Three Cities in Portugal
The perfect solo itinerary to Porto, Coimbra, and Lisboa
Contemplating a solo trip but don't know where to go? Portugal should be on your list.
Honestly, I chose Portugal because it was a super cheap roundtrip ticket from my home airport (HNL). I didn't know much about the place, and didn't look into it till I hit "Purchase" and was emailed a confirmation.
Now I hav been there, and I have all the best tips and words of encouragement for you as you plan your adventure!
Three cities in Portugal
I flew into Porto first and I am so glad I did. I was able to ease into a new country, a foreign language, and a solo trip with this lovely UNESCO World Heritage Site. Porto is cozy, beautiful, and authentic. After Porto, I took a train to Coimbra. Much smaller in population, this university town was full of history and lots of upward climbs! After a day in Coimbra, I headed for Lisbon, the capital, and the most diverse of the cities on my itinerary. I met people from literally all over the world--- I feel like I met more non-Portuguese people than Portuguese. Interesting right? Okay, now that we got the overview of the itineray out of the way, lets 's talk specifics and recommendations.
Where did I stay?
What did I do?
What do I wish I would've known beforehand?
Where did I stay?
I was, indeed, traveling solo. One of the biggest concerns that seems to come up for aspiring solo travelers is feeling safe, and part of that is feeling safe where they stay.
You can stay in a variety of places--- AirBnBs, Hostels, Hotels, or bed and breakfasts. I am quite picky when it comes to where I stay. I research the areas of the city I am visiting, look for major public transit points, read reviews of various options, and then pick! On this trip to Portugal , I stayed in a mix of Hostels, Hotels, and AirBnBs.
In Porto, I stayed at the Passenger Hostel. It was PERFECT. Central location, super clean, great space, respectful patrons, and extremely supportive staff. The hostel was literally located INSIDE a train station. It felt unique, exciting, and SAFE.
In Coimbra, I stayed at a small hotel called The Luggage. Absolutely beautiful! The common spaces were incredible--- think lovely sunrooms, sitting areas, a record player, and a bar. The building had all the original glass windows, doors, and floors. This accommodation also offered complimentary breakfast!
In Lisboa, I mixed it up since I was staying for a long time. I started my stay there at a hostel. I did this mostly because of cost, but also I had read great reviews about how this hostel offered nightly family dinners prepared by the owner of the hostel. I thought this would be a great way to meet people. Unfortunately, the dinners were cancelled so the reason I went to this place did not pan out. Halfway through my time in Lisboa, I moved my accommodations to a large two bedroom flat with laundry and a terrace. I wanted space to cook, decompress, watch Emily in Paris, and do my laundry. It was the perfect place for it!
Staying in various types of places on your stay opens you up to opportunities to meet people, express your introverted self, or feel luxurious.
What did I do?
When you travel solo, being totally responsible only for yourself, you get the unbelievable pleasure of planning out and executing your days just as you would like. No worries about wrangling everyone out the door, making sure everyone has everything, accommodating food sensitivities and allergies, or trying to fit into the pace of others. It's all YOU!
I always start with walking the city I am staying in to get a feel for the place. I take note of markets and shops, follow my nose to what I want to eat for lunch, and stop in parks when I need a rest. While visiting Portugal, I did have a few MAJOR things I was able to see (that you should totally add to your itinerary, too!)
Livraria Lello: a gorgeous bookstore! You should get tickets ahead of time so you can beat the line. Get there early! It gets super crowded.
Harry Potter walking tour! Did you know JK Rowling lived and wrote in Porto?! You can totally feel her Inso as you do this walking tour.
Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra: a beautiful baroque library! I did the self guided tour and found myself in a medieval prison, library, and university campus (the students really wore ROBES!)
Pena Palace, Sintra: I fell into storybook land for this one! I did a guided tour I found on AirBnB, complete with a car ride, lunch, and treats along the way.
And of course, lots of Portuguese food and wine along the way!
What do I wish I knew beforehand?
As you plan your adventure, keep these things in mind: Portugal has a lot of inclines, so be prepared to walk UP a lot. Bring your walking shoes! Elevators and escalators are few and far between, so be sure to take that into consideration as you pack. Other than that, have fun and good luck!