Portugal, an attractive country at the very end of Europe. Or at its beginning, depends on the perspective. I have felt attracted by this “beauty from the south” since years already but have never been to. The Porto marathon, which I picked up as the last race of the 2017 season offered a great opportunity for both, running and travelling. An additional trip to Lisbon was a must!
Arriving to Porto
Porto is a very nice traditional city where you need just few days for its visit. We landed on Thursday and the plan was to move to Lisbon on Monday, after the race held on Sunday. For our stay we’ve chosen the area called Matosinhos where you will find plenty of places to rent via airbnb. Close by, you will find the Porto City Park (Parque da Cidade), the same time Matosinhos is the fisherman’s area with stunning beaches. You will enjoy delicious freshness directly from the Atlantic ocean to your table, should you be the same as me: a fish- and seafood lover.
Porto is a city with a typical south-European traffic culture which means no public transportation comes on time as they get stuck in a huge traffic jam, especially when commuting to the city along the beach. Try to avoid that, the only public transportation system which works well is the Porto metro (Metro do Porto). Not really a typical underground metro but more a ground fast tram. Just be careful and make sure you check how the ticket system works before you jump in. You will need to buy a card called Andante where you can allocate as many journeys as you wish… so far so good. The trick comes with the validation. The ticket is valid for one hour after validation, but every time you change lines you need to re-validate it on the yellow machine placed on the station. Do validate it before entering the train, you will get charged only once within that hour. Be careful to not validate it when you exit, always validate it on the station when you enter a new line. Should you be still decided to commute to the center along the beach, in addition to the bus (which is often a double-decker) you can try the old tram which is an experience you will hardly forget. The green line number 1 is what you need but again, do not count with too much schedule accuracy.
Before the race day we spent two days with walking through the center, which is rather small. (about the race you can read here). All the important places are approachable within walking distance. Make sure you don’t miss the main square (Praca da Liberdade) and you can take it from there – whatever direction you decide to walk, there is always something to see. Old churches, beautiful palaces, great castles, majestic bridges or the long beach promenade under them… well, I am not going to tell you about what you can read in every traveler’s guide. What you should not miss is the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world, McDonald’s Imperial located in a spectacular historical building or the incredible paintings on the walls of the Porto Sao Bento railway station. Last but not least, you will eat your best in life tuna sashimi-avocado-bruschetta tapas in Tapabento S. Bento, located only few meters from the Sao Bento railway station.
Our weather on Friday was everything else than sunny thus we spent the day with walking, resting and enjoying great wine and delicious tapas. At the main shopping streets Rua de Santa Catarina you should not miss one of the coffee places or restaurants where they serve a typical menu – a glass of port with the typical pastel de nata. Price: 1,30 Euro. They say that Majestic Cafe is the place where J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time when living in Porto and writing her first Harry Potter book but we avoided this – too many people waiting outside to be seated. Should you be looking for a really good tapas bar with excellent wine, I can recommend the place we’ve been to: The Wine Box Porto. It came just one time, while we were hiding before the rain again.
On Saturday the weather changed completely – there was no other option than walking along the beach, which is a great experience. If your weather is nice, your pictures will be just beautiful. We also visited fort Castle of St. Francis Xavier and later had to take a break at one of the bars at the beach, having a nice glass of wine and a sandwich. We spent the remaining hours of the daylight with walking in the center, which prepared again an unforgettable atmosphere.
Typical for Porto is that you can easily spend two days with walking around, enjoying the beauty of this city and its tapas and wine bars. We enjoyed it very much!
After an authentic Portuguese dinner on Sunday evening (a lot of cod fish) we moved the next morning to Lisbon. We were hoping to enjoy something special thus booked a train between Porto and Lisbon but I can tell you, there is not much to see. Should you have the chance to take Ryanair for let’s say 50 Euros, do it! Arriving to Lisbon we realized, this city is so different to Porto. It’s already a city you could call a top European destination, full of tourists and pretty old buildings, a competition where Porto despite its beauty has to take the second place – sorry to say that, especially knowing the eternal rivalry between these two. What you should definitely not miss in Lisbon is the following:
Portugal is not only Porto or Lisbon, it’s a beautiful warm European country with nice and friendly people. It is definitely worth to be revisited again.
Runeller’s 3 not to miss for the end:
ONE: Have a nice run on the beach of Matosinhos with running in the City Park as well, it’s easy to do in one short run!
TWO: Enjoy a glass of Port wine together with the sweet Pastel da nata, you will find plenty of spaces where served as menu for a cheap price!
THREE: When visiting the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belem, don’t miss the cloister. The church is for free but only after you pay for the entrance for the cloister you will experience the ultimate moment of a peaceful beauty. Oh yes, and don’t miss the Tower too, it’s worth the one kilometer walk from the cloister.