Anyone who reads or hears about Portugal probably immediately thinks of beautiful beaches underneath breathtaking cliffs, spectacular surfing and delicious Pastéis de Nata.
Portugal is becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination. The country is experiencing a tourism boom, in fact – and there are good reasons, as this land on the western edge of Europe has so much to offer. Here we look at three of the reasons why a holiday in Portugal is definitely worthwhile.
Summer, Sun & Beaches
Despite its relatively small area (92,212 square kilometres), Portugal has one of the longest coastlines in the world. Overall, the Portuguese can dig their feet in the sand over 3,000 kilometres. The popular holiday islands of Madeira and the Azores are part of this, of course – but even on the mainland, coastline is everywhere. A drive from Faro in the south to Viana do Castelo in the north is particularly recommended, and it provides a comprehensive insight into the culture and beauty of Portugal. You can experience this adventure even during a short break – by car, for example, you can complete this trip in less than seven hours.
Holidays are very important, giving us the opportunity to relax and escape from everyday life. At the same time, however, we also want to develop ourselves. We don’t want to spend all of our time just lying on the beach and drinking cocktails – we also want to experience the country that we visit. Portugal offers many opportunities for this, catering for a range of interests. After all, the country combines beautiful landscapes and beautiful beaches with a rich and distinctive culture. Whether it’s the big cities like Porto or small places on the edge of the streets – visitors will always find new corners and new opportunities to develop themselves.
That’s why Portugal is also the country of road trips. To appreciate it fully, the western side of the Iberian peninsula should really be explored by road. The good news is that the roads of Europe are now safer than they have ever been before – in 2013, the EU even set itself the target of reducing road deaths by 50%. True freedom and opportunities do not appear at the hotel pool, but out there on the road.
If you want to experience the real Portugal, you have to do this in contact with the Portuguese themselves. It’s highly recommended to visit one of the many local wineries, for example. You can buy fine wines for little money directly from the producer, and they often have special offers too.
As well as testing the local foods, that are not as known as Italy’s pizza and pasta but just as mouthwatering. The sweet little pastry cakes ‚Pastéis de Nata‚ can be found at every corner and taste like heaven to me.
No list of Portugal’s highlights is complete without a mention of its capital. This beautiful city is spread over several hills overlooking the Rio Tejo, rewarding the explorer with breathtaking panoramic views at every turn. Whatever you’re looking for – whether it’s history, culture, or an exciting range of bars and cafes – you’ll find it in Lisbon. If you want to escape the tourist crowds, the cobblestoned streets of Alfama is the area of Lisbon for you. Chat with the locals here and relax, watching the world go by. This is the real Portugal.
I visited Lisbon for two days myself last summer and got a general overview of the beauty it has to offer, but I am already keen to go back and explore more! The city is also very famous for great vegan cafés and restaurants, that I want to try myself as well as wandering through the beautiful and colourful streets.
Besides Lisbon, I am also super keen to visit Porto! Another beautiful city in the northern part of the country that I’ve heard many great things from.
Have you been to Portugal yourself? Where have you been & what do you recommend? Is it on your bucket list?
Byron is for sure a magical place. I can’t really tell if it’s my favourite as I also loved Bondi Beach in Sydney a lot and I had one of the best times in Melbourne with my first friends, as well as on my Surf Camp and the Sunshine Coast has a special place in my heart as well, but it’s on the top list for sure.
I want to tell you about the best places to go to, what to do, where to eat, to shop and to stay in Byron as well as do a little diary and story-telling from the three times and 10 days in total that I spend in Byron Bay.
The first time I went there was with my cousin travelling from Sydney to Brisbane together when she visited me for three weeks. We spend three days there and that was the first time I fell in love for a bit.
When my parents visited me for three weeks over Christmas and New Year’s and we travelled down the East Coast from Cairns to Sydney we also stopped in Byron for one night and even though it was suuuper crowded (because it was holiday season), we fell in love all over.
My third (and probably last time for now) was on my own. Perfect summer weather, great people in my dorm and I had 6 super fun days. I didn’t spend one day alone and it was nice to hang out with others 24/7 after lots of me-time in Sydney and Newcastle.
I could not have been luckier with my 10-bed-dorm as I had 5 people in there, that I can call my friends now. A German and a Spanish girl and three boys from Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands. We had lots of fun times at the beach, walking to the lighthouse for sunrise or sunset, surfing and playing in the waves, playing cards and drinking games at the beach, picnicking with the best view over the beach and the lighthouse and getting some amazing food from the awesome food places Byron has to offer, watching movies at the hostel, partying and having midnight pizza and crêpes – it was a wonderful time that I’ll keep in my memories forever.
Where to Stay
Hostel I stayed at the Nomads Hostel for 6 nights because it is pretty cheap and super well located. Right in the centre, 3 minutes to the beach, one to Aldi, 4 minutes to Woolworths, it’s not the cleanest but still fine, the rooms and common areas are big and nice and they offer a lot of free activities, food etc. Also, the breakfast is great (toast, sweet spreads, cornflakes and fruit! Which is not common).
AirBnB With my cousin I stayed in a really nice Airbnb that is around 8 minutes by bus or 12 minutes by Bike from the city centre. It’s not that much more expensive than a hostel and it was really nice. I am sure there are a ton of cute Airbnb’s around Byron but you need to book early, especially in the season because Byron is a popular town.
Campground When I was travelling with my family, we stayed at the campground in Byron (20 minutes by foot to the centre), Belongil Fields Caravan Park, which I cannot recommend at all. It was the most expensive one we stayed at and the worst of all. No warm water to shower, super small spaces and just not worth the money at all. They know that people will book it because it is one of two near Byron and Tourists need to stay somewhere, but it’s sad that they don’t make an effort at all. Especially for the money they take.
Where to Shop
Cowper St is the main street in Byron and there are lots of restaurants, bars, cafés and of course shops, as well as in the streets branching off from it. You can find the main brands and surf/bikini stores there, but also some beautiful small and unique boutiques that sell wonderful, boho clothes, furniture, accessories and more. I fell in love with so many pieces, but it can get pretty expensive in these small stores.
Where to Eat
I luckily got to try a few nice restaurants, cafés and bistros in Byron and everything I had was just amazing. Byron really has a lot of great places that are unique and have a lot of charm.
No Bones is a completely vegan gourmet restaurant and cocktail bar where I probably had the best vegan burger in my life as well as an amazing peach parfait and blueberry cheesecake for dessert. Their local Kambucha was really yummy as well and the waitresses were very friendly. Overall the restaurant just had an amazing alternative but still elevated vibe and I can only recommend going there. My brother really liked the burger as well and my dad was in love with the vegan pawns he had. This place is really amazing to show non-vegan/veggie people how good kind food can be.
Combi Café is one of these beautiful, hip and boho cafés where you can get Acai Bowls, Avo toast, Smoothies and all that good stuff. The interior is a dream and my breakfast was as well. I had a vegan toasty with avo, vegan cheese, spinach, pumpkin and olive oil between sourdough that was amazing and the best vegan muffin I ever had with pear, lots of cinnamon, chia seeds, dried figs and nuts.
Orgasmic Falafel When you are lucky, this place is giving out sample falafels on the main street to taste and we went there one night to get takeaway vegan pita’s with hummus, falafel, some veggies and a nice sauce to bring to the beach. The falafels are so crispy and probably the best ones I ever ate and the boys I was with also loved the vegan pitas.
Miss Margarita is a Mexican restaurant on the main street close to the beach and I was told it is the highest ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor. It took pretty long to get a table so I would recommend reserving before, but it was so worth it. The place is not just super unique and has a great Mexican vintage vibe, the food was really amazing too. I had a zucchini and mushroom Burrito and it was definitely the best one I ever had. Such a great flavour and the combo of roasted zucchini and mushrooms was amazing.
Crêpes There is a very popular crêpe place at Spar in Byron and you literally see hundreds of people eating them every day on the streets. So we obviously needed to try them and we didn’t get disappointed. Crêpes are pretty expensive in Australia compared to Europe but we got a strawberry one with dark chocolate and it was so good. Super creamy, still cross and the combo of warm melted chocolate and fresh strawberries is just a dream.
Acai Obviously I needed to have Acai before/in between a hot beach day and literally every café/shop sells them. They cost around 13-16$ but there was one place that had them for 10$. It wasn’t the best one I had, but still good and because they used lots of muesli to fill up the bowl, it made you full for longer.
Fresh Coconuts Many places also sell fresh coconuts, but there is a guy at the main beach that sells really amazing fresh cocos. He freshly cuts them open for you, has paper straws and when you finished the water he cuts them completely open and cuts the coconut meat out so that you can eat it as well. It was the first time for me trying a fresh coconut and I already love the store bought coconut water, but this one was a dream!
Other great places that I want to go to next time are Folk and Byron Bay General Store.
What to do
There a plenty of things to do in and around Byron Bay. The most popular ones are day trips to Nimbin (the weed Mecca in Australia), diving and snorkelling, kayaking with dolphins, hiring surfboards, stand up paddle boards or kayaks and walking to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse walk should be a must for everyone visiting Byron Bay as it is super famous and beautiful. Not just at the destination, but also the way up and down. Especially when you take the walk at the coast/beach and not through the rainforest or at the street (even though they are shorter). First, you walk along the main beach, then up some small hills to get to Wategos beach, which is a dream for surfers in the morning and then some more hills until you arrive at the most easterly point of the Australian mainland and head to the lighthouse. If you are lucky you can spot turtles, dolphins or whales in the ocean and especially around sunrise and sunset the light is beautiful. I did the hike twice at daytime, once for sunset and once for sunrise and it was always a great experience. Especially when you can jump in the refreshing water afterwards to cool down again.
The beaches in/around Byron are super beautiful and as they are pretty big/long you can always find a nice calm spot to relax. The water has an amazing temperature, just right to stay in for long but still cold enough to cool you down and the waves are great to play and jump in. If you go at the right time and to the right spots surfing is great as well, I just wasn’t lucky to experience that…If you walk down the main road until the end you find the main beach to your right side and the dog beach to your left (both beautiful), a bit further along the coast in the direction of the lighthouse is Wategos Beach and Tallow Beach on the other side of the cap is wonderful as well and super empty.
It was always my dream to ride a horse at the beach and not far from Byron Bay, at Seven Mile beach it is possible. I booked a two-hour beach ride with Sea Horses Byron Bay and I can highly recommend them. I got the chance to help the owner making the horses ready and driving them to the beach as well as helping with the “after-riding-work” bringing them home, showering and feeding them. Most horses are rescued from the meat industry and live a wonderful life in a big open forest space now. You can tell that the owner really loves them by how she cares for them. They look super healthy, have a wonderful, spacious and natural home, get great food and get pauses from riding regularly. I spend almost the whole day on the ranch and riding and had an awesome and fun experience. It costs 140$ which is a lot, but after seeing how well the horses get looked after, I can say that it was totally worth it.
They say that surfing is awesome in Byron Bay. Especially when you go in the morning and know some nice spots with great waves, but I sadly didn’t get the chance. The Nomads hostel rents surfboards as well as many shops in the city and near the beach.
Nightlife is great in Byron, but a little different than in other backpacker hotspots. There are two clubs (Woodie’s and Cheeky Monkeys) where you can party every night and a lot of cool bars with live music, but Byron Bay is more about the street artists that are playing everywhere on the streets and especially at the park at the main beach. You get an amazing view over the beach, sea and lighthouse and can listen to some wonderful musicians while picnicking, drinking or playing card games with friends. There is also a van that does a silent disco at the beach with headphones which is super fun.
Near the Arts Centre in the western part if Byron there is a Yoga Retreat place that does daily yoga lessons taught by future yoga teachers that are practising teaching for only 5$ for 90 minutes, which is super cheap.
I’ve been three times and I still want to go back because there is still cafés I haven’t tried, waves I haven’t caught and beach days to enjoy… Byron is a dream and I can only recommend to go there if you love this beautiful alternative hippie vibe!
In total, I spend almost one month in Sydney. Living in Bondi Beach for 2 weeks and the rest in the City centre, so I would say I can give a good overview on places to see, what to do and tips for an awesome time in one of the most liveable Cities on the planet.
And because Sydney (and Australia in general) is a healthy/vegan/pretty Café and Food heaven there will be a Food Guide coming soon as well!
I can definitely say that Sydney is one of my favourite cities now. Especially living in Bondi Beach (or Manly), but I could not choose between Melbourne or Sydney (if we cut out the weather fact :D ) cause both have such different personalities and I really love them both for different reasons.
That’s why I would highly recommend visiting both when you plan to go to Australia. Here you can find my Travel Guide for Melbourne with all the essential tips and places to go and see.
Important things you need to know!
If you arrive at the airport in Sydney, avoid taking the tram to the centre (if you are on a budget). They are really expensive (about 20$ one way). Either take an Uber if you are several people that share the costs or take the Bus 400 to Bondi Junction and go from there to your destination (if you have the time, cause it takes longer).
On Sundays, you only pay 2,80$ for the whole day of using public transport (usually the daily maximum limit you could pay is 13$) so make sure you make use of it and take the Ferry or other long/expensive routes.
Things to Do
Opera House. See a show or a ‚behind the scenes‘, we watched the behind the scenes of the ballets Spartacus and the Nutcracker and it was amazing to see the ballet dancers in their training, it was only 29$.
See the Opera from many different perspectives. From the Harbour Bridge, the Botanical Garden, the Ferries that go to Manly or from the other side of the harbour.
Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden of Sydney is huge and shows many different plans from all over the country and the world. You can explore different sections with plants of different parts of Australia. The place is ideal for a nice picnic in the shades of palm trees and from the waterfront walk and Mrs. Macquarie’s Point you have a beautiful view over the Harbour, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the Downtown Skyline.
National Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Art Gallery located in The Domain is definitely worth a visit showing beautiful Aboriginal Art as well as modern Australian artists and exhibitions.
Museum of Contemporary Art. Another very nice museum with beautiful exhibitions and a great view from the Skydeck over the city and Harbour Bridge.
Walk on Harbour Bridge. When you walk on the Bridge you have a beautiful view over the Harbour, the Opera and the waterfront houses. There is also a Skydeck on one of the towers. The entry price is pretty high, but the view is for sure great.
Darling Harbour. This vibrant place is best to visit in the evening when everyone is out for drinks and dinner or at lunchtime when you can see the real Sydney-business people coming out of their Skyscrapers for a quick bite to eat and a chat with friends and colleagues.
Shopping. Great places to check out for shopping are around Town Hall and the Queen Victoria building.
At the Queen Victoria building, there is also the Jet Café & Bar that I can highly recommend to eat Carrot Cake. I went there every time I was nearby and it is the best carrot cake I’ve ever had and for the location definitely not overprices.
Peddy’s Market and Chinatown are also good to check out. It’s not as big as in Melbourne for example, but in the Peddy’s Market there is a section of fresh fruit & vegetables that are fairly cheap and good quality and the IGA upstairs is super interesting because they mostly sell Asian food and you can find some cool stuff to try out.
Once a month there is also a completely Vegan Market with lots of street food and great brands. For more information have a look at their Instagram @sydneyveganmarket. I am super sad that I never made it there…
Newtown. This part of the city reminded me a bit of Melbourne with all the street art, Vintage and Second-Hand shops and the people that walk around. Very hipster and cool. There are also many vegan restaurants and cafés located here like Gelato Blue, Golden Lotus, Lentils as Anything, Buddha Bowl Café, Gigi’s Pizzeria and more.
Surry Hills. Another lovely part of the town with many nice lunch spots and restaurants, shops and little boutiques. I lived there for one week in an Airbnb with my cousin and it is definitely the best place to live in the city centre because it is located very central, near the Centra Station that takes you basically everywhere and it’s not too far to walk to the Harbour and it’s still very quiet and calm and nice.
Manly. The ferry ride from and too Manly is already worth going. You have the most amazing view over the skyline, Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. But Manly in general is a super cute part of town you shouldn’t miss. The beach is really nice and the pedestrian streets are great to stroll around, shop and eat some yummy food. I can also highly recommend doing the walk along the water and West Esplanade. You can see some beautiful houses, lovely views and pretty birds. I would check out Shelly Beach if you have the time as the walk is beautiful to get there and the beach is supposed to be one of Sydney’s best beaches.
Rose Bay Beach. I went there several times when I was in Sydney in January because it is a beautiful beach. Not very busy and mostly locals going there, you have an amazing view and can see the city centre and Harbour Bridge in the background and the beach is a dog beach so you see many cute puppies playing in the water.
I lived in Bondi for 2 weeks, so I definitely know my way around and have checked out many places. I would always recommend staying in Bondi Beach for a few days if you have the time or at least visit the are of Sydney for one full day (or more!).
If I would have to choose a place to live in Sydney, I would pick Bondi Beach. I just really love the vibe: health, fitness, summer, surf and motivated people. Everywhere you look there is people working out, going for walks or surfs, enjoying the sun, healthy vegan cafés, smoothies and acai bowls and walking around in only a bikini and barefoot is no problem.
I stayed at Surfside Bondi Beach Backpackers twice and I can highly recommend it. Super great vibe, not such a big hostel, the owner and workers are really nice and it is located perfectly: 2 minutes to the beach and right near the main street.
You obviously can’t miss the famous view over the Icebergs Bondi Pool at the ocean just like the beach promenade and the lovely sunset colours over the ocean.
There is also a Coastal Walk along the beaches that is worth walking to see the best ocean views, nicest beaches and prettiest (and most expensive) houses of Sydney.
Shopping. I liked shopping in Bondi better than in the city centre because it is more casual and less stressful. Great shops to check out are Nimbleactive, Playa, the Vintage store on Hall street and all the nice boutiques and shops on Hall Street, Campbell Parade and Gould Street. There is also a big Westfield Shopping centre in Bondi Junction.
I will also share my food favourites of Bondi with you soon in an extra Sydney Food Guide so stay tuned!
Have you ever been to Sydney? What were your favourite places? Do you want to visit Sydney one day?