Our Portugal Travel Diary: Lisbon, Porto, and More
Lisbon had been number one on my immediate travel list for quite some time (and many others' it seems with a record 12.7 million tourist arrivals in 2017), so it was a dream to be able to go this summer not only with Andrew, but also with one of my best friends.
We stayed from Sunday to Saturday, the hottest week of their summer, and in that time, according to my Fitbit, we walked 45.95 miles or 111,860 steps (not counting a five-hour bike tour), and slept only 35 hours and 7 minutes. Needless to say, we covered some (mostly uphill) ground.
Rather than write about details in this post (scroll through our Instagram for those), we've decided to share the main points, our highlights and recommendations, and the things we missed (I had over-researched) for those of you planning a trip. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!
Where we stayed: Vila Nova de Gaia (two nights, though one would have been enough)
What we saw: Ribeira-Rio Douro, Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto Cathedral, Clerigos Church, Igreja do Carmo, Liberdade Square, Sao Bento Railway Station, Rotunda da Boavista, Casa da Musica, Serralves
Good eats: Zenith, a vegan-friendly brunch and cocktail bar where I wanted every item on the menu, and a cafe on an off-street along the river that I didn't note the name of but could lead you straight to, where I had the best breakfast of a Portuguese sandwich and iced tea.
What we missed: Livraria Lello, a bookstore frequented by J.K. Rowling when she taught English in Porto with a ridiculous line from open.
Our tip: Wake up early and wander along the river. Besides Igreja do Carmo, the famous blue and white tiled church we made a point to get to first thing in the morning (and ended up having the city to ourselves for an hour), we came across most of these sights by accident.
Porto is home to some of the loveliest people I've encountered as strangers in my life. It was such a departure from Seoul, or even the States. 'Bom Dia' and 'obrigado,' or good morning and thank you, were the most used phrases throughout the day, and most everyone smiled and was pleasant. It even had an effect on the tourists' attitudes and demeanors. It's a place I will always remember in this way, and I am so thankful to have had the chance to visit.
What we saw: Bertrand Chiado (the oldest bookstore in the world), LX Factory, Gare do Oriente, Sao Jorge Castle, Praca do Comercio, Rua Augusta Arch, Santa Justa Lift, Rossio Square, Alfama, Bairro Alto, Eduardo VII Park, 25 de Abril Bridge, Christ the King, bike tour to Belem including several sights through downtown Lisbon and Belem Tower, Padrao Dos Descobrimentos, and Jeronimos Monastery, Pink Street on Rua Nova do Carvalho
Good eats: La Paparrucha for dinner, a seemingly small restaurant until they lead you through the kitchen to the back where you can dine al fresco with the most incredible view. Hello Kristof for breakfast, where I ordered two drinks, two meals, and two cakes and finished all six. Pasteis de Belem, very reminiscent of Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, for the best Pasteis de Nata (we tested this thoroughly) and Brazilian soft drink. Time Out Market for bits from all of the best eateries.
What we missed: Palacio Fronteira, but we saw it from the outside.
Our tip: You will slip uphill and downhill on the cobblestones. Wear good shoes.
What we saw: National Palace of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, Castle of the Moors, Palacio da Pena
Good eats: Tulhas for dinner. If you're an adventurous eater, order the octopus—it was our waiter's 'must-eat' recommendation and one of the best meals we've had in our lives. Andrew enjoyed his glass of Flor Das Tecedeiras (red), another recommendation by our waiter, and would have enjoyed a second if we didn't have a train to catch. I don't enjoy drinking and it was even aromatic to me.
What we missed: Cabo da Roca, a cape that marks the westernmost point of mainland Europe, and one we're bummed to have missed.
Sintra is about forty minutes from Rossio Station and well worth the trip. I wish we'd skipped one of the palaces in favor of wandering and exploring, or better yet, had more hours or even another day there.
What we saw: Boca do Inferno, Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes, Ribeira Beach
Good eats: House of Wonders, a delicious vegetarian spot with lovely staff.
It's eminently clear once you arrive in Cascais that it is a wealthier area. Some of the buildings are the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. Andrew and I aren't beach people, or lying around while traveling people, so we were fine to have missed the beaches, but for beach lovers, the ones in Cascais would not be ones to miss.
other tips and suggestions
To see: Miradouros, or viewpoints—das Portas do Sol, De Sao Pedro De Alcantara, De Santa Luzia.
Ler Devagar, one of the ten most beautiful bookstores in the world.
Embaixada in Principe Real, a palace turned shopping gallery.
To eat: Santini for ice cream, Gelataria Nannarella, Landeau for chocolate cake, Bairro de Avillez for seafood, Taberna Rua Das Flores for tapas, Pharmacia Restaurant, Minibar (Michelin), LX Factory (Wish, a cafe and concept store, Oh!Brigadeiro for sweets, Cafe Na Fabrica for brunch, Cantina for lunch, 1300 Taberna, A Praca), Palacio Chiado, Tartine Bakery
Ginjinha, or Ginja, is a Portuguese berry liqueur, and the general consensus was that it's foul, but it still might be something to try.
To shop: A Vida Portuguesa for soaps, oils, and sardine-shaped chocolates, Ceramicas Na Linha, where you can pay for ceramic goods by the kilo, Icon for hand-painted tile coasters