After two years of scheduled adventures, we were finally able to take our fourth family Adventures by Disney (ABD) vacation earlier this month. After three other European adventures, I had been hoping for a Portugal tour and was thrilled when they added it as an option last year. Eventually, last year’s trips were canceled, but this year they were on!
If you are considering taking the Adventures by Disney Portugal trip, or are just interested in Portugal in general, here’s an overview of our experience. As always, it was fantastic, with so many great surprises along the way. While I will provide an overview of the trip, I’ll leave some details out to keep some surprises.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and a purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. We did attend a 2-night complimentary NYC AbD in 2018 but paid full price for our four European trips.
Adventures by Disney Portugal Trip Report
As always, we decided to stay an extra night before our adventure began. Our flight to Porto, Portugal included a layover in Paris, France. We had an extremely tight connection and basically ran to our gate, stopping only at a frustratingly long security line. While we would have missed the flight if it were on time, it was luckily a few minutes late and we made it with time to spare.
Unfortunately, our bags did not. We spent our first 24 hours in Porto without them. Ultimately, we had to return to the airport to get them the next day because they were so behind on delivering them that it would be several days to receive them. It didn’t put a damper on our vacation at all, however.
Porto tends to be foggy in the mornings, so we sat on the tarmac for a bit waiting to get the go-ahead for our flight to take off. Once we were in the air, the pilot requested that all electronic devices get turned off because of the visibility and necessary reliance on flight equipment. That was something I’d never experienced before while flying.
After napping once our room was ready, we were able to explore the city a bit by foot. Our hotel, the InterContinental Porto – Palacio das Cardosas see reviews here, was in a central location right in the heart of the city.
It is a hilly city, but we enjoyed walking around to get a light dinner, purchase some essentials to replace items in our delayed bags, and see the city. We also had to stop to pick up our first of many Pasteis de Nata, a ubiquitous custard tart Portuguese delicacy. As always on the first day of a European vacation, we had to go to sleep early when jet lag hit.
After a full night’s sleep, we had breakfast at the extensive buffet at our hotel (included in our AbD stay). Then, we met our adventure guides, Lori and Maria. They were both helpful in getting details on our lost bags, especially Maria who was able to translate and get information faster than we could. Once we had confirmation that our bags had arrived at the Porto airport, we took a quick ride to pick them up.
Again, we set out to explore Porto, this time heading to the riverfront to have lunch by the water. We found Cafe de Cais, which had gorgeous views of the Douro River. It was a nice place to relax and enjoy some food and drink before our adventure started.
In the evening, we met up with the rest of our group for our first official event. After a reception on the patio outside the hotel, we enjoyed a buffet dinner while meeting our travel companions for the next eight nights. Even after the first night, it was apparent that this was going to be a fun group to travel with.
Day two started early, but we had luckily adjusted to the time difference. After another fantastic breakfast at the hotel, we met in the lobby and walked over to the famed São Bento railway station, located across the street from the hotel. It’s filled with gorgeous Portuguese tiles (azulejos), most of which tell a story.
We then went back to the hotel entrance to greet our Tuk-Tuk drivers for the next portion of the day. These could accommodate about four people (five if necessary). Our driver, Miguel, was great, offering commentary about the city and sites as he drove us with the group.
There were several stops on the Tuk-Tuk tour, including a visit to the Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore), a bookstore that was rumored to be an inspiration for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling (a fact the author has since denied). Although there was a line wrapped around the corner, we were able to skip the line as part of our tour. It’s a beautiful bookstore but was very crowded.
Our Tuk-Tuk also took us to the Church of San Francisco (where we were unable to take photos), and the exterior of the Monastery Serra do Pilar, where we were able to get some stunning photos of Porto from a distance.
Lunch was at the popular Brasao Coliseu restaurant, where they served the famed Porto sandwich, the Francesinha, which includes several kinds of meat, french fries, a fried egg, a beer sauce, and cheese. Our lunch included the half portion, which is still too large for most people to conquer at lunch.
Post lunch was the perfect time to do our Porto Bridge Climb. This is one of the three activities on this AbD that had a less active alternative. Guests who didn’t want to do the bridge climb could ride on the Teleferico de Gaia cable car.
Our group arrived at the bridge climb, got into our harnesses, and was given a demonstration of how it worked. It wasn’t too strenuous – it was mainly climbing a lot of steps. We climbed up to the center of the bridge, and then turned around and went back down. It was a unique experience – I’d definitely recommend trying it if you feel up to it. It’s not really scary – you are a safe distance away from the ledge, and are also harnessed.
We then got a break to shower and change for our evening in Gaia, across the bridge from Porto. There, we did a tour and tasting at Cockburn Port Lodge. Dinner was at nearby Vinum at Graham’s Port Lodge. It was a beautiful location with some great views of Porto and Gaia. Overall, it was a great night and a wonderful end to a full day.
Day three again started relatively early. On this day, we ventured about 90 minutes by bus into the Douro Valley (the wine region of Portugal). Our day started with a kayaking trip with a boat cruise alternative. We had the option of changing clothes and I would recommend bringing a change of clothes although the changing facilities weren’t optimal.
These were two-person kayaks, and everyone had to wear a life vest. The scenery was absolutely beautiful – I wish we had gone a little slower so I could take photos. If you want to take pictures, I’d recommend bringing a water-resistant case to protect your phone (you can find these on Amazon).
After changing and meeting the group members who didn’t kayak, we drove about 40 minutes to Quinta da Pacheca, a winery with a restaurant and lodging (you can even stay in a large wine barrel!). This was such a beautiful spot.
We started with a cooking demonstration/class, where members of our group helped prepare two cold appetizers – cod and octopus. There was also a lamb appetizer dish. Some members of the group headed to the dessert table to make sugar cookies. Our main entree, duck rice, was prepared by Chef Marco.
The food was fantastic. While I wasn’t sure about it, I really enjoyed the duck rice. During dessert (creme brulee) one of the guests in our group talked to Chef Marco about dinner ideas, and we ended up joining in on a dinner reservation to a local restaurant in Gaia for our “On Your Own” time in the evening.
Our afternoon in the Douro Valley ended with a cork craft that we completed at Quinta da Pacheca. Then, we boarded the bus to go back to the hotel, where we had free time for the rest of the evening.
After some time to freshen up, six of us boarded an Uber to Taberna Do Sao Pedro in Gaia. This local hot spot features a chef cooking whole fish, shrimp, meats, and octopus right on the sidewalk. We enjoyed watching him cook while we waited a few minutes for our reservation.
Overall, this was probably my favorite dinner in Portugal. The food was amazing, and it was so fun to be in a local restaurant, with freshly prepared entrees. We asked the host for a recommendation for gelato, and he gave us the name of a place we hold us we “had” to visit. Although it was another Uber ride away, we decided it was worth our time to visit.
After I gave him the name of the gelato place, the Uber driver told me that it was a popular bar. When we arrived, however, it was a bustling dessert restaurant with a gelato counter – definitely worth the visit. The driver translated the name of the restaurant – “O Gato Comeu-te a Lingua” as “The Cat Got Your Tongue”.
After our gelato, we went back to the hotel to pack up for our move to Lisbon the next morning.
Day 4 had us saying goodbye to Porto as we headed south to Lisbon. It’s about a 3-hour drive, so we did have a stop mid-way at a service area with food and restrooms. The Portuguese rest areas that we filled are filled with food, coffee counters, and more, so they are a nice place to stop.
Once we arrived in Lisbon, we immediately went to the Tagus River waterfront to board a luxury yacht for a tour of the coast. This ended up being one of my favorite activities of the trip. The weather was perfect, and it was a great way to see the Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Christ the King monument.
When our cruise was over, we docked at the 5 Oceanos Restaurant, a waterfront restaurant offering seafood and great views. I had Bacalhau a Brás, a traditional Portuguese shredded cod dish, and it was one of my favorite meals of the trip.
After a long, leisurely lunch, we returned to the bus for a quick guided tour from our guides. We visited Jeronmios Monastery, where we had a quick tour to visit inside and take photos. Next, we headed back to the waterfront to visit both Belem Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries.
At the Monument to the Discoveries plaza area, the kids decided to order freshly squeezed lemonade from one of the street vendors. If you have time to just enjoy walking around this area, I’d definitely recommend it.
Next, we went to our hotel, the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Lisbon to check in and unpack. In typical AbD fashion, we were led to a separate desk to check in. Keys were all ready, so we just had to provide our credit cards for incidentals.
This night, our first night at the Tivoli Avenida, was Junior Adventurer night. Parents dined in the hotel’s restaurant while the kids ate with the Adventure Guides and then watched a Disney movie. Although the majority of the kids in our group were teenagers, they all collaboratively decided to participate.
Day 5 was really our day to explore the best of Lisbon. We started our day with tuk-tuks again – this time with a graffiti/street art tour throughout the streets of Lisbon. Tuk-tuks are a great way to explore these narrow streets, and they move surprisingly fast.
There were various stops where we got out of the tuk-tuks and joined our local guide Pedro for commentary about the specific artwork and neighborhoods. I really enjoyed this – it felt like something very unique to the city, and the kids loved seeing the art.
We ended at LX Factory, a former factory complex now home to trendy shops and restaurants. We did a walking tour of a few pieces of street art there and then settled in at Taberna 1300 for lunch. After lunch, we had some free time to shop and explore the area.
Once again, we had to work off our lunch, with a climb up to the beautiful Sao Jorge castle. It’s a bit of a steep climb, but we took breaks throughout the journey to catch our breath and see some of the local neighborhoods.
Although it is a bit of a hike, the views from the castle grounds were certainly worth the extra cardio. In addition to the views, we also saw some stunning peacocks in the wild – something I’ve never seen before.
We had a bit of free time to explore the exterior on our own and then met up with the group for a much easier walk downhill. On the way, we walked through the Alfama neighborhood and learned about the history of the area.
After some free time to shower and freshen up, we boarded our motorcoach again for a ride to the Bairro do Avillez restaurant in the Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon. From famous Portuguese chef Chef José Avillez, this restaurant is actually several concepts under one roof – including a speakeasy. We enjoyed dinner, and some people in the group made plans to meet up at Sky Bar at SEEN, the swanky rooftop bar at our hotel.
Sky Bar is definitely a popular spot where hotel guests mingle among the trendiest Lisbon residents. It does have a casual chic dress code, and flip flops, athletic shorts, and other more casual clothing items aren’t permitted. It’s a fun hotspot, with great views, and is worth visiting. In this case, we had a late morning meet-up the next day, so it was the perfect timing.
After the aforementioned late wake-up, we boarded our motorcoach to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of the continental Europe. It was a bit foggy, but there were still some great views from this location. There’s a monument commemorating the spot.
We then moved on to a waterfront restaurant, where we were treated to a giant lunch at Mar Do Guincho. Once again, we worked off our meal, this time with an eBike ride from Guincho to Cascais. Those of us who passed on the electronic bike ride took the coach to Cascais, where we had more time to explore the shops.
Next, we headed to Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site most known as the home of Pena Palace. We had some free time to explore the town and grab a quick dinner. Because lunch was so heavy, we opted to share a pizza before meeting up with the group to tour Pena Palace.
Our tour of Pena Palace was easily the most special part of our Adventures by Disney trip. It was after hours, and we were the only ones there. Our guide Maria led the tour, and we all couldn’t stop taking pictures. It’s such an iconic palace, and it was such a great opportunity to be able to visit with no crowds.
It was a late night, but we had to pack up, because the next morning, it was time to move from Lisbon down to the Algarve.
As we boarded the bus to the Algarve I was both excited to go to the beach and a bit disappointed that we were nearing the end of the adventure. At this point, it had become obvious that this was going to be my favorite Adventures by Disney trip of the ones we had taken.
We started our day a little outside of Lisbon, where our group split into two smaller groups. One smaller group went to learn how to make cheese, while the other group learned about tile making and had the chance to paint our own tiles.
My group started with cheese, but we quickly were distracted by Cookie the dog, a miniature poodle who was very eager to sample any of our dropped cheese. Cookie was definitely a highlight of our day. After our cheese-making demonstration, we were able to sample some cheeses, along with Moscatel wine.
Next, we traded places with the other group and headed to the tile-making shop. There, we learned about the tradition of hand-making tiles and then had the chance to paint our own. There were stencils that we could use, or we could opt to freehand our design. The tiles still had to be fired, so we left them there and then boarded our bus.
Our next stop was to By the Wine, a restaurant located at the Jose Maria da Fonseca Winery. We were able to sample some local foods, including steak sandwiches and chocolate mousse. Next, we walked over to the winery, where we walked through the gorgeous grounds to a historic wine cellar, before doing one more wine tasting.
When we were done with the tasting, we boarded the bus for a three-hour drive down to the Algarve. Once we arrived, we were again able to check in to the hotel at a private desk. We only had a few minutes before our dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant.
On this night, we had two options for dinner (included in our trip, but not together with the group). Guests could either opt for a tasting menu at the more upscale restaurant, or the buffet at the casual restaurant. Most of us chose the buffet, so we’d have some free time at the resort. It was a great buffet with lots of options, and the view was absolutely stunning.
Our third hotel, the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort, also had a Sky Bar. This one, however, was very different – closing at 10 pm. It looked like a great place to enjoy the sunset.
After a late breakfast, we had one final coach ride down to Carvoeiro Beach. There, we met up with some small boats to take us on our cave boat tour. For this particular activity, we did have to take off our shoes and wear a small lifevest. Boats accommodated about 6-10 passengers, and we had to step in just a little bit of water before getting into the boat.
The cave tour was such a fun part of the trip. The smaller boats were really able to get into the caves, and we joined larger boats and kayakers on the water. Overall, it took about 90 minutes and included some slower time as we headed into the individual caves, and some faster time as we traveled back to the beach.
After some free time in the beach town, we had the choice of either a cliff walk back to the hotel from Carvoeiro Beach or a ride back on the coach. Some guests stayed at the beach – it was about a 10-minute walk to the hotel from there on the direct path.
After a mostly free afternoon, we had to get ready to say bye to the group. This was especially difficult as this group got very close over the 9-day trip.
We had a beautiful outdoor reception, and then dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Mare, which is typically closed at dinner. After dinner, some of us went back up to the Sky Bar for a little more time as a group.
I was sad to leave the Tivoli Carvoeiro – it was such a beautiful hotel and we didn’t have much time there. Most guests were traveling to the Faro Airport in the Algarve, about 60 minutes away. We, however, couldn’t get a good flight out of Faro, so we decided to travel to Lisbon for an overnight before flying back to Boston.
Originally, we had planned to take a train, but as our luggage grew on the trip, I realized it would be difficult to do that. Instead, we asked the hotel to assist us in booking a private car service back. While it was more expensive, it was such a smooth ride – door to door with no need for a cab. I was also able to choose a time convenient for us to leave.
For this last day, we booked the Olissippo Lapa Palace, a gorgeous historic resort hotel. It has a beautiful outdoor pool within a garden, which was the perfect place for us to relax for the afternoon. As an Amex benefit, we had a $100 food and beverage credit, which we used for a poolside lunch.
Dinner was at the Time Out Market Lisbon, a food hall located about a mile from our hotel. We met up with some local friends and enjoyed our meal before returning to our hotel to pack up for our return home.
Luckily, our return flight was easy, and our bags arrived with us in Boston. We absolutely loved this trip – and although it was the first year for Adventures by Disney in Portugal, it appeared completely seamless.