From the historic buildings to the impeccable food to the welcoming people, it wasn't hard to fall in love with this Iberian gem. When traveling to Portugal, it can be overwhelming to put together an itinerary.
To help, we've compiled a list of items you must eat, drink, and see.
What to eat.
Be prepared to say goodbye to your diet. Portuguese food is rich and delicious. What will be your downfall? Pastéis de Nata. These egg custard tarts are so simple - eggs, cream, and sugar in a pastry shell - yet so complex. Topped with cinnamon and icing sugar, they're perfect with an espresso. Created in the monasteries in Belém, the most popular bakery to get the tarts is Pastéis de Belém. But, like with cannolis in Boston, everyone has their opinion, so ask the locals for recommendations.
Besides just eating tarts (no judgments), you'll be enamored by the seafood. Mussels, lobster, clams, octopus, there's no shortage. These fruits of the sea are best-served à bulhão pato, a Portuguese-style made with lots of garlic, white wine. and cilantro. If fish is more your scene, try bacalhau. A staple of the Portuguese diet, there are more than 1001 different culinary methods using this dried, salted cod. Our favorite preparations: bacalhau à brás (salted co, eggs, and potatoes) and pastéis de bacalhau (salted cod fritters).
Want to a taste of Lisbon in one day? Take a food tour. Taste of Lisboa, a Portuguese tourism company, provides a few options in the city. We recommend the Tram 28-Campo de Ourique Food & Cultural Walk which combines the Lisbon's rich history with some traditional and modern culinary delights, including the Best Chocolate Cake of the World.
What to drink.
If you love drinking wine, Portugal will not disappoint. The birthplace of Port, a fortified wine, the average alcohol content is much higher than a standard wine, 20 percent. Luckily Porto, the country's second-largest city, has its Port houses all within walking distance. Common brands like Taylor Fladgate, Sandeman, and Graham's have beautiful lodges and are worth the visit, but our favorites were the smaller companies like Ramos Pintos and Kopke. In addition to the houses, we took a day trip into the Douro Valley to visit the wineries and witness the remarkable vineyards. If you have time, make sure to add an extra day for the visit; it's worth it.
Since almost every meal we enjoyed in Portugal included seafood, a local wine, called Vinho Verde usually accompanied. Translating to "green wine" not because of the color but its youth, Vinho Verde is citrusy, acidic, and slightly effervescent. For our meat dishes, we opted for something bolder from the Dão region, Touriga Nacional. A jammy wine, the notes of chocolate and coffee complemented and elevated our meals.
What to see.
With its elaborate, lengthy history, there is so much to see in Portugal. From medieval castles and Roman ruins to Moorish palaces and decorative embellishments from the Age of Discovery, any excursions are filled with photo ops.
Walking around the streets of Lisbon, the first thing that will catch your eye are the azueljo tiles. Ornate with hand-painted designs, these can be found on almost every building façade. Below your feet lies even more beauty. The piazzas and sidewalks are sprinkled with cobblestone mosaics. In contrast with the historic buildings are modern masterpieces. One of the most remarkable, the train station at Orient.
One place that cannot be missed is Sintra: a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in the foothills of the Sintra Mountain. A quick day trip from Lisbon, the area is home to Castelo dos Mouros, the Palacio Nacional de Pena, and the National Palace of Sintra as well as the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. If you're not too keen on hiking, Portugal has an abundance of beaches. A road trip down the coast highlights the country's beautiful cliffs and natural sand coves. Want to relax with sun and sand? Head south to Algarve region and visit Albufeira, the idyllic backdrop for a seaside holiday.