This March we headed to the beautiful country of Portugal for 9 days. Each place is a special experience; from visiting Porto up north, to the sunny beaches of Algarve and finally the super gorgeous city of Lisbon. We landed in Lisbon on a sunny afternoon, rented a car from the airport and we were on our way to Porto. The next morning we set out to explore the charming city.
Porto is known for all things right- beautiful churches, delicious food and of course the world famous port wine. We, however, were looking for more. We went for long walks during the sunset, saw the stunning view from Cais de Gaia, caught the perfect image of colorful houses rolling down the hill all the way down to the Douro river, and last but not the least experienced the old and new architecture. Ranging from Station São Bento, a neoclassical railway station to Casa de Musica, a fine example of cutting edge modern architecture by dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the architecture in Porto is stunningly varied.
I can keep talking about how amazing Porto is but right now I need to tell you more on how to go about enjoying the versatile city! After a sumptuous breakfast at the pretty little restaurant Belos Aires (trust me when I say this- one of the best croissants I ever had, were here ;)), we headed straight to see Casa de Musica.
Casa de Musica
If you are really into visiting museums and more so if they are designed by famous architects, then the Serralves Museum designed by Alvaro Siza is highly recommended. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the museum because it is closed on Mondays. Casa de Musica with its multifaceted white concrete exterior is the best place to see the historic and contemporary building together, in one frame.
Livraria Lello Bookshop
The best thing about city trips is that you are flooded with options as per your interest. So, next up on our list was the Livraria Lello Bookshop or as we would like to call it the Harry Potter bookstore. Rumor has it that J. K. Rowling drew inspiration from the interiors of this bookstore for her book. I will let the pictures do the talking, but only with one side note- you need to pay a small fee of 4 euros to enter which can later be compensated if you buy a book.
Torre dos Clérigos
As the clouds cleared up a little bit, we grabbed our chance to climb up the tall bell tower, Torre dos Clérigos to get a panoramic view of the city. Higgledy Piggledy terra-cotta roofs plus Douro river and add to the cloudy day- Voila! You get beautiful pictures!
São Bento station
The neoclassical São Bento station remains functional even today. The interior is adorned with splendid azulejo ceramic tiles. A walk through the door takes you a hundred years back in time. Each of these tiles tells you about the history of Portugal; the atmosphere really soaks you in the past.
Sé do Porto
The view we saw from Torre dos Clérigos got us craving for more so we headed towards Sé do Porto. Yeah, it is the cathedral but the view from the terrace there was so worth it. We got some really nice pictures.
Cais da Ribeira
Being a riverside city, Porto boasts of a fine historical center- Ribeira. The narrow, medieval alleys in Cais da Ribeira is the best neighborhood to experience the true essence of the riverfront city. We ended up in Praça da Ribeira, at first it may look like any other European square but we were surprised by how different the vibe was. Colorful houses, the mighty river of Douro, the dominant Dom Luis I bridge, we could see it all in one glance from this square. There are many restaurants and cafés in this area, the lovely ambiance in these restaurants is extremely inviting and also a good place to relax a little before you start walking uphill to the top deck of the bridge.
Dom Luis I bridge
To get to the top deck of Dom Luis I bridge, we started walking towards the junction of the bridge and Cais de Ribeira. After climbing a rather modest flight of stairs, we finally reached the superior deck which is reserved only for pedestrians and the yellow metro line. The view from here is amazing. You can see both sides of the city and if the day is clear enough you can admire the whole city from here.
Cais De Gaia
After spending some time at the Ponte de Dom Luis we reached Vila Nova de Gaia, the other side of the river, mostly known for its wine cellars. We walked down towards Cais De Gaia. When thinking about Porto, we had an image in my mind of colorful buildings and the sun setting against them and the best place to realize that imagination is to relax at the decks in Cais De Gaia and watch the sun set. The wooden deck built on the banks of the Douro river floats above water and you can feel that when runners pass you by in the evening and the deck moves with every step.
We had a really nice visit to the city of Porto. Although we just had one full day there we were able to experience the place to its fullest, walking along the streets and admiring the city views. If you have more time and the weather permits, we can suggest a boat trip on the Douro river, which will even be better if it takes you deep in the Douro Valley till Peso da Régua. When we went to Porto earlier this month, it was raining and even though the temperature was moderate, the wind was a little chilly so we couldn’t take the boat ride.
Next day, however, we drove through the Douro Valley. With terraced landscapes, it’s one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Driving along the N-222, from Peso de Régua to Pinhão, that cuts right through the heart of the Douro Valley, the road offers amazing views of the terraced hillsides. You can choose depending what you prefer- driving or sailing and also the weather but a visit to the valley is a must. We ended our day in the Algarve region. Yes! we drove all the way to the south from Douro Valley and called it a day! Coming up next is the super sunny beaches of Algarve.
We hope that this post inspired you to take that next flight to Porto! Do let us know your stories in the comment section below if you have been there already. We would love to hear from you.