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What to do in Portugal

A complete guide to one of the most laid-back and friendly destinations in Western Europe : Portugal!

There is something so charming about Lisbon’s light, its creative energy and its inspiring startup scene that makes it an exciting place to be right now. Boasting some of the warmest winters in Europe (and some of the sunniest days), Portugal also makes for a perfect getaway during the colder months. It may be small, but this beautiful country has an enormous amount of magic to offer—partly due to the kindness of its people; wherever you go, there is a warmth and an eagerness that emanates from the locals who cannot wait to share the best of their country with you.

1-Take a Day Trip to Sintra

Unlike some of the other hidden gems mentioned in our guide, the hilltop town of Sintra is certainly no secret. Like something out of a fairytale, this very pretty town is full of colorful palaces and charming buildings. If you are in the mood for a workout, we recommend taking the Seteais hiking trail—which begins at the Palace of Seteais and takes you up through forested paths to the park, the Palace of Pena and the Moorish Castle. It is an incredibly beautiful trail through the forest with wonderful views back out over town. The only downside about Sintra is that it is always so packed with tourists, so we would suggest doing a day trip from Lisbon rather than staying overnight.

2-Beach time in Ericeira

Less than an hour from Lisbon, Ericeira is the perfect place to escape to if you are looking for some good waves and good vibes. While there, make sure you eat pastel de nata from local bakery Pãozinho das Marias, acai bowls from Nalu Bowls (yes, the same as the one in Bali) and check out Sunset Bamboo for their great toasties (the sandwiches are bigger than your head), fresh juices and smoothies.

For a sunset drink head to Mar das Latas, or go to the impressive wooden-beach bar at Praia de Ribeira (take the seaside walking track all the way from Ericeira). GIG (Green Is Good) is the best spot for a healthy dinner. Book a room at the Magic Quiver Surf Lodge—it is super basic and low-key, but cute in design—its location right in the center of town is perfect.

Also, check out the Magic Quiver surf shop for its good coffee and surf gear, and keep an eye out for the custom surfboards by Ericeira local, Nico from Wavegliders. Oh, and Australian coffee shop The Mill (out of Lisbon) will soon be opening a second location here as well.

3-The Boat Farm Experience

Cross the river Tejo by boat and lad directly on a farm with more than 100 hectares. Come and discover this paradise in the heart of Ribatejo.With great work and dedication the producer produces varied crops in 100 hectares of land, from corn, vegetables, peanuts, grapes among others and even horses, this is in fact an unusual property, right next to the river Tejo. Come and visit a practically unknown paradise in Ribatejo.

4-All aboard…the Presidential Train

For super charming and charismatic Portuguese entrepreneur Gonçalo Castel-Branco, it was love at first sight when he found the Presidential Train housed inside the National Railway Museum. The crown jewel of Portugal’s railway, this magnificent train hosted kings, presidents, heads of states, and popes in centuries gone by. It was Gonçalo’s 10-year old daughter who suggested her father take the train out of the museum and turn it into a restaurant (he loves food and entertaining, after all). After a €1 million restoration, the nine-hour gastronomical journey from Porto-Vesúvio-Porto aboard the meticulously-restored Portuguese Presidential Train was born.

On board, expect a four-course gourmet degustation menu by Michelin-starred chefs. Complete with wine pairings, exclusive access to a spectacular privately owned estate in the Duoro—Quinta do Vesúvio—port wine tasting, a bar with live music aboard on the return trip and an afternoon tea service, this is a seriously polished and impressive experience. Hosting only 60 guests at a time across weekends in the spring and fall, this is a Portuguese experience you will want to put straight to the top of your bucket list. This year’s spring season and dates have just been announced, so be sure to check out their website for more details.

5-The secret Life of the Snails

An farm in Torres Novas creates and markets snails as well as “Helix Aspersa Máxima” fingerlings in an adapted complete biological cycle. All the production is carried out in an agricultural greenhouse with irrigation systems by nebulizers, in order to guarantee the ideal temperatura and humidity for the growth and development of the species. The greenhouse is composed of 12 fenced parks seeded with radishes, cabbages and turnips and with an average of 460 shelters in appropriate wood.

6- Stop by the São Bento Station

You must not leave Porto without a visit to one of the country’s most emblematic and iconic buildings, the beautiful São Bento train station. Filled with 20,000 azulejos tiles, designed by local painter Jorge Colaço, it is an incredibly majestic space and insanely Instagram-worthy.

7 – Visit a Shiitake Mushroom Farm

You will live an incredible experience! This farm is characterized by being family-friendly, where the family “Lopes” based on human and ethical values, combines the experience of the elders with the irreverence of the younger. Its products are completely organic finding the entire production process certified by Naturalfa.

8-Visit the Douro Valley

The beauty of the Duoro Valley is astonishing. Take the Presidential Train there and you’ll struggle to work out if you’re in the countryside of Switzerland, whizzing around Lake Como, or a combination of both.

Rolling hills and beautifully-manicured vineyards abound here—it is truly magnificent. There are plenty of wonderful sleeping options in the valley, but for something homey and more boutique, we highly recommend booking a room at the beautiful House of Quintas dos Murcas. With interiors by the very clever Lisbon-design firm, Anahory Almeida (the same team behind São Lourenço do Barrocal and some of Lisboa’s best restaurants), it is a beautiful place to spend a night or more. If dos Murcas happens to be full, check out the boutique wine hotel Quinta do Vallado, or the Six Senses Duoro Valley instead.

9-Collect your own aromatic herbs

Get acquainted with biological aromatic herbs in a field of 4 hectares, among several varieties, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, peppermint and common mint. The dedication and care is constant, ensuring the quality of plants and growth with the best conditions, allowing healthy and balanced crops, without chemicals and additives.Have a cutting and collection experience and in the end provide an infusion.

10-Spend a Morning in Matosinhos

Matosinhos is a small seaside city next to Porto which is renowned for its excellent surf. With a strong beach culture and an affinity for seafood, you will find some great fresh fish in these parts. The Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos is a great fresh food market located in an impressive curved white pavilion by the sea. While you are here, it is worth checking out Manifesto—a great magazine and bookstore on the edge of the market that serves delicious filter coffee. There are also a bunch of design studios, co-working spaces and great boutiques popping up around town. Matosinhos has a great energy and is well worth a visit while in Porto.

11-Pick up sweet grapes

In the heart of the Alentejo, the producer has created a magical space where vines grow closely watched by the most experienced eyes and cared for by the most delicate hands. The grapes are distinguished by the unique flavor and texture. Crunchy and sweet are absolutely irresistible. The grapes are protected throughout the year, using the most advanced production techniques so that in the summer they grow beautiful and sweet, making the delights of those who taste them.

12-Visit the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art

While in Porto, a visit to the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is a must. Along a beautiful tree-lined street in Foz (a neighborhood once considered the French Riviera of Portugal) lies the museum and its beautiful gardens. The impressive museum building itself was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Alvaro Siza Vieira. You could spend hours mulling around this property, its magnificent gardens and their great museum store. Expert tip: entry is free on Sundays.

13-Visit a farm of Autochthonous Breeds´

Meet a producer of Portuguese Autochthonous Breeds , who has already won more than 80 prizes!.The mission of the producer is based on two fundamental principles, the preservation of Portuguese autochthonous breeds and right agricultural practices, through the practice of sustainable organic farming.

14-Visit the Bolhão Market

You can’t visit Porto and not stop by the Bolhão market. The city’s most famous food market, come here to sample and buy fresh, local produce, or grab lunch at one of the market restaurants. If you haven’t yet tried a francesinha (see above), here you can learn from one of the butchers how it really should be done–everyone has their own method for making the local dish, and so you’ll be able to try a bite of each and choose your favorite.

15-Taste the best crafted beer

Want to learn all the processes associated with the production of homemade beer? This producer became a universal brand for homemade beer, when he began to realize the acceptance of his product, having begun to take “fun” seriously. If producing a basic beer is a matter of following the recipe, creating drinks with peculiar characteristics and establishing some standard, it becomes a great challenge. In this way and in addition to the fun, the success of the producer obtained with a homemade label, i may mean a change of hobby for a possible future profession.

16-Take a Trip to the Island of Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese island in an archipelago of four islands just off the northwest coast of Africa. Being so close to Africa means it enjoys a subtropical climate year-round. Volcanic, green, mountainous and rugged, the Madeira landscape is not too dissimilar to Hawaii. Here, you will find beautiful wine (they make their own), exotic fruit, fresh seafood, beaches, mountains and some great places to stay. The airport here was renamed after Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who grew up here. You can catch the ferry over to Porto Santo (Madeira’s little sister) for its white sandy beaches as well.

17-Have a raspberry farm experience

With about 1.5 hectares of greenhouses, this production supports 10,000 raspberry plants grown in ridges, being in its first year of production. Family-friendly production, located in an area with a privileged view over Sintra mountain range, perfect for a unique experience in the countryside 20 minutes from Lisbon.

18-Visit the Casa da Musica

Come here to admire the architecture alone. The Casa da Musica is home to the National Orchestra of Porto and is an impressive white concrete building in the middle of the historic Rotunda da Boavista square. With an ever-changing line-up of music events, there is always some great stuff to see at the Casa, especially in June during the Primavera Sound music festival (now in its seventh year). If you’re into music, early spring is a good time to plan your Porto visit.

19-Harvest Strawberries

Come and harvest strawberries directly from the strawberry, in a homemade and unique production, whose quality will not go unnoticed.There are two strawberry ranges in production, both of which offer a guarantee of quality in taste, combined with the taste of the palate, which adds the visual taste through the superior shape and size for incorporation in professional preparation, restoration or in high quality confectionery.

20-Visit Évora

A UNESCO World Heritage site full of medieval architecture and ancient Roman history, Évora is the capital of the Alentejo region and is worth a visit. Stop by the (admittedly, somewhat creepy) Capela dos Ossos (the Bone Chapel), where the walls are lined with bones and skulls of more than 5,000 bodies that were exhumed from Evora’s crowded graveyards. The wording above the entrance to the chapel reads, “We the bones wait for yours…” Also worth a visit is the Templo de Diana, considered the most well-preserved Roman temple on the Iberian Peninsula.

Be a farmer for a day!

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