Currently, I’m lucky enough to be in sunny Portugal on vacation with my family! We have a lot of other family here to visit and escaping the humidity of Toronto in August is greatly appreciated. Portugal is also the perfect opportunity to rest and re-charge from the busy lives we lead in Canada. While Toronto is hectic and always go go go, life in Portugal is way more relaxed.
We’ve been coming here in the summer for just about as long as I can remember, and every year I seem to find some new reason to fall in love with the country. It might be the gorgeous weather, the heavenly bread, or a mixture of the two, but either way, Portugal sure is a spectacular place! Because I love showing off my country and heritage so much, this is going to be one of a few posts highlighting beautiful places in Portugal, and some of the adventures we’ve had here!
Last week we stayed overnight in one of Portugal’s premier cities (and a UNESCO world heritage site)! Porto is a bustling city perched on the rolling hills of the Douro Valley over looking the Douro river. Like Lisbon, Porto is a mixture of beautiful tree lined boulevards and tiny medieval streets winding up the hills.
Porto is a port city in two ways. First, in the traditional sense, it’s location on the Douro allows it to be easily reached by ships, making Porto a bustling hub for trade. Secondly however, if you’re a fan of port wine, welcome to it’s birth place! Big names in the port industry have enough tours and tastings to keep you busy and satisfied and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about it’s history from the people who started it themselves!
If walking and taking in the sights are more your style, the bright tile covered buildings and ornate cobblestone sidewalks will provide plenty of Instagram opportunities. You can even cruise around most of the city in streetcars that have been running since the 1900s (don’t worry they’ve been fixed up since)! Boat cruises on the river are also a great way to relax and see the city from a new perspective.
Porto might also be one of the best places for avant-garde cuisine in the country, so if you love food (especially seafood), searching the tiny streets for local favourites might take up most of your time!
We stayed overnight at the beautiful Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel, which is gorgeous inside and out, and is in the perfect location for exploring! Our room had river views, we were within walking distance from many of the main tourist destinations in the city and were literally steps away from the river! While there are tons of restaurants around this hub of activity, I recommend hunting in other parts of the city for local favourites and hidden gems. Most of the restaurants along the river cater to tourists and backpackers and while the food is generally edible, it gives a really poor representation of Portuguese cuisine, which is pretty amazing! If you look hard enough, you’re sure to stumble on to a cute ma and pa restaurant that has great prices and equally great food!
Words can only do so much to describe something, so here are some of my favourite photographs from our day trip which we spent walking through Porto’s tiny medieval streets, peeking in to beautiful old courtyards, and riding the old streetcars!
A beautiful (half) view of the bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (yup that Eiffel) in 1877. The bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro river! If port wine is your thing, head over to Gaia for days filled with tastings and winery tours from some of the biggest names in the industry!
A view of our hotel (the orangey yellow building farthest on the left) and the other surrounding buildings which were equally stunning! I love the bright colours and beautiful tiles we use to cover our buildings. Many of the tiles found throughout the country are hand-painted (even today) and many are also 3D (my personal favourites) due to many years of Moorish influence!
I just love the tiny little streets winding their way throughout the city! If you take these back roads, chances are you’ll stumble on to local secrets and more authentic sectors of the city! Walking the many hills of Porto is also the perfect way to earn your next big meal!
A collection of adorable little cafes cornered by beautiful tiled buildings! No better setting to take a break and have a drink! When I took this picture there was also a man playing the guitar in the background, so it was extra dreamy.
A view of old buildings and some laundry out to dry taken from the window of one of Porto’s old street cars! I wasn’t able to take a picture of the streetcar itself because we had to run to catch it, but they’re super cute and if you’re in the city (Lisbon has them too) they’re the perfect way to see everything, with minimal hill climbing!
Two of the many beautiful doors found in Porto! I love, love, LOVE taking pictures of doors and am happy to add these two beauties to my collection.
These beautiful buildings of the gorgeous Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) are reminiscent of Paris, with their clean white stone walls and domed roofs! The sun was just starting to set and I was so blown away by how different this part of the city looked from the others. This beautiful square boasts some spectacular stone work, and some amazing photo ops (I even caught some seagulls flying around)!
So, there’s a little look at Porto (though I’ve just barely scratched the surface)! It really is a stunning city, filled with so much history and personality! If you ever have the opportunity, I really suggest visiting!
I hope you’re all enjoying the lovely August weather!! Not sure how this last month of summer has crept up on us so quickly, but I can’t believe it’s almost back to school season!!!