Portugal Travel Guide
AHHH the moment has finally arrived! Hubby and I are HOME from our fantastic two week European vacation and are SO excited to share the details of our trip! I have put a lot of love into this post and the subsequent Spain posts, and am so excited to put them out as another resource! We LOVED Portugal (we both agreed it was the highlight of our trip) and would recommend anyone go, so hopefully this encourages you to do so :)
When we began researching what other countries we wanted to go to when we went to Spain, we agreed it would be easiest to check out Portugal. Initially, we compared Lisbon and Porto (the two biggest cities) and eventually decided to do both for very different reasons! We learned very quickly that Porto is one of the wine capitals of the world, and we knew we wanted to make that a focus of our days in Porto. And we did. And we don't regret a single moment!
Day 1: Porto, Portugal
Our actual first day was spent driving from Madrid to Porto- about a 5.5 hour road trip. The day was long and stressful because we were dead tired from traveling, CJ was learning how to drive a manual on the spot, and we were navigating the rules of the road in a language we don't know. By the grace of God, we made it in time to have a nice dinner at a mercado near our air bnb. A mercado is like a market here, but with artesian food and drink stations. So CJ had ceviche and I had a crepe. We also had the most delicious passionfruit sangria which was a wonderful foreshadowing of all that was to come!
On our *real* first day, we decided to walk downtown and just soak in the city. This is one of my absolute most favorite things to do everywhere we go. By getting out and just wandering around you soak in so much culture and every day life. You also get a chance to see and stumble upon things you otherwise might not have!
So we made our destination the Liberdade Square. The square features a large statue and beautiful building that boast of small shops and fabulous restaurants. The square is book ended by a museum and a hotel. In and around the square is a ton of shopping and lots of wine bars that made for a fun atmosphere to walk around and see what Portugal had to offer. We ended up eating at a restaurant that was supposed to have the BEST version of the traditional Portuguese dish Francesinha (pronounced frens-seh-sin-ha). We sat on their patio and had a fabulous view of the square. The staff was so kind, and offered us fabulous Port wine. AND the Francesinha was quite delicious. We then wandered more towards the river where we got amazing views of the river, the Dom Luis bridge, and stunning Porto.
We then wandered back to our air bnb and sniffed out somewhere close for dinner. We ended up at Madureira, as recommended by Trip Advisor, and loved what we had! We also got a wide selection of appetizers and dessert. Another great meal!
Day 2: Porto, Portugal and Douro Valley
Hands down, the BEST day of the trip. We spent a pretty penny on an all day wine tasting tour, and it was absolutely worth every penny. We had a guide who drove us to three different wineries and one coffee shop in the totally stunning Douro River Valley. This is the land of Port wine, and in fact have a trademark on the name and process of making Port wine. We learned so much, had so much fun, was so comfortable, and drank a TON of wine. We had lunch at one location, tasted wine from 1928 at another, and joked around with a wine maker at the last. It took all day, and was the perfect introduction to Port wine and really wine making in general. After that we felt much more prepared to taste wine the rest of the trip and know exactly what we were getting! And, it was the reason we ended up taking home SIX bottles of wine. WHOOPS.
Then we got home, exhausted, but knew we needed dinner. We again turned to Trip Advisor to find a place with Italian food. We found one super close, and both enjoyed a little more wine and traditional pasta dishes!
Day 3: Porto and Lisbon, Portugal
On our third day in Porto, we decided to cross over the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, and tour several wine tasting rooms. We were armed with new knowledge about Port wine and wanted to take it for a spin and try as many as possible! So we walked over the Ponte Luis bridge which offered absolutely stunning views of Porto and Gaia. Then we wandered around more historic parts of Porto before walking back over to Gaia for a tasting. We went to Sandeman's Winery and toured their winery and tried several of their wines. Which were FABULOUS. We then wandered over to lunch where we intentionally tried more wines. The main strip in Gaia follows the riverfront and is lined with wineries and eclectic restaurants. We ended up choosing one solely on aesthetics, and were not disappointed! My sense is there was no going wrong in your choice on a little lunch spot in Gaia. Unfortunately, I did not jot down the name of the restaurant. OOPS. But we had wine, gin and tonics, and more francesinha, and churros, nata, and gelato. Porto sent us off well!
Once we stuffed ourselves with delicious food we wandered some more before heading back to the car and driving down to Lisbon! Once we made it to Lisbon (after about 4 hours), we were exhausted and checked into our hotel before grabbing dinner. We again found a place close to where we were staying and were so happy with our choice. We had gourmet American style burgers and fries and fancy lemonade. After a couple days in Europe, this is exactly what our tummies needed! Then we turned in early and prepared for the day ahead!
Day 4: Lisbon, Portugal
We planned most of our trip with intentionality, but adding Lisbon was a last minute decision and we were not able to put a lot of planning into it. So when our Lisbon finally rolled around, we realized we were actually exhausted and might need a slower day before jumping into the rest of our trip. So, even though I know Lisbon has a ton of great things to offer, we really didn't tap in. The hotel we stayed in was really close to the city center so we ended up just walking around, popped in a few shops, and took in the culture (which was VERY different from Porto). Then we hopped in the car and went on yet another road trip. And for that, stay tuned!
This is just part one of our travel diaries, so stay tuned for more!