About 3 weeks ago, I hopped on a bus with a travel group from Madrid and headed to this beautiful country by the Atlantic ocean; Portugal. We only got to visit 3 cities for the weekend. Based on my experience and some recommendations here’s a list of activities one must experience before leaving Portugal.
SWEETS, SWEETS, SWEETS
Portugal is sweet tooth heaven. I found myself gorging on a of lot desserts there. I ate so much that I forgot to write down the names of the sweets I was having. These are just a few of the sweets I remember eating. A bit of a warning “a lot of Portuguese desserts have egg as the major ingredient, especially the Pastel de Nata, Torta de Azeitão, Ovos Moles de Aveiro” to mention a few
Believe me! This heavy sandwich is for breakfast in Portugal. It consists of bread, several layers of meat, melted cheese, hot tomato sauce and french fries. *Make sure to ask what type of meat and sauce is used, because Ham and Alcohol is usually included*
Bacalao in Spanish or Bacalhau in Portuguese is basically Cod fish in English. The Portuguese are obsessed with Bacalhau, it’s in a lot of their dishes. Here are some Bacalhau dishes. Sadly I didn’t get to try any of the dishes. Very odd.
LA RIBIERA, Oporto
The Ribiera is one of the most important and beautiful locations in Oporto. It has a lot of historical significance as well. Ribiera means bank of the river. The Ribiera is a breathtaking sight to see both in the day and at night. It’s great for strolling about and by the bank there are lots cute restaurants along the Ribiera.
TORRE DE LOS CLERIGOS, Oporto
The Torre de los clerigos is also a church. It was built in between 1735 – 1745 in style of Barroc by the brotherhood of poor clerics. Torre de los clerigos is the tallest point in Oporto, so from here you can see the entire city.
PALACIO DA PENA, Sintra
This magical looking palace is worth the visit. It is located on top of a hill in the Sintra Mountain. Before arriving the palace, you’ll have to hike for a bit over 30 minutes. On the alternative you can take a Tuk Tuk to get there. Originally a chapel built for the lady of pena, then became a monastery where monks would meditate then it finally became a palace till today which attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
CASTELO DOS MOROS, Sintra
Known as the Castle of the Moors, it was built during the Islamic Iberian era. It was later converted to a Chapel during the fall of Moorish empire. In 1755 a great damage affected the Castle due to an earthquake. Today one can see renovations still being made to restore the once magnificent castle.
PALACIO DA REGALEIRIA, Sintra
Built by a Portuguese millionaire, philanthropist and noble man; Carvahlo Monteiro with the help of architect Luigi Manini. It consists of a palace , small lake and a greenhouse.
25 DE ABRIL BRIDGE, Lisbon
This Bridge was a surprise to me because it looks exactly like the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, California. However in Lisbon, it’s called the 25 of April Bridge. 25 of April is derived from the time the revolution in Portugal had occurred.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER, Lisbon
When you see the statue of Christ the Redeemer, what location comes to your mind first?…. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil , right? It was to my second surprise that there was also a similar statue here in Lisbon; albeit much smaller. It was built in 1959 as a gesture the Portuguese used to thank God for sparing them during WWII. It was inspired by the statue from Brazil.
CASTELO DA SAN JORGE, Lisbon
This Castle occupies a privilege area of the old medieval citadel and consists of ruins of the former royal palace. It was initially built by the Moors in the mid 11th century . Later on when Dom Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon, it was modified and transformed into a royal palace. Today you can walk around the castle and marvel at the architecture, the ruins and ofcourse the surrounding view of Lisbon. In Castelo Da San Jorge check out: 1. The Castle. 2. The ruins of the Alcacova, 3. The Archaeological Site 4. The Permanent Exhibition, 5. Camera Obscura 6. The View Point
TORRE DE BELEM, Lisbon
This is a nice looking tower located by bank of the Tagus river. In the past, it was used as the gateway to Portugal from travelers of other lands. It was also used as a defense station during the reign of King John II. Today, you can take pictures of the tower from the outside and also go inside to discover more.
LELLO BOOKSHOP , Oporto
What makes this bookstore special is that THE JK Rowlings, got most of her inspirational ideas for Harry Potter in this very bookstore.
Watch an orchestra play in CASA DA MUSICA, Oporto
Ride a boat on the RIBIERA, Oporto
Hike up the hill to check out the Palacio da pena, Sintra
Take a Tuk Tuk up the hill to check out the Palace, Sintra
Marvel and take selfies in Sao Bento station, Oporto
Walk around each city especially Oporto and Lisbon
** EXTRA TIPS**
- I highly recommend the Tattva Design Hostel in Oporto. It was comfortable, cute and the employees were gems. Had a great breakfast there as well.
- The Portuguese are friendly people and you will find out that most of them can speak in English, so its quite easy to get around the country especially in major cities like Lisbon etc.
- In Lisbon you have an 80 percent chance that you’ll be offered to buy Hashish, Marijuana and possibly Cocaine on the streets. Law enforcement in Lisbon are not strict on the individuals selling these hard drugs.
- Just like any other European city get good walking shoes as you’ll be walking a lot and the streets have cobble stones. You want to avoid blisters or sore feet after your adventure.
- The drivers here are a bit crazy…. might I add crazier than in Madrid. You can be crossing the road when the green light for pedestrian is on and they (the drivers) are still moving while you are crossing, impatiently waiting for their light to turn green.
- Like any other country try to know a word or two of the language spoken in that country. Portuguese is a tiny bit similar to Spanish but honestly I couldn’t understand a lot of what the locals were saying maybe 20% due to some familiar words in Spanish. For me Portuguese sounds like French and Spanish had a baby.
Did I miss something? Let me know your suggestions/recommendations for Portugal