Somewhere between Kyoto trip and Hong Kong fashion experience, when silence on the blog just started to be worrying, I was in Portugal. Close friends of mine just got married and I was honored to be a part of the ‘Wedding Of The Year’ 😉 Both of them are Portuguese and the special day obviously took place in their home country. I decided that it would be a perfect opportunity for me to finally visit and explore this yet not explored land I heard so much about. 10 days of holiday and Portugal here I come!
To make the whole experience even more awesome, I managed to persuade my best friend to join me on that epic to be trip (well, it actually took her no more then 1 minute to make a decision, I wander why?).
And yes, it was epic! We started in Lisbon and after 2 days of exploring the city (my legs haven’t been so sore for a long time – this place requires you to have at least basic level of fitness!), we decided to rent a car and to start our journey towards Porto.
Instead of 3 hours, the trip took us 3 days. We wanted to see as much as possible around Lisbon and on the way to the wedding. We visited the most famous (and touristic, October was a good timing though, as we didn’t struggle with crowds) and beautiful places in that region of Portugal. Most of them took my breath away and I know for sure that there are many more fabulous villages, towns and places to explore that I didn’t get to see this time. Therefore, I have at least one good reason to go back! … (actually, I have way more!).
Mercado da Ribeira (Time Out Market) – is a 10 000 m2 of a great foodie hangout space where you can enjoy anything local! Its roots can be traced back to the 13th century, and it was once one of the most famous fish markets in Europe. Now it brings together some of the city’s most loved names in food and drink. To me Mercado da Ribeira has a fantastic vibe, I loved the space itself and it was hard to make me leave. It’s my kind of space 🙂
Torre de Belém a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was closed when I was there, so I didn’t get to see a view from its top, I’m not sure though, if there is much to regret…
I don’t want to bore you with all the ‘sightseeing’ details that you can obviously find in the Guide Books or Google, but … if you’ll ever decide to do something similar, you shouldn’t miss:
1. Sintra and in particular – Palacio National da Pena. It looks like from a fairy tale, the view from where it’s located is just breath taking and natural gardens/forests beauty around it is hard to describe.
2. Cabo da Roca, the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and continental Europe! I loved the view. You can visit it the same day as Sintra, as both are not far from each other and Lisbon.
3. Cascais, a lovely town by the Ocean, popular vacation destination with many stunning beaches around. You can stop there on the way back to Lisbon from Cabo da Roca. A tasty diner or just a drink, in one of many restaurants and bars located just by the Praia de Ribeira de Cascais (a beach), could be a nice reason to stop and stretch your legs.
It was already dark when we got there, so I have no pictures 🙁
4. Óbidos, a Medieval town located on a hilltop and encircled by a fortified wall. If you heard of Portuguese liqueur Ginjinha (or Ginja), that is the place to try it! It’s served as a shot, preferably from a “glass” made of chocolate, with ginja berry (similar to cherry) placed at the bottom. It’s like the best naughty combination ever 😉
5. Coimbra, an old Portuguese capital and a ‘student’s city’. University of Coimbra (founded in 1290) is the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world. During our short stay there, Erasmus students had an inauguration of an academic year. For a while we felt like in ‘Hogwarts’, surrounded by groups of students lead through the city by their older colleagues dressed in black gowns. I found this old town very magical due to it’s tiny streets and millions of stairs you have to climb to find your way around it.
source: By Anabela Maximiliano (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
6. The Monastery of Batalha. You just have to see it!
7. Aveiro, Portuguese Venice they like to call it. It’s a city quite unlike any other, a place where urban sophistication and modernity meet and merge with the unique marine environment in which Aveiro has its ancient roots. If you’re up for any seafood, you shouldn’t miss the Fish Market that dates back to 18th century.
8. Barra and Costa Nova – magical beaches of Aveiro accessible via the lagoon and canals. Little towns, sand dunes, one of the tallest lighthouses in Europe (Barra) and ‘palheiros’, the pretty wooden buildings that are painted in candy stripes and lend the Costa Nova beach a unique atmosphere. I definitely need to go back there!
Than we reached Porto! … and I fell in love with that city! I don’t know how to put that into words and tell you why. Was it the beauty of it, the vibe of the city, people’s hospitality and how welcomed everyone made us feel, it’s party side, food, Port wine 😉 or people we have met? Or was it all together?! (I think you already know the answer!) Whatever that was, from now on Porto has a special place in my heart. And I highly, highly, highly recommend visiting it if you haven’t so far!
Livraria Lello & Irmão, one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world. This is a place I highly recommend visiting (even if u need to queue to get the tickets and then to get inside!).
If you don’t say ‘No’ to a bit of sweetness, you shouldn’t miss the one and only Leitaria da Quinta do Paço (Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 47). They make the best Èclairs you can find in town!
Francesinha means Little Frenchie or simply Frenchie in Portuguese, it is a sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linquiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.
Best one I had was in Café Santiago (Rua de Passos Manuel 226).
The ceremony was held in a small town called Lamego, located around 120km East from Porto, in a stunning Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The building stands above the town on the hill of St. Stephen, up to which leads a long zigzag stairway of 686 steps. Surrounding dense forest, formidable view of Lamego and several works of art gave a mystical air to the set and was a perfect background for the already spectacular wedding.
For the further celebrations we had to drive few more km outside the town. The party was organized in one of the omnipresent terraced vineyards the region is well know for – Quinta Branca. I was very excited for that idea, yet I didn’t know what to expect… and now, that I’ve experienced it all, the only thing I can say, is … WOW!!! Welcome drinks and snacks served on a terrace with a gorgeous view, surrounded by grapes and then the reception… all night long celebrations… Portuguese know how to have fun! And it was a night to remember!
Yes, Portugal felt special. I feel like I want to go back as soon as possible. See more, explore more and learn more about this country. It felt good to be there, special with all the breathtaking sights behind every corner. If you’re wondering should you visit Portugal, stop wondering, just do it! It’s worth it! And remember – it’s not only about the place itself, but about the people!