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When I lived in Oviedo, Spain two years ago, Portugal was never on the top of my list of must-see countries. But Vigo, the city that I live in now is only an hour and 40 minutes from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. Because so many cheap Ryanair flights are serviced out of Porto’s airport, I have traveled here to take most of my trips to other parts of Europe. I think it’s safe to say that if I had lived in another Spanish city, like Barcelona or Sevilla, I would have never discovered the beauty of Portugal this year. I was very fortunate to visit Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve coastal region in southern Portugal with my boyfriend.
My first experience in this beautiful country was in Lisbon. I spent a weekend there in December with a group of English Teaching Assistants who also lived in Vigo like me. If Lisbon wasn’t so hilly, it would be perfect – but though hard on the feet, it’s still one of my favorite cities in Europe. If you love pink like I do, you will be in a dream world – various buildings, stores and apartments boast vibrant rose shades and look like they were built for a Barbie doll. We saw incredible views of the city from high points called miradouros, ate an amazing sugary pastry called pao de deus (bread of God in English), drank way too much vinho verde (Portuguese “green wine”) and ate delicious churrasco—barbecued pork ribs that are simply to die for.
You can never go wrong visiting Lisbon. The second time that I went was just as magical as the first. The crisp blue sky shone even brighter since spring was approaching and the famous yellow cable cars bustled back and forth up the hills.
My roommate from university was traveling in Europe and her last stop was Lisbon before heading home. I found a 20-euro flight from Porto and set off to see my roommate and her friend for a day. It didn’t matter that I had visited the city so recently – I still had a blast. We walked the city streets, enjoyed a happy hour and each got drunk off a liter of Sagres at the Castelo de Sao Jorge – the best beer in Portugal, in my opinion. If you like big cities with a relaxed vibe, then Lisbon should be on the top of your must-see list.
Some people say that if you love Lisbon, you won’t like Porto. However, I find this totally untrue because I absolutely love Porto. Like Lisbon, there are colorful houses everywhere and loads of hills. I honestly think that there are more hills here than in Lisbon, but also, when I did visit Porto I had a bad case of bronchitis, which made climbing them all super difficult. Maybe that’s why I think that Porto’s are worse. Still despite the hills, I adore Porto. It’s a bit grittier than prim and polished Lisbon, but that’s what gives Porto its uniqueness.
My point is, Portugal is awesome and underrated. Instead of going for the usual Paris, Barcelona or Rome eurotrips, try this country for a change.SV
The nightlife is booming and so are the bodegas – known for their exceptional sweet, but strong flavored Port wine, native to Porto’s surrounding vineyards. Also, if you’re into Indian food, Porto is a good place to go if you want some of the best. Vigo lacks Indian restaurants and my boyfriend and I always crave it daily. In Porto, we ate more Indian food than Portuguese. If you’re into sweets, Porto has the best spot for the ultimate sweet lover: Nutellandia. And yes, Nutellandia is what you think it is – you can eat all different kinds of sweets with Nutella on it. Crepes, waffles, ice cream – you name it
Serious beach-goers can head to Portugal’s Algarve to enjoy a nice getaway. My boyfriend and I found a 35-euro roundtrip Ryanair flight to Faro from Porto in late April. Faro is the capital of the Algarve region. It’s quaint and small with a beautiful old town – but unfortunately there is no beach in the actual city. Faro Beach is a 20-minute bus ride from the city and all the resort beach towns are even further. My boyfriend and I should have done our research beforehand, but nevertheless, we had an amazing time.
We spent two days exploring Faro, one rainy and one sunny. We ate, drank and saw the famous Capela de Ossos, Bone Chapel – a chapel built from the human bones of monks. We visited Albufeira, a super touristy beach town filled with British beach-goers, and went on a fun, one-of-a kind pirate ship cruise across the coast of the Algarve. We also went to Lagos, a town that boasts some of the best beaches in Portugal, and had an amazing time swimming in crystal clear blue water.
My point is, Portugal is awesome and underrated. Instead of going for the usual Paris, Barcelona or Rome eurotrips, try this country for a change. There’s no doubt that I will be back in the next year or so. There’s still things that I want to see – like Sintra, a picturesque Portuguese town with a huge multicolored palace, and the Ria Formosa Natural Park in the Algarve. Ultimately, Portugal doesn’t disappoint. It’s super affordable, super colorful and super amazing, so go. You won’t regret it.