The colours of Porto

Earlier this year, I had the chance to visit Lisbon for the first time in my life and I completely fell in love with the city. A few months after that I had the fortune to visit Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, and I experienced the same infatuation. There is something magical about Portugal. People are warm and friendly. The mediterranean climate makes it a very hospitable place. The Portuguese mediterranean cuisine is superb: a combination of simple and healthy food, with very high-quality ingredients, with a super rich wine culture, and delicious bread always fresh from the oven. Architecture is another strong feature in the country, as I had already described in my post about Lisbon.

My visit to Porto was brief, as I was there for work and only had the weekend to visit around. However, the things that I enjoyed the most from my visit were:

  • The bridges: The city of Porto expands along the Douro river in the northern part of Portugal. There are six main bridges that connect Porto with the neighbor city of Vila Nova de Gaia, better known as Gaia. Most of the bridges are impressive both, at day and night. However, the (Dom) Luís I bridge is probably the most representative bridge in the city. The (Dom) Luís I bridge was designed by Théophile Seyrig, a German architect and former business partner of Gustave Eiffel. The bridge, whose iron structure resembles the structure of the Eiffel tower in Paris, is an architectural and engineering gem that carries pedestrians, cars and even the Porto metro trains.
  • Ribeira: Ribeira is the core of the historic centre of Porto, designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Sitting along the side of the Douro river, Ribeira encompasses a seemingly endless number of colorful alleys, steep medieval streets that connect to the upper part of town, and a tunnel. Ribeira is full of street cafés, artists and restaurants and getting lost in its small streets is a must when visiting the city.
  • Molhe e Farolim de Felgueiras: The Felgueiras lighthouse and quay, situated in the Foz do Douro district, is another architectural gem in the city of Porto. Situated at the delta of the Douro river, the quay breaks the waves coming from the atlantic and mark the beginning of the Douro river. While the architectural style of the quay is very simple, it is an enormous concrete structure that made me think about the magnificent things that humans have built for centuries, and yet, how they remain small when we compare them to the vastness of the ocean and nature.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. With this, I hope that some of the pictures below will inspire more than one to consider visiting Portugal.

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The Colours of Lisbon

Having had the opportunity to visit many of the main cities and capitals in Europe, I never thought that I could be that surprised by another European city. I was wrong. Lisbon is just amazing. Travelling to a new destination normally involves a couple of main attractions that make the trip worth it, and then, a few secondary elements that round up the experience. In some places, the main attraction is the seaside; in others the food; in others the street life; in others a historic building or monument; in some place the weather; in some place the people; and so on.

Well, this is not the case with Lisbon. Lisbon has everything and has it in abundance. Some places in Lisbon, such as Praça do Comercio, Castelo de Saõ Jorge, Mosteiro des Jeronimos, Parque Eduardo VII or Ponte 25 de Abril could easily be the main attraction in any other destination; and any of those sites, alone, would attract millions of visitors every year.

Lisbon has them all and that is just a fraction of what the city has to offer. The city, sprawled across seven hills alongside the Tagus river, also offers a magical experience when wandering around the city. Chiado, Barrio Alto, Baixa and Alfama, are only a few of the many picturesque neighbourhoods that bring together centuries of history; uncountable parks and plazas; walls full of colours and beautiful azulejos (tiles); the famous Portuguese pavement that make up the unique patterns of streets and plazas; and a number of charming means of transport, including tram, tuk-tuks, lifts and funiculars.

As if this was not enough, Lisbon also has an outstanding culinary offer based on a mediterranean diet and a vast array of fresh and high-quality ingredients, including sea food, vegetables, fruits and juices, cheese, olives, cold cuts, wine and extraordinary bread.

Finally it is also worth mentioning the friendliness and warmth of Portuguese people. Everyone, from the officers that received us at the airport, to the taxi and bus drivers, to the waiters and musicians, to our Airbnb host; every Portuguese we met was always smiling and always willing to help.

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About six kilometres away from the city center, lies the beautiful parish of Belém. A trip to this part of Lisbon is a must in order to visit the Mosterio des Jeronimos and the Belem tower. The route is quite scenic with Ponte 25 de Abril and Cristo Rei as main landmarks. Once in Belém, it is a must to try the Pastéis de Belém that have been in business for almost 180 years.

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Less than an hour away from Lisbon, lies the beautiful town of Cascais. Located in the estuary of the Tagus river, Cascais provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the sunset and to sight the beautiful beaches and the colourful Farol de Santa Marta.

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