Most people who travel to Portugal go to Lisbon. This makes a lot of sense. Lisbon is the capital and the most populated city in Portugal. In my opinion, Lisbon is overrated and should be skipped. This comes from someone who grew up in a small city, lived in NYC for many years, and now lives in a tiny town-like city. I’ve been to Portugal several times, and I wouldn’t recommend you visit Lisbon. Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal but feels a lot homier. Visit Porto instead of Lisbon, and here’s why.
Big Cities Are Just Too Much
I’ve lived in a tiny town in Hawaii, New York City, and everything in between. Lisbon is just too much for someone like me. It’s very dirty, very expensive compared to other places in Portugal, overrun with tourists, and just overrated, in my opinion.
Besides the few gorgeous viewpoints, Lisbon is just like any other European city. Yes, the famous pasteis de nata custard tarts are delicious, but they can be found in other Portuguese cities as well. And there is even a yellow tram in Porto as well.
The city of Porto and Vila Nova De Gaia across the river from Porto are much more interesting places to visit. I wish I could say that they aren’t filled with tourists, but unfortunately, they are. So probably best to visit them in the off-season. There is a river that separates Porto and Gaia. At night, on both banks of the river, there is live music, live Fado music performances, people dancing, lots of places to eat, and much more.
See Everything From the Water
If you want to see and learn about both banks of the river and the six bridges that separate the two sides, take a boat tour. Just head down to the banks of the river. There are tons of places selling tickets for boat tours. There are even some boat tours that include a free port wine tasting. How delicious!
Take a Walking Tour of Porto
I had an injury that basically made walking on any uneven ground very difficult, including hills. So taking a walking tour in a hilly city was not something I was looking forward to. But I ended up taking a 2 ½ hour walking tour, and it was quite manageable. The tour guide was extremely enthusiastic and told us a lot about the history of Porto: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Best of all, the tour was free. However, it is expected that you leave a tip at the end.
All About Port Wine
If you want to learn about the famous port wine, a deliciously sweet dessert wine, head over to Vila Nova De Gaia. There are tons of wine shops and wine tours. You’ll learn all about what makes this wine special and how it’s different from regular table wine. Personally, I love port wine, especially the tawny kind.
Check Out the World Of Wine in Vila Nova De Gaia
Think about a whole complex of restaurants with fantastic views of Porto, interactive museums about wine, cork, and more, and a cultural center all in the same place. That’s WOW Porto – The Cultural District. I checked out three of their museums: The Pink Palace, The Wine Experience, and The Chocolate Story (all comped). All three were unique and very interactive.
The Pink Palace was a museum all about rosé wine. Included in the experience were five wine tastings, including a rosé port wine at the end. The Chocolate Story was all about, you guessed it, chocolate. I loved that everyone won a piece of chocolate as a part of the experience. And The Wine Experience was a giant museum all about how wine is made, produced, distributed, what is good wine and bad wine, and much much more.
I loved how interactive the experiences were. In the wine museum, you could smell the different stages of wine in production, feel the oak barrels wine is aged and stored in, and taste two different kinds of wine. The chocolate story included watching chocolate TV and print ads from over the years. The Pink Palace included sitting in a pink Cadillac and drinking in an old-school saloon.
My Thoughts on Portugal
Portugal is a beautiful country with a lot of history. As with any country, it comes with its good and bad things. Some difficult things I have encountered while in Portugal are the Portuguese’s unhelpfulness, ordering a taxi is a whole headache, very delayed and unorganized public transport, and such. But there are many good things as well.
I love the delicious Portuguese cuisine; the landscape is stunning, the port and regular red table wine are tasty, and more. In addition to Porto, I recommend you visit Lagos to see the rock formations. It was the highlight of my latest trip to Portugal. And you can get there by train. In addition, make sure to visit the Douro valley and stay at a winery. My partner Kevin and I stayed Quinta Do Chão D’ Ordem several years ago. I still recommend it to anyone traveling to Portugal.
What Do You Want to See in Portugal?
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