One month in Portugal: off the beaten track & 30 places to put on the map 

For sure, it was a awesome experience. It was a trip that started in Lisbon, continued with Madeira and, then, from North to South, the path took me to the most beautiful places in Portugal. I am not saying that I saw all the things worth seeing; for sure I cannot say that I have tasted all the local dishes or drinks. But I can say, for sure, that one month in Portugal (especially off-season, when the beaches are empty) recharged my batteries. And yes, I checked all the beaches and all the art stores. Therefore – one month in Portugal: off the beaten track & 30 places to put on the map.

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What did I love? Well, if you expect touristic recommendations, you will be slightly disappointed. But scroll down for the unexpected little towns, for art suggestions, coffee & cars. Plus: a Madeira break – READ here about this beautiful island and what you can do there.

The month has started with… Lisbon. A city with a lot of ascending streets and stairs, a city of Pastéis de Nata and fado bars, a city of impressing  azulejos tiled houses and cool new artists. (A reel from Lisbon – here)

My touristic list included: 

1. Praça do Comércio – for its history (destroyed by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1750 years) but also for the beautiful symmetry of the buildings that surround the square. 2. The beautiful Art Deco building of the train station. 3. Santa Justa elevator (the fastest way to get from the Baixa neighbourhood to the Bairro Alto district). 4. The Pastéis de Belém bakery ( 5. Palacio da Pena, Sintra – for the castle, but mostly for the breathtaking park surrounding it ( Highlights from Lisbon – here. 

My different list of visiting had on it:

6. Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea, Museu do Chiado – beautiful building, cool (and not so well-known, but very interesting artists, as Fernando Lemos, Joaquim Rodrigo, Julio Pomar). 7. Museu Coleção Berardo ( – for the huge art works outside, one signed by Henry Moore and for the a huge contemporary selection – Warhol, Picasso, Dali, Duchamp, Magritte, Miró, Bacon, Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons. 8. MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) – especially for the special architecture of the places, signed by Amanda Levete. 9. A tour to see the sculptures “art from trash” of Bordalo II ( – READ here about the at works seen by me in Portugal. (SEE here more images from the museums). 

My to-go places: 

10. Mama Shelter restaurant ( for the excelent Christmas brunch. 11. JNcQUOI Asia restaurant ( for an amazing decor and good food. 12. Cupra City Garage Lisboa – for the best espresso and for the #carlover environment (yes, I could see the actual new models of Cupra and to play at a race simulator – picture below). 13. Fábrica da Nata – Pastéis de Nata ( – I thought I will turn yellow from all the pasteis I ate! 

14. The second city was on the way to the North. Aveiro is known as “Venice of Portugal” – and you can see easily why. Dozen of channels cut the city and the tourists can enjoy the ride in one of the traditional colourful boats called “moliceiro”. Not to miss: a stroll in the city and the traditional dessert ovos moles (very sweet, very rich on sugar and eggs, very unusual) – the Confeitaria Peixinho is the oldest (1888) one to sell these sweets. 

15. Next pit stop: Costa Nova do Prado – a former fishing village, actually a paradise for surfers. Well known for its striped coloured little houses, Costa Nova do Prado has also a beautiful beach – reminding me somehow of Hamptons (once I put this destination on the map, I was not surprised to see that is just across the ocean, in straight line). The bonus: also the new houses are built to be similar with the old ones – striped and with a wooden-like aspect.  

Porto is the city not to miss in the North. Even perhaps I will wait for one year or two to return (the constructions everywhere chipped a little bit from the town’s beauty). It is accessible from Lisbon even if you don’t wanna rent a car (by train almost 3 hours). 16. Of course, like most cities in Portugal it has a lot of ups and downs (and I mean streets and stairs 🙂 and a dozen of dazzling azulejos walls, just perfect for the Instagram content – put on the list São Bento train station, Porto cathedral, Iglesia de San Ildefonso, Igreja de Carmo. 17. Go to the highest point, Miradouro da Vitória – you can see from here the Douro river and you can visit, nearby, Jardim do Palácio de Cristal. 18. Next on the list: the Ribeira and Baixa quartiers, Palácio da Bolsa) and Torres do Clérigos. 19. Vila Nova de Gaia (across the river), the wineries area (more than 50). The best tour for a true Porto wine: Taylor’s – 20. My personal favourite hotel here – the hotel Casa do Conto / Tipografia do Conto – built in the early twentieth century to house small industrial activities typical of the bourgeois city center, such as a deactivated Typography and Graphic Arts Workshop. ( 

Just in the middle of the country: 21. Coimbra – the university town that makes you feel sorry that you are not a student anymore. One of the oldest universities in Portugal (1290), it has a lot of beautiful universities buildings (the Chemistry one is the best!). Put on the list Joanina Library, Sé Velha (Old Cathedral), Igreja de Santa Cru, former Royal Palace and Praça do Comércio. P.S. Of course, I found out here another impressive art from Bordalo II. 

Down to South, very close to Lisbon – 22. Ericeira. A former fishing village, Ericeira is now part of World Surf Reserve: big waves, wide beaches, cool surfers :). Plus a lot of old houses and paved streets, Yoga classes and instagramable beaches – Praia do Sul, Praia do Matadouro, Praia da Baleia, Praia dos Pescadores, Praia da Foz do Lizandro. Bonus: a visit to Mafra cathedral in the town next door – amazing architecture! 

On my list: 23. the beautiful hotel Immerso ( – for the view over the ocean, for the zen of the architecture, for the breakfast and for the beautiful pool & 24. a special place for eating, Quinta do Arneiro (, vegetarian only farm, with home grown eco vegetables. 

It’s a long way down to the beaches. Therefore, more stops are to come. 

25. Setúbal, a small town with nice beaches and a must-see fresh market worth a half-day visit. Very quiet, beautiful street art graffiti. Bonus: if you are in the touristic mood (I wasn’t) the Castelo de Sao Filipe (16th century) is there to feed your need for history.

26. Faro – in the South wasn’t impressive at the first sight. After I’ve discovered the old buildings (I hope they are on the restoration list!) and the amazing orange square I changed my opinion. 

27. Estoi – so small that half and hour is enough to see. The point of attraction – the gardens from Estoi Palace hotel. 

And here we landed in Algarve! The area with the most beautiful beaches on Atlantic shore. The ride to here is absolutely beautiful – on both sides of the road I could see olive trees, orange trees and almond plantations, as well as a lot of lemon gardens where, basically, I wanted to move instantly.  28. The beaches I saw (and love) implied, of course, a lot of stairs and ways down and up to the hills. But also a lot of caves (in the summer it is possible a SUP or kayak ride there), a wild stunning vegetation, soft sand coloured from beige to pink and some amazing sunsets. There are, as follow: Ponta da Piedade, Praia Dos Estudiantes, Praia dos Tres Irmanos, Praia Do Camilo. 

29. The whole beach area very close to the Spanish border. I have to say that Praia Verde is one of the best I have seen. Wide, softy & silky sand, even warmish waters in the middle of January. And, for the shell seekers, this is the perfect place to find some gems.  

30. On my favourites list: Praia Octant Verde hotel ( – probably one of the most beautiful hotel I’ve been into. Not to mention the excellent services and… the food. A perfect 10!