I knew I would be captivated by the azulejos in Portugal – as you probably know, I love anything blue. But what I didn’t know was just how much the culture of Portugal would capture my heart. While I had been aware of the fact that Portugal was a major colonizer in both Brazil and parts of Africa, seeing the fusion that has become the culture of this place, blew my mind! Out of small restaurants and cafes you would hear Brazilian and African beats, people were a blend of ethnicities, and the food – don’t even get me started.
We started our time in Porto, a city about 3 hours north of the capital. Porto was filled with building whose facades had tiles of every shape and pattern. Unfortunately, the week we visited it was cold and rainy. But this didn’t stop us from enjoying incredible meals, long walks (albeit wet), and of course some great shopping. Who knew that handmade wool blankets were a specialty we would go bananas over! We stayed in an airbnb that had old world charm combined with modern sensibilities. I would have moved in if I’d had my two boys with me!
After a great time in Porto, we headed to Lisbon for the remainder of our stay. Lisbon was cosmopolitan, and at the same time, retained a charm you don’t see much anymore. The first day we just walked the streets and were smitten with all of the haberdasheries that were everywhere. I bought several pairs of scissors – making sure they weren’t in my carryon. We went one evening to listen to Fado music, had drinks on a rooftop terrace with the cool kids in town, and continued to eat more delicious food. As is the usual case, one of my favorite activities was going to the Flea Market. I picked up some great little treasures to use in my home and spent next to no money. Photos of bullfighters, old books, and some old blue & white azulejos, were some of my favorite items I brought home.
Here are some must see things to do in Porto & Lisbon:
Casa de Musica – the VIP room is stunning against the modern architecture.
Cantina 32 – a must order is the octopus.
Lobo Taste – stunning Portuguese hand-crafted goods. I fell in love with their blankets.
Sao Bento Train Station – a quick walk through this beautiful train station as you wander the streets. It’s in the heart of the city.
Igreja do Carmo – has a stunning exterior that is not to me missed!
Port Tasting – there are tons of tasting rooms along the water. Take an afternoon to explore each one. I’m now in love with Port.
Fabrica Lisboa – best latte and eggs sandwich. It’s nestled on the hill above downtown.
Fado Musica – get lost in the beautiful music of Fado. It was amazing to watch.
Feira da Ladra (Flea Market) – stunning gems can be found in this flea market. It’s on the top of a hill where it overlooks the city. Start at the top and work your way down the winding streets of treasures.
Park Bar – this is a “hip” bar. You literally get to it through a parking garage. Take the elevator all the way up and you are transported to a bar where all of the it people are in the city. Plus the view of the bridge is not to be missed.
Pasteis de Belem – almost everyone I asked about recommendations in Lisbon mention going to Pasteis de Belem for their belems. You’ll find them throughout the city but this place is the best. Don’t wait in line to take them to go – pop inside for a few that are served hot and then order a few to go.