The time has come to visit another new and exciting country. I’ve heard so many people rave about Lisbon, Portugal and when I realized that many of the gorgeous costal pictures I’d been admiring on Pinterest were in Lagos, aka south of Lisbon along the Algarve Coast, I was sold. Keep reading to see how I spent my week in Portugal!
Comparing Two Top Rated Hostels:
The name is extremely appropriate, as it’s probably the most homely hostel I’ve been to in terms of design, facilities, and their famous Mama’s dinners. For 10€, you get a three course meal (soup, dinner, dessert) plus unlimited alcohol (wine and beer) and a final digestif shot (choice of three types). As stated before, make sure to use hostel dinners as a chance to meet people if you are travelling alone and haven’t met anyone in your room yet. After dinner you can also participate in the 10€ pub crawl that happens every night.
I initially planned to only stay at Home Hostel Lisbon, but after hearing about how much my friend enjoyed Yes! Hostel Lisbon, I decided to stay there after I returned from Lagos to get a true comparison.
Yes! Hostel is very modern and quite similar to Home Hostel in terms of quality, though I got more of a youthful party vibe. They also have a 10€ multi-course dinner with free drinks and their own 10€ pub crawl every night.
What I Did in Lisbon!
I hadn’t met anyone when I arrived, so I sat in the lobby for a bit on my computer, then overheard a girl checking in say that she was from Canada, so I introduced myself. Funny enough, we actually went to the same university. Small world! Point being, yes it was awkward looking around figuring out who I could talk to, but I wasn’t going to wait until dinner to meet people, so I put myself out there and made a good friend!
Free Walking Tours are a great way to get acquainted with a city. I knew absolutely nothing about Lisbon (history, what I wanted to see, etc.), so it was a no brainer activity for me. I don’t think you need to do a specific tour with a specific company, just do a free one! From what I gathered, there are two tours. One covers the right side of the city and one covers the left. I’d do both, if you have the option (Yes! Hostel definitely offers both).
Time Out Market is a foodie’s heaven! It’s basically all the top rated restaurants in Lisbon brought together in one market. You can find pretty much any type of food that you crave. The first time I went I got a delicious gourmet burger and the second time I opted for some chicken pad thai. I would go there everyday if I could. Meals are about 10€ on average.
Day Trip to Sintra
The next day I joined my new Canadian friend, Morgan, on a big adventure to Sintra. Many hostels offer organized day trips but the days didn’t line up so we went on our own – which is super easy! Trains are constantly running between Lisbon and Sintra so we just bought a ticket at the station and went on our way. The journey is about an hour; not too bad. My British buddies told me that the hike is quite strenuous, so it’s best to rent electric bikes to get to the top (especially if you have a hangover). That sounded perfect to me, but Morgan wanted to walk up. Dang.
Honestly, I was super grateful she suggested to hike – and thank God I was hangover free! We were panting and on the verge of passing out for a 2 hour or so hike but equally proud and amazed by the stunning views we were treated to on the way up. I bought a sandwich before the hike, so I could use a public toilet, and that sandwich was a serious treat halfway up!
There are quite a few sites to see in Sintra but since the hike was a big portion of our day, we opted to wander the colourful Pena Palace. From the palace we could see how high we hiked; I never felt more accomplished.
The castle is strikingly colourful, unlike anything I’d ever seen architecturally. The setting became even fancier when a Real Housewives or wedding reality type show was being filmed in our presence. I was sweaty and gross so I dodged those cameras quickly! If I’d been feeling like less of a hot mess I would have probably done a silly dance in the background … next time!
We opted to take the bus down and treated ourselves to a big meal in the village. Key rule of exercise: waste all your efforts by treating yourself to a burger … That’s a rule, right?
Make sure to check out Sintra on your visit to Lisbon! There are so many amazing things to see in this village. If you stay at Home Hostel or Yes! Hostel, try to work their organized trip into your schedule since they cover a lot more!
Great City Views:
Park Bar at night is definitely one of my top recommendations for Lisbon! It’s on the top of a car park and kind of a scavenger hunt to find. We ended up in a stairwell full of graffiti with no idea whether or not we were in the right place. Once we arrived on the top level we were greeted to one of the chicest rooftop bars I’ve ever been too. The cover is free and the views are stunning. Not to mention they have the best strawberry mojitos I’ve ever had! Around midnight, the indoor section turns into a fun dance floor as well. The perfect night out!
St. George’s Castle in the day is quite a treat. This is the oldest remaining part of Lisbon. Perched on a hill in the Alfama district is St. George’s Caste, which costs about 7€ to enter. The view is worth the cost and the courtyard is really lovely as well. I didn’t get the chance, but I think it’d be worth it to spend a good portion of time wandering Alfama if you don’t cover it on a walking tour. Just note that you will get lost! Multiple people have warned me of this.
Next Up: A Short Getaway to Lagos
As mentioned in my Barcelona post, I met some of the best people at my hostel. Coincidentally, I got the opportunity to reunite with some of my Barcelona friends sooner than expected. Joe told me that he was changing his plans and going to Portugal, so we met at the Lisbon coach station and caught a bus together to Lagos. Our other friend, Alexis, would meet us there a couple days later as well!
I was initially going to stay at Sol A Sol Hostel, but Joe convinced me to switch to the Rising Cock Party Hostel … you can bet my parents were thrilled to hear about the change of hostel! A lot of people I met while travelling recommended it. It’s probably the least glamorous hostel I’ve stayed it but it’s perfect for a party beach town. Lots of opportunities to meet people. Later on, I met a few people who switched to Rising Cock halfway through their stay because all the other hostels were pretty much empty (could have been the time of year – May).
There are numerous kayaking tours that you could do in Lagos. We just signed up for the same company as the rest of our hostel, but to be honest all the tours looked the same. It is 100% worth it to kayak in Lagos, as I think it’s the best way to view the cliffs. You can also hike along the coast, but when you kayak you are cooled down by the water. It’s beautiful and refreshing. Also, bring some ciders/beers in your kayak for when you stop to swim and sunbathe at the beach!
There are also quite a few options for booze cruises. I’ve got to say I liked kayaking a lot better, but who doesn’t enjoy unlimited beer and sangria. Just be prepared to witness tons of body shots; it’s not called a classy cruise.
All activities aside, Lagos is all about the beaches. There are so many beautiful places to stop along the coast. Bring some food, drinks, games, and music and the day will fly by.
As pretty as Lagos is, there really isn’t too much to do other than drinking and beaching. It’s a small town and I felt that 4 nights were more than enough to relax. It was a great pit stop during my long trip to just chill out, but I was ready to head back to Lisbon again and see some new things!
Have you been to Lisbon or Lagos? What did you think?