Porto, Portugal

Thinking of going Portugal? Why? Porto offers more than Lisbon!

Flights: Return flights with Monarch are available for under £100.

Time: 3 nights in July; Not too busy yet and temperature can be around 30 degrees.

Accommodation: Rock n Roll Porto hostel (£10 per night and breakfast included!) Slightly out of the way, but clean and plentiful facilities.

Transport: Well connected by train get Andante card from the machines which you can then top up or a Siga card from the main station for journeys outside Porto.

Day 1: Exploring Porto

Upon arriving at the Sao Bento station (lockers available) from the airport you are greeted with one of the most beautiful stations in Europe; tiled fully in a true Portuguese manner and making a fantastic first impression. Make your way down to the Ponte de Dom Luis I Bridge (a pioneering feat of metallic engineering) to cross the River Duoro passing the cathedral on the way. The views from the other side consisting of Orange roofs are reminiscent of Dubrovnik, Crystal Blue rivers with old fishing boats underneath making Lisbon ordinary. Other viewpoints worth mentioning are the Miradouro da Vitória which are less busy and calmer.



The Cais da Ribeira is the main promenade for eating and drinking for tourists but quality here is par. Sights in Porto include the Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange) and Clerigos Tower observation deck (open till 11pm at night) which I both recommend without using over the top complimentary adjectives. The Livraria Lello library is probably the most popular touristy place but I was out quickly due to the crowds. I took the boat tour under the bridges but I was immediately filled with regret when I realised there was an extreme jet boat tour! Porto is obviously famous for Port and wines , so finding a wine tasting tour is no bother as they are scattered around the city! My particular highlight was taking the old tram outside Greja de São Francisco to Foz lighthouse where the Douro meets the Atlantic Ocean and then jogging back (10km) along the seafront, the Portuenses don’t dawdle when running! (I enjoyed this running route so much I did it twice!) Price for everything is cheap to reasonable so no need to worry your bank balance. Nightlife means heading towards Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Cândido dos Reis where a medley of locals and tourists drink till their hearts content in the streets, bars or clubs. If you’re heading for a night out then locals head out at 3am till 7am!!!

Day 2: Braga

Firstly head to the Bolhao market in Porto and pick up some fruit and Portuguese signature codfish/crab bites and pastel de nata (egg custard tarts). Catch the train to Braga (tickets are cheap but train is painfully slow 1hr 30mins).  A short walk from the station; Braga is a nice enough town to mooch around but my UNESCO hunting ways led me to check out the Bom Jesus Do Monte sanctuary; take the local bus (City bus 2 and less than 2 euros – get information from the tourist centre – do not take the expensive sightseeing touristy bus). My expectations were low but boy how wrong I was, this turned out to be the highlight of my trip. The stairs with its unique architecture, with fountains and statues along the way… then BAM! I turn around and see Portugal in all its glory, a completely unexpected view! The sanctuary is surrounded by a park where families come to picnic and partake in some boating. My recommendation would be to definitely make a day of it here! I heading back to the Braga city and thought I’d try their dish of ‘Bacalhau à Braga’ it’s essentially a fancier but shittier fish and chips! Oh well now to return to Porto and revisit the nightlife again! 😉

Day 3: Miramar and Aveiro

So after another visit to the market and a quick visit to the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal park for a morning exercise accompanied by yoga enthusiasts time to jump on the train (1hr 15mins) heading to Miramar and then to Aveiro; Miramar gives those with a beachy disposition a chance to sunbathe but I was here for the Capela do Senhor da Pedra, a church in the middle of a beach famous for it alleged witchcraft roots, it’s a short stop for me due to not lacking in Melanin. Back on the train to Aveiro apparently dubbed ‘Venice of Portugal‘, a phrase that I despise! The gondola trip was pleasant but I probably should have explored Coimbra instead to explore the Moorish and Christian influence on the city.

Day 4:

A quick stop here as I had a late flight to catch, Guimarães got the nod over Viana do Castelo due to its Unesco status, Guimarães (1hr 30mins on train) is nice enough with churches upon churches and a little castle but I was left wondering if Viana do Castelo would have been a better choice, however public transport is not as easy.

Guimares, Portugal

Summary

Porto was a surprise at how beautiful is was and produced more ‘ oh wow!’ moments than Lisbon; the only thing Lisbon has over Porto is it’s presence of a proper castle. The day trip to Braga to see the Bom Jesus Do Monte is a must and I do have a soft spot for a place with a good running route; but it’s hard to really convince someone why Porto is better than Lisbon; but Porto will live on in the memory yet Lisbon is a distant hazy collection of images.



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