We spent his year´s AUTUMN HOLIDAYS discovering Portugal – flying to Porto where we rented a car after a couple of days and driving around 1500 km down to the south coast and back to Porto. We were really lucky with the warm sunny weather and could swim in the unusual warm Atlantic ocean! The HIGHLIGHTS of our 10-day long trip were the landscapes in DOURO VALLEY, amazing ALGARVE coastline and the towns of OBIDOS and PORTO. We ate good, we drank good and we came back with a bag of new memories. Here´s a long post with lots of pictures for those who don´t have time to read the whole text ;).
When: October 2016
Visited: Porto, Douro Valley, Pinhao, Fatima, Lagos, Cabo de Sao Vicente, Algarve coast, Comporta, Setubal, Lisbon, Sintra, Obidos, Nazare
How: rented car, metro
Stayed in: apartments, rooms, quintas
DRIVING & TRANSPORT
In Porto we used the METRO system, in Lisbon we took advantage of the convenient HOP ON HOP OFF BUS, otherwise we were moving around with our RENTED CAR. We went a bit lucky this time as we booked a VW Golf, but got a brand new Mercedes, which I have to say was fun to drive! For the same price of course. We did get charged with extra 50€ FOR THE CLEANING when we returned it, because it was “too dirty from the inside” – mostly sand from the beach, so maybe it would have made sense to clean it a bit before giving it back. We did have NAVIGATION system in our car but I´m sure we would have survived without it as the ROAD SIGNS were very clear most of the time.
The roads are perfect and there is hardly any traffic except around Lisbon and Porto. There is a special PAYING system on the HIGHWAYS – we had a VIA VERDE DEVICE in our car for the ELECTRONIC TOLLS and the money was taken from our credit card later on. In case you are coming with your own vehicle it´s best to read about all the payment options here.
Altogether we slept in 5 different towns, 2 times in private ROOMS, 2 times in a typical QUINTA (usually a family run farm with accommodation) and the last night in a BUNGALOW on a camping site next to the sea. Some of them we booked through www.booking.com and the rest we contacted via email and Facebook. Since we only had 10 days and wanted to make the best out of our time we booked it in advance.
We really enjoyed Portuguese cuisine! We love fish and fresh food and there was plenty of that in a combination with delicious wine and sweet cakes. I wrote a longer post on this topic- you can read it by clicking the button under the picture, it will open in a separate tab.
read more about PORTUGAL´S FOOD
WHAT WE SAW & DID
After a 2,5 hr flight from Frankfurt we landed in sunny Porto, got our bags and bought the ANDANTE CARDS for the metro – you can refill them anytime, a one way ride + this card costs 2,45€, Lu had to pay also. As it was a Saturday the train from the airport left every 30minutes so we were waiting for a while. Our apartment was very close to BOLHAO STATION and as soon as we dropped the luggage we went out for a dinner. The lively streets with restaurants and bars were not far away and we enjoyed the atmosphere.
After a good night sleep and our first encounter with the delicious PASTEIS DE NATA for breakfast it was time to EXPLORE THE CITY the next morning. First we walked to the beautiful CITY HALL close by, which is one of Porto´s most recognizable landmarks.
From here we walked down the beautiful alley and ended up at the historical, SAO BENTO TRAIN STATION, famous for its blue & white tiles, called AZULEJO. The entrance hall is really worth a short visit even if you are not taking a train ride at all.
Just around the corner you will see a red English PHONE BOOTH and the short steep road will take you to a wonderful CHURCH. Along the way there are some cafes and once you are at the top you can turn towards the river or towards the pedestrian zone full with shops.
The IGREJA DE SANTO ILDEFONSO 18th century church is one of the most interesting we´ve ever seen, mostly because of the amazing AZULEJO TILEWORK on the facade. It is also possible to go inside.
From here, we walked a part of the way where we came from and continued towards the CLERIGOS TOWER, which is a part of a church and a popular tourist attraction nowadays. You can go up and enjoy a nice view over the city – we would have to wait for 45minutes because the line was so long – we decided to skip the waiting and went on in the rough direction of the river. By coincidence we stumbled upon a nice VIEWPOINT terrace in the middle of some abandoned housing – a group of artists were doing some sketching and the view was really worth a stop.
On the way down to the river we passed this known venue, HARD CLUB, which hosts a bar, restaurant, concerts and more. We were more interested in the nice little green park with benches in front of it that´s why we stopped ;).
We really liked Porto – maybe also because it was our first days in the country and the sunny weather made us happy but somehow everything was really relaxed, easily accessible on foot, no hectic, lots of cute bars and cosy restaurants. Another thing we really liked is ARCHITECTURE! The facades, balconies and windows were absolutely amazing and I could not stop looking up!
Finally at the RIVER DOURO BANKS – so many restaurants and no free table! We were getting a bit hungry but as nobody signalized an emergency situation we decided to first walk over the famous PONTE LUIS BRIDGE to the other side.
We skipped the WINE TASTING (although here are some good options), because we were heading to the Douro wine region the following days anyway, but we did take a look at the historic RABELO BOATS. These long wooden cargo boats were used for centuries to transport people and wine along the DOURO RIVER before there were roads. All the PORT WINE was actually produced in the valley and was traded, sold and exported in Porto, that´s where the name came from.
After a shorter walk we returned to the other side of the town, had a delicious seafood late lunch in the sun and slowly walked back to our apartment through the busy PEDESTRIAN ZONE. All the shops were open even though it was a Sunday, most of them until 9PM!
The next morning before we left Porto we visited the BOLHAO MARKET which was literately just across the street from our place. It was perfect for buying little snacks for breakfast and vegetables & fruits for the way, there were also little shops selling souvenirs and wine.
So we picked up the car at the airport, because we wanted to return it to the same location (it´s usually cheaper) just before we flew back home. Then we were off to the hilly Douro valley where we spent a night at a traditional QUINTA. On the way we stopped for lunch in one of the villages with a view on the VINEYARDS and the river, and had a similar evening view for dinner later on.
As we made little stops on the way it took us around 2 hours to get to where we were staying, excluding the lunch time. Many visitors take the DAY BOAT TRIP FROM PORTO, which sometimes includes a TRAIN RIDE in one direction and the boat cruise in the other. Must be interesting also, but we really wanted to spent a night here and wake up in the middle of these charming VINEYARDS.
This is the OLDEST DEMARCATED WINE REGION IN THE WORLD and the vineyards on the slopes of the Douro river carved valleys are under UNESCO. This cultural landscape is truly amazing and compared to some Slovenian hilly wine regions this here is simply so much bigger, its almost like some sort of a “wine canyon” ;). Loved the drive and the evening sun setting behind the hills.
So what did we do as soon as we reached our quinta? We went SWIMMING of course! Lu loved the swimming pool and we loved the views 😉 The weather was on our side and we enjoyed it very much – summer seem to be back! Gin also took a KAYAK and went on the river for a while – stunning views! Too bad we did not have a couple of extra days here ;).
And of course, we did the private tour around the WINE CELLAR and enjoyed the WINE TASTING afterwards – some of the ports were amazing and we ended up buying one bottle to take home with. Just a very relaxed atmosphere with tasty wine in the middle of one of the most picturesque wine regions in the world – not bad! We highly recommend coming here if you are at least a bit of a WINELOVER ;).
After one of the nicest SUNSETS on the trip we drove to PINHAO, one of the bigger towns around here and had dinner there. It was still warm enough to sit outside and obviously the long day and the swimming action got to our little traveller as he fell asleep at the table which happens close to never ;).
Good morning Douro! It was a start of a very LONG DAY for us as we had to drive the whole way to LAGOS in the south. It was time to say goodbye to the enchanting green hills and bridges before we entered the HIGHWAY.
So we had to drive 640km this day and we were planning to make a stop somewhere. FATIMA looked like somewhat in the middle and so we did it. There were many other interesting TOWNS, FORTS and MONASTERIES on the way but unfortunately we did not have time for all.
NOSSA SENHORA DE FATIMA (Our Lady of Fatima) is a Catholic church built in this place based on the reported apparitions by 3 shepherd children. PORTUGAL BIGGEST CHURCH and possibly the 4th largest Catholic church in the world is an important PILGRIMAGE SITE. The site is quite impressive also for other visitors, especially due to the extremely large square in front of the church.
When we passed LISBON the countryside started to get more and more DRY and it was like we were in another country. Definitely not boring even though we were driving the highway most of the time. Initially we wanted to take another road, but that would cost us too much time and we decided to go this way.
LAGOS & ALGARVE COAST
Late in the afternoon we were finally at the COAST and after checking in at our quinta just a few km outside of LAGOS we hit the BEACH! Our hosts suggested we go to MEIA PRAIA beach as there were a couple of nice restaurants around. Imagine how happy Lu was to take the shoes off and feel the sand & sea under his feet! Well, to be honest, we were the same ;).
Our cosy place in the middle of the vineyards, away from all the action in Lagos, with home made breakfast and a complimentary bottle of wine – the best! We decided to explore the WESTERN part of ALGARVE on our first day in the south so we were off towards the village of CARRAPATEIRA first.
Just a little further on there is a very long sandy beach called PRAIA DA BORDEIRA – we made a longer stop here and even though it was a bit too cold to swim because of the WIND and the WAVES we still had fun.
On the way we stopped at a couple more beaches but then it was time to visit the southwesternmost point in Portugal, CABO DE SAO VICENTE. The cape is mostly famous for its LIGHTHOUSE which is 24m high and was built over the ruins of a 16th century built monastery. The lighthouse is amongst the most POWERFUL ONES IN EUROPE and its lamps can be seen as far as 60km far. Every 30min there is a FREE (they take donations) GUIDED TOUR up to the lighthouse which we strongly recommend because it´s truly interesting to see how it is made.
After lunch in SAGRES we were headed back towards LAGOS and decided to visit the PONTA DA PIEDADE where we took a 30minutes BOAT TOUR amongst the golden rock formations sticking out of the sea. It was really worth it! As the sun was already pretty much down we ended the day SWIMMING at PRAIA DE PORTO DE MOS beach which was just on the other side and had the evening sun. What a nice way to end the day!
New day new adventures – this time we took it easy and drove to BENAGIL beach which is known for its huge CAVE, but unfortunately the boats were not operating on the day, because of the waves. We stayed on the beach until lunch and then moved to our favourite beach we got to visit, PRAIA DA MARINHA, which is on the list of Europe´s best 10 beaches and we say – deserved!
We were more lucky the next day and we got the BOAT at 10am, the first one. Started in BENAGIL we cruised along the coastline visiting around 20 caves and seeing all the coves and beaches around here. This costed 20€ per person (kids pay 10€) and we were back in an hour – totally worth it!
We were so IMPRESSED BY THIS COASTLINE that I decided it deserves ITS OWN POST – so if you want to know more about all the nice beaches we went to (there are some which are not mentioned here) click the button under the picture and the post will open in a separate tab.read more about ALGARVE COAST
In the early afternoon we had to leave the coast and were on our way to LISBON. But as we were not planning on exploring the city on this day anyway we decided to stop on the way a couple of times. First we visited this little village with a couple of RESTAURANTS, but we were more interested in this FISHERMEN´S PIERS.
They are a bit outside the village but no problem finding them, around there is with lots of BIRDS, very peaceful. We spend around half an hour walking around the piers – unfortunately there was just one lonely fisherman as it was in the middle of the day. Nonetheless, quite an interesting place for a stop. Lu loved running around on the piers!
Just a couple of minutes drive away there is this beautiful STRETCH OF BEACH, with 2 BEACH RESTAURANTS. It was too cold to swim here, but never mind. We were chasing the waves and walking around in fresh air, that´s good enough! The whole place looked a bit posh though – it was Friday afternoon and it looked like there were many wealthier (Lisbon residents?) visiting for the weekend. Had a great lunch here!
We continued driving to SETUBAL and on to a smaller village called PORTINHO, where we were meeting FRIENDS FROM GERMANY! By coincidence they were also here at the same time so this had to be done ;). We drove in to Lisbon in the night and got the room keys at 10pm. I think we fell asleep in seconds ;).
Our big day in Lisbon! We only had ONE DAY and I think we used it good – anyway since we are travelling with Lu we rather spend more time outside bigger cities, but sometimes it also feels good to be in the middle of all those crowds. Because Lisbon is such a popular place right now there is already a separate post about our time there and you can read it by clicking the button below the picture.read more about LISBON
Next morning we were off to SINTRA, which is listed under UNESCO because of its wonderful 19th century ARCHITECTURAL MONUMENTS. Easier said than done, it was literately impossible to get a parking space on a Sunday – if we knew this before we would have left Lisbon much earlier in the morning. After driving through the city centre pass THE PALACE OF SINTRA and QUINTA DA REGALEIRA, which we also intended to visit, we left the car at the winding road and walked shortly through a forest under the CASTLE OF THE MOORS, but decided to drive a bit further, closer to the famous colourful PENA NATIONAL PALACE, which we saw only from the car.
Sintra is very small and the NARROW ROADS make it impossible to built one bigger parking lot for all the visitors that come here. At one point the road becomes a one way only road and you have no choice but to drive the whole circle again – we did exactly that but also the second time, no luck in finding a a free spot. Numerous tourist buses in the combination of people walking uphill on the curvy roads and cars looking for a place to park made a very hectic impression and at one point we gave up on the whole thing and drove on to OBIDOS. Obviously we will have to come back one day ;).
Due to all this, we had more time in the FORTIFIED CITY of Obidos – and we loved it here! All the charming little streets with lots of shops selling nice handicrafts and souvenirs. We slowly walked up to the CASTLE and enjoyed the VIEW from its WALLS. The weather was not so nice today, but as long as it does not rain there is no problem, Obidos is a must stop if you are passing by!
Here everything is about WHITE, BLUE and YELLOW! This unique mix of colours in combination with stone paved streets, azulejo tileworks and washed red rooftops makes Obidos one of the most charming Portuguese towns!
The well preserved MEDIEVAL CASTLE today hosts a hotel and a restaurant with amazing views on the town rooftops and surrounding area.
There is one parallel street where you will find many RESTAURANTS – Obidos makes a great stop for lunch and a little walking before or after.
Our LAST STOP before we left Portugal the next day – we came in just in time for LUNCH and found a really cosy traditional Portuguese restaurant where we as so many other times on this trip had again very delicious seafood. The town is quite developed and modern, with lots of hotels and apartments, shops and restaurants.
There is a FUNICULAR which takes you to the top of the famous CLIFF from where there are magnificent VIEWS ON THE TOWN and the long stretch of sandy beach below.
The day was a bit colder, but the wind did not stop Lu from running around barefoot on the beach, we even found BEACH PLAYGROUND which he loved!
Nazare is all about SURFING and there are many surf schools offering classes. For the more experienced ones, head to the other side of the cliff, where the waves are bigger!
We drove up to THE TOP OF THE CLIFF with our car as our accommodation was a bit outside the city anyway. And the views are really great! There are some walking paths from the parking lot to the very end, or you can just walk on the road. You can also descend to the sandy beach on the other side – we did so and watched a couple of surfers riding the smaller waves we had that day.
In winter time the waves here are HUGE! These EXTREMELY HIGH BREAKING WAVES occur here because of the UNDERWATER CANYON. Only highly experienced surfers come here to compete in a yearly event as the waves surfed are sometimes HIGHER THAN 20m!
Just a quick walk around the main SQUARE on the top of the cliff and we were off to find our place to sleep – as we had to leave quite early the next morning we carefully packed all our stuff already in the evening and ate all the rest we had on snacks ;).
BACK TO PORTO & HOME
After a good 2hrs drive we returned the car at PORTO AIRPORT and boarded our plane without hurrying, for a change ;). Landing in Frankfurt in the rain and at 12C made us miss sunny Portugal already, but at the same time we were grateful for the nice time we had! Portugal is a GREAT FAMILY DESTINATION with lots to see and do, it´s easy to get around, the locals are friendly and mostly speak good English. Perfect choice for Spring or Autumn holidays when the crowds are gone ;).
PIN FOR LATER