Before we arrived in Portugal we knew we wanted to try some local port wine. We have had the imported blend in the States, but there was usually only one or two options. We spent an evening in Porto trying various wines and enjoying the pleasant views along the Douro River. The weather was perfect, and the wines were amazing.
One of our favorite reasons for travel is trying local food. It is an important part of getting to know a new culture and a chance to try something new. While we were in Portugal, we wanted to find some local favorites to try. We were impressed with what we found.
We did a walking tour in Porto, and we asked the guide for local food recommendations. He highly recommended we try this dish, the francesinha. We went to a nearby restaurant called Cafe Santiago, where we saw this monster dish that was sure to give us a heart attack. We decided to split one of these because of the size and were still full. SO GOOD!
Where have you visited because you are a fan of a movie or book?
Livraria Lello is a top attraction in Porto. JK Rowling frequented this bookstore while she was writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In fact, she was writing the book in a cafe just a ten minutes walk away called Cafe Majestic. We visited Livaria Lello as we are definitely Harry Potter fans and also wanted to see the inspiration for Hogwarts. What we found inside was amazing, and there is no question of why it was inspirational.
In Porto, the Dom Luís I Bridge is the main feature of the city as it is high above the Douro River. It connects the city of Porto with its southern neighbor Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge has two decks, one carrying light rail and pedestrians, and the other for vehicle traffic.
What historical art taught you something important?
Azulejo tiles have been a part of Portugal’s history since the 8th century. The word originates from Arabic al zulaycha, which means polished stone. The Portuguese combine these tiles to form artwork, decorate buildings, or even use them in flooring. We saw them everywhere and on everything. Portuguese create art from combining individually painted tiles.
What was the most interesting train station you have been to?
The São Bento Railway Station was a lot more than just a train stop. It has so much historical importance. We went on a walking tour in Porto, Portugal and this was one of the most interesting places. The elaborate tile work in the main entryway tells the history of Portugal. They built the station on the site of an old convent; the Benedictine Convent of São Bento. São Bento translates to Saint Benedict in English.
Have you ever had port wine, and if so, did you know where it came from?
After touring Sintra and Lisbon Portugal, we wanted to visit Porto because we heard so many good things about it. It is a lovely smaller town with many restaurants, walkways, street art, and port wine. We walked much of Porto’s waterfront and crossed the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge. Porto has a lot of historical significance and rich culture.
What was the last place you wish you had more time to visit?
Quinta da Regaleira is another famous location in Sintra, Portugal. It has a palace, a chapel, a park, various tunnels, and initiation wells. What we were most interested in seeing were the initiation wells (inverted towers). A series of tunnels connected these wells underground. We have walked up so many towers and this was the first time we walked down one. How cool is that?
After touring the beautiful area of Sintra, Portugal, we wanted to get down to Cascais for sunset. Cascais is a beach town that is about a 30-minute drive from Lisbon. One of the main highlights is Boca do Inferno, which means the mouth of hell. It gets its name from the rough ocean waves that crash against the cliff face. The waves force their way into a cave system and spray from an opening above.
What nature park or garden made you feel the most relaxed?
Portugal is full of many amazing places, and the Pena Palace in Sintra is one of them. Just outside of the palace is the Pena Palace Gardens, and they contain lush green ferns, ponds, and many paths to explore. Before heading to the palace, we didn’t know about this place. Luckily we knew someone who did or we would have missed it altogether. The gardens are vast and even include a temple with beautiful columns surrounding it. This landscape of nature was a perfect place for us to relax after being in a crowded fairy-tale palace.