There is one question which appears on the Internet just everywhere. Where to go? What to chose? Which one is better? This is constant fight Lisbon vs Porto. To be honest, I had the same dilemma planning my trip to Portugal. So deciding for just one place wasn’t an option. I had to check both cities. And both of them were ridiculously beautiful. And here is what I have found.
I started my adventure with Alfama. Alfama is more traditional side of Lisbon. Inhabited by Visigots and later by Moors it was an upper-class residential area. However, after series of earthquakes it became a place for working class. Narrow, cobblestoned streets, rows of houses and local grocery shops hidden between them take you to completely different world, more traditional with ladies selling fish at the doorstep early morning! A ride with the most iconic Tram 28, which has its route over there, is a must. I was wandering and couldn’t believe that with each turn Alfama offers more and more beautiful views!
From Alfama it is easy to get to Castle. When I got off the Metro and looked around I have already seen the building on the hill which absolutely stands out. It is one of those castles which look can’t be more “castly?!”. When I entered it brought into my mind Elisabeth Castle on Jersey Island. The view was just fabulous and you can see whole city going while going round. Lucky me, I finished off with wonderful sunset. I noticed that actually everyone was looking at the panorama of Lisbon (which is quite obvious) and nobody looked behind at the walls of the Castle. The sun light made it so special and beautiful and nobody even noticed!
While visiting Castle I spotted a place which was just perfect to see the whole Castle from the distance. I knew I was going to visit Miradouro soon.
In Portugal, there are some special words which are good to know. Well, I’m not saying about “hello” or “thank you”. I want to tell you about
• Bacalhau which is dry salted cod
Fish and seafood are really delicious here. Many if famous restaurants from all over the world are trying to make their own version of this dish tailored to their tastes.
• Miradouro which is basically the view point. Attenzione Instagrammers – filter is no needed!
• Fado which is a typical Portugese melancholic music accompanied by a guitar.
• Pastel de Nata – a typical Portugese tart with custard.
Aaanywaaay, when I got to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, I was astonished by the view! And again, as far as beauty is concerned, Lisbon, you doing it well! It doesn’t matter that the wind felt like it was blowing 839394 km/h 🙂 Having taken some pictures of sunset, I have already decided I would be coming back here at night. So I did. And don’t tell me that in big cities you cannot see the stars! Because you definitely can in Lisbon!
There is plenty of Miradouros in Lisbon. They all have three things in common: beautiful view of Lisbon, a cafe and live music performed by street artists. Beautiful sounds of guitars and pianos make the views even more special. Miraduoro is obligatory. When I was at Miradouro Sophia de Mello two men came up, stood next to me, looked at the panorama of Lisbon and one of them said: “Ok so that’s all, now we can go home.”
Belém is another must see on the list. The wind is still blowing strong and doesn’t want to stop! Due to the wind Torre de Belém has been unfortunatelly closed but all the other attractions were available to visit.
I stared with Museu Colecção Berardo. The gallery makes an unbelieveable impression. The display of João Miguel Barros is full of so many emotions. I was moved, shocked, happy, full of fear and nostalgia. The descriptions to the photos lead you beautifully down the way of dreams, hopes and reality “and at that moment, even without speaking, they understood that the stage of life was far more than any form of representation of love.”
Another exhibition was “No place like home”. Artists show domestic objects in an altered way to provoke new response of what we are familiar with. I adored the whole exhibition but one of my favourite objects was a shoe. A high heeled shoe. Filled with needles with little cristals. This metaphore couldn’t be more clear. Ladies put high heels on which might be quite painful but this is the devotion ladies are willing to take to shine, shine bright like a diamond at the end of the needle.
There is also a great collection of other artists such as Warhol, Hockney and Pollack.
Afterwords I went to stand in a long queue to The Cloister of Jeronimos Monastery.
Come in and feel like in a Harry Potter movie
Pastel de Nata was originally produced by monks in Cloister who used whites of eggs to starch their robes. They came up with an idea to use egg yolks to make pastels. The recipe was sold to a family who opened the bakery Pastéis de Belém and sell the original pastels. When I went in, looked around, and saw the info on the wall that they have 400 places available to sit. That’s great! So having waited over 30 mins in a long queue, I finally sat down and order famous Pastel de Nata. Which was amazing. You will say why don’t you just use take away service?! Oh well, the queue to take away was finishing at the end of the other street…
Portugal, especially Lisbon, is famous for Fado music. I visited Clube de Fado. The performance was emotional and went well with Portugal mentality. Here everyone sings Fado, in the street while walking, a bus driver… 🙂
There are three more places which I recommend to visit. The gateway to Lisbon – Plaça do Comercio with Arco da Rua Augusta, extraordinare contruction of Gare do Oriente – the main station in Lisbon and Fundação José Saramago – the house of one of the most famous Portugese writers awarded with Nobel Prize. The facade of the building is a little bit spiky. What funny happened to me, I came from the back side of the building and I was quite surprised how Casa dos Bicos looks like from the back. Not very traditional.
Porto, finally I made it!
My trip to Porto didn’t start very well. My super fast Pendolino Inter City Service has been cancelled because of the strike. But I made it and got to Porto a little bit later. Porto made me forget about everything I saw in Lisbon very quickly! Beautiful, charming and magical. Just perfect! From all the cities Bruges was my number one but now I think I have another number one! And again narrow streets, tilded buildings the same as in Lisbon but somehow different. Porto is the city of churches. On each corner you can visit a church. All of them make Porto look special. But there is one that is certainly very special. Igrea de São Francisco. Gothic church with Baroque inside. Go first to the Chapel and underground cementry. Then go to the church. I haven’t ever seen as majestic church as this one. Baroque interior full of gold strikes you from the first step. You may think it is too much but actually it all comes together well and somehow there is harmony.
I took narrow streets and went down to Rebeira area. It was even more I could expect! Colourful fasades, small restaurants and lots of places to sit down and just enjoy the view listeninng to the music played by street artists. Everything is subtle, colourful and stylish. You can describe it using one word: fairy tale. Have you ever had this feeling that you forget about absolutely everything? Riverside of Porto definiyely will help you to do it. And at this very moment nothing is more important than going to the other side of Ponte Dom Luís I
The top deck is reserved for pedestrians and metro. It can be accessed from upper cetral part of the city. From the riverside access to lower deck is available. So if you don’t like walking up you can take a metro service from São Bento to Jardim do Morro and then enjoy the views from the hilltop tropical garden. Some say it is a postcard view. Another option is taking Teleférico de Gaia, a cable car, one way (€5), and then walk down, or return (€8). The panorama of the city, pastel-hued houses of Ribeira and river Douro looks great from a gondola as well.
I couldn’t leave Porto without going to the seaside. The lighthouse Farol Senhora da Luz stands on the border with Atlantic Ocean. I got there during quite strong winds so pictures I took look even more stunning. Taking a costal walk is a must do with Forte de São Francisco Xavier as the icing on the cake.
Food in Portugal
My favourite part of the stay! I have a rule if you travel, eat as locals!
I love this rule! Portuguese food is absolutely super extra fantastic! Everything tastes very delicious! I mean both sweet and savoury dishes. On a daily basis I ate excellent soups, especially Caldo Verde, fresh squeezed orange juice, typical Portuguese croquetes, quiche and samosas, and my favourite rissols with prawns. I have already mentioned my visit in Pastéis de Belém and delicious Pastels de Nata. This is a pastry that I definitely try to do by myself. In Portugal fish and seafood is amazing so make sure that you try some of these during your visit. I can recommend the bacalhau dish which goes perfectly with Portugese wine or tuna steak.
To sum up, let me answer the question formulated at the beginning of this post. I had an amazing time in both places. Both of them are easy to travel around, have plenty cosy cafes and really good restaurants. You cannot be bored in Lisbon because there is sooo many places to visit! For a travelling purposes to do some sightseeing, have good food and relax, it is just great.
But I fell in love with Porto.