Portugal is amazing! Here's a few on why we loved it!
CULTURE : Churches, beautiful architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sights.
WEATHER : It's practically always sunny, warm and beautiful!
FOOD : If you love to eat, you are in the perfect place.
ARCHITECTURE : It's literally full of unbelievably beautiful buildings!
COFFEE : The coffee scene here is off the charts good! The Portuguese can make a great cup of coffee!
WINE : If you like wine...then this is your HAVEN! It's cheap as chips...literally if not cheaper!
NATURE : Beautiful walks, trails and 'off the beaten track' locations make every day an adventure!
PORTUGAL HAS BEEN TRULY INCREDIBLE! We would highly recommend adding this to your Bucket List!
Belem deserves its own post as it is a neighbourhood that has so much going for it. It’s vibrant, full of history, is beautiful and holds the record for the best pastry in Portugal! As mentioned after a morning exploring Sintra we made or way via tram to Belem (the trams are so slow and expensive $6NZD PP!! so I wouldn’t recommend them unless really needed)
We met one of Leo’s cousins here who lives nearby to show us around and on the itinerary was the ‘Jeronimos Monstery’, ‘Pasteis De Belem’ and the ‘Torre de Belem’. We first arrived at the Jeronimos Monastery which we were told was once home to the city’s monks of the Order of Saint Jerome. It is probably the biggest building in Belem and this beautiful, imposing building was the first thing we saw when stepping off the tram. Totally awe inspiring. Apparently, it was built in 1501 and is now a USESCO world heritage site – it is also one of the nicest monasteries I have ever been to.
The even better news is that if you want to take a look inside the church, it’s free of charge, and open almost every day from 10:00, closing at 17:30 in the winter and 18:30 during the summer months. Otherwise, it costs $20NZD to visit the whole place, but as we are always on a budget, we kept our snap happys to the outside of the building.
From this beautiful monastery we made our way along the stunning boardwalk past many bars and café’s to get to the Tower of Belém. Again, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tower is said to have played an important role in the Age of Discoveries, acting as both a fortress and as the main gateway into Lisbon for overseas traders, but now it’s probably best known for it’s picturesque setting for a beautiful photo and opportune spot to watch the sunset. This had been on my list from reading many Portugal blogs and I have to say, it was ok. It is much smaller than I imagined, so a little underwhelming, but overall a great spot to sit, chill and people watch.
The last and most important stop of the evening was ‘pasteis de Belem’. Now for all those who know me, will know that I love cakes, pastries, food in general and after hearing about this world famous bakery known for it’s perfect pastry, I would say I was more excited to try this than anything else in our full day of adventuring! Belem is the birthplace of these tiny creamy desserts which in my previous blog have been referred to as Pastel de Nata but Pastéis de Belém is a store and café specialising in these pastries, and ‘specialised’ is definitely the right word. This bakery has been producing freshly-made Nata since 1837, using the original recipe created by monks in the neighbouring monastery.
Now, I have now tried 7 of these little beauties through Portugal and I can honestly say 1 is not enough, in fact 3-4 would not be enough and if I hadn’t put on so much flubber then past few months then I would have stuffed my greedy wee face till I burst. (man, I miss the gym)
Leo loved them as well and for someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, he was floored at the first bite. These gooey, creamy delicacies sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon were literally one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. I urge you if in Lisbon – go here! God, I could be there sales rep…what a fantastic job that would be!!
That brings our day to the end, which after 35k + steps I was grateful to get the fuck home and sleep. Tummy filled with yummy desserts and camera full of fab photos, I would say was a 10/10 successful day! It also brings us to the end of our Portuguese adventure as tomorrow we are off to Croatia!!
We arrived in Lisbon. After a 2.5-hour train ride and a metro, we ended up at 'Castilho 63', a hostel which I would highly recommend. I will start this off by saying we walked 35,000 steps yesterday and I fell asleep mid-sentence last night. Man, what a good day! We explored the infamous city of Sintra and the beautiful neighborhood of Belem – both fantastic places and should be must do’s on your Lisbon list.
We set off to Rossio station as the easiest way to get there is definitely by train. Trains run regularly from Rossio (40 minutes, €5 return) and from Oriente stations (45 minutes, €5 return). Tickets are easily available at the machines or kiosks at the stations. Massive travel hack – either buy online or get there really early as the queue was OUT THE DOOR massive when we arrived so we split up and navigated our way to the quickest line. We made it with about 10 seconds to spare on the 10am journey.
The train will be PACKED near the back so walk up as far as you can to the front. There will be a door you cannot enter so when the train stops as it’s first station, hop off and run to the nearest forward door, you will find heaps of empty seats and a much nicer ride than the carriage behind which is jam packed with tourists all standing in a hot mess. Oh, also make sure you exit the train at Sintra station, not the misleadingly named Portela de Sintra which is first.
The palaces and castles of Sintra are spread all over the 145 square kilometres of the Parque Natural Sintra-Caiscais, so there are many many awesome things to explore – the most famous being the Pena Palace!
We have arrived in Aveiro, an adorable little fishing town about 40 minutes south of Porto which is the perfect overnight stop over on our way to Lisbon as it has been described as overwhelmingly charming and picturesque. It has been known as the ‘Venice’ or Portugal due to its scenic waterways, where colourful gondola-style boats pass through.
We got the train from Porto this morning at 11am costing $8NZD pp for the 1hour 10 min journey South, and we recommend booking a day in advance as the train was fully booked and lots of people were standing the whole journey.
Waking up not hungry in the slightest as we had eaten our body weight in food last night we opted for a beautiful long lie and movies in bed. At about 10am we started to get peckish and got ready for day of walking the city, exploring the areas we didn’t manage yesterday.
We planned to go to Zenith, which from the reviews I highly recommend BUT we didn’t get there in time so the line was down the street and we decided to give it a miss as I was hangry. We would have loved to have tried it though if we weren’t leaving tomorrow. We ended up around the corner in a beautiful bakery but with the worst service imaginable. I left pretty hungry and a little angry as I hate more than anything spending money on food when it’s not worth it.
However, regardless the fact I was feeling a little low and down and still hungry I found this bear a couple of times on our walk and for some reason hugging a gigantic bear in the morning makes you feel so much better. We then headed off on a huge walk across the St Luis bridge to the other side of the river and walk towards the ocean. It’s a good 7km from our house but the walk is totally beautiful and well worth it. The village is called Afurada and it is a wonderful fishermen village just outside Porto which is still not damaged by tourism, so it’s a great place to spend an afternoon eating seafood and getting away from the city and the herds of tourists.
Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and one of its most colourful! We managed to get cheap RyanAir flights from Marrakech for $50NZD pp (plus all the shitty added extras) but worth the price to tick this destination off the list. The city has been described as ‘’the capital city of food (YAAASSSS) in the country with abundant of seafood restaurants along the Douro river and home to one of the finest port wine’’ (DOUBLE YAAASSS). We are spending three nights and have booked a beautiful Air B n B about 1 km from the center.
We headed to the Sao Bento station to grab out tickets for Aveiro on Saturday and I can’t recommend going there enough. It is far more than merely a transport hub for Porto's residents; on the walls of the grand entrance, 20,000 azulejo (traditional painted tiles) depict Porto's history through it’s beautiful blue and white tiles littered across the walks and roof.
From there we spent the day wandering around this beautiful city, making our way down to the famous Dom Luis I Bridge which was designed by Gustav Eiffel. The bridge, ranked #1 for things to do in Porto on Tripadvisor, becomes the heart and soul of the city in the late afternoon and was mobbed when we got there after spending an hour or so soaking up the sun with coffee’s and beers along the river’s edge.
We walked the bridge from both the bottom and top (not for the faint hearted) and it was truly a spectacular sight. It is definitely worth walking both levels but the view from the top is by far the best lookout point you can get in Porto.
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!