It’s been five days since I have returned from my 7 days in Portugal and boy do I miss the magic that I saw and did not expect.
I partnered with Air Canada Vacations for this trip – in partnership with Tourism Portugal, they chose the three places we visited which were Porto, Aveiro and Lisbon – the perfect mix of old Europe, charming village town and big city life.
We drove from Lisbon to Porto which took a little less than 3 hours on one of the most scenic drivers I have ever taken full of greenery, horses, beautiful homes, and coastlines.
One thing to note is that the Portuguese have a love for speed so don’t be shocked if someone zooms by you like the Knightrider – no joke.
Once we arrived in Porto we checked into the Vila Gale Porto Ribeira Hotel set right on the waterfront and next to a little street tram that we took daily to get us to the centre and back. Yes the tram is pretty Instagrammable for all of those that are wondering 😉
Porto’s centre is very accessible and also very easy to navigate…unless you get lost in its gorgeous little colourful streets which it has plenty of.
Since we only had 48 hours to explore as much as we could I wanted to share our favourites with you to help you when you plan your Porto trip too. For those that know me know I am a stickler with details and places so I think I choose pretty darn well.
Here we go!
Zenith Brunch & Cocktail Bar: I am a creature of habit when it comes to my breakfast so being able to find a delicious spot that served acai bowls, smoothies, matcha lattes and area pancakes was a dream to start things off! This place is filled with trendy kids and gets packed on Sunday so make sure you go early to snag a table.
Cafe Majestique: If you’re mainly looking for a place to get some insane photos, this is it. There’s a reason why it’s on the Top 10 of the most beautiful cafes in the world.
After Breakfast: Check out Rua Miguel Bombarda which starts at Rua da Cedofeita and ends at Rua da Boa Nova. It is an awesome neighbourhood full of art galleries, vintage shops, cool cafes, and a plethora of other interesting things to discover. This one’s for the hipster in you!
Lunch: Since you’ll take a while discover the art district, pop over to Oficina for lunch. Opened by celebrated Chef Marco Gomes the space mixes old elements with modern ones perfectly. The food is innovative and very, very fresh.
After Lunch: Time to head back to the main town square and lineup for the magical Livrarai Lello bookshop. This stunning bookshop inspired the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts after J.K Rowling fell in love with it when she lived in Porto teaching English. It gets really busy here so go either early am or later in the afternoon.
Once you’ve had your dosage of Harry’s spell, walk 5 minutes to the grandiose Palácio da Bolsa – a neoclassical Stock Exchange Palace located in the historic centre of Porto. The palace is famous for it’s lavish decorated interior and their famous ‘Arab Room’.
Another must-see is what could potentially be the most beautiful railway station in the world – the São Bento Railway Station. Over 20 thousand tiles cover the walls here depicting the history of Portugal.
If you want to grab a wine of porto and a little lunch at a historical castle/hotel on the River Douro surrounded by gorgeous gardens drive 3 km from the centre and you will arrive at Pestana Palacio do Freixo.
One last thing I can’t leave out because so many of you asked me about it is the Largo Da Pena Vertosa, an are you can plug into your google maps that will take you to a gorgeous street full of colourful houses and cute, local cafes. From there a 5-minute walk will take you to some of the most beautiful city viewpoints in all of Porto.
If you still have some energy left in the shopping around the town center is amazing. Here are my 5 favourites from the trip:
Loja das Conservas – which highlights Portuguese canned fish from various regions which is a MUST (canned seafood is SUPER popular here).
Coração Alecrim – an eco, indie boutique with fashion and accessories that lies behind what might be the prettiest doors in Porto.
A Vida Portugesa – If gift shops give you the shivers, this is the rebel of all gift shops. Yes you will find great things to bring back home as souvenirs but they are authentic and local.
Mercado 48 – One of the coolest shops in Porto. They carry mostly Portuguese designs including furniture, art, bicycles, fashion, rugs and more.
Fashion Clinic – Designer bags, shoes, clothing and accessories for men and women. Want to splurge? This place has it all from Gucci to Self-Portrait.
Since we only had two days here I’ll recommend the two places we went and loved after my extensive research!
Cantiho Avillez – Jose Avillez, Portugal’s young, star chef, opened shop in Porto after taking over Lisbon with a plethora of his restaurants and the food speaks for itself. The restaurant is cozy with a buzzing vibe and offers modern interpretations of Portuguese food with innovative presentations. Their veal risotto is out of this world.
Cafeina – A short drive to the trendy Foz area of Porto, sits Cafeina, an institution at this point that has been open for 20 years. The interior is gorgeous and romantic, and while it’s not cheap, the steak was some of the best we have ever had.
Cremosi – For those that know my addiction with ice cream will not be surprised that I tracked down a gelato place worth writing about and it’s in For so our last night in Porto after Cafeina ended with a double-decker scoop of some fine Cremosi flavours and a food coma.
Book Porto….it’s magical.