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Heading north: Lisbon to Porto

Departing 1000 on Wednesday 17 April we’re heading for Lisbon, Porto and on to Bragança to make our way north in one long drive. Decided to use some motorways to speed it up and the Vasco da Gama bridge has tolls anyway – it’s an another amazing piece of bridge engineering and design! Stopping for lunch we continue on the autoroute A1 but in the afternoon, stopping for an ice cream, we decide to head for the centre of Porto. Further research and we’d found a possible overnight carpark under the Ponte de Dom Luis 1 bridge! Driving into Porto was a bit of a challenge, especially finding the parking lot – we were greeted by a very friendly man who told us to come back at 6pm when he’d find us a spot! These streets aren’t designed for vehicles, but Steve negotiates his way up to park for a couple of hours on the Jardim da Morro – a garden that leads to the top ‘deck’ of the Luis 1 bridge. After cocktails at a very posh hotel overlooking the bridge we return to find that there’s space for us and we can stay two nights – sorted after a long day, 384 km!

Returning to the posh hotel we’d booked a table at, we felt it was quite unfriendly, no atmosphere, an extra €10 for an outside table and fairly deserted! Cancelling our booking, we found a much better place, ‘Meet & Taste’ in the backstreets of Gaia. Excellent food, good company and great service from the staff.

We spent Thursday wandering the streets of Porto on both sides of the river. After a coffee stop on the Ribeira side we discovered the Casa Guitarra – a fine small museum run by a Portuguese luthier, the only one left in Porto. After looking round, we booked tickets for the evening concert and continued our wanderings. After lunch in the old market ‘Hard Club’ we found ourselves back on the riverside at a tram stop. Joining the short queue, we enjoyed a trip by tram down the river and back. After a hot, tiring, but enjoyable ‘city day’, we took the cablecar back up to the van in time to have a quick ‘freshen up’ before returning to Casa Guitarrra for an excellent fado concert. Steve spent time chatting with Alfredo, the luthier, after the concert and we finally found a very good pizza restaurant that was still open. Seems the Portuguese don’t keep the same evening hours as in Spain, the first two recommended restaurants we visited were already closed for food at 9pm.