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Bom dia (Good day in Portuguese)!

Just back from a week with friends in Portugal!  We had the best time exploring, laughing and discovering the lovely country.  

We rented a car at the Lisbon airport and drove to Porto (about a 3 hour drive) for a few days.  We next drove back to Lisbon for a few more.  It was a fast little trip (well, we did stop for a few fun days in Paris on the way!).

I had ideas in my head of what it might be like.  Beautiful architecture, old world charm, Fado music, port tastings, blue and white tiles (called azulejos).  But there was so much more.

As I do with all my trips, I like to give you my TOP 10 list.  Naturally, there are so many more things to see and to add to this list, but I am aiming for an edited version.  Get a guide book and that will give you all of the great museums and typical sites…with my list I am trying to share an inside look, things that you might not see listed in a book.

In no particular order…drum roll please…

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PORTO

10.  Cantina 32 for lunch or dinner:  Full disclosure: we went back two times and ordered the exact same thing.  It was just THAT good.  The best fresh grilled fish and vegetables. 

9. Igreja do Carmo: The exterior’s blue and white tiles made me smile.  It just happened that when we arrived a rainstorm was in full effect.  The intro photo that I took with the man with the umbrella will always remind me of that day. 

8. Lobo Taste: One of the best stores we came across in Porto. Paula is the owner and curator/buyer and has handmade local objects including stunning wool blankets. I shipped back a dozen for client projects.

7. You can’t go to Porto without a port tasting or two.  Across the river, you will find tasting room after tasting room.  I asked many people to name their favorite port and the answer was always varied.  Why not check out a couple and pop a few bottles in your suitcase?  A great memory to bring back home. 

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6. Casa de Musica.  Built by Rem Koolhaus, the building resembles a spaceship that has landed in the center of Porto.  The project is controversial for the extreme design as well as timeline and budget.  The space is worth seeing on a guided tour (two times per day).  Request to see the VIP space on the top floor.  The juxtaposition of blue and white tiles in the modern setting is breathtaking. 

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LISBON

5. Flea market: Saturday morning. Feira da Ladra  Grab a coffee to go – perhaps at the nearby Fábrica Lisboa and spend a few hours exploring.  You might enjoy following along to Schoolhouse Electric’s blog on their shopping adventures.

4. Listen to Fado music: A must!  Voices so expressive and filled with melancholy. Beware of some Fado locations with overpriced food and mediocre food (sort of tourist traps). Going for a drink and listening is perfect.  Check out: Clube de Fado 

3. Pasteis de Belem:  Everyone I spoke with who previously visited Lisbon said that this was a must.   I wondered how a simple baked custard tart could live up to the hype.  There is typically a line outside for take away.  Walk in on the left and meander down the hallways and corridors and you will find tables and a wait staff.  Enjoy a few with powdered sugar and cinnamon on top with a cup of coffee.   The perfect afternoon treat.

2. Park: A hip rooftop bar with a fabulous outside terrace including panoramic views of the city.  The bar can be a bit tricky to locate as you have to take an elevator to the top floor of a parking garage.   You have a great vantage point to see the 25 de Abril Bridge – which resembles the Golden Gate Bridge (suspension design and similar coloring). An interesting fact is that the American Bridge Company built the 25 de Abril Bridge and also the San Francisco Bay Bridge – but not the Golden Gate.  The story is often confused due to the similarities to the Golden Gate. 

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1.   A Vida Portuguesa: A home store filled with soaps, note cards, kitchen items- like vinegars and sea salts and the most beautiful display of packaged sardines – and so much more.  I purchased a soap that smells of oak moss for my bathroom and every time I use it I am brought back to Portugal. The smell is intoxicating. 

I also like the check out the New York Times Travel section before traveling.  Just before I left, they published articles on Porto and Lisbon.  So check them out online.  Here are two links: 36 Hours in Porto  and 36 Hours in Lisbon.  There is also a great article from Architectural Digest on Lisbon and from Elle Decor on Porto.

Portugal seems to be hot on people’s travel lists these days!  Very easy to get around (Uber is everywhere) and there are great accommodation options (we rented two great Airbnb houses).  Move Portugal high to the list of your next travels.  I can’t wait to visit again someday.