Hi again! Previously I brought you my travel tips about Dresden and now I would like to share my memories and some tips with you in case you have been thinking about visiting Portugal for a long time, or just decided to go there an hour ago! Today we will explore the best of Lisbon, Porto and Sintra.
At the beginning I will give you some general information about Portugal. Portugal shares borders with Spain and it’s the most western country in Europe – sounds interesting, am I right? If you want to have a condensed view of European landscapes, culture and the way of life, Portugal might be one of the best options for you. I have been there twice and I am sure I will go there again. My both visits were in February (Yes, it sounds cold but believe me, even in February it’s +18 and sunny…and nothing can spoil your time there).
I have visited only Lisbon and Porto and some small villages nearby (for me it is better to visit fewer cities but to feel them, rather than explore the whole “Europe on two feet a day”. That is why today I will tell you about these 2 cities.
How to get there?
As it was a planned trip, I booked flight tickets in advance (Warsaw-Lisbon-Warsaw) and it was only 80 euros (which is very cheap I think). From Lisbon to Porto I travelled by bus – 4 hours and 20 euros- may be you will find a cheaper way to get there, but I didn’t have enough time for it and used a simple intercity bus.
Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe. There are a lot of tourists all year long and you have to be prepared for much attention (especially if you are a woman), tasty food, good wine and hospitality….let’s go!
I will tell you about places I have visited and advice YOU to visit!
Top Attractions in Lisbon
Rossio Square (Pedro IV Square)
Lisbon’s most famous square. There’s no better place in Lisbon to soak up the local atmosphere than at Pedro IV Square. It has been the city’s main gathering place since the Middle Ages. Today, it’s the place where friends meet up and as a result it’s always crowded – you will not miss it.
Monument to the Discoveries
It is the mammoth white-stone Monument to the Discoveries. Do you all remember Vasco da Gama- the first European to reach India by sea….Yes-yes, he was from Portugal. Now you understand why they have this monument and so proud of it. You can ride an elevator to enjoy the view from the top of this Lisbon landmark.
The oldest quarter in historic Lisbon, the Alfama district is dotted with architectural landmarks and it’s the charm of the neighborhood’s meandering streets, tasty food and wine, clubs with Fado (amazing music) that make the Alfama a can’t-miss destination.
And one more life-hack – Tram line #28
The historic “tram” takes you through the city’s oldest sectors past some of Lisbon’s most popular sights and attractions. You don’t have to pay extra money (the ticket costs like a normal one – 3 euro).
Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, this statue was designed to protect sailors on their voyages, faces the river and makes an incredible impression on you.
Now, it’s time for Porto. To tell the truth I liked it more than Lisbon and spent more time there, but of course you have to come there and make YOUR own choice.
World famous for its production of fine port wine, the busy city of Porto is located around the hills overlooking the Douro River in northern Portugal. At the heart of Porto is the charming pedestrian zone, the Ribeira. It is very atmospheric place. You can sit near the river, listen to live music, visit cafes, restaurants and street vendors. But there are other attractions, about which I will tell you now.
Top Attractions in Porto
The cathedral is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, art and architecture. A staircase ornamented with ceramic tile work leads to a second level where narrow windows offer impressive views. But don’t forget that it is open only till 6 p.m. (at least it was like this this winter).Don’t leave it to the evening program.
Sao Francisco Church
It is the most prominent example of Gothic architecture in Porto. You can think that it’s too much architecture in my list, but in my point of view it’s the best way to “feel” the city and nation.
Casa da Musica
When you are interested in contemporary architecture – you are welcome to the Casa da Musica. The home for the National Orchestra of Porto …..yes, it looks a bit different from what we have in our country. You can take a guide tour of the facility all week long, and special packages include backstage passes and free samples of port wine.
Dom Luis Bridge
The Ponte de Dom Luis I is the most famous of the several bridges that span the Duoro River. I came here several times a day. When you are here you will understand why. The massive iron bridge has both an upper and lower deck with beautiful lights in the evening. A pedestrian walkway on the upper deck offers spectacular.
Along with an inventory of more than 60,000 books, an exuberant mix of Art Deco and Gothic Revival architectural styles makes the Livraria Lello one of the most famous bookstores in Europe. Rumored to have provided inspiration for author J.K. Rowling, who worked as an English teacher in Porto when writing the Harry Potter books, the bookstore is now visited by fans of the series from all over the world. In addition to books covering every nook and cranny, the century-old shop features a double helix staircase, a stained-glass skylight and a small café on the second floor.
I began my visit to Porto in the Ribeira, the medieval historic district located near the Duoro River, because my Couchsurfer was living there ( by the way, it is very easy to find hosts there- people are very open and friendly. But you should do it in advance of course). It’s also a departure point for cruises on the river and for boat rides to the port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. For those traveling by foot or car, the Cais da Ribeira offers easy access to Dom Luis Bridge as well. Believe me – it’s spectacular.
After 2 days in Porto I decided to check a place not far from Porto, called Sintra. On the internet I have read a lot about it and the photos made there looked fascinatingly. I needed to watch it with my own eyes. It takes you some time to get there (I decided to take a train to have time to observe all the beauty of the countryside and didn’t regret about my choice).
Sintra National Palace
For me it is one of the most beautiful palaces in Portugal. In the interior you will find a mix of Moorish and Manueline styles. It dates back to 1385, when this palace was in use by the royal family until 1880. If you are interested in more history- it is better to take a guide, but for me it was enough just to observe all this beauty around.
Quinta da Regaleira
It has been owned by the city of Sintra as a public building for the past two decades, and is one of the most popular public tours.
Even if you are not interested in histore just find a day to come here and you will get a bonus – Cabo da Roca. It is a cape which forms the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and continental Europe (and by definition the Eurasian land mass). It is captivating- there you will understand all the beauty and power of our world. I think it is a good point to say to Portugal “See you soon!”.
Of course it’s impossible to tell you everything – I told only 20 % of what I experienced. Next time I will write more about gastronomy and Portuguese style of life.
And remember – we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.