Live Like A Local: Portugal

Thinking about a holiday to Portugal but don’t know where to start? We got insider tips from Portuguese born and bred Sergio Rebelo from Viseu in north Portugal. He and his wife, photographer Maria Rebelo, live in Chicago but return to their homeland on a regular basis. Along with some friends, they run the Salt Of Portugal blog, on the best things to see, do and taste in Portugal.

Ericeira Beach CREDIT Maria Rebelo

Photo Credit: Maria Rebelo for Salt of Portugal

Where can we find Portugal’s best beaches?

SR: Portugal has an amazing coastline, so this question is very difficult! We like to stay away from the crowds, so we often go to beaches on the west coast like Ericeira. But there are gorgeous beaches in the north; Miramar is one of our favourites.

In the Algarve, we like the fantastic Dona Ana beach. Another great beach is Benagil. The boat trip to the sea caves is a must if you’re in the region. We particularly enjoy the deserted beaches of Alentejo (on the Atlantic coast) and romantic places like the beach named after the great fado singer Amália. And then there is Berlenga (off the coast north of Lisbon), a real pirate island, full of mystery and natural beauty.

Berlengas CREDIT Maria Rebelo

Photo Credit: Maria Rebelo for Salt of Portugal

Where is your favourite restaurant and why?

SR: You only ask difficult questions! Just a few weeks ago we had an extraordinary dinner at Noélia, in the small village of Cabanas in Algarve, and we ate the best octopus ever in a nearby village called Santa Luzia.

There are towns like Évora (east of Lisbon) where you choose a restaurant blindfolded and have a great meal. We recently had a memorable dinner at Évora’s Taberna Típica Quarta Feria, complete with lessons about life from Zé Dias, an expert philosopher-turned-tavern owner.

In Lisbon, for traditional Portuguese food we love Tasca Esquina, Raposo and Salsa Coentros. For modern cooking, you’ll love Belcanto, which has earned two Michelin stars. The same chef, José Avillez, has a more affordable restaurant that has a great vibe: Cantinho do Avillez. We are also fans of Apicius, which serves inventive food made with great local ingredients.

Best places to get a drink? Coffee, or something stronger?

Photo Credit: Maria Rebelo for Salt of Portugal

SR: Our favourite coffee shop is Claudio Corallo, in the Principe Real neighbourhood of Lisbon. His coffee is amazing and his chocolate sorbet is the best we have ever tasted.

Our favourite bar is By The Wine, near Chiado neighbourhood in Lisbon. Its ceiling is decorated with bottles of Periquita, one of the oldest table wines in Portugal. Or Rio Maravilha, which has a wonderful view of Lisbon, is a great place to enjoy a late afternoon drink.

Noah Surf House, right on the beach at Santa Cruz (40km from Lisbon) is another really cool place to go for a drink.

Can you point us to some great places to shop?

SR: We always find something new to buy at Vista Alegre, in Chiado neighbourhood in Lisbon. They sell perfect espresso cups that make wonderful gifts. We also like A Vida Portuguesa (stores in Lisbon and Oporto), a company that has brought back many traditional Portuguese brands. It is always fun to visit their stores; they sell beautiful cataplanas, copper pans used in Portugal to cook seafood.

Also in Lisbon, Embaixada, an elegant shopping mall that occupies a sumptuous 18th Century palace, is another favourite. For cool elegance, nothing beats Reverso, a contemporary jewellery store with pieces that are surprisingly affordable.

What is the one thing we must do when we go to Portugal?

Photo Credit: Maria Rebelo for Salt of Portugal

SR: Going horse-riding on the Alentejo coast is an unforgettable experience. Our favourite place is Herdade do Pessegueiro. They can teach you the basics if you do not know how to ride.

If you like wine, going for a wine tasting at Adega Mayor in Alentejo is an incredible experience. Sitting by the pool, feeling the warm breeze, enjoying great wines surrounded by beautiful scenery is hard to beat.

Remember, in Portugal the simple can be extraordinary. It’s great just to walk around and see the architectural details of the old neighbourhoods. Watching the sunset lying on a chair in the esplanade at Ribeira das Naus in Lisbon, a glass of Favaios in your hand, is an incredible experience.

So many tourists rush from site to site until they are totally exhausted. Slow down and enjoy your trip. Remember, you can always come back!

Book your getaway to Portugal now!

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