We’ve officially bought tickets to Portugal in June! We’re planning to arrive on Tuesday, June 13, but not sure yet if we’ll fly into Porto or Lisbon (either could work, since we’ll be coming from Scotland). Then we’re leaving midday on June 20th from Lisbon airport. So we’ll have 7 days and 7 nights.
About 6 years ago, my husband and I were quite disappointed with most of the food we ate in Spain, and I think part of that is because I didn’t do enough research ahead of time, and we ended up in touristy/mediocre places. Hoping to avoid that mistake this trip, and also hoping that food in Portugal is better in general.
As I mentioned in another thread, we’ll be traveling with a 19-month old toddler. As of now, he’s generally great at restaurants, and will happily sit in a high chair for 45-75 minute long meals! That may be more challenging in June, but hopefully not. But we’re definitely looking for toddler-friendly restaurants that are on the more casual side.
As I also mentioned in the other thread, we tend to like smaller towns/cities more than big ones, so we’re probably not wanting to stay in Porto or Lisbon too long (and could potentially even skip them altogether?). I think it’s likely we would rent a car, perhaps for the entire week, and then use it to take day trips from a central location or two. Maribel suggested Guimaraes as a town we might enjoy staying in, and it’s definitely at the top of the list. Would also love to hear about other smaller city type places that have enough good food, and might also be spots to take day trips or half-day trips from.
Aside from amazing food, we also like visiting castles/forts, checking out food markets, swimming (likely fresh water in Portugal in June), hiking.
Any and all advice would be appreciated! And I’ll probably post more specific questions about restaurants later as we settle in on an itinerary.
Another lovely small city, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that has become a gourmet mecca in the last few years is EVORA in the Alentejo. We’ve had great, casual meals there recently. And the Alentejo is the land of castles. Two wonderful fortified hill towns facing the Spanish border that you would love to visit are Monsaraz to the east and Marvāo to the north in the Serra de Mamede mountain range, a true “eagles ‘ nest”.
Alentejo is Portugal’s “bread basket”, a land of rolling hills, horse farms, cork farms (that one can visit), megathilic remains (dolmens, cromlechs, etc), rustic ceramic producing villages, vineyards galore, black pigs that make the wonderful “porco preto” and Europe’s largest reservoir, the Alqueva dam. Lots of charming lodging in the country side at herdades and also in Evora,
The very best travel guide to the Alentejo is the Bradt Guide, fairly recently updated.
I’ve only been to Lisbon last summer, where I ate incredibly well. Cervejaria Ramiro for super-fresh and simply prepared seafood, Prado for a fancier meal that won’t break the bank. Best bread I have ever had.
We LOVED Evora on our trip to Portugal (10 years ago – holy Onions! – so my data is out of date). The town is charming and the pace was laid-back; I could absolutely imagine taking a toddler there (by the way, congrats to you @vamped and your husband). It goes without saying that the food was generally great, even at the very touristy Cafe Alentejo, where we had a delicious fish bread stew. We did not enjoy Fialho, another touristy place (I don’t know why we tried so many touristy places? lol).
We did the usual first-timer tourist circuit of Sintra > Cascais (day trip) > Evora > Porto > Lisboa. We haven’t returned, but it was one of our favorite trips. We had a few clunkers here-and-there, but we still enjoyed every moment. I know you’ll have a wonderful time.
I think bypassing Lisbon would be a mistake tbh, I was there for11 days in 2019 and had some of the best travel foods ever. Mind you I wasn’t traveling with a toddler.
Here’s some of the fantastic places I ate that might be suitable for your youngin, hopefully they’re still around.
+1 on Prado and Cervejaria Ramiro, Prado is a little more “upscale” but CR is very family friendly but the wait can be long.
Manteigara for delicious pasteis de nata
Casa Das Bifana for pork sammiches
Gelateria Nannarella for ice cream, and what toddler doesn’t like ice cream?
Bonjardim for delicious chicken, touristy but I preferred it to Casa da India
Restaurante Cova Funda. A typical family run restaurant that I stumbled upon by accident, delicious food and huge portions. So good I went back twice as it was so close to my B&B
All of these were child/family friendly, so I wouldn’t hesitate.
A Cavicheria was excellent and if you get there early enough I think the little one would be fine.
I agree completely with Prado—airy and attractive dining room, fabulous bread, one of our best Lisbon meals, along with Ramiro (shellfish only), which now takes online reservations.
Our best meal, however, on our last trip was in Belém at O Frade. Mostly counter seating, with a small outdoor terrace. Must reserve as it´s a very hot table. Cuisine from the Alentejo. We loved sitting at the counter and watching the chefs put the final touches on the dishes that emerged from the tiny kitchen.
Equally delicious bread.
Bookable on The Fork and Michelin recommended…
It sits close to the National Coach Museum on Calçada de Ajuda14.
A second recommendation for the very casual, kid friendly Bom Jardim for frango piri piri.
In the same Príncipe Real area we also like Tapsico, a Spain and Portugal tapas and petiscos hybrid.
Santini also for ice cream as well as Gelateria Nannarella, the latter featured on the Lisbon episode of ¨Somebody Feel Phil¨.
Thank you everyone for these ideas. It’s super helpful!
I’m now convinced we’ll spend at least two nights (likely our final two) in Lisbon.
Here are two tentative itineraries:
• Days 1, 2, 3: Fly into Porto, rent car, and go straight to Guimaraes. Stay there for three nights, and if we want, travel back to Porto or Matosinhos as a day trip one of the days. Potentially take a different day or half-day trip from Guimaraes on the other day. Alternatively we could spend one night right away in Porto and then go to Guimaraes for just two nights.
• Days 4, 5: Drive to Marvao/Portalegre area and spend two nights more in the countryside down there, and visit the park and various small towns.
• Days 6, 7: Drive to Lisbon and spend final two nights in Lisbon
Fly into Lisbon, spend more time in Lisbon and surrounding areas (like Sintra, other places on the coast, or potentially inland to Evora too). Still visit Marvao area but then just go back to Lisbon, and essentially skip Northern Portugal.
From a food perspective, it sounds like we will do well in whichever itinerary we choose. From what I have read about Guimaraes, it looks really nice and a good size for us, plus some great food options.
One thing I wonder about is whether folks have experiences staying at wineries/ranches/farms that are interesting from a food perspective and also close enough to different towns/castles/areas, that might be worth staying at for the middle two nights. I found a great looking place up by Viseu but it might be too random a location. Somewhere closer to Marvao area would be great though.
Thanks in advance! Once we get the itinerary sorted, I’ll start planning more meals.
Viseu is a pretty town but I think it’s too random a location.
As for Alentejo towns, since Marvão is up in the Serra da Mamede mountains, it might seem too remote and it doesn’t have many dining options around without driving to pretty Castelo de Vide or Portalegre. It does have a remote feel to it, a real step back in time and is tiny.
You would be better off staying at a vineyard in the lower Alentejo within striking distance of other fortress town of Monsaraz, near the reservoir or a vineyard inn closer to Evora. There are lots of vineyard or farm hotels in this area, depending on your budget, some luxury and some more farmhouse rustic. If you look in the area between Evora and Elvas or just outside of Evora, and find something interesting, I can better advise.
In Guimarães, try Taberna Trovador - you probably need to book in advance.
From Guimarães you’re not far from Braga, which has some good options. Pappa’Lab in the center has great ice cream. Arcoense and Taberna do Lebre are very much not in the center but have great traditional Portuguese food - not sure how easy it would be to eat at Lebre without at least a little Portuguese language ability, though.
We were just in the Castelo de Vide area over New Year’s and had some great meals - at A Confraria and Dom Pedro V. If you really want to be in that area I would stay in Castelo de Vide over Marvão, there are more options. But I agree with Mirabel that something near Evora would be better. There are some GREAT restaurants in Evora - we recently drove out from Lisbon (90 minutes each way) just for dinner at Tua Madre.
Plenty of Choice in Évora… I often stay at the “Convento do Espinheiro” https://www.conventodoespinheiro.com/en/ A wine tasting in the old cisterna of the convent is a must! Evora has just been nominated European Capital of Culture 2027, so there is plenty to do and see. Not short of restaurants either… I like Fialho in particular for its very traditional dishes.
And you should also look at the old city of Estremoz. So much in that area…
My favorite lodging inside the Evora walls-Albergaria do Calvario. Wonderful comfort food at La Tabua do Naldo-great wine bar with creative small plates at Enoteca Cartuxa. Origens with open kitchen, with one of the city’s best chefs, must reserve.
For Portalegre Tombalobos for sure and for more casual a block away, with delicious skewers and nice selection of wines—Solar do Forçado, run by a former bull wrestler.
Sweet place. Both are Michelin recommended.
Hi Maribel, good suggestions too :o) you have probably realised by now I ma not the “casual” type. Another great place to stay if you want to be in Évora center is the Mar d’Ar Aqueduto… Restaurant “Origens” not to be missed!
Howard’s Folly in Estremoz for a great wine tasting and very good restaurant (plus you’re helping a great charity!)
On my last visit to Evora I actually stayed for 4 nights at Mar d’Ar Aqueduto because the Albegaria do Calvario was full (they take luxury cycling groups) and my traveling companion wanted a hotel with pool.
The Mar d’ar Aqueduto has a pool and garden so she was happy. It also has a handy underground garage, and all we needed to do was to turn right to get on the ring road quickly.
At the Albergaria across the street, you need to turn right and go through the town before accessing the ring road for your day trips.
The Mar d’Ar Aqueduto does take Rick Steves “Best of Portugal” groups, so does sometimes get booked with them and with cycling groups as well. Backroads was there during our stay.
The breakfasts were superb.