Red coat: Zara (old, but they have quite a few on eBay!) Booties: Everlane Day Boots (run TTS) Backpack: Old from Madewell (they don’t make the leather anymore but they still sell it in canvas!), Scarf: Mango (sold out but they have so many cute similar ones!)
At LONG LAST the second part of my Portugal guide has arrived! ??
My friend Cassandra and I took a quick trip to Lisbon and Porto this past November in partnership with Noken–which is a self-guided trip planning app. I mean, can you talk about a DREAM partnership?! If you are a culture-loving millennial who is looking to get an authentic taste of a new country, Noken is going to be your jam.
It’s basically like using a travel agent, but it only costs $5 per day per person for each day of your trip–and EVERYTHING you need is saved in your customized app!
I’ve received a lot of DM’s asking for advice on Portugal trip planning–and honestly, no BS–(you know I tell it like it is)–I would never NOT recommend using Noken. I wish they were available in every country I want to travel to–because that’s how easy they make it. I never want to travel without it!
(Side note: THEY ALSO JUST LAUNCHED A BUNCHHH OF NEW COUNTRIES, INCLUDING ITALY!!! HUZZAH!!)
IF YOU MISSED MY FIRST POST, HERE’S HOW NOKEN WORKS:
1. YOU SIGN UP ON THEIR WEBSITE, AND SET YOUR TRAVEL DATES AND BUDGET
(They can accommodate ANY budget!) pay upfront before you go (Noken’s fees are only $5 per person per day of your trip–the price of a latte!)
Their site is where you book and confirm major things like hotels, transportation, excursions and day trips. You have the freedom to pick and choose what you want to do and where you want to stay so you can mold the trip to your preferences.
2. THAT’S BASICALLY ALL THAT IS REQUIRED OF YOU TO PLAN YOUR TRIP (OUTSIDE OF BOOKING YOUR PLANE TICKETS).
They do ALL the planning for you. Hotels, rental cars, train tickets, the best sights to see, where you’ll want to eat, and excursions, and figuring out how to hit everything in the most efficient amount of time–all with the expertise of someone who REALLY knows the city. Oh, and it even gives you DIRECTIONS that you can pull up directly in google maps.
ALL your confirmations, tickets, etc are in the app. Our confirmation for our hotel to make check in a breeze? In the app. Our train tickets to Porto? In the app. Yep. It’s a game-changer. Oh, AND the app works on airplane mode
3. YOU’LL RECEIVE A CUSTOMIZED APP BEFORE YOUR TRIP WITH EACH DAY’S ITINERARY PLANNED FOR YOU, FROM BREAKFAST THROUGH GOING OUT AT NIGHT.
Additionally, they’ll include a bunch of “before you go” information in the app that answers literally every question you may have about traveling to that country. What do you need to pack? Do they have uber there? Do you take cabs? What’s the public transportation like? Do they take credit cards most places? Is it easy to find Wifi? What about tipping? How do I say “Hello” and “Thank You” in Portuguese? Do most people speak English? Are there any local food specialities I can’t miss? ALL of these things are answered with Noken!
4. ON YOUR TRIP, YOU ALSO HAVE ACCESS TO REAL-TIME SUPPORT VIA THE APP
See that little bubble in the right-hand corner in the screenshot below? That’s a chat box you can open anytime to ask questions from their staff. We were confused about our train times, and they got back to us with clarification. It was so nice to have!
Examples of what you’ll see in the app:
You get it. The app is really cool, right? If you’re planning a trip to Portugal, you 100% have no reason not to use it. It will truly be the easiest trip you ever planned.
Now, let’s get into my Porto guide!
First, why you should go to Porto:
I often get asked which city was my favorite out of Lisbon and Porto, but truthfully, I don’t think I could choose. Lisbon is lively and bustling and Porto is quaint, quiet and so incredibly charming. I definitely think you need to go to both! We only had about 24 hours there and I really wish we’d had more time. I would recommend staying at least 2 nights if you can!
Taking the train from Lisbon to Porto:
The train from Lisbon to Porto is very easy–it leaves from the main station–Oriente–and takes about 2 1/2 hours. You’ll make a quick train change at Porto Campanhã station–which is right outside the city. You’ll then hop from the big train onto a smaller, inter-city train to Sao Bento, the main station in Porto.
Unlike other trains I’ve been on in Europe–the seating arrangements are very strict, so make sure you actually find the right car and the right seat. If you want to move, wait until the conductor comes, and then ask him about switching seats. The reason I know this because Cassandra and I both get really motion sick and were sitting backwards opposite the way the train was going (if you get motion sick, you know this is BAD. NEWS.) It was kind of an ordeal to switch seats. ?
Sao Bento Railway Station:
Upon arrival at the Sao Bento station–prepare to be amazed. It is hands down the COOLEST train station I’ve ever had the privilege to step into. It’s absolutely beautiful, covered in tiles dating back to the early 1900’s, and friezes depicting important events in Portugal’s history. It’s definitely worth waiting until the rush of passengers dies down so you can get a good photo!
Where to stay in Porto:
We stayed at the Porto A 1829 Hotel and it was incredibly charming, very reasonably priced, and in an excellent location. I would highly recommend it to everyone! They even give you a glass of local port when you check in. ?They have the cutest gift shop in the lobby stocked with locally made goods–making it a great place to pick up a few last minute souvenirs!
Restaurants in Porto:
Okay so, remember, we were in Porto for barely 24 hours–so we really didn’t get the chance to try a ton of restaurants. ?The one big perk of planning your trip through the Noken app though, is that they have all the insider scoop on the best restaurants! They can either make reservations for you ahead of time, or you can peruse all their recommendations in the app if that’s more your style!
For lunch or dinner: Puro 4050:
This was our favorite meal in Porto. We were ready for some veggies after days of heavy meats and cheeses, so this was definitely a welcome treat. We ordered salads, roasted artichokes, and split this amazing mushroom pasta. The service was wonderful (they also had wifi so we could work!) and it was probably the coolest, prettiest restaurant we dined in during our entire trip. Whether it’s for lunch or dinner, I HIGHLY recommend going here. Oh, and it’s only about 10 steps from the hotel, haha!
Breakfast at Zenith:
Our one and only morning in Porto, we decided to check out Zenith at Noken’s recommendation–it was an adorable, bustling cafe–they had great coffee and smoothie bowls! If you’re in the mood for something fresh and healthy–this is definitely going to be a spot for you! I will admit I was less than enthused with the Shakshuka I ordered though (it looked better than it tasted), so maybe stick with the smoothie bowls. ?
Tourist attractions – Things To Do in Porto Portugal:
Cais de Ribeira and Gaia:
This is essentially Porto’s main riverwalk along the Douro river–the Porto side and the Gaia side. Gaia is technically a different town than Porto–separated by the river! (Gaia is the side with all the wineries!) As an outsider, you won’t really notice a difference, both are incredibly charming–but to locals–they are two very different things!
Definitely take some time to grab a gelato and admire the beautiful scenery of the boats in the water, and the beautiful famous bridge Porto is famous for–the Ponte Luis! There is a beautiful little restaurant right at the base of the bridge on the Porto side that I wish we would’ve stopped at–it’s called Bar Ponte Pensil–it’s probably such a tourist trap ?but it has such beautiful views of the bridge at sunset!
Fun fact: Porto has the most bridges (6 of them!) of any city in Europe! One of them, Maria Pia bridge, was built by Gustave Eiffel (Yes, as in, the Eiffel tower!) He also began construction of the largest bridge the Ponte Luis, with one of his students, but dropped out before the bridge was finished. These were the last projects before he started to oversee construction of the Eiffel tower! I think looking at it–his influence is quite clear! It’s an absolutely stunning bridge, and it the time, was the largest metal arch in the world!
The best part about the bridge is that you can access it at both the bottom (where cars drive) and the top (where the metro line runs). I highly recommend doing both! We crossed the bottom at sunset, and returned back in the morning to catch the top at sunrise! Tip: There is a cable car you can grab across from the bridge entrance on the Porto side! This takes you to the top–but you’ll have to wander a bit to find the top of the bridge entrance. (Just follow the people, haha!)
Wine tasting in Porto:
I absolutely LOVE Port wine–but I had never stopped to think about where it came from. The answer: Porto, Portugal!
If you’re not familiar with Port, it’s an extremely sweet, syrupy dessert wine–you don’t drink it like you do your average glass of red or white. Therefore, I probably would say it’s not necessary to do, for example, a full day of wine tasting in Porto like you would in Napa or Sonoma–one tasting, and you’re good! (Personally, that’s my take anyway.)
We did a tasting at Taylor Wine Cellar which is one of the most well-known cellars in Porto (as well as one of it’s oldest!) and it was absolutely one of the biggest highlights of our trip. The grounds were absolutely breathtaking–like a secret garden! If you can, definitely arrange to sit outside. It was the #1 recommended wine lodge that Noken recommended, and we’re so glad we went! We were short on time and had to catch our train that afternoon, so we did not do the guided audio tour, but I wish we had! (Apparently it includes a tasting at the end!)
The other one they mentioned was Croft wine lodge–but we didn’t make it before it closed! However, it’s apparently less crowded and they are also famous for a rosé port, which is the first of its kind!
Capela das Almas:
Did you even go to Porto if you didn’t take an instagram photo at the Capela das Almas? Definitely plan to make a stop here to admire this church covered in stunning azulejos (Portuguese tiles) depicting scenes from the lives of saints. I definitely recommend going as early as possible in the morning for a shot of a person-free instagram photo ?
Huge thank you to Conor for DMing me and making sure we stopped at Armazem! It’s a big warehouse full of antiques (but it also has a cute little patio bar/restaurant at the entrance that you can leave your non-antiques appreciating husband at if needed.) However, my husband was not with me ?so Cassandra and I wandered through the vendors together, appreciating the collection of artwork, furniture, charming knick-knacks, dishes, and more. We ended with two cold beers out on the patio restaurant and it was PERFECT.
This adorable shop, Coração Alecrim, completely stole my heart. You must, must stop in here. It’s kind of like a small, charming, Portuguese Anthropologie. I bought a little dress here but they have a bit of everything–jewelry, vintage goods, home goods, clothes, and more–it’s such a beautiful shop! The woman working behind the counter was also adorable. We loved talking with her!
What other questions do you have about Porto? I hope you add it to your *must visit* list!!
You might also like… Amalfi Coast Guide–Things to Do, Where to Stay, and What to Wear!.
Photos by Cassandra Eldridge