SHE BACK! Briefly. Probably will be gone again until my next trip haha. Listen, it’s hard to write advice-based blog posts when you have no idea what you’re doing with your life. Nobody told me!
Back to business– I’m finally sharing my Spain and Portugal trip details before they leave my brain permanently. This has been one of my favorite trips because a) you cannot go wrong with Europe, b) you cannot go wrong with Southern Europe, and c) you cannot go wrong with Southern Europe in late May. The weather was the best kind of hot, the food was incredible, and obviously the company was great. 😉
Every year my friends and I are like, “This is the last year we’ll all be able to do this!” and we continue to do it year after year. With no signs of stopping! Anyways, the itinerary.
I’m sharing the itinerary I recommend and I’m pretending we did this. Here it is.
Our Itinerary: Overview
Day 1 – Malaga, Spain
Day 2 – Granada, Spain
Day 3 – Granada, Spain
Day 4 – Lagos, Portugal
Day 5 – Lagos, Portugal
Day 6 – Lisbon, Portugal
Day 7 – Lisbon, Portugal
Day 8 – Seville, Spain
Day 9 – Seville, Spain
Day 10 – Leave
Don’t sleep on Malaga. I knew I would like this coastal town in southern Spain, but I definitely wish we reserved more time here. Upon first glance, it seems to be a pretty urban city, but once you get a little further in the streets, the Spanish architecture we know and love comes into full view. We stayed at an Airbnb in the center of Plaza de la Merced and loved the area. Our open-windowed flat let me eavesdrop on the conversations of every diner in the restaurants below me, but I was buzzing with excitement and couldn’t sleep anyway so WHATEVER!
After a blissful night’s rest, we walked around town, grabbed breakfast, and headed to our first destination of the day: Mirador de Gibralfaro. This is a “hike” (not a hike, but uphill walking that will cause you to sweat uncomfortably because you didn’t wear athletic clothing) to an incredible viewpoint of Malaga. It was the perfect way to see a lot of the city in a short span of time, which was exactly what we were looking for.
Afterward, we walked toward the beach neighborhood of Malaga, admired the architecture, and grabbed a beachside beer as we soaked in our first full day. Then, we were off to Granada!
Things to Do
- Castillo/Mirador de Gibralfaro – the hike/viewpoint we literally just discussed, pay attention
- Plaza de la Merced – A plaza, ya know. Shops, restaurants, etc.
- La Malagueta (neighborhood) & the Beaches
- Jardín Botánico Histórico La Concepción – botanical gardens
- Picasso Museum – never heard of him
Places to Eat
All we did was restaurant-hop in Plaza de La Merced by our Airbnb and order copious amounts of wine. I also enjoyed Cañadú, a vegetarian restaurant in the same area.
I had heard a ton of good things about Granada thanks to the 29,391 people that studied abroad there. And I was glad, because they were all great resources! We scored an awesome Airbnb that served as our hub for a couple days while we explored the area.
And explore we did! Our goals in Granada were as follows: 1) find some delicious and traditional tapas, 2) find some delicious and traditional wine/sangria, 3) consume those. I laugh while thinking back on this trip, because it truly consisted of walking around and eating and drinking. Granada was just the place to do that– we explored the winding streets of Albaicin, strolled around the Royal Chapel of Granada a couple bottles deep, and… upon doing some research, missed quite a lot. It’s a good thing I’d totally go back!
The main attraction is the Alhambra, a gorgeous palace and fortress right outside of Granada. If you’re planning on going, GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY! I looked a couple months in advance and tickets were already sold out for our days. You can still walk around the outside of the palace for free/without tickets, which is what we did, but apparently the real sights are inside.
Another activity I feel obligated to highlight was hiking the Sierra Nevadas, specifically Los Cahorros. We knew we needed to get some proper exercise if we planned to run solely on wine, bread, and cheese, so we prioritized our friends’ recommendations and headed south.
Besides the obviously beautiful scenery, it was amazing to get our bodies moving and see a different side of Spain. I could not recommend this hike enough! Afterward, our sweaty selves ate at one of the outdoor restaurants in the village near the mountains, and this lunch may have been the highlight of our trip. Not because of the food, necessarily, but sitting out in the sun with gorgeous views and a cold Alhambra beer– truly cannot beat it.
Things to Do
- The Alhambra – The top attraction in Granada, a palace and fortress of the Moorish monarchs
- Los Cahorros – Hike outside of Granada in the Sierra Nevadas
- Ancient baths (hammam) – Arab baths (spa experience)
- Mirador de San Nicolas Viewpoint – Viewpoint, can see the Alhambra
Places to Eat
- Bodegas Castañeda – Get a table outside and order all the tapas
- Cafe Futbol – Churros. That’s all.
- Taberna Salinas – More tapas, cute area
Lagos was, admittedly, the city I was looking forward to most. I had seen some incredible blog posts with giant rocks jutting out of the ocean, cobblestone streets, and basically everything I look for in a destination. I was ready to sit down after a few days of walking and just lay on the beach.
Lagos was unique in that it didn’t seem like it had a lot of “culture”–it looked like a lot of expats (a person residing in a country other than their native country) had landed there and built the town up to pull in tourists. Most of the restaurants we ate at were owned by Australians (at my fault) because their branding is UNMATCHED. I honestly didn’t mind it, but it’s definitely a different experience than the other cities we visited.
One of my favorite memories of the trip was when we set down our luggage and decided to explore one of the nearby beaches, thinking, “oh whatever, we’re not looking for the BEST beach, just a close one.” We picked up some fixings for a picnic and walked ten minutes to what was probably the most stunning beach I had ever seen. NOT BAD, Portugal! We sat there while the sun set and enjoyed the rocks and warm sand and hummus and I left promptly when the sun did 🙂 The town had already won me over.
We stayed at an Airbnb close to some beaches and Old Town Lagos, which is where all of the shops and restaurants are. If you are considering Lagos, look into renting a boat for the day! That was one thing I wanted to do but missed out on (and that damn Parasol in Seville).
Bottom line: Do I recommend going? Have you SEEN the photos from this place? It’s absolutely wild and if you happen to find yourself in Portugal, please go. Get ready to walk up some stairs, bring a wetsuit if you’re a swimmer, and charge your camera. Those are my three tips.
Things To Do
- Spend a day at Praia Do Camilo – An unreal beach pictured above
- Explore Ponta De Piedade – More of a viewpoint than a hike, get there before the crowds
- Wander around Old Town Lagos
Places to Eat
- The Green Room – A Kiwi-owned Mexican place with American portions and solid cocktails WHAT’S UP
- Coffee & Waves – Australian. Aesthetic. Avocado Toast. All you need to know.
- Nah Nah Bah – I almost didn’t put this place on because our server was an absolute (pardon my language) DICKWAD but the fries were insane and they’re well-known for their burgers. FINE, Nah Nah Bah, you win.
Driving into Lisbon was one of the most exciting and most stressful moments of the trip. These streets are no joke. They are steep, narrow, there’s people everywhere, and everything is distractingly beautiful. The tile and architecture is a DRIVING HAZARD. But once you park your car, man, (and haul your suitcase up a mountain to your place) you can breathe a sigh of relief and look around without fearing your life.
Lisbon, as you’ll see below, is absolutely packed with places to go and things to see. We could’ve easily spent a few more days here without running out of activities. Of course, most of our activities were centered around exploring the city and eating/drinking as much as we can while we did it. Sensing a theme?? I’ll stop talking about it now.
If there’s one takeaway from this whole blog post, it’s to BOOK THE BOAT TOUR. This was my favorite activity on the whole trip, and it cost me… $30? We booked through Airbnb experiences, showed up at a marina, and had a beautiful sunset boat ride with blankets and beers. Our guide told us all about the history of Lisbon and Portugal and general, too, so it felt less booze-cruisey and a little more ~classy. Of course, if booze cruises are more up your alley, you can absolutely arrange that.
My suggestion for Lisbon (if you’re short on time) is to prioritize a few places and stop at places along the way. Castelo de S. Jorge is in a cute area to explore, and we found a small winery near Praça do Comércio to do a tasting of port wine.
Things To Do
- Sunset boat tour – See note above for how I felt about this
- Port wine tasting – Didn’t know what it was, so I also didn’t know it was only considered port wine if it’s from Portugal
- Time Out Market – Only go if you’re good with crowds lol, but a cool indoor “food hall” tbh
- Belém Tower – We learned about this on the boat, but many people do a tour at the monument!
- Castelo de S. Jorge – Go if you’re into exploring castles/fortresses. I liked the views the best
- Praça do Comércio – A plaza area to walk around, we ate at one of the cafes next to it and it was delightful
- Explore Bairro Alto, Alfama – Cool neighborhoods to spend some time in!
- Day Trip to Sintra – Portugese fairytale with colored castles and the works
Places to Eat
Admittedly, this review of Seville is going to be lackluster. So many people study abroad here, as well, so I recommend asking them. We only had one day in Seville, but we packed in as much as we could! We TRIED, okay?
My favorite part of Seville was the heat, which, in May, as CHICAGOANS, was much appreciated. It was upwards of 90 degrees and we all loved it and ate outside for every meal. Our Airbnb was right across the river, pretty close to the Seville Cathedral, which was an area I could walk around in for hours. The architecture is stunning, there’s food at every corner, and I felt it was “quintessential Spain.”
Another highlight was Plaza De España– truly incredible. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
After walking around all day, grabbing drinks at a rooftop bar, and eating tapas near the cathedral, we walked back toward our Airbnb and closed the night with wine at Rio Grande (can’t vouch for the food, but we loved our waterfront, outdoor drinks). We had an early day of horseback riding the next day, so we headed home and rested our legs for the first time all day.
Early the next morning, we drove to a farm about thirty minutes outside of Seville and were introduced to Dani, our horseback riding instructor. We spent some time getting familiar with our chosen horses, and then set off for the countryside. It was an amazing couple of hours seeing a different side of Spain and watching my friends try to navigate being on horses. Priceless. This was the tour we booked and I couldn’t recommend it more! Dani is just out there living on a farm, giving people tours for fun and making a PRETTY penny doing it. We all seriously considered living on a farm after this experience, but I just don’t think I’m enough of a horse girl. And I’m afraid to do that thing where you clean dirt out of their hooves.
Things To Do
- Seville Cathedral – This was just a very very cool area to walk around. The detail is incredible
- Plaza de Espana – You can’t miss it ^
- Metropol Parasol – I’m pissed I didn’t see this
- Horseback Riding – Booked through Airbnb experiences and had a BALL
- Real Alcazar – Islamic/Moorish/Spanish style-architecture palace
That was about 2,000 words too long and I’m sorry. But I sincerely loved this trip, so if you consider going to any of these places, or know much more about them than me and want to school me in knowledge, please DM me and let’s FIGHT!