I know it is not the best time to inspire you to travel while COVID-19 is still spreading around the world. Many of us are locked in our homes and can't even cross into neighboring countries. But I am pretty sure that many of us are hungry for travel destinations once things are back to normal. So here is my travel itinerary when we went to Northern Portugal last year.
First, we flew to Porto from Germany. Since my husband had been already to Porto many years ago, we decided to make this trip worth the money by getting out to the hinterlands. After a late-night arrival, we stayed near the airport, rented a car, and hit the road the next morning for our first destination.
Braga is one of the oldest cities in Portugal and because we arrived very early in the morning, we were able to see Braga Cathedral. The guide who barely spoke English was so excited for foreign tourists. I truly was mesmerized by the decoration and elements of the church. What I truly love about Portugal was seeing a ton of tiles that burst with uniqueness and charm. We walked around the town, checked the Gardens of Santa Barbara as well. The gardens weren't in great shape at this time, but if you visit in summer, definitely check it out. Also, we walked through Arco da Porta Nova and stopped at St Vincent's Church and found it quite amazing. After a few hours in Braga, we decided to drive and see Bom Jesus do Monte.
Bom Jesus do Monte is an amazing hidden gem. This Portuguese sanctuary is quite spectacular and you can not only enjoy the beautiful view from the top, but also walk the Baroque stairway that goes up to 116 meters. If not so motivated, you can take a cable car while enjoying the view too. We spent a few hours here before we drove to Guimaraes.
Guimaraes is another small town that you shouldn't miss. It is located near Braga and many tourists visit Guimaraes 10th century medieval Castle. But before we went to the castle, we were absolutely starving and stopped at a local restaurant where we got the best and cheapest lunch. Just at 10 euro per person, we got a bottle of water, veggie soup with bread and a big fish that we couldn't even finish. The locals packed this place. Despite the rainy weather, we decided we should stop at Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira church located in the old part of the city. As soon we were done with the city, we walked to the Castle. To be honest, I truly love it. I wished that the weather was nicer so we could have enjoyed a walk around the fortress.
As for our stay, we picked quite the charming and (a bit) spooky place - Bussaco Palace Hotel. Who knew how magnificent this place would turn out? It would have been nice if we could have stayed longer to truly enjoy the stay. We got so lucky that this regal hotel was almost empty. We had a quiet romantic dinner in their restaurant that I would definitely advise everyone to try who would stay there. The only thing that I regret is that I didn't bring a beautiful dress because this location is a perfect spot for editorial photoshoots. Make sure to order their 5-course dinner because it was among the best dinners we've ever had.
After enjoying our lovely stay, we drove to Aveiro. It was a cute town, but since the weather wasn't nice, we ended up spending some time at a local restaurant to enjoy octopus (unfortunately, it wasn't as tasty as our previous trip to Lisbon). We then drove to the Costa Nova beach, popular for colorful beach houses. As soon it started to get darker, we drove to our hotel that was located in Porto.
I actually loved our stay at Intercontinental Porto Hotel (disclosed: our stay wasn't paid by the hotel). Since my husband has some membership status, they upgraded our room to a duplex suit, which had two-floors and 2 full bathrooms. We couldn't be happier that the hotel was located right in the center of Porto on Liberdade Square. We walked to Igreja dos Clerigos, and I would say that it is a must-visit. Afterward, we went to Igreja do Carmo that was quite amazing also. As for Livraria Lello, I found it overrated. It is a book store with beautiful stairs that aren't made from the wood as we found out later. Plus, it was overcrowded. You also had to pay to even go inside. If you want to buy some fun souvenirs, I would advise you to stop at Fernandesm Mattos & Ca. store.
The next morning, we started our journey by visiting the most beautiful church, I ever have seen - Santo Ildefonso. There are so many things you can see in Porto like the Chapel of Soul, Bolsa Palace, Episcopal Palace, Monument Church of St Francis, and Porto Cathedral. Don't forget to enjoy the riverfront at Ribeira Square and make sure to walk over the bridge to get a beautiful view of the city.
Bom Jesus do Monte
Bussaco Palace Hotel