Weekend City Breaks: Porto or Lisbon?

After a week in Portugal I was totally in love and already wondering when I could come back, or even if I could feasibly move here! The ancient culture, fresh flavoursome food, gorgeous architecture and laid back culture are just a few reasons why it’s easy to fall in love with this country. 

Most people visit either Porto or Lisbon on weekend city breaks, with both cities well suited to such a trip. We on the other hand decided to do a 8 day long holiday visiting both cities for three days each and 2 days in Sintra. Both have different activities to offer and different cultural identities, read on to find out my top tips for both. 

Lisbon 

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Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and as a gorgeous ancient city, sees many more tourists visiting per year than Porto. You can spend your days exploring the various neighbourhoods all of which have very differeIMG_5023nt atmospheres. We stayed in Alfama, the ancient heart of Lisbon and home to the Fado music culture. The area is teeming with little bars and restaurants tucked away on cute streets where you can enjoy dinner, drinks and heart wrenching Fado performances. The singing is intense and transports you to a different world. In this area you will also find the ancient São Jorge Castle on the hill and a tramway line 28 you can ride through if your legs aren’t up to the march!

In Barrio Alto you will find endless bars and restaurants to keep you entertained at night and of course the famous time out market to sample all sorts of Portuguese and international food. Head to Belem to visit the famous monastery, Belem tower and taste the best Pastel de Nata in the world at Pasteis de Belem. Eat in their cute and sprawling cafe instead of taking away- their coffee is delicious!

Pastel de Nata

Sintra 

There is easily enough to keep you entertained for three days in Lisbon but I highly recommend taking a day trip, or even better and overnight trip, to Sintra just 30 minutes away by train and home to countless castles, palaces and gardens. By taking an overnight trip you can visit some of the lesser known but equally beautiful sites (like Monserrate Park) and avoid the mid-morning crowds at the National Palace who are visiting as day trippers by visiting first thing in the morning on your second day.

Eat a hearty Portuguese lunch at Don Pipas or an elegant dining experience at A Reposa

No crowds at 9am!
No crowds at 9am!
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Monserrate Palace is not to be missed, along with its stunning and vast gardens.

 

Porto 

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Just three hours away by train from Lisbon you will find the second most popular destination in Portugal to visit for city breaks. Porto is the birthplace of Port, a delicious fortified wine that you can sample here in various breweries and bars for next to nothing. This city also has numerous winding streets full of gorgeous architecture but is much more rustic and rough around the edges than in Lisbon. You can happily spend two days wondering around discovering little bars and restaurants amongst the crumbling churches and shops.

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If you want to head out of town a trip up the Douro river will give you unparalleled views of the steep streets of Porto and vineyards clinging to the banks further up the river. As with Sintra, this can be done as an overnight trip if you fancy getting out of the city and spending some time in the cool mountain air.

 

10 ideas for a winter weekend city break

Rome by Moyan Brenn on Flikr

A quick search on Skyscanner will reveal that now is the time to plan ahead for those wintery months coming up, and book a weekend away. City breaks are one of my favourite types of holidays; a couple of days to explore somewhere new, wine and dine in nice restaurants and stay in a hotel and let someone else clean up for a while. But which city should you choose, when there are so many? There’s something to be found in Europe for every style, it’s just a matter of finding the one that tickles your fancy and booking those flights!

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4 ways to avoid the tourist traps of Barcelona

7257777130_d45ffba4fb_kBarcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world but each year that I visit, this is the 5th, it gets more and more crowded. This year I was fortunate enough to be visiting local friends, so I was able to get a taste of the real Barcelona, away from the crowded tourist traps. The highlights are undoubtedly worth seeing, as described in my last post about Barcelona. However if you’re in the mood for something different or you’ve been to Barcelona before, I’d like to share the love and let you in on the secrets!

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Beat the Brexit Blues: Inspiration for an English Holiday

So the pound has fallen from its mighty perch, and suddenly going away this summer seems far more expensive. Far from being a disadvantage, it’s actually the perfect opportunity to see what the UK has to offer, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. We are blessed with gorgeous landscapes, quaint cobbled street villages and a rich history thanks to the Romans and Prehistoric wonders. Hit up airbnb for some cheap accommodation or invest in a tent and some comfortable bedding, bundle into the car and have a good old fashioned road trip. These are four of my favourite places in England to get you inspired.

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5 Places to enjoy London like a Local

London is my hometown and having travelled the world I can honestly say its one of the best cities I’ve ever immersed myself in. It’s is bursting at the seams with things to do and places to see, but also full of tourist attractions that are heaving with people most of the time. You’ve got to brave the crowds to visit unmissable sights like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace, but where do you go to get the authentic experience? Where do Londoners go on the weekend to enjoy their city? All my favourite spots are now revealed and they’re perfect for families, couples or backpackers, because the best places are ones that anyone can enjoy.

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8 Barcelona Highlights for Your Next City Break

Barcelona harbour at sunset
Barcelona harbour at sunset

Barcelona is the perfect destination for anybody looking for a little bit of everything. Great weather, beaches, culture, history and great food can all be found in this charming city. My favourite thing to do is pick a couple of disctricts to walk around for the morning or afternoon and just get lost, for this is a city full of unique neighbourhoods. Pack a comfortable pair of shoes but don’t try to do more than 1 or 2 areas per day. For an utterly relaxing and memorable trip, don’t miss out on any of these highlights.

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7 Tips for an unforgettable Road Trip through France

France has always been a popular destination in July and August being just across the channel. I remember going on some great holidays there when I was a child, my poor dad having to keep us occupied on the long drives whilst all I remember was tormenting my younger brother and having a great time! I’ve just spent the last 2 weeks driving through France and what a vastly different experience it was. Less arduous motorways, more quaint villages with delicious plats du jour. Less arguing with my brother, more scenic stopovers for glimpses of castles or fresh mountain cheese. This trip was done on a budget, but that’s no easy task in France. You have to be crafty and willing to take your time, but it is possible to do it and get a lot out of it. Want to know how to make the most of your drive through France? You’re in the right place.

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