Portugal Travel Diary + Guide

Friday, May 4, 2018

Every year I like to travel for my birthday; since it is my favorite pastime there is no better way to celebrate. I was initially planning to go to Napa Valley in hopes my BFF {who lives in L.A.} and her husband could join us. But then Carlos suggested we do something bigger and mentioned Portugal…I was beyond excited. We purchased our plane tickets a month before and off we went in early April. We mainly stayed in Lisbon but visited the coast and wine country as well. Hope you enjoy my travel diary and guide as much as I enjoyed the city.


This time around we decided to only do day trips as opposed to hopping from city to city. We wanted to relax so we picked one nice hotel and spent the entire week there. As much as I love seeing as many places as possible during my travels, I have to say only unpacking and packing once was quite nice. After doing extensive research I picked 5-star hotel Epic Sana Lisboa, a European brand inspired by minimalism and luxury. As you may remember with my Barcelona Travel Diary, being close to shopping is important to me, and this hotel has the perfect location; a couple blocks from the infamous Avenida da Liberdade and only one block away from a huge indoor mall -which came in handy for food and shopping when it was pouring rain, more on that below.

Our room was large and very comfortable. The king bed had soft bedding and the bathroom was stocked with Aromatherapy Associates product {yes please!}. They provided plenty of water free of charge and did turn down service in the evening along with chocolate and cookie deliveries. The lobby had beautiful flower arrangements sprinkled throughout and the bar and spa were absolutely beautiful. We had a couple meals at the hotel and they were delicious. Our last dinner was at their restaurant Fleur De Lis and it was incredible! We had such a wonderful experience and would definitely stay with them again.


There is SO much to do in Lisbon and its surrounding areas. These were some of our favorites:

Visit the Tile Museum // Museu Nacional Do Azulejo

This museum was number one on my list, we visited on our second day in Lisbon when pouring rain would not stop. It was such a perfect space to relax and stay dry. We did not pre-purchase tickets so we had to stand in line for about 15 minutes, not bad at all. The adjacent chapel took my breath away. A MUST see if you’re in the city. Make sure to visit the gift-shop on the way out, we found some beautiful pieces for our home.

People watch at Rossio Square // Praça do Rossio
One of Lisbon’s most famous plazas. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and sit to enjoy the scenery. There is a beautiful fountain in the middle of the plaza and adorable little stands with locals selling coffee, chocolate, olive oil and flowers. We walked by this plaza almost every day on our way to explore and almost every day I had to stop and admire how beautiful and alive it was.

There so much of it, you can find traditional European brands in the Rossio and Baixa-Chiado areas. You’ll see places like Massimo Dutti, Oysho, ZARA Home and Mango as well as local boutiques. Once you start exploring the hilly neighborhoods you’ll find a lot of touristy little shops where you can buy postcards and magnets.

We also ventured to the indoor mall next to our hotel, Amoreiras Shopping Center, on a particular rainy night and ended up finding adorable little shops and purchasing great classic items {think leather flats and linen dresses}. We also had dinner at an Italian restaurant and the arrabiata and wine did not disappoint. I found being close to a mall very convenient, we ended up using their drugstore when Carlos got a cold and the food pick service when jetlag hit us; dim-sum in bed sounded so much better than going out on 40 degree weather.

They also have these small shops all over the city, locals call them China Shops and you can literally find ANYTHING you need there. We walked in the first night looking for a wine opener and went back the second day to get umbrellas {got a pair for 14 euros!}. Whatever you may need in your adventures, just ask for the closest China Shop and you’ll find it.

Visit the Tower of Belem and Jeronimo’s Monastery // Torre de Belém & Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
This section is on a different part of the city but still only about a 10 euro cab drive from downtown Lisbon. Beautiful grounds and architecture. If you go during cold weather season make sure to bundle up for the tower, because it is by open water the chilly wind is crazy almost to the point of being unbearable.

Wine Tasting in Setubal and Sesimbra
This was the number one activity on my list. We HAD to go wine tasting no matter what. On the 3rd day of our visit we had our driver pick us up early in the morning and we headed down the coast to Sesimbra and Setubal. Since traffic was not heavy we had some time to explore so we drove by the water all the way to Cabo Espichel where we were able to enjoy unbelievable views of the ocean as well as walk the grounds of an old church built in the 1700’s. We booked our tour through Viator and had the most wonderful experience. I highly recommend their services.  

Castle of Saint George // Castelo de São Jorge
Make sure to visit this place early in the morning. You cannot buy tickets in advance and after 11:00 AM the line wraps around the block. That being said, the place is very interesting and beautiful. Wonderful views and peacocks running around freely, it almost feels like you’re in a movie set. They have a small coffee shop inside, perfect spot to grab some pastries and people watch.


Traditional Pastel de Nata. A sweet Lisbon tradition. Make sure to have at least one. 

My favorite section to write of course, we ate a lot in many different places but here are the highlights:

Lunch at Cantinho do Avillez

It’s a small contemporary restaurant hidden on a side street in the Baixa-Chiado area. Very unassuming building but amazingly good food. Favorite dish was the grilled octopus, but the scallops were just as good. Don't pass on the bread at the beginning of your meal, it's delicious!

Dinner at RIB - Beef & Wine Lisboa 

Carlos spotted this restaurant while we walked around the city; he told me the day after we needed to go back for dinner. It is a more upscale restaurant but luckily the staff was super nice about our touristy outfits. We did not have a reservation but since we arrived early they accommodated us immediately. The food was beyond amazing, one of the best meals I had while in Portugal.

Lunch at MadPizza
This place caught our attention after we noticed the adorable window open to the square; they were selling coffee and hot chocolate to people walking by. We decided to go in for lunch and order a caprese salad to share along with two personal pizzas. It was delicious! I also had the Apple Crumble dessert and it was the perfect consistency. The cutest little spot to visit if you need some carbs to keep you going.

Brunch at O’Corvo
After extensive research I picked this spot for Sunday brunch. Mostly because they offered scrambled eggs for breakfast, sometimes simple things like that are so hard to find in Europe. The cozy restaurant is located up in a small neighborhood, surrounded by colorful buildings. We decided on the Brunch Package for two for about 30 euro. It is not cheap by Lisbon standards but it was a lot of food: eggs, pancakes, croissants, cheeses, cold cuts, mimosas, coffee, water, juice and fresh fruit. Worth the visit for the buttery croissants alone!

Lunch at Snack-Bar Alfama
We stumbled upon this place on our first day in Lisbon. It was starting to rain hard and we did not have umbrellas so we decided to go in for a cup of coffee. Upon sitting down we started to notice the wonderful smells of cooked garlic and lemon so we decided to order food instead. We shared a fresh salad and also had garlic shrimp and galao {Portuguese latte}. Every single thing we order was delicious and our tab was less than 30 euros.

Lisbon has a very bohemian relaxed feel to it, so you can leave the blazers and heels at home. First thing to do before packing is checking the weather.

I realized it would be mostly gray and rainy with one day of sun {the day we arrived} so I packed one white linen dress and sandals and the rest was mostly pants and sneakers. Some of the items I suggest you pack are:

-Light jacket {denim is fine}
-Summer scarf
-Sunglasses {even if it's cloudy is very bright}
-Backpack purse {see my suggestions here}
-Extra socks
-Light sweater

Hope you enjoyed my Portugal highlights. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. 

xx, N. 


  1. It looks absolutely gorgeous there! I love all the architecture of the buildings, and the seaside looks so pretty.

  2. I'm literally obsessed with the pictures in this post - how gorgeous!! Thanks for sharing :)

    Xo, Victoria

  3. Wow! Your photos are amazing! Portugal is very high on my travel list...but this post makes me want to go even more!

    1. You should do it! It is quite inexpensive. You would love it I bet.

  4. Looks so beautiful there! Portugal is definitely on my bucket list.

  5. Hey Nicole! Nice Blog! I have become your Fan! I am planning to travel to Portugal on a Portugal Schengen Visa! Was a little worried and then I read this! Thank you!

  6. Hi, you have such a beautiful blog and what a great idea to go to Portugal as a birthday present. If I had the chance to go Portugal every year, I would. I am thinking to apply for Portugal Visa and to go back there. I love their culture and people there are so nice.


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