandelier and some chicly dim lamps.

On-site dining is definitely a must at Pousada de Lisboa. Their Rib Restaurant specializes in meat dishes – their steaks are a must-try! An indoor pool offers a spectacular oasis away from the occasional hecticness of Lisbon city life.

They also have other amenities like an indoor and heated pool (perfect if visiting Lisbon in March or other cooler times of the year), a spa with all the amenities you can think of, and a fitness center.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Pousada de Lisboa here ««

Bairro Alto: Lisbon’s Nightlife Heart

Literally meaning “high neighborhood,” that sums up Bairro Alto quite well!

Two ascensors (elevators) connect lower Lisbon (Baixo) to Bairro Alto. There’s Ascensor da Bica, which connects the Cais do Sodré area near Lisbon’s waterfront to Bairro Alto, letting you off near the Miradouro de Santa Catarina.

There’s the Ascendor da Glória, right next to one of the best miradouros in the city, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. The Glória elevator also connects you to Baixa via an open-air street art ‘gallery.’ And of course, the Elevator of Santa Justa which I’ve already mentioned. So it’s quite well-connected to other parts of Lisbon if you don’t feel like handling those hills.

Bairro Alto is also one of the main nightlife areas in Lisbon, and it’s a popular place to see fado shows. One of the best places to see fado in Lisbon is at Tasca do Chico, in the heart of Bairro Alto.

Note that is is one of the louder Lisbon neighborhoods, since it’s an all-night party hub. I’ve checked the hotels’ reviews to see if noise was an issue for past guests, but things do change.

I recommend double-checking each hotel’s reviews specifically to check that noise wasn’t an issue for recent guests if that’s a concern for you and you’re sure you want to stay in Bairro Alto. Or, if you’ll be out all night — the noise will hardly bother you, as you’ll likely be the one making it!

Where to Stay in Bairro Alto

Budget: Grapes & Bites – Hostel and Wines

Grapes & Bites Hostel offers dormitory-type rooms, double rooms, and suites with a tasty, wine-themed twist! The bathrooms are a little dated, as it is a budget accommodation, but you can tell that it is maintained and cleaned well. The use of wine bottles as a chandelier and lighting pieces create an interesting story in their rooms, in keeping with the theme of the hostel.

The outdoor area is very rustic, and you will love how they match the foldable wooden chairs and tables with the rugged concrete and some tiny potted flowering plants. Everyone can spend time in their Executive Lounge and Bar, where you can see their vast collection of tasty Portuguese wines.

The best part of the hotel is the viewing patio and terrace, where you can see a fantastic panoramic view of the city. Guests have loved the complimentary breakfast they serve, and they think that they have probably one of the best coffee around (for a hostel, at least!)

Family travelers who also want to bring their pets can do so, but you must coordinate it with the property before booking. You can also book shuttle services and rent bikes or cars at their front desk.

However, the location is not suitable for guests with disabilities or mobility limitations. Their facilities are not equipped properly to suit people with accessibility needs, and there are also no elevators.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Grapes & Bites – Hostel and Wines here ««

Mid-Range: Selina Secret Garden Lisbon

Someone who wants a close-to-nature ambiance while staying in the heart of the city should choose this hotel! Plants are found almost everywhere – even the lounge bars, common areas, and bedrooms! It is a gorgeous way to give a green, relaxing vibe to their guests.

They have a good selection of rooms for every group size: from private single or double rooms, deluxe and superior rooms, suite rooms, and dormitory-type rooms for solo travelers on a budget.

Many of walls are painted with abstract and modern murals, creating a unique aesthetic that adds to the charm of the property. An added feature of their dormitory rooms is the lighting and curtain cover for each bunk bed — it’s almost akin to a capsule hotel like you’d find in Japan.

Breakfast is not included, but you can get one for $7 USD on-site, which is not bad, but you can also go around nearby cafés and convenience stores for a much cheaper option.

Digital nomads or people who travel for business will enjoy their coworking spaces, where you can get a shared desk (prices start around $11 USD per day), dedicated desk (prices start around $21 USD), and even a monthly desk plan (prices start around $165 USD).

There is a huge balcony with a lot of wicker chairs: a perfect place to chat with friends or just simply relax and look at how beautiful and romantic the surrounding houses are in this part of Lisbon. You can also play pool and meet new people here.

Aside from this, they also have entertainment facilities for kids where they can play with toys, board games, and puzzles.

There is also an outdoor pool, which is not that big (it is in the middle of Lisbon, after all!), but you will love how it feels to have your own oasis, especially if in Lisbon in the summer! The front desk can also arrange a street art tour, foodie tour, or a tour of Belem, so it can be your one-stop shop for exploring whatever side of Lisbon you choose to.

 »» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Selina Secret Garden Lisbon here ««

Luxury: The Lumiares Hotel & Spa

This hotel is perfectly located on top of the hill, where you can see charming views of the city. Printed patterns and geometric shapes add a modern but elegant touch to the décor: you may see it on pillows, carpets, or chairs! It matches perfectly with the modern, clean and crisp style of each apartment.

There are different room types you can choose from: studio apartment, 1-bedroom apartment, 2-bedroom apartment, penthouse apartment (this is the only option that has a private balcony), and a ground floor loft. They all have a private bathroom, sofa or seating area, safety deposit boxes, mini kitchen, A/C, and heating.

The fitness center and the Lumni Bar and Restaurant (located on the rooftop) are both open 24 hours a day — extremely convenient if arriving late, you have jet lag, or you’re just a night owl!

They also have a small spa where you can get a relaxing massage or body treatment, as well as a sauna and steam bath where you can relax after a tiring day of exploring the city.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at The Lumiares Hotel & Spa here ««

Alfama: The Oldest Lisbon Neighborhood

This is my personal favorite neighborhood in Lisbon. It’s where I stayed last time, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep staying here time and again.

It’s one of very few parts of Lisbon that wasn’t totally destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. As a result, this is one of the older and more in-tact parts of the town, giving it a one-of-a-kind aesthetic in the city.

The famous 28 tram winds its way through Alfama, but don’t get tourist-trapped into taking it — lines are insane, trams are super-crowded, and it’s a pickpocketer’s dream. Try the 12 instead, which makes a circle between Baixa and Alfama. You can snap some photos of the 28 as it makes its rounds: the best photo opportunity is by the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, one of the best views in the city (OK, I know I say that about virtually every miradouro, but it’s truly a tough race to call).

Beneath the miradouro, don’t miss the História de Lisbon mural, located in an archway down a staircase. It’s a popular spot for photos, though it’s less known than the miradouro itself.

I’m also a big fan of the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which has gorgeous azulejos, brilliant pink flowers, and stunning Tejo River views from its scenic pergola.

In the Alfama neighborhood or immediate vicinity, you’ll also find the Lisbon Cathedral, National Pantheon, Feira de Ladras (twice-weekly flea market) and tons of fantastic restaurants, shops, and cafés.

This is also another popular area for seeing fado, with famous fado houses such as Senhor Fado in the area, as well as the famous Museo do Fado (absolutely worth a visit!).

Budget: City Guesthouse Alfama

It is conveniently located near one of the stops of tram 28; while I do recommend taking other Lisbon trams, seeing the 28 tram with your own eyes is still a bit magical!

The rooms are very simple, just enough for a good night’s sleep on a budget – the two options are private and shared rooms. Bathrooms are all shared, but they do provide free toiletries and hair dryers. A kitchen and game room are also available for all to use.

Someone who hasn’t planned their Lisbon itinerary yet can ask assistance from their front desk for some tours – there’s also pub crawls aside from the local tours or you can check here where else you can go in Lisbon!

However, note that past guests felt disappointed that there was no luggage storage option just in case you need to check in early or check out and your flights are still at a later time and you want to enjoy the city a bit more. There are services like Bagbnb which can help you store your luggage for a small fee. Also note that there are also no elevators in the property, only stairs, so people with heavy luggage are in for a workout!

Due to its budget-friendly cost, good hospitality, and clean rooms, this simple yet comfortable guesthouse in the heart of Alfama usually has a high demand. It is also one of the best places to stay for solo travelers.

An added note for travelers would be to check a map for the address of the location. Since it is located in a historical area, they’re not allowed to put any signage in front of their building, so you’ll want to have the address noted.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at City Guesthouse Alfama here ««

Mid-Range: Hotel Convento do Salvador

The 3-star hotel honestly looks like an old convent (not sure if it was before — the name would suggest it!).

The style of the hotel focuses on minimalist decors and architecture, but if you notice the artwork, they’re uniquely made by local Portuguese artists. They have multiple room configurations: you can choose a room with a view of the beautiful Tejo river (this one is mostly sold out!) or a room that is comfortable and accessible for guests with disabilities or accessibility needs.

Fun fact: it is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in Lisbon. It makes use of a centralized system for ensuring energy savings for their A/Cs, ventilation, and water systems. The rooms also automatically turn off all electrical sources if not in use and most spaces make use of natural lighting.

Breakfast is optional if you want to save $11 USD, but just in case you would like to try it, then you can pay the same price on-site. They serve it on the mezzanine, where you can also see the reception. Guests who are intolerant to lactose and gluten can ask for a special menu. There’s also a lounge bar that offers different kinds of beverages from teas, coffee, cocktails, and aperitifs that you can partner with some delightful snacks.

The hotel joins a partnership with the Youth Center to support cultural activities, and they allow them to use their business and meeting facilities. It is not just a vacation getaway, but also a place where they mold the future of the younger generation of Lisboetas!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Hotel Convento do Salvador here ««

Luxury: Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel

A truly world-class and 5-star experience is something you can expect from Santiago de Alfama. This gorgeous hotel used to be the Palácio dos Castros, a lovely old building restructured to a boutique hotel. It has been featured in several different magazines and newspapers, winning several international awards including one of the best kid-friendly luxury hotels.

The rooms are all spacious and bright, designed with an eye towards clean lines and simple elegance. Hardwood floors and intricately-patterned wall panels also make the rooms feel luxurious yet down-to-earth and natural. You will also love the style of their tables because the legs are made out of twigs – so unique!

If you want a view of the river (and I mean, it’s the Tejo: who doesn’t?), then you need to choose the standard double room because it has a small balcony where you can also see the city and the nearby fado houses.

You can also check the a la carte menu at their restaurant and Bar Audrey’s (a.k.a. A Fábrica de Santiago). They serve breakfast and dinner, as well as cocktails and petiscos (Portuguese snacks, similar to Spanish tapas) in the afternoon until the evening. Those who feel like they deserve to treat themselves should check their in-house salon for some treatments, massages, and other beauty and wellness packages.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel here ««

Príncipe Real: Chic & Shopping District in Lisbon

Príncipe Real is one of the more upscale and trendy neighborhoods in Lisbon, and it’s priced to match with some of the more spendy accommodations in Lisbon to be found here.

However, for those seeking peace and quiet a little way from the center action where all the tourists are, yet not too far from Lisbon’s best sights, it’s worth it. You can easily walk to Baixo or Bairro Alto, but you’ll be well away from those crowds.

The neighborhood is centered around Jardim do Príncipe Real, a wonderful park for relaxing in Lisbon’s seemingly perpetually beautiful weather.

It’s also a fantastic area to indulge in some shopping. One of the main shopping streets, Rua da Escola Politècnica, is chock-full of hip boutiques and vintage shops. And you can’t miss the most famous shopping mecca in Príncipe Real, the Embaixada. Originally, it was a palace (the Riverio da Cunha Palace, to be specific) and this 19th-century palace done in the neo-Moorish style has been beautifully brought back to life as a shopping gallery selling Portuguese wares.

But mostly, it’s a place for peaceful local living, a central neighborhood in Lisbon that hasn’t yet been taken over too much by mass tourism.

Where to Stay in Príncipe Real

Budget: Flores Guest House

Flores Guest House is a wonderful property near the park. I love how they mix and match boldly printed walls with horizontal lines and the rugged concrete-like wall panels to create a unique and interesting aesthetic.

The décor uses both modern and indigenous natural materials for their furniture. You will notice a lot of wood and fiber on the lampshades, chairs, and beds while the sofa and bed are mostly linen with neutral colors like gray, white and black. They add pops of color on the throw pillows, otherwise skeeping things fresh and neutral.

You can choose from a single or double room with a view of the garden, an apartment with 1-bedroom (there are upper and ground floor choices), a penthouse with a balcony, a junior suite, and a 1-bedroom apartment with a mezzanine (this one is really homey!). The breakfast basket is also something that you can look forward to every morning.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Flores Guest House here ««

Mid-Range: 1869 Principe Real

The guesthouse has an exterior of gorgeous red tiles and bricks. It’s a small and intimate guesthouse, with a total of just 9 rooms and suites. All are fully equipped with an A/C, heating, safety deposit boxes, ensuite bathroom with free toiletries, and an electric kettle. Note that only the executive suite has a balcony and only the double room has a terrace.

All rooms are spacious and have a seating area, fireplace, and comfortable beds plus a washer and dryer for your laundry. Breakfast is included in your stay, though the dining area is a bit small, so you might need to share tables with other guests – which just adds to the homey, intimate air. You have to try their fresh bolos that you can partner with some deli meats, cheese, fruits, coffee, and tea.

Younger kids will be safe as their electric sockets have safety covers (not something you usually see). The entire property is non-smoking and there are no designated smoking areas either. Just note that they only accept two kinds of cards, Visa and Mastercard. Guests loved how it was located in a quiet area and how the owner can help you book last-minute reservations with nearby cafés, restaurants, and other arrangements!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at 1869 Principe Real here ««

Luxury: Memmo Principe Real – Design Hotels

This is one of the 5-star hotels of the Memmo Group, famed for their aesthetics and design. It’s located in the heart of Príncipe Real and is relatively small, with just 41 rooms.

It is believed that a member of Portuguese royalty once lived in the property before it was transformed into a luxury hotel. The rooms have a very elegant contemporary style, sleek and modern. The private bathrooms also have Hermés shower gels, conditioner, lotion, and soap. You will also see artworks by famed Portuguese artists in some areas as well as a portrait of Don Pedro V at the entrance.

Breakfast is not inclusive of your stay, but you can have it at a surcharge in their Café Príncipe Real, a restaurant that offers Portuguese cuisine.

Just right outside its balcony is an outdoor pool that looks beautiful, especially at night when its floor is lit and glittering in the night sky — plus a gorgeous view of the city that will mesmerize you! There are also wicker chairs around the area where you can sit back and chill. From 1 pm until midnight you can check their rooftop bar for a nice view while drinking some of their craft cocktails. 

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Memmo Principe Real here ««

Mouraria: Lisbon’s Lively Former Moorish Quarter

Bordering Alfama and Baixa, Mouraria is also known as the Moorish District, centered around the Martim Moniz and Intendente metros.

Frankly, I had heard some bad things about Mouraria on other blogs, but visiting there, I found the area to be safe, vibrant, and diverse in a way that is missing in a lot of Lisbon, which has gentrified rapidly. Sure, it’s rough around the edges in a way that Principe Real is not, but I loved that I could find Nepalese and Chinese food restaurants alongside Mozambican and Goan restaurants, all with a more local feel than most other Lisbon neighborhoods.

My husband also lived in Mouraria for most of his time in Lisbon and never had any issues in the neighborhood so I feel comfortable recommending it to all.

Mouraria doesn’t have so many attractions as other Lisbon neighborhoods, but its proximity to Lisbon, Baixa, and Chiado are all great selling points. It’s also home to some local gems like the delicious seafood restaurant Ramiro, which was featured on No Reservations (show up early or be disappointed!), as well as great shopping like at A Vida Portuguesa and Ó! Galeria.

Where to Stay in Mouraria

Budget: Hostel 15

This budget hostel in Mouraria has single, double and quad rooms to choose from — you can also request one with a balcony.

Most of their wooden beds are a little short, but the good thing is that the footboards aren’t high, so you can rest your foot here even if you are a bit taller. If this is something uncomfortable for you, then you can choose their quad rooms which have extra-long beds. Towels and bedsheets are also replaced every day. There is not much décor in the rooms, but it is a decent place to stay especially given how cheap it is!

All of their bathrooms are shared, but maintenance is frequent to keep shared areas fresh. Housekeeping also works daily to maintain the cleanliness of the property, one of the things that guests have loved.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Hostel 15 here ««

Mid-Range: OnJ S. Lazaro Lisboa

This is an apartment-style hotel that just started its operations in 2017. The property was also renovated to function as a hotel, but it originally traces back to 1830.

The hypoallergenic rooms are simple and modern, using neutral and basic hues to create a soothing color palette. You can choose from a studio or an apartment with 1 or 2 bedrooms.

The rooms have a carpeted area, and the floors are hardwood. The private bathroom has a divided wet and dry area and they also have modern perks like of rain showerheads (my favorite) and marble floors.

Some people love their rooms cleaned every day, but most travelers don’t really stay that long in their room (which means it’s not really messy). For skipping the replacement of your towel and cleaning, you can get a €5 voucher which you can use at their café or bar — eco-friendly and economical.

You can also leave your kids in the care of a professional if there are adventures in the city that you can’t bring them on. If you want to tour around the area, there are bicycles available that you can rent on-site.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at OnJ S. Lazaro Lisboa here ««

Luxury: 1908 Lisboa Hotel

This is a very gorgeous 4-star hotel (awarded with a Valmor Prize) with old-style Art Nouveau architecture from when it was built in 1908. It was later on restored (and still is perfectly maintained) and operated as a luxury hotel.

The moment you arrive, you will be welcomed warmly and given a drink. The property may seem a bit small from the outside, but inside it has big and spacious rooms. Each room is super clean and all floors are carpeted, plus the beds are large with sturdy but comfortable mattresses. Added features of their rooms include a balcony and an ensuite bathroom with a walk-in shower complete with Castelbel-branded toiletries.

Bike rentals are also available so you can drop by different tourist destinations in the area for a certain period of time. You can also check their art galleries and dine or try the alcoholic drinks at their Infame Restaurant and Bar, which is loved by locals. There’s a funny bit of history behind the name of the restaurant: a King was once assassinated in the famous avenue, and this made the Queen shout the words “Infame!” which means infamous.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at 1908 Lisboa Hotel here ««

Chiado: Lisbon’s Chic, Chilled Out Neighborhood

The neighborhood of Chiado has been called bohemian and been compared to the Montmartre district of Paris.

If you were to take the Santa Justa lift up from Baixo, it’d connect you to Chiado near one of it’s main and most important sites, the gorgeous and impressive Convento de Carmo, now an archaeological museum after having been destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Of course, the much faster and cheaper way is to simply walk up from Baixo.

Chiado is home to some wonderful quiet gems, such as the São Roque Church, several theaters such as São Luiz and São Carlos, Praça Luis de Camões.

It isn’t the most jam-packed place when it comes to Lisbon attractions, but its proximity to Bairro Alto, Baixa, and Cais do Sodré make it a popular place for Lisboetas and tourists alike to hang out.

Where to Stay in Chiado

Budget: BoHo Guesthouse Rooms & Apartments

This is one of the best budget guesthouses and apartments in Chiado. Most of the rooms have a communal bathroom, but you can choose a room that has a private external bathroom or a quad room that has an ensuite bathroom. Every floor has a communal bathroom (3 for each floor) so you won’t expect long waiting times.

The rooms are not decorated very uniquely, but you can tell that it is clean and organized. It also has features like hardwood floors, WiFi, heating, and TV.  Some rooms do have a balcony, so make sure to request one if you want some views on your room. A shared kitchen is also available for you to prepare or cook some easy meals, and (bonus!) there’s also a dishwasher to help you clean the dishes.

However, the rooms do not have an A/C (which would be a problem during the summer), though fans are provided for each room. Guests reported that the staff were also very attentive when it comes to assisting their needs and were happy with their stay given the price.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at BoHo Guesthouse Rooms & Apartments here ««

Mid-Range: My Story Hotel Rossio

My Story Hotel Rossio wants just that: to tell you a story in every area of the hotel! It is a four-story building with 46 rooms, which originally dates back to the 18th century.

The hotel makes use of modern and very artistic décor – it is a play between modern and classic pieces, which works in perfect harmony. They only have soundproofed double rooms, but there is one room where you can have a view of beautiful Rossio Square. The private bathrooms also feature a hairdryer, a separate shower area, towels, and free Rituals shower gels and shampoos.

The restaurant, Café Portugal, is considered as one of the historic places in the area where you can best taste traditional Portuguese cuisine. The original café had been closed down around the ’70s, but people missed it enough that the property decided to reopen it in 1983 and named it after the original name of the café.

The restaurant also has a very romantic appeal, perfect for a date or special occasion. A must-try is their grilled octopus: tender, charred in all the right places, and so fresh!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at My Story Hotel Rossio here ««

Luxury: Lisboa Pessoa Hotel

This 4-star hotel is on a steep hill and it has been constructed with careful thought, dedicated to the poetry and written works of Francisco Pessoa whom the hotel is named for. There is even a room with a library dedicated to his masterpieces inside.

It has 75 elegantly styled rooms with carpeted floors and huge double beds with wooden headboards that have built-in dimly-lit lamps for reading or mood lighting. The ensuite bathrooms will make you feel lavish because the floors and walls are all made of gray and white marble.

An alluring view of the city awaits you at their rooftop, where you’ll find the bar and restaurant Mensagem. The breakfast buffet option also has a good variety and you can choose from continental, vegetarian, or gluten-free — plus there’s also something special for picky kids.

There is parking available, but you would need to pay €20 (around $22 USD) and reservation is needed. Some of their amenities include an indoor pool, heated pool, hammam, steam room, and a fitness center. They also have a spa where you can get different kinds of therapeutic medical treatments, healing rituals, and massages for a totally beautifying and relaxing break!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Lisboa Pessoa Hotel here ««

Cais do Sodré: Lisbon’s Waterfront Neighrbood for Food & Fun

Named for its metro station, which is the terminal of the line, Cais do Sodré also has a train station which can take you to Belém or even to Lisbon’s neighboring towns where you enjoy beautiful beaches such as Cascais.

There are also a lot of lovely waterfront areas to sit and chill or relax with a coffee or a drink, though these waterside cafés are often overpriced for the quality. But hey, it’s all about that Tejo view!

Cais do Sodré is considered one of the better nightlife areas in Lisbon, especially around the so-called “Pink Street” which you undoubtedly have seen on Instagram!

Nowadays, Cais do Sodré is most famous for its Time Out Market, where you can have tastes of some of the most delicious Lisbon restaurants all under one roof. It is always quite busy and packed in there, but that’s what happens when you combine some of the best places in Lisbon all under one roof! I strongly recommend grabbing a pastel de nata at Manteigeira – it’s the best pastel de nata outside of Belém.

Where to Stay in Cais do Sodré

Budget: Lost Lisbon Cais House

This guesthouse is on the third floor of a historical building. The design would best be described as shabby chic, using furniture pieces that aren’t uniform.

Mostly, they are old pieces refurbished to look beautifully new while keeping its original structure. The doors of each room were intentionally made to look raw (no varnish and paint) and like it has stood the test of time. The use of colors like turquoise blue, yellow ochre, royal blue perfectly matches the wooden floors and furniture (as well as the vintage décor).

Some of their walls also have an artsy vibe due to the murals, which are mostly modern and abstract paintings. High ceilings are also seen in most of their common areas and rooms, which gives a sense of a much bigger space. Guests did not worry even if the bathrooms are all shared because they have plenty of toilets and showers – it’s also super clean!

However, they do not have 24-hour front desk and there’s no elevator in the property. Another thing that guests loved most about the hotel is the boutique feeling despite the budget cost of the rooms which makes it a very good deal. You really get a puzzle piece of the fragments lost from the modernization of Lisbon – which is what I think the name implies!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Lost Lisbon :: Cais House here ««

Mid-Range: Lx Boutique Hotel

This 4-star hotel overlooks the Rio Tejo and was formerly known as Hotel Bragança. The lobby area is really charming, with vertical blue lines for the wallpapers and accented with some blue and white Portuguese Coimbra pottery.

At their 24-hour front desk, they do have some Portuguese tarts (pastel de nata) and drinks that you can sample for free. Some walls of the rooms have luxury printed wallpapers with different patterns, images, and shapes. Floral prints are also seen in their sofa, pillows and chair covers. What’s good about their rooms is the variety of types to choose from to suit a variety of group sizes.

The in-house restaurant, Confraria Lx, offers a wide variety of dishes from salads to tapas – though the best time to eat here is during the afternoon when they provide complimentary sushi (reason alone to book!). A bar and jazz club are also available at the hotel for people who want to mingle and have some drinks at night. Note that sometimes the music from here can be a bit loud, so it would be advisable to choose a room on an upper level. Past guests have said that once you shut the windows and balcony doors, the rooms are soundproof.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Lx Boutique Hotel here ««

Luxury: Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel

It has a total of 75 rooms with options from suite-type (8 rooms all in the topmost floors), double, and family. The rooms are spacious and only make use of earth tones and wooden furniture to give a soft and soothing aesthetic.

The beds are sturdy with comfortable mattresses. Extra-long beds (more than 2 meters) ensure a pleasant sleeping experience for all.

Their rooms all have an ensuite bathroom with Molton Brown London bath and body products plus chromotherapy (lighting that’s believed to have healing properties – though who can be sure that works?). Coffee and tea making facilities are also available and some rooms even have Nespresso machines so you can make your own cup just how you like it.

Breakfast offerings also have something for younger guests and they can serve it in your room – just like royalty. There’s also Porter’s restaurant, whose name was inspired by a type of beer, that also offers a bar and a function room. It has international cuisine and fusion dishes and the menu clearly explains what ingredients were used – less hassle when ordering if you have dietary restrictions!

The hotel also offers wellness facilities like a fitness center, an indoor pool and a spa (packages are also offered). It’s a rather popular property, so book in advance — at the time of this writing, 44 guests had booked at this property within the last 24 hours!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel here ««

Where to Stay in the Azores: Resorts & Hotels for All Budgets

If you’re planning a trip to the Azores, a big question you likely have is where to stay in the Azores. After all, this beautiful archipelago of islands belonging to Portugal but adrift in the Atlantic offers a distinct variety of experiences.

There truly is no best island to stay in the Azores, as each is so different and has a lot to offer. If you only have time to visit one island, I’d suggest São Miguel as it’s the largest, has the most and cheapest direct flights, and is large enough to spend at least three days exploring and better yet up to a week or more. If São Miguel is on your list, I have a road trip itinerary for São Miguel that will help you plan your trip!

But beyond São Miguel, there are plenty of other worthwhile places to visit in the Azores, such as Terceira, Faial, Pico, and São Jorge. There are nine main islands in the Azores; this post will cover where to stay in the main five most visited islands, with a focus on where to stay in Sao Miguel, which is the largest and most commonly visited island.

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Want to travel the Azores, Portugal, but don’t know how to pick the best island in the Azores? Use this Azores travel guide! From the most popular Azores island, Sao Miguel (Ponta Delgada) to others like Terceira, Faial, Sao Jorge, and Pico, here's where to stay in the Azores.  Whether you’re island hopping, finding photography spots, relaxing in hot springs, seeing lakes & volcanoes & Azores nature, or relaxing on beaches & hot springs, there’s the perfect Azores island to stay on for you.
Want to travel the Azores, Portugal, but don’t know how to pick the best island in the Azores? Use this Azores travel guide! From the most popular Azores island, Sao Miguel (Ponta Delgada) to others like Terceira, Faial, Sao Jorge, and Pico, here's where to stay in the Azores.  Whether you’re island hopping, finding photography spots, relaxing in hot springs, seeing lakes & volcanoes & Azores nature, or relaxing on beaches & hot springs, there’s the perfect Azores island to stay on for you.

São Miguel Island

Best Budget Places to Stay in São Miguel

Quinta das Rosas Villas

Quinta das Rosas Villas is composed of villas creating a gorgeous Azores resort where you can be close to nature as you can be, as Azorean native plants are all over the place. 

You can enjoy the garden while sitting on the wooden chairs on the front deck. The trees, some fruit-bearing, can provide you with ample shade and a fresh breeze in the morning while drinking your cup of coffee – a mini paradise indeed! The exterior of the villas are beautifully covered with cedar wood panels, creating a gorgeous effect.

You can choose from their three kinds of villas which are named after the different colors of the rose: Vila Rosa Branca (White Rose Villa), Vila Rosa Amarela (Yellow Rose Villa) and Vila Rosa Vermelha (Red Rose Villa).

They are all detached units rather than adjacent hotel rooms and have a private bathroom (with toiletries provided), one bedroom with a comfy double bed, a living area with seating and a kitchen with basic cooking tools you need – just like at home! Guests also loved that you can use their communal washing machine for free. The interior decorations are simple and have a little bit of that modern Portuguese vibe.

During days when you feel like sitting and just relaxing, you can stay on the sun deck and get a lovely view of the pool. Just in case you feel that there are a ton of mosquitoes bothering you, you can ask them for a mosquito net or you can try to be a local and say “mosquiteiro” (just don’t be surprised if Azoreans look confused as their dialect of Portuguese is extremely different than Brazil or Portugal).

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Quinta Das Rosas Villas here ««

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Praia de Santos – Exclusive Guest House Açores

Someone who speaks Portuguese can tell you that the word Praia next to the name of a hotel or property is a really really good thing: it’s destined to be really close to the beach (praia). That’s just what Praia de Santos is, and as expected, it will give you the best views of the sea.

Very modern and neat interiors can be found in the common areas, while the rooms make use of minimalist designs and neutral colors to complement the glossy hardwood floors. It has a total of nine soundproof and allergen-free rooms, all with their own private bathroom.

The hotel is most popular for its bike rentals, being a part of the “bike-friendly hotel” network, which is a first in this lovely group of islands. Bike tours can also be arranged by them, for someone who wants to go around and see the spectacular views of the island at a slower pace than road trippers zipping around by car. Someone who is a biker will love this place!

You will love being served locally produced Azorean cheese, bread and other food for breakfast. Just in case you want some snacks or some beverages, there are vending machines available.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Praia De Santos here«« 

Casa Ateneu

Casa Ateneu is where I personally stayed when in the Azores. I was traveling on a low to mid-range budget and was so happy to find Casa Ateneu at a reasonable price (check here for current rates and availability).

We paid 35 euros per night for a double room with ensuite bathroom and thought it was an amazing value! However, keep in mind we traveled a bit off-season near the end of March, so I would imagine the rooms would cost about twice as much in the summer.

The room was not huge but it felt really spacious with insanely high ceilings (seriously… like two stories tall high!), and lovely, comfortable bedding and plenty of outlets and places to store things. The whole interior of the house had a really lovely, homey vibe to it, and there was a kitchen that was free to use if you wanted to cook for yourself as well. We didn’t use it but it looked quite well-stocked!

One thing to note: the reception is not actually located at Casa Ateneu but just down the street from it.

That said, check-in was super easy since we could just walk one block away to meet them to get our keys and get a tour of the property. The staff was always available to help us, even walking over with our printed boarding passes one evening, when the computer at Casa Ateneu was having trouble printing.

But my favorite part of staying at Casa Ateneu was the picnic baskets full of delicious breakfast goodies they gave us every day in lieu of a standard breakfast buffet.

This was perfect as we’d simply make a cup of coffee or Gorreana tea (free in the kitchen) first thing in the morning, head to our first miradouro or viewpoint, and have a picnic breakfast in gorgeous surroundings. They even included coffee and tea in the breakfast baskets, though you’d need a Thermos to hold some super hot water if you were going to make the coffee or tea.

Eating breakfast each morning out of a picnic basket overlooking a lake, surrounded by trees and the hum of birds, was one of the highlights of my Azores trip and I wonder why more hotels don’t do this!

»»
Ready to book? Check out Casa Ateneu or other Sao Miguel hotels here. 
««

Mid-Range Hotels in São Miguel

Pedras do Mar Resort

The incredible Pedras do Mar Resort won the World Luxury Hotels award in 2017, due to its excellent customer service and features — so you can tell this is clearly one of the best places to stay in the Azores, even for the mid-range price tag.

You get the chance to choose the view from your room – whether a breathtaking view of the mountain or the hypnotic view of the sea. They are all spacious and you will love the natural lighting coming in from your big window, but if you are someone who sleeps in late, you can just keep it covered with the thick curtains enough to block sunlight. All rooms are carefully decorated with wood and sophisticated furniture that enhances its minimalist appeal.

You can also do your daily workout routines at their inclusive fitness center or to relax and replenish your wellbeing, you can indulge in treatments at their spa. Children can also swim at their kids’ pool, or you can leave them supervised by a staff in their play area. This Azores resort has a heated indoor pool in case you’re visiting in the cooler months, and the outdoor infinity pool is a hit with Instagrammers who love taking vivid photos showing the beautiful layers of blue, from the pool itself, the sea, and the sky.

The restaurant serves gourmet a la carte menus that are beautifully plated. If you require a special diet, you can request their special menu to meet your dietary requirements.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Pedros Do Mar here «« 

Azoris Royal Garden

The hotel makes use of brave, vibrant, and playful colors and patterns in their interiors. They also have potted indoor plants that will give you a feeling of freshness, bringing the outdoors in.

It also brags several awards like the Miosótis Azores for its environmentally-friendly practices and also has an ISO certification! So if you’re looking for an eco-friendly Azores resort, this is the place to stay in São Miguel!

They have a Japanese Zen Garden outside with some koi fish inside the pond. Just beside it is the Koi Restaurant (taking inspiration from the fishes in the garden!) which also offers international and local Portuguese dishes. Previous guests raved that the breakfast is delicious! The Royal Bar also serves a good choice of cocktails and snacks you can munch on between meals if you get a bit hungry.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Azoris Royal Garden here «« 

Casa das Palmeiras Charming House

True to its name, this charming guesthouse was built in 1901 by the Countess of Cuba. It is a truly lovely house filled with history that was restored and turned into a dainty hotel with 10 spacious rooms.

The decors are elegant and the total look will remind of you those French Art Nouveau inspired houses. Housekeeping is done on a daily basis. Heating and A/C is also available so you can be kept comfortable regardless of the season (and really, any season is great to visit the Azores!). Baby cribs are also available for younger guests. Note that if you want a balcony, the only room variation that has a balcony is the deluxe double room.

Guests who are planning to visit during autumn can experience their chocolate afternoons – don’t you just love that? You can dance to some music while munching on chocolates and sipping on some wine — not a terrible compromise for coming in the shoulder season when the island is not very touristic compared to summer. Coffee, fruit-infused water, and cookies are available to refresh yourself throughout the day.

Someone who wants their stay to be more memorable, such as for an anniversary or honeymoon, should go to the top floor of the house – just wait till you see it!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Casa das Palmeiras Charming House here ««

Luxury Resorts in São Miguel

Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort

This is a 4-star Azores resort that you shouldn’t miss! This gorgeous Azores resort has just 14 villas, each with a nice view of the city, mountain, or the sea.

The style of the resort is a little rustic, combined with wooden walls, floors, and ceilings. You will love that they did not disturb the natural topography of the hills upon building the resort, truly blending into its beautiful rugged Atlantic surroundings.

Some of the furniture and décor are also made from driftwood, and most are very simple yet elegant. The villas are divided by concrete walls and each has a huge sliding window that also serves as its main door. They have private tubs where you can soak and relax after a hike, and the private bathrooms are enclosed in glass walls. 

One unique feature of their villas is a room that has a private tub which is divided by the concrete bed headboard! There are also 2-bedroom villas with an outdoor Jacuzzi.

The outdoor infinity pool is simple yet elegant, and you will love the deck where you can watch seabirds flying or just simply allowing the sea breeze to waft aross your face. Guests have mentioned that one of the most outstanding things you will experience at the resort is the service of their staff – which is remarkably great. The nostalgic feeling of living in the countryside, while still providing world-class service, is their major selling point to guests.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Santa Barbara Eco-Beach Resort here ««

Sul Villas & Spa

The hotel makes use of flat white walls, floors, and ceilings to create a peacefully blank canvas that will put emphasis on their simple and elegant furniture and décor. The suite-type rooms will also remind of you of art galleries, with funky art individualized for each room.

You can choose from a junior or a deluxe suite, which both have a balcony with an epic Azorean view. The deluxe suite has its own private spa bath where you can soak and unwind, as well as a deck where you can be one with nature. All suites have their own kitchenette and minibar, heating, A/C, and a closet. They also have a fireplace — just in case it gets too cold during the winter season.

The wellness facilities are also superb: from the multiple services and treatments available at their spa to the fitness center and sauna, there’s a lot of ways to unwind here. Someone who aims not just to enhance their physical, but also mental health, can try their yoga classes.

The outdoor pool also has salt water (so relaxing!) as well as an area dedicated for kids. A few guests have reported that some rooms have windows facing the street, which can sometimes become a bit noisy. Try to inform the property that you want a room that is not facing the street side or better yet, tell them you want room 1!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Sul Villas & Spa here ««

Furnas Boutique Hotel

This chic hotel was designed by Nini Andrade Silva, a famous Portuguese architect, which has 54 rooms and suites. A touch of sophistication and class is evident in their rooms and suites, each with an ensuite bathroom. It makes ample use of leather, wood, and marble floors to complete a multi-layered yet classic look. All are equipped with an A/C, heating, a safety deposit box, tea and coffee making facilities ,and a minibar.

Thermal waters are abundant in this location of the island, and this 4-star hotel makes that their advantage! It is also what makes their wellness amenities excellent. The spa has 10 rooms catering to different kinds of treatments, which all use the natural thermal spring waters. Most of their treatments make use of natural ingredients, and they also have an exclusive treatment made for men. You can also purchase products like make-up removers, creams, oils, serums, and masks made from local ingredients.

The best thing about their amenities such as their pools, the fitness center, and the continental breakfast is that they are all available 24-hours a day – waking up on time is not a problem here! There are 2 indoor and 2 outdoor pools: one makes use of fresh water and the other makes use of thermal water. Don’t forget to check the outdoor thermal pool because it looks stunningly beautiful!

There’s also a restaurant, named À Terra, where you can check their a la carte menu and buffet options for lunch and dinner. There are also adventure activities that the 24-hour service desk can help you with – whether it’s going whale watching, canyoning, diving, kayaking, surfing or swimming with dolphins, there are countless things to do in the Azores.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Sul Villas & Spa here ««

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel

Whether or not you stay in the. hotel or just visit its gardens and thermal springs for the 8 euro entry fee, a visit to Terra Nostra is a must if you are visiting the Azores.

While visiting is wonderful, staying at Terra Nosta is a whole different level. It has been nominated and won several international awards from Conde Nast and World Luxury Travel Awards. The theme of the hotel is earth touches and tones, which makes sense given that the hotel is famous for its iron-rich gold thermal waters said to have healing properties.

This gorgeous Azores resort strives to incorporate a lot of natural elements in their facilities and amenities. All rooms are also hypoallergenic and non-smoking. It is also stylishly decorated with printed carpets on the floors. The ensuite bathroom is also large and relaxing, making it a wonderful bathing experience for guests after soaking in the thermal waters on site.

The restaurant serves exotic Azorean dishes with a twist! They cook some of their stews underneath the ground at Lagoa de Furnas, which is a geothermal lake nearby. The ground heats the dishes and actually cooks the food for them – no stove or fire required! This dish is called a cozido and is an Azores must-do. For something different, you can also dine at The Gardener, which is an al fresco bar that serves exotic cocktails and fresh off the grill burgers.

You will love their natural hot springs and thermal pools where you can wash off all the stress away. Guests with disabilities won’t have any hassle because their facilities are equipped and carefully designed to give them ease and comfort, accessible for all.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Terra Nostra Garden Hotel here ««

Terceira Island

Budget Hotels in Terceira

Hotel Cruzeiro

This is a 4-star hotel that just recently opened in Angra do Heroismo. The hotel is been inspired by the nature and history that envelops the beautiful Terceira Island. You will notice a lot of wallpapers with scenes of the mountains and forests. Even some of their lights are green!

You can choose from a single, double, twin and deluxe room. All rooms have their own coffee and tea making facilities, flat-screen TV, iron for clothing, safety deposit boxes, and a wardrobe and closet.

The restaurant on-site, Albergaria, serves delectable local dishes that some say are even better than the other restaurants on the island! You can also grab a drink at the bar or some delicious snacks and cheese between meals. Those who have rented cars to explore Terceira can park for free at one of their 40 spots on-site. Guests have noted that there can be some noise from the street in some rooms, but once you close the windows – it’s all good! 

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Hotel Cruzeiro here ««

Terceira Mar Hotel

If you are planning to stay somewhere near Silveira Beach, then this is a good option. It has a lsuh garden with a gorgeous saltwater infinity pool. They have a total of 139 rooms and suites that have a chilled out 70s vibe, many with a balcony with a view of the crystal blue sea.

Past guests loved how comfortable and big the beds are, and it is also soundproof so that you can sleep well! Terceira Mar Hotel also has an indoor pool and an outdoor saltwater infinity pool open seasonally. The fitness center has a lot of equipment, some for cardio and some for lifting weights — all the better to fight off weight gain from that delicious yet hearty Portuguese food and wine!

The Monte Brasil restaurant offers Azorean cuisine like octopus stew and veal steak. Fanal Bar is where you can get some light snacks and some drinks while watching the bartenders stage a show for you. Make sure to book 2-3 months ahead of time so you can get low prices, like $60 USD per night for a classic room with a view of the sea!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Terceira Mar Hotel here ««

Mid-Range Hotels & Luxury Resorts in Terceira

Caparica Azores Ecolodge

Someone who wants a unique nature experience should consider staying in one of their cute wooden chalets that look like treehouses. Caparica places each chalet in a location that is very close to trees and boulders, giving you lovely views from the window. The private en-suite bathroom in each chalet is truly unique because the sinks are all made out of wood (even the soap dispensers!) plus the toilets are all black.

The breakfast is fresh and they only make use of local ingredients – keep an eye on their still-warm-from-the-oven Lervedo cake! Their outdoor pool is quite unique: you don’t often see one with a red tiled floor.

The staff is mostly able to speak in different languages and you won’t have a hassle whether you speak Spanish, French, and most of all, English. Sometimes they organize activities that you can try, like their aerobics class, cooking classes, and cultural walking tours. Art lovers will enjoy this place because it is also a haven where the local Azorean artists showcase their masterpieces!

My personal favorite feature is the netted hammock inside the three-bedroom chalet! Talk about Instagrammability.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Caparica Azores Ecolodge here ««

Casa Maria Luisa

This lovely guesthouse has the look of a Spanish colonial mansion, located near the countryside. The hotel is actually a house that’s filled with a lot of history. The house can trace its roots back to 1856, and it was only turned into a hotel in 1996.

It is not too far from the city center but it is in a peaceful and quiet location. You will notice that most of the furniture and the décor are inspired by vintage pieces – they still have working CRT TVs (don’t expect flat screens here!).

It is a small and personalized property, with a total of 6 rooms, all with a private bathroom and a view of their garden. Make sure to bring your favorite toiletries with you, since they do not provide this. Here are some tips for other things you can include when packing for your Azores trip.

It is open 24 hours, so checking in late won’t be an issue if needed. Guests have loved the lobby, garden, and pool because the personal feel makes you feel like you live there and aren’t just vacationing!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Casa Maria Luisa here ««

Pico

Budget Hotels in Pico

Miradouro da Papalva Guest House

The hotel was named after a local bird that, sadly, is now almost extinct. The house is perfectly located on the slope of the hill overlooking the lush green forest and the sea. They have huge suites that look like a small villa itself.

Each suite has all the features you’d need in a room. One unique thing you will notice is their bathrooms, which have a slanted ceiling, and the wet and dry area are divided (a feature I love). Their deluxe double room also has a balcony and it usually is around $80 USD a night, though prices can vary depending on season and demand.

There is a picnic area and BBQ facilities are available. You can try buying some fresh seafood and grill them – a must-try with freshly caught Atlantic seafood! If you are up for some adventure, you should talk to the hosts (husband and wife) as they know a lot about the local village and what exciting activities you can do.

Both of them are chefs, so you are to expect really delicious food served to you – especially the breakfast! Just in case you are watching your food intake or have dietary requirements, you can request a special menu or just inform them of your needs. If you’re tired of all that adventuring, soak in your suite’s warm tub and order some wine or champagne – a perfect way to pass a nice lazy afternoon!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Miradouro da Papalva Guest House here ««

Pico Dreams – Sportfish

Pico Dreams – Sportfish has a very beautiful entrance filled with purple and blue hydrangeas, one of the main flowers you’ll see on the Azores, to welcome you.

It has three buildings with a total of six rooms and villas that do not have a signature style, so you can choose according to your personality. All are spacious and have unique décor, which all harmonize well.  You can choose from a double room or a villa that has up to 3 bedrooms, perfect for couples, families, or group trips.

A shared kitchen is also available if you want to make some dishes using some local ingredients that you would love to try (look out for the ultra-sweet, teeny-tiny Azorean pineapple!).

The outdoor pool is not so big, but it is refreshing for a short dip. There is a lot of seating area available, plus some sun loungers to rest in. Tours and activities can also be arranged for you at their service desk like water sports, car and bike rentals, whale and dolphin watching or mountain climbing.

Bringing your favorite pooch won’t be a hassle as well because the hotel is pet-friendly – and it’s at no extra cost. You really get the best service here for a decent price.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Pico Dreams – Sportfish here ««

Mid-Range & Luxury Hotels in Pico

Aldeia das Agas

The place is like a mini-village of 10 houses, all made from volcanic rocks — like the Azores themselves!

Each house has its own outdoor deck with a nice outdoor table with umbrella. All units also have a fireplace and comfortable seating area for the family. You can also store your clothes in their closet so you don’t have to always open your luggage – I love getting to “unpack” on my vacation!

A lot of wood was used to furnish the interiors of the bedrooms, creating a very natural aesthetic. Still, there’s no lack of convenience — there is A/C and other modern amenities. The ensuite bathrooms are also fully equipped with all the things you need such as a washbasin cabinet, toilet, bidet, and an illuminated mirror.

Kids will enjoy playing in the small front yard and back yard (aside from the dedicated playground). Parents don’t have to worry since it is also secured by a private rock gate that surrounds the house.

However, breakfast is not included in your stay, so it is best to buy it so you can enjoy a relaxed morning, or you can opt to dine in the nearby restaurants and café. This is one of the best places to stay in the Azores if you are looking for the same comfortable feeling of being home. It can also be a perfect last stop for your Azores island hopping adventure as they have a free shuttle to the airport.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Aldeia das Agas here ««

Casas de Incensos

This is a lovely country house made out of rocks and wood. They say it was originally a house that was left abandoned when they started building the roads on the island. It was later reconstructed by a local architect, who now happens to own it as well, to serve as a guesthouse!

The exteriors are filled with dark gray rocks and bright red windows that makes it stand out against the green background of the hills. The balconies of each room also allow you to feel uplifted with the majestic view, in the morning or evening, and it is in its own way destressing.

Just a few steps from the house, you will notice a pathway of rocks that will lead you to a hot tub right on the slope of the hill. It also has two nice sun loungers where you can bathe in the sun, plus it gives you a gorgeous view downhill and across the sea.

The outdoor swimming pool is seasonal, so make sure you check before you book, if this is something you’re looking forward to. If you want to request for some snack or drinks, the host can have them ready for you, aside from the simple free breakfast they serve.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Casa de Incensos here ««

PocinhoBay

The Portuguese like to add the suffix “-inho” (male) or “-inha” (feminine) as a diminutive and also as a way of endearment or emphasis. PocinhoBay wants to endear their guests with its wonderful service and perfectly located property in a vineyard!

Historic and local Azorean furniture (and a few modern pieces) were used for the decorations of the hotel. They have three kinds of accommodation you can choose from: a 3-bedroom townhouse, a twin room and a 2-bedroom villa (this one has the view of the sea!). The perfect description for this property would be boho luxe, due to their use of ethnic printed rugs, ropes, natural fibers in the furniture, and framed paintings. It is also well complemented by the beautiful lighting and candles they use for décor.

There’s never a dull moment here and it’s perfect for families, because adults and kids each have their own entertainment facilities. Kids can play with their toys and there’s also books and TV networks for them, while adults can swim at their pool or avail themselves of one of their relaxing massages.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at PochinhoBay here ««

Faial Island

Budget Hotels on Faial

Casa de Baia – Guest House

Casa de Baia was once one of the old houses near the bay, but it was restored and transformed into a beautiful modern guest house. The rooms are all named after sea animals, and they also placed some adorable decals of them on the walls — kids will love it! (OK, I do too).

All rooms are simple, neat, and very modern — so that you can have more open space instead of unnecessary furniture. The guest house also features a kitchen, where guests can store food in the refrigerator, plus lockers where they can also store food items.

There are common spaces, like a living room with books about the Azores and a terrace where you can also have some good local food! Bikes can also be rented directly at the guest house. However, there is no A/C in the property (which is fine for most of the year, but may be problematic in peak summer). However…it is compensated by the stunning view from the roof deck!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Casa de Baia – Guest House here ««

Quinta da Meia Eira

This is a charming rural place to stay in the Azores and has a lovely, cozy farm ambiance (seeing as it has an agritourism license).

It has 8 comfortable rooms, complete with huge beds and luxury mattresses. The style is more on the vintage shabby chic side, where the furniture and the décor aren’t themed, but they do look good – it surely brings you back to a certain era!

You will also notice some works of art hung on the wall. Aside from the view of the sea and the mountains, you can also check their gazebo, meet their farm animals, and check out their vegetable garden outdoors. With this being said, your breakfast buffet is guaranteed to be fresh!

Since it is a farm (a lot of walking is expected), it would be advisable to rent a car or ask their service desk for their free bikes. The guests loved how approachable the owners were, because they themselves will attend to your every need and make you feel at home.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Quinta da Meia Eira here ««

Mid-Range & Luxury Hotels in Faial

Hotel do Canal

Hotel do Canal is a very modern hotel equipped with the latest facilities to make all of their guests feel VIP!

This hotel makes use of natural lighting very well – there are a lot of glass windows inside letting in tons of sun. Wherever you are, you can see the beautiful views outside.

The rooms are classy and vivid, and they use boldly patterned carpets for the floor. You will also notice a lot of aubergine colors in their pillowcases and seating. The room sizes are also perfect: neither too big nor too small, each with an ensuite bathroom equipped with free toiletries and a hairdryer.

Their spa lounge offers a variety of massages, treatments and beauty services. There isn’t much equipment on their fitness center (as it’s mostly for cardio exercises) but admit it – you didn’t go on vacation to get fit! However, it is enough to help you sweat and burn off some of the yummy dishes and snacks you ate from their restaurant!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Hotel do Canal here ««

Azul Singular

Azul Singular is one of the first glamping (glam+camping) propertiesin the Azores. It offers luxury private wooden tents or yurts, both with really nice wooden decks for taking in the. views!

The yurts (round tents traditionally used by nomads) are lovely and you can open the smoke holes above for some natural lighting. A huge bed with see-through canopy can also act as a mosquito net at night, both chic and rustic.

The floors are all made from hardwood and the windows feature a lot of greenery from the palms and plants outside. The private toilets and mini kitchen are also outdoors (separate from the yurt). The shower area and the toilet area are divided, and each have a roll-up door you can close when you use them. Ecological water heating systems were used in keeping the water on your tap and shower warm, making your stay in the Azores extra eco-friendly.

Guests who would love to spend their vacation enjoying a barbeque can use their facilities or better yet, have a nice picnic on their grounds! Just a reminder, the location gets booked pretty fast as it is one of the nicer hotels on Faial, and you need to make sure that you plan ahead if you don’t want to miss it.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Azul Singular here ««

Internacional Azores Boutique

The exterior of this colonial-style hotel and hostel is painted with the color turquoise (my favorite as it’s my birthstone!). The interior walls also tell a story – they were inspired by the aviation history of the early 20th century. Don’t you just love hotels with a theme?

The hotel also started its operations just this year (2019!) so most of the facilities are brand spanking new, despite being a historic building. The private rooms are mid-range budget, whereas the bunks in the dormitory are perfect for those on a lower budget.

There are two kinds of rooms that you can get, whether a private one or a dormitory-type room. The private rooms are simple with plain white sheets and wooden floors and furniture. You can also get the pristine views of the sea and the mountains from the balcony. The dormitory-type rooms have bunk beds and a terrace, with options for an all-female, all-male, or mixed-sex room available.

In the morning, a free continental breakfast with a nice choice of cereals, breads, deli meat, jams, and fruit will help you start your day. If that doesn’t satisfy you enough, you can check their Internacional Café which is on the ground floor of the building which they say has been the meeting place of Faial elites. History geeks will surely love this boutique hotel!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Internacional Azores Boutique here ««

São Jorge

Budget Hotels in São Jorge

Intact Farm Resort

Someone who loves nature will truly enjoy the experience of staying in one of Intact Farm Resort’s bungalows! They are all made from indigenous materials and are located inside the vineyard where they source the grapes for the Casteletes wine.

The interiors are very minimal and each bungalow has its own living area that can also act as a sun room due to its glass walls (there are curtains if it gets too bright).

They try to operate in a very sustainable manner to result in a lower ecological footprint. The reason why they named the farm resort “Intact” is because they want to contain, protect, and preserve the local traditions and natural resources of the Azores.

To get close to nature, I highly recommend utilizing the decks for watching the stars at night and for watching birds or doing yoga in the morning.

However, guests have found the turkeys and chickens a bit noisy. But I mean – it’s a farm! Guests still love staying in the place – oftentimes it’s already halfway booked for the year! It only makes sense because you can book a private room for only around $50 USD per night.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Intact Farm Resort here ««

Casa d’Avo Guesthouse

This property has a total of 7 guest rooms, and each makes use of only three colors – white, blue, and orange, creating a gorgeous thematic.

They have multiple room types (all are soundproof) to choose from and all of them has its own terrace and balcony. Cute little prints and décor of sea animals or corals are also on their pillows or walls.

There is also a room dedicated for guests with disabilities, which does not have a balcony but it has its own patio. Electric sockets also have covers to keep children safe – not all farm stays have this feature! Most of the furniture in the common areas is originally owned by the family who used to stay there.

Renting bikes is also possible on-site to help you go around the island. If visiting in the colder months, you can sit and relax at their outdoor fireplace. The location can be a bit remote, so you really need to check on possible transport options or rent your own car.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Casa d’Avo Guesthouse here ««

Mid-Range & Luxury Hotels in São Jorge

Hotel os Moinhos

Moinhos is the Portuguese word for mills, so this hotel could have been an old mill before it was restructured to a hotel. Regardless, the rock houses look like something from a fairytale!

The rooms are spacious, and each has a private bathroom with free toiletries. Note that towels come with an extra fee, so it’s best to bring one with you if you want to avoid this. Housekeeping will clean your rooms daily to maintain cleanliness.

When it gets a little warm in the summer, you can cool yourself in the pool or just fashionably lay back and relax on their sun loungers. Outdoors, you will see a garden with some ornamental plants and some vegetables.

There is also an on-site restaurant, which is a separate mini rock-constructed house, that serves Portuguese cuisine. Guests loved the calm and serene location of the property as well as the very hospitable owner!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Hotel os Moinhos here ««

Villas Casteletes

The villas are owned by a couple who believes in the beauty of Sao Jorge island.

These are very modern and simple mini-villas, designed to make you feel at home. Each has its own patio where you can see a view of their garden and the pool which is at the center of the property.

Each room has its own kitchenette and a living area with seating. Styling the houses was not their main focus (no prints and bold colors), but it is well furnished and comfortable regardless. Function over fashion here! You can choose from a 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom bungalow, and their deluxe options will allow you to pick a view of the garden or the sea.

They also have shared facilities like the open kitchen equipped with an oven, coffee making facilities, a kettle, and a stovetop. There is also a dining table and bar area where you can eat and have your free continental breakfast. Since the property is perfectly located on the island, you’ll love the view of Pico Mountain at sunset.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Villas Casteletes here ««

Casa do Ze Il Al

Casa do Ze Il Al offers a nice private place for your stay in the Azores. Once you arrive, the owner will tour you around this brand-new house. It is a cute house made out of rocks in the Azores way, and there is a tiny balcony with a nice door that also acts as its window. However, tall people might have a bit of a struggle with the size of the beds!

Folding wooden tables and chairs are available on the patio, because it is one of the best places on the property to get an incredible view. The entire property has WiFi access, a living room with a seating area, a mini kitchen and a washing machine. There is not much to be expected with the interior decorations as it is rather minimalist, but the house is clean and well-maintained.

Guests appreciated the map inside the house because it helps you familiarize yourself with the nearby areas. You might just find something interesting and add it to your itinerary for the day!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Casa do Ze Il Al here ««

2 Days in Lisbon: Itinerary for a Perfect Trip

Lisbon is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. With so many incredible museums, miradouros, markets, and meals, it’s nearly impossible to get your fill of Lisbon.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend over two weeks in Lisbon over the last two years and have never gotten bored, and I know it’s a city I’ll return to time and again.

But I know that many people travel with a limited amount of time, so this Lisbon itinerary is for people who only have a limited amount of time.

If you only have allocated 2 days in Lisbon and want to maximize your time to have an unforgettable first trip to Lisbon, this post is for you!

Note that I’ve packed in as much as possible to these two days in Lisbon; however, depending on your travel style, how you get around (metro/bus vs. Uber), what time you wake up, tours/activities you book, etc., you may want to cut a few things from this Lisbon itinerary as it is rather ambitious!

2 Days in Lisbon: Itinerary Day 1

Start your day at Pastéis de Belém

You’ll find pastel de nata on virtually every other corner in Lisbon, but the real best thing is so transcendent that it’s actually worth waiting in line for.

And this comes from someone who’s basically allergic to lines — a byproduct of many years in New York where I’d watch people mindlessly line up for whatever rainbow or unicorn Instagram food trend was currently booming.

I never thought Pastéis de Belém would be worth the hype, but I happened to walk past it one day when the line looked rather short and decided to try one.

I ordered two, doused them in cinnamon, and ate them just out of the oven, when the custard was barely set and the pastry was so crispy it splintered into my mouth in an explosion of delicious butteriness. I immediately wanted to get back in line, they were that amazing.

Even if the line is long, it moves rather quickly, but by beginning your day here you’ll beat much of the crowds.

While Belém is definitely a bit out of the way, there’s so much to see here that it’s definitely worth starting your first day in Lisbon here — and that pastel de nata is an incredible reward for getting yourself out to Belém. Trust me, it’s a must when you visit Lisbon!

Hours: 8 AM to 11 PM daily.

Cost: About 1.20 euro per pastel de nata if taken to go, slightly more expensive eaten sitting down.

Check out the outrageous Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument

Portugal is a rather small and humble country now, and it’s hard to believe that at one time, Portugal was the first and one of the largest colonial empires that has ever existed. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is an homage to the many Portuguese explorers who left their home to explore the unknown.

The monument is extremely large and interesting to check out, though I don’t think it’s necessary to buy a ticket to go inside unless you specifically want to see the view of the monastery from the miradouro. The monument is quite fascinating to see from the outside and my inner geography geek enjoyed nerding out on the map of Portugal’s explorations and sea routes.

I don’t want to whitewash the awful human cost of Portugal’s colonialism (or any colonial empire for that matter). At the same time, there is something extremely impressive about the feats of daring and engineering that led this small country on the Atlantic Ocean to the far reaches of what is now Brazil, South Africa, Mozambique, India, and beyond.

It’s a complicated history, and to be honest, the Portuguese don’t do nearly as much as they should in acknowledging the staggering human cost of their explorations. And considering that Portugal only ceded its last colony not even two decades ago, perhaps it’s still too fresh for the appropriate acknowledgment of the cost of their explorations.

Nonetheless, it’s an important part of Portuguese history and culture and it’s well worth seeing while in Lisbon — albeit with a critical eye.

Hours: The inside museum and miradouro are open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM in summer and until 6 PM in winter (closed Mondays in winter).

Cost: 6 euros to enter the interior and viewing platform; free to see from the outside. 4.80 euros with the discount from the Lisbon Card.

See the magnificent Torre de Belém

A must-see on many a Lisbon itinerary, the Torre de Belém is one of the most important icons of the city. This 16th-century fortification survived Lisbon’s catastrophic 1755 earthquake and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the Jerónimos Monastery, next on this itinerary). It’s done in the traditional Manueline (Portuguese late Gothic) architectural style that is so unique to Portugal.

You can go inside to see the museum and have a nice view, but frankly, the lines are so long that I don’t think it’s worth it. I’ve only ever looked at it from the exterior and found that perfectly worth the time.

However, if you won’t feel like your Lisbon trip will be complete unless you visit, I suggest pre-purchasing a Torre de Belém ticket or a Lisbon Card (which is also valid for public transit within the city). You won’t be able to skip the lines entirely, as only 150 people can enter at once to control the crowding inside, but it’ll significantly cut down waiting time as opposed to buying a ticket on-site.

Hours: 10 AM to 6:30 PM May through September, closing at 5:30 PM October through April. Closed entirely on Mondays.

Cost: Bought on-site, 6 euros or 12 euros if bought in conjunction with Jerónimos Monastery. Free with your Lisbon Card.

Explore the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery

One of the most interesting sites in Belém is the gorgeous Manueline monastery, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which is well worth a visit during your stay in Lisbon. The monastery is over 500 years old and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cloister is absolutely beautiful and one of the most photogenic spots in Lisbon. It can get rather crowded as this is one of the most popular spots in Lisbon but it doesn’t take away from the beauty.

Hours: 10 AM to 6:30 PM in summer and 5:30 PM in winter; closed on Sundays

Cost: 10 euros or 12 euros if bought in conjunction with Torre de Belém on site; free with your Lisbon Card.

Pro tip: If you’re on a budget, you can skip the monastery and just visit the church, which is stunning and totally free to enter. The Church of Santa Maria is a sepulcher for several national heroes and poets, and you’ll find the tombs of the beloved Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões here.

Marvel at the quirky Museu dos Coches

One of my favorite off the beaten path things to do in Lisbon is checking out the insanely opulent and interesting Museu dos Coches, which features beautifully restored horse-drawn coaches and carriages from the 16th century onwards.

This is one of my favorite spots in Lisbon, and it far exceeded my expectations for how incredible it would be. It was well-curated, informative, and entirely unique: everything I love in a museum. Even if you’re not usually a museum person, I strongly recommend a visit.

Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Mondays.

Cost: 8 euros, or 10 if you want to visit the riding school as well. Free with the Lisbon Card.

Head to Praça do Comercio

After having your morning in Belém, make your way back to the center of Lisbon: the area around Praça do Comercio is a great place to start your downtown Lisbon adventures as it’s pretty much in the heart of everything.

It’s also just plain beautiful with its incredible archway and its gorgeous yellow-facade walls surrounding the plaza.

If you want to grab a meal around now, I recommend Café Martinho da Arcada – decent prices, great location, and good food!

Marvel at the Elevador de Santa Justa

One of the coolest quirks of Lisbon is all the elevators and street cars that traverse the cities many hills — great for the lazy, tired, elderly, or clumsy people like me who fall while boarding their plane on the way to visiting one of the hilliest cities in the world… but I digress.

The Elevador de Santa Justa is an art nouveau engineering marvel which connects Baixa (‘low’) to Bairro Alto (‘high neighborhood’), conveniently letting you out right by your next stop: Convento do Carmo!

However, the elevator lines are always absurdly long and I don’t actually recommend riding it unless you have a reason too. Even I with my busted ankle thought the line was too long and hobbled up the streets up to the Carmo Convent instead! But still, it’s definitely worth seeing, as it’s one of the most unique aspects of the Lisbon cityscape.

Hours: Daily from 7AM–10:45PM

Cost: Around 5 euros for a ticket, cheaper if you have a Lisbon transit card; free to look (I don’t necessarily recommend riding unless you really want to!)

Visit the marvelous ruins of the Carmo Convent

One of the many victims of the devastating 18th-century earthquake that shook Lisbon to its core, the former Carmo Convent is now in ruins and has been converted into an excellent archaeology museum.

While the archaeology museum is cool, and you can even see mummies here, what I found most interesting was the amazing beauty of the building despite the destruction. I loved the negative space caused by the roof’s collapse and the general sense of the power of Mother Nature and the temporary nature of man in the face of nature’s whims.

Hours: 10 AM to 7 PM daily except Sundays. Closes earlier in the off-season, either at 5 or 6 PM.

Cost: 4 euros entrance; audio guide is extra

Enjoy a fado show

Portugal is known for its fado music, which is beautifully sung and performed with emotion and melancholy. It’s one of the more unique aspects of Portuguese culture: so unique, in fact, that it has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Unfortunately, with the tourism boom in Lisbon, fado has lost a bit of its original democratic and revolutionary roots. Many restaurants which promote their fado shows are tourist traps, offering crappy quality food at sky-high prices, while just having a few rounds of fado during the meal.

The best way to enjoy a fado show is certainly either going on a tour or to a restaurant which specializes in it. Neither are cheap options, but you’ll have a far better experience than otherwise.

I can definitely recommend this fado tour, which covers a sunset walking tour, dinner, wine, sampling the delicious Portuguese liquor called ginjinha, and of course — a fado show! It’s run by one of my favorite tour companies in Europe, Urban Adventures, and while I haven’t gone on this specific tour I’ve been on enough Urban Adventures tours (and checked the reviews of this specific tour) to feel confident in the excellent quality of the tour. Check prices, availability, and guest reviews here.

If you don’t want to go on a tour, then I suggest splashing out on a nice meal at one of the premier fado houses in Lisbon: the suggestion I hear most often from friends who have lived in Lisbon is Sr. Fado, but note that it has a rather steep set menu price of around 45 euros per person.

If you want a cheaper evening enjoying fado, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. I had a decent time at Retiro dos Sentidos (the alheira was good; the bacalhau a bras was not) and we only paid about 20 euro each for a meal and a glass of wine and the fado show. However, other guest reviews’ of this place are quite scathing, so take my recommendation with a grain of salt.

The best place to enjoy fado on a budget is supposedly right across the street at Tasca do Chico, but you’ll have to arrive extremely early (about 7 PM for a show that begins at 8) or wait in line outside for an hour or so. It’s often standing room only, so keep that in mind, but supposedly the artists there are the real deal!

This fado show is also rather affordable and has over a thousand positive reviews, but note that it’s just a 50-minute show and does not include dinner or drinks.

2 Days in Lisbon: Itinerary Day 2

Start your day strolling the streets of Alfama

Alfama is my favorite neighborhood in Lisbon by a long shot: it’s one of the best-preserved and oldest neighborhoods in the city, as it was largely untouched by the earthquake which destroyed much of Lisbon in 1755. The streets wind and meander beautifully, so allow yourself some time to get lost in these streets.

For breakfast, I recommend Augusto — it’s absolutely delicious, the interior is super funky and Instagrammable, and the prices are good for the excellent quality of food, especially the brunch combinations.

A few places to visit in Alfama and the surrounding area: Miradouro da Graca (which is lovely but sooo crowded), the Lisbon History Arch beneath the miradouro, the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which has beautiful azulejos and views, and the Lisbon Cathedral.

Enjoy the best views of Lisbon

Lisbon is known for its many hills and viewpoints, and two places are said to be the best places for a great view over the city of Lisbon: Castelo de Sao Jorge and the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

Of all the miradouros in the city, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte is one of the best in my book. It’s the highest hill in Lisbon, and you get a beautiful view of the Castelo de Sao Jorge. It’s also far less crowded and well-known than most other miradouros.

For many people, a visit to Castelo de Sao Jorge is an essential part of their trip to Lisbon. Frankly, for me, I’m not a huge fan of castles and even though I’ve spent about three weeks in Lisbon I’ve never actually gone to the castle because the lines are always really long to enter and it’s really crowded.

If you do go, I strongly suggest booking a skip-the-line ticket as I usually see lines that look to be over an hour’s wait to enter. You can book a skip-the-line guided tour here. This may not be necessary in the low, low season but when I was in Lisbon in March the lines were still crazy!

However, for free, you can get a view of the castle AND Lisbon from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte: all this without the crowds, without the lines, and without the entry fee! It’s up to you what you choose to do (and you can very easily do both).

Cost: Free for the miradouro, 10 euros to enter Sao Jorge if you buy the ticket on-site, though I recommend the guided tour to skip the massive line.

Hours: The miradouro is 24/7; Castelo de Sao Jorge from 9 AM to 6 PM daily.

Lunch and shop at the LX Factory

After thoroughly exploring Alfama, I expect you’ll have worked up quite an appetite! Now is the perfect time to explore LX Factory, a quirky and modern side of Lisbon that is quite different to the historic neighborhoods you’ve been exploring like Alfama and Belém.

Set in a 19th-century textile factory, once the heart of Lisbon’s manufacturing scene, LX factory is now one of the hot spots in Lisbon for dining, shopping, and street art.

You can try a variety of cuisines here; Sushi Factory has creative sushi combinations, Rio Maravilha has Portuguese and Brazilian food with a fantastic view, and 1300 Taberna has creative fine dining takes on Portuguese classics. We ate a meal at 1300 Taberna and it was a little pricy but fantastic (we had wanted to check out Rio Maravilha but it was closed for a private event).

While there, be sure to visit Ler Devagar, one of the most interesting and beautiful bookstores in Lisbon, if not all of Portugal. It’s entirely Instagrammable yet far less hellishly crowded than Livraria Lello in Porto, which I don’t even recommend people visit…

Cost: Free to enter LX Factory though you’ll hardly be able to leave without finding something worth buying!

Hours: Depends on each venue

Wander down the Tejo waterfront to Cais do Sodre

After your lunch at LX Factory, take a long and leisurely walk down the waterfront down to Cais do Sodre to digest and unwind.

You’ll pass several interesting things along the way, like the imitation Golden Gate Bridge and Christ the Redeemer, plus the river views of neighboring Almada is lovely.

If you want the see the famous Lisbon “pink street,” it’s right by Cais do Sodre, at Rua Nova do Carvalho.

Take a boat cruise down the Tejo

Lisbon is defined by its gorgeous river, the Tejo, which flows between the city of Lisbon and the city across the water, Almada.

While people always talk about the views of Lisbon from its many miradouros — and they should, because they’re beautiful! — it’s also a great idea to see the city from sea level, where you can see the beautiful houses stacked like a gorgeous array of colorful dominos against a backdrop of hills, castles, and trees.

Taking a boat cruise down the Tejo (Tagus is its name in English) is one of the best ways to get an alternate view of Lisbon (and rest your feet a bit from the relentless sightseeing of this two day Lisbon itinerary!). I recommend this affordable and unique 45-minute river cruise which will bring you past Praca do Comercio, Sao Jorge Castle, the gorgeous neighborhood of Alfama, the Panteon Nacional, and the train station of Santa Apolonia.

The reason why I recommend this specific boat cruise is the boat itself, which is a piece of living history. The cruise is done in a 50-person capacity hand-painted traditional boat which dates back to 1947, which is one of only about 75 such boats left in existence (of the thousands which used to exist). It’s actually part of the Portuguese Navy Museum but is used for cruises! Book your cruise in advance here.

In the high season there are several cruises a day, leaving at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 5:00, and 6:00 PM; however, in the low season, there are only a few in the early afternoon and the tours stop entirely mid-October. If this tour is unavailable or doesn’t fit into your Lisbon itinerary, I suggest this tour instead, or this sailing and champagne cruise.

Cost & Hours: Depends on which tour

Stop in Time Out Market

Right by Cais do Sodre is the Time Out Market, which has collected some of Lisbon’s best eateries all under one roof! It’s one of my favorite places to snack in Lisbon.

If you ate at LX Factory, you probably won’t be hungry for a full meal here, but I suggest at least grabbing a pastel de nata (or two) at Manteigaria.

It’s often considered to be one of the best pasteis de nata in the city, and you might as well get one so you can compare it to Pasteis de Belem… for research purposes, of course.

Don’t eat too much, though, as I recommend a food tour later on in the evening!

Cost: Free to enter, though you’ll hardly be able to leave without a taste of something

Hours: 10 AM to midnight daily (open until 2 AM Thursday, Friday, Saturday).

Ascend with the Ascensor da Bica

If you have time to kill before dinner, I suggest either taking the Ascensor da Bica (free with a Lisbon card) or snapping a photo of it as it runs!

The area around Palácio de Xabregas (look it up on Google Maps) should be a good place to get a good snap — I saw a lot of thirsty Instagrammers around this intersection when I was taking the ascensor up the hill.

Check the views from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara

One of the prettiest miradouros in Lisbon, I adore this view which gives you a gorgeous panorama of Alfama and Sao Jorge castle from the other side.

Unfortunately, there are large railings that have been added recently which detracted quite a bit from the view; I’m not sure if they’re permanent or temporary, but they were there in March 2019 when I visited and were up as recently as a week ago (August 2019) according to Trip Advisor. It’s still worth going to try to snap a photo through the barrier, but selfies won’t be nearly as nice!

See the graffiti-covered Ascensor da Gloria

The Ascensor da Gloria is yet another one of Lisbon’s elevators, but this one is particularly cool because it passes a ton of gorgeous street art called Galeria de Arte Urbana. Plus, the funicular itself is usually covered in graffiti too! It’s a must for street art lovers.

Cost: 2.90 euros one-way to take it or you can easily just walk (though the cobblestones are a bit slippy, so be careful!); included on your Lisbon transit pass

End your time in Lisbon on a tasty note with a food tour

There’s so much good food and wine to be had in Portugal, and if you have only 2 days in Lisbon, you better make the most of it!

If you’re a foodie I strongly recommend dedicating your last evening in Lisbon to taking a food tour to discover the culinary culture of this delicious city!

If you’re vegan, check out this guide to eating vegan in Lisbon.

Whether you want to take a private food tour with a local or a group food tour based on a specific theme, there are plenty of excellent food tours for all budgets and styles to choose from.

A great option for people who don’t love guided tours but do love to eat with the guidance of locals is the bitemojo self-guided tour, which you can book here.

It’s all run via an app using GPS, and it includes six tastings for a fixed price, giving you the history of where you’re walking and alerting you of cool things along the way. I did a bitemojo tour in Barcelona and loved it, and while I haven’t tried out the Lisbon one myself, I would definitely recommend one in Lisbon if you want a budget-friendly, self-led tour. Book yours today.

Alternately, if you want the guidance of an expert and the community of a group tour, I strongly recommend this Inside Lisbon food tour which has over 600 positive reviews. It’s affordably priced and lasts three hours, and it includes several tastings of delicious Portuguese wine and food like cod cakes, vinho verde, port wine, chouriço, Portuguese tapas called ‘petiscos’ and more!

Book the tour online here!

This 3-hour history and food tour run by Discover Lisbon is a great and affordable food tour option alternative as well. It covers small plates at three different restaurants and three glasses of wine.

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Depending on what your travel style is and your budget, there are plenty of great neighborhoods to choose from in Lisbon. I detail all my favorite neighborhoods and top recommendations for each neighborhood in my comprehensive Lisbon neighborhood and hotel guide, which you can read here. However, I’ll also sum it up here!

I’ve mostly picked hotels in the hip Baixa-Chiado area, which is easy to get to all points on your Lisbon itinerary from.

Budget: Home Lisbon Hotel

Even if you are on vacation in Lisbon, the feeling and comfort of being home is something that Home Lisbon Hotel wants you to experience! This hostel gives you a choice of private or shared rooms. The private rooms are quite small, but the amount of space is good enough for backpackers looking for a good private room in Lisbon on a budget.

The décor game is strong here at Home Lisbon, despite the budget prices: perfect for people who want a place to stay in Lisbon that has personality. There are vintage black and white photos as well as colorful prints hung on the wall, which add a retro vibe.

In the shared rooms, the bunk beds have curtains that you can close to ensure privacy when you’re sleeping — something that I always enjoy, especially when an inconsiderate dorm-mate turns on the lights upon arriving late at night. You can also choose a mixed-sex room or an all-female room, as well as rooms as large as quadruples with private bathrooms if you’re traveling with friends.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Home Lisbon Hotel here ««

Mid-Range: My Story Hotel Rossio

My Story Hotel Rossio wants just that: to tell you a story in every area of the hotel! It is a four-story building with 46 rooms, which originally dates back to the 18th century.

The hotel makes use of modern and very artistic décor – it is a play between modern and classic pieces, which works in perfect harmony. They only have soundproofed double rooms, but there is one room where you can have a view of beautiful Rossio Square. The private bathrooms also feature a hairdryer, a separate shower area, towels, and free Rituals shower gels and shampoos.

The restaurant, Café Portugal, is considered as one of the historic places in the area where you can best taste traditional Portuguese cuisine. The restaurant also has a very romantic appeal, perfect for a date or special occasion. A must-try is their grilled octopus: tender, charred in all the right places, and so fresh!

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at My Story Hotel Rossio here ««

Luxury: Pousada de Lisboa

The word “pousada” literally means an inn, but this 5-star hotel, Pousada de Lisboa, offers way more than that with its 90 fully decorated rooms! From afar, the building stands out because of its bright yellow color, but the gorgeous design inside is nothing to sneeze at either!

Their private rooms have ensuite bathrooms with designer toiletries and bathtubs, high-speed WiFi internet, and well-stocked minibars. The floors are made from hardwood, and the headboards are decorated with embossing, flourished with intricately detailed wall panels that scream luxury. If you’re traveling with a larger group or family, they also have a family room that’s very extravagant and spacious, which is perfectly lit by a ritzy chandelier and some chicly dim lamps.

On-site dining is definitely a must at Pousada de Lisboa. Their Rib Restaurant specializes in meat dishes – their steaks are a must-try!

They also have other luxury amenities like an indoor and heated pool, a spa with all the amenities you can think of, and a fitness center.

»» Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Pousada de Lisboa here ««

Other Lisbon & Portugal Resources

Lisbon is one of my favorite cities, and I visit it at least once a year! I have guides on where to stay in Lisbon, the best photography spots in Lisbon, as well as how to pick between Lisbon or Porto.

Not sure when to visit Lisbon? I love the off-season! Here’s my guide to visiting Lisbon in March.

If you’ll be visiting Porto, check out my Porto itinerary as well as my guide to day trips from Porto.

Finally, why not add on a trip to the Azores when you’re in Portugal? It’s one of my favorite places in Europe! Read about where to stay in the Azores and what island to pick, what to do in Sao Miguel, my Sao Miguel road trip itinerary, and tips for driving in the Azores. I also have a handy Azores packing list!

7 Best Day Trips from Porto

Porto is a beautiful city well worth several days exploring, but it’s equally viable as a base to use for Portugal day trips.

Because it’s located in the far north of the country, the options for day trips from Porto are vastly different than the options for Lisbon.

From the wine region of the Douro Valley where Portugal’s best wines are made to the peaceful towns of Northern Portugal’s Minho region to the pilgrimage city of Fátima, there are countless places to visit using Porto as a base.

Whether you’re basing yourself in Porto and traveling around by tour or rental car or even RVing through Portugal, these places near Porto are worth your visit.

Here are some of the best day trips from Porto you can take!

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Are you going to visit Porto, Portugal's second largest city? While it's hard to run out of things to do in Porto, it also makes a great base for Portugal road trips! Here are some of the best places to visit in Portugal and Spain on day trips from Porto. These Porto day trips include the UNESCO-listed Douro Valley wine region, the pilgrimage site of Fatima, the university city of Coimbra, and so much more!
Are you going to visit Porto, Portugal's second largest city? While it's hard to run out of things to do in Porto, it also makes a great base for Portugal road trips! Here are some of the best places to visit in Portugal and Spain on day trips from Porto. These Porto day trips include the UNESCO-listed Douro Valley wine region, the pilgrimage site of Fatima, the university city of Coimbra, and so much more!

Douro Valley

Contributed by Stephanie Craig of History Fangirl

If you love wine (or if you just love checking off UNESCO World Heritage Sites), then a visit to northern Portugal’s Douro Valley is an absolute must.

Connected by a river, there are multiple ways to visit Douro from Porto. The most delightful might just be to take a cruise up the river, watching the beautiful scenery unfold as you go,

This spectacular wine region is home to Portugal’s most famous wine – port! While you can certainly tipple port to your heart’s content in Porto, in Douro you can visit the individual quintas (porthouses) where it is produced.

Besides visiting as many quintas as you can fit into your day, leave plenty of time to appreciate the views here! There are many lookout points to stop at. If you’re interested in the history of Port production, you can also visit the Douro Museum.

How to Get There: I chose to rent a car in Porto and drive, as its a truly breathtaking scenic route high in the hills above the valley. The drive is a little under four hours, so if you get up early you’ll have plenty of time to hit a few quintas before you return to Porto at night. Just make sure to plan who will be driving so you don’t overindulge while here!

Another option is to take a scenic train ride from Porto, leaving from the city’s famous Sao Bento station. The train goes right along the river, and it takes less than three hours each way. This is a great option for solo travelers and groups who are all keen to taste as much as possible.

If you do choose to go by train, I would suggest having a tour guide meet you in Douro so that you can easily get between the Quintas. Public transportation is not available to many of the places you will want to visit.

Perhaps the best way to visit is on a guided tour, as it makes visiting the quintas quite simple and means no one has to worry about being the designated driver. This tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, transfers from Porto to Douro, visiting an olive oil producer, visiting two wineries and sampling 8+ wines, a typical Portuguese lunch, and a one-hour river cruise. Check out more details on the itinerary, prices, and availability here.

Guimarães

Contributed by Fiona Maclean of London-Unattached

Guimarães the birthplace of Portugal is a charming and well-preserved UNESCO listed medieval town. It’s called the birthplace of Portugal as nearby is the site of the Battle of São Mamede, from which Portugal was founded and because the first-ever King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques was born in the town. 

Today, apart from visiting some of the key buildings, you can wander through well preserved medieval streets and browse some of the charming artisan shops, before reaching one of the main squares, Largo da Oliveira and Santiago, where you’ll find plenty of cafes to enjoy a coffee or glass of wine. 

Make sure you do visit the hilltop Guimarães Castle, the birthplace of Afonso Henriques. Built during the 10th century, it was restored in the 20th century and the grounds and part of the castle are now open to the public.  

Be sure to spend time exploring the splendid Dukes of Bragança Palace. Originally built in 1420 by Afonso, Duke of Bragança, it was modified in the 16th century before being abandoned. It wasn’t until the 1930s that renovation started and controversially, the restored Palace now replicates a 17th century French Chateau. Worth a visit though, there’s a museum showcasing furniture, tapestries, and weapons.

If you have time, then take the cable car to the Monte da Penha, the highest point in Guimarães to enjoy spectacular views across the city as far as the sea on a clear day. Do also visit the stunning Pousada Mosteiro de Guimarães, which like many of the pousadas, was once a Monastery.  In the grand dining hall, you can feast on traditional Northern Portuguese dishes like caldo verde or black pork (porco preto).

You’ll feel as if you’ve taken a step back in time when you visit Guimarães.

How to Get There: From Porto, it’s an easy train journey. The local service takes around an hour and a half while a direct train will take just over an hour. Better yet, take a guided tour that combines Guimarães and Braga (below) – check prices, itinerary, and availability here.

Braga

Contributed by Jodie Dewberry of Alajode

Braga is a compact town that’s full of life. The center is packed with cute cafés that serve a mix of traditional dishes from Northern Portugal and fusion creations, so make sure you arrive hungry! For a traditional dinner that won’t disappoint, Cozinha da Sé is one of the best restaurants in town and popular with both locals and tourists alike.

Don’t miss Braga’s many churches and cathedrals, all of which offer an insight into Portuguese architecture. A one-day pass for the hop-on/hop-off bus costs less than $12 USD and will be a worthy investment if you want to head out to the Bom Jesus de Monte historic funicular and take in the city from above.

How to Get There: Braga is just a 45-minute drive from Porto, which means it’s a perfect stopping point if you’re planning a road trip from Porto. If you don’t have your own wheels, there is an hourly bus that costs 7-9 euros per person or an hourly train that costs 8-10 euros. You can also take a guided tour that includes Guimarães (above) and Braga – check prices, itinerary, and availability here.

Fátima

Contributed by Priyanko Sarkar of Constant Traveller

While I firmly believe that Porto is Portugal’s greatest city (sorry Lisbon), I also believe that Fátima is that rare place that promises to make you slow down. It’s one destination that deserves to be seen on a day trip from Porto.

Fátima is actually one of the great pilgrimage sites in Europe. Barely a few hours from Porto, the place is revered as the place where three little shepherd children saw a vision of Mother Mary in 1917. Ever since, believers have flocked to this place to seek blessings. Simply arriving in Fátima is a lifetime ambition for many Catholics.

The Basilica de Nossa Senhora de Rosario is where you need to first go to pay respects to the grave of two of the shepherd children. It is also the place where they first glimpsed Mother Mary. A large modern crucifix on the other side signals the entry to the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, a more recent basilica with facilities where you can attend readings as per your schedule.

Take your time to visit the rest of the complex that makes up the Sanctuary of Fatima. The scale of this sanctuary is something to behold as you find people of all ages praying fervently. Many of them will walk with single-minded passion on their knees, others will offer large-sized candles while there are readings from the Bible in different languages almost on the hour under a small sheltered space. Being in Fátima and spending time there is one of the best ways to get an alternate perspective of what Portugal is all about.

How to Get There: The best way to get here is by bus companies (Rede Expressos is recommended) for about 20 euros each way. It takes a little over two hours to cover the 195-kilometer distance between the two cities. Alternately, try trains that take about three hours each way between Porto and Fátima. You can also do a guided day trip that combines Fátima and Coimbra – check prices, itinerary, and details here.

Viana do Castelo

Contributed by Halef and Michael of The Round The World Guys

Northern Portugal is like a world of its own. It has a distinctively unique culture from the rest of Portugal – from the unique Northern Portugal wedding, traditional dress, to the dances and music. It is believed that the traditional Portuguese fado music originated here in Northern Portugal’s Minho region.

One of the best places to experience Northern Portugal is the relatively unknown town of Viana do Castelo.

Viana’s old town is centered around Praça da Republica. You can find the charm of the city’s architectural treasures, as well as finding some great restaurants, cafés, and shops. From the town center, you can hop onto the Funicular de Santa Luzia. This incline railway will take you to the top of Monte de Santa Luzia, where you can find the magnificent landmark of Viana do Castelo: Sanctuario de Santa Luzia.

Food-wise, head to A Moda Antiga or Taberna do Valentim for their traditional Caldo Verde – kale and potato soup of the Minho Province. Don’t miss the Pescada a Vianense – a delicacy of cod or other fish – baked in a mixture of potatoes, garlic, onion, and lemon juice.

How to Get There: The town of Viana do Castelo is well connected from Porto, either by an hour bus ride or train ride. It costs less than 10 euros to travel to Viana do Castelo from Porto. You can also go on a guided day trip if you prefer some context and convenience – check prices, availability, and itinerary here.

Coimbra

Contributed by Maria & Rui of Two Find a Way

One of the things that makes Coimbra a great day trip is that it’s easily reachable from Porto using public transportation in about an hour.

Even though there’s plenty to see in Coimbra (which means that one day is not necessarily enough to see everything), the reality is that the city is quite compact, so it’s easy to explore the main sights in just a few hours.

While there, don’t miss the Old Town area, the University of Coimbra (especially the stunning Joanina Library), and the Botanical Garden, a place for tranquility and relaxation. The beautiful riverfront is a great location for a leisurely walk, and a lot less crowded than Porto’s famous Ribeira.

How to Get There: You can either take a train (the fastest ones take around an hour), or the bus (runs almost every hour, and takes 1h25m). You can also do a guided day trip that combines Fátima and Coimbra – check prices, itinerary, and details here.

Vigo & Cies Islands

Contributed by Inma Gregorio of A World to Travel

One of the old continent’s main perks is how easy it is to country hop your way around it. You can visit Spain on a day trip from Porto!

There is a myriad of interesting and fun things to do in Vigo for you to choose from. From flying over the city’s estuary to capture some memorable and Instagram-worthy moments to going for some tapas in the old town or simply enjoying one of the nearby city beaches; this city’s appeals are many.

If I had to pick one, though, that’d be a visit to Cies Islands – part of the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia. Already showcased in the early 2000s as a true paradise by the British media; during Summer there’s basically no better plan to spend a sunny day in the South of Galicia. You’ll be back in Porto sun-tanned and happy, promised!

How to Get There: Despite being two different countries, it’s easy to visit Vigo on a day trip. Taking advantage of the many – and usually pretty cheap – transport options between them, it is possible to jump from Porto, in Portugal, to Vigo, in Spain, in less than three hours. In fact, a 7€ bus or 12€ train ride will take you from Porto’s city center to Vigo.