I have to admit, Porto was not high on my list of places to visit. I actually only came based on my sister’s recommendation, but in the end I couldn’t have been happier with that decision. I’ve traveled to many cities around the world and indiscriminately loved them all, but there are few that hold on to my heart just a little bit longer, and Porto is one of them. It’s not flashy, but it doesn’t need to be and it exudes a quiet old-world charm and laid back vibe that some of the other cities lack.
Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal, known for its Port wines. Portugal’s second-largest city comes with all the history and allure of Lisbon but minus the crowds, congestion, and price-gouging. Not having gained the notoriety of other more well known European cities, it’s not as expensive as Paris or London, and it’s not as filled with tourists as Prague.
A long drawn out dinner filled with good cheap wine and hearty food was our experience while eating in Porto, a city that is about so much more than port wine. The dining scene in Porto has evolved over the years to become the next food destination of Europe. The unpretentious authentic northern Portuguese cuisine revolves around fresh local produce with delicacies such as francesinhas, sardinhas, and bacalhau taking center stage. We had many memorable dishes from a cheesy, oozy sandwich to freshly grilled fish. Here are a few of the restaurants we’ve visited during our stay in Porto: Continue reading
I use this blog as a way to share my travel experiences – both good and bad, and this one is a doozy. It started with a lost passport and ended with our dead-in-the-night scramble to get out of Portugal. As you read through this article, you’ll think to yourself, these are all rookie mistakes that I would never make. Trust me, I thought so too – until we made them all. Given that we have been traveling extensively for the last 8 years, it’s downright embarrassing, but what can you do? Sometime shit happens.
The picturesque town of Sintra, has long been a sanctuary for royalty and is known for their many fairy-tale castles and colorful palaces from the Romantic period. My favorite is Quinta da Regaleira, with its beautiful palace and extensive grounds filled with little pockets of gardens and secret tunnels. One of these tunnels lead to a tall spiraling well that was used for secretive initiation rites many years ago.
On the sixth day of our travel, we made it out to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe. The startling jagged cliffs dropped sharply down to the turbulent Atlantic ocean. The powerful bracing wind whipped across my face, mixing the briny ocean air with the sweet smelling grass. The setting sun covered by the thin layer of cloud and fog, cast a grey shadow over the rock face giving the place a wild rugged feel.
Lisbon with its many steep hills has lots of great look-out points. These miradouros are public plazas where visitors can rest their weary feet while admiring a magnificent view of the city. Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a terrace overlooking the Tagus river and the houses in the Alfama area. The long hanging vines and ceramic tiles not only provide some much welcome shade during a hot day, but also a romantic backdrop for many lovers.
Carmo Convent, located high on the hills of Lisbon was once the largest church in Lisbon. A devastating earthquake in 1755 destroyed most of the building, with the roof caving in on the congregation as they were attending mass. Today the ruin, with its skeletal remains, soaring arches, and roofless nave create a startling sight for visitors.
Porto is hilly, which means there are a lot of lookout points through the city. This particular one was at the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. On the left of the main park is a path that takes you down to these smaller gardens overlooking the Douro river and the Vila Nova de Gaia side. These secret gardens are pockets of serenity within the city, surrounded by flowers, large shaded trees, and amazing views. Once in awhile you’ll hear a sharp cry, but don’t be disturbed, it’s just one of the peacocks signaling a mate.
On the second day we headed out to Foz do Douro and Matosinhos, small seaside towns just north of Porto. It’s possible to walk there from the Porto city center by following the paved walkway that winds along the coastline, however it will take about 1-2 hours. On a nice day, you will find a lot of people out on the beach. The aesthetic and layout of this place reminded me of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, which is not surprising since Brazil was settled by the Portuguese.
We finally made it to Porto after a roundabout flight to London. Having heard so much about this quiet city from my sister, I couldn’t wait to see it for myself and had high expectations. The city itself reminds me of a lot of other European cities, but the difference is that it’s laid back and not overrun with tourists. I immediately fell in love with the rambling cobblestone streets lined with charming colorful apartments and their balconies filled with flowers. The city is small and walk-able, a definite bonus. Even with the rolling hills it was still easy to get around. We spent the first day exploring the city and immersing ourselves in the local culture. It doesn’t hurt that we are staying in an apartment instead of a hotel, making us feel even more like a local.