Spend 3 Days & Gain 3 Pounds In Portugal: Our Impressions

We had actually planned from the beginning to make Porto our final destination while visiting Portugal during the Europe Train Challenge.

However due to certain events, we had to change our filming location to Lisbon and so only got to spend one day in Porto town – but LOVED IT!

After walking around for a few hours, I really wished we had more time there.

There was something raw about this place that I wanted to find out more about. There was a roughness to the town, and a charisma of the people that I didn’t want to leave so quickly.

Here are some of our first impressions from Porto and Lisbon:

Spend 3 Days – Gain 3 Pounds.

In some streets it’s actually difficult finding a restaurant among the dozens of bakeries selling amazing cakes and pastries.

It’s hard to choose among all the goodies here, but the famous Pasteis De Nata were definitely in the top 3!

At any time of the day there are locals in the cafes having pastry for breakfast, snack or after dinner dessert.

But pastries in all their sugar and glamor does not even compare to the crazy local favorite meal in Porto: the Francesinha.

This is – believe it or not – a sandwich.

You can’t see the sandwich because of all the cheese layers covering it, but inside the two slices of bread are several kinds of meat (smoked ham, sausage, roasted beef), and on top of it all: it’s drenched in a bowl of special sauce with ingredients like – beer…

The Views In Both Porto & Lisbon Are Incredible.

In Lisbon, you can spend a lot of time visiting the many different ”miradouros” – viewpoints, which are spread out over the seven different hills surrounding the city.

In Porto, the homeless guys have the best view: Living in the abandoned and totally rundown houses overlooking the river.

The plants had taken control of the houses and completely buried some underneath its green bed, which to be honest – was part of the beauty.

The location was priceless, yet nobody lived there – or so we thought – until a homeless person jumped up from the wall parting the buildings and us, greeted us politely, and walked away.

This was the place where a lot of homeless people lived: with a million dollar view…

The Buildings Are Built With Bathroom-Style Tiles On The Outside.

Shiny bathroom tiles and what looked like porcelain makes up the outside decoration on many of the buildings and churches around town.

This is a very traditional kind of decoration on houses there, which we saw a lot of it in both Porto and Lisbon, especially in the old areas.

This really adds color to the buildings, and makes each one very unique.

I can’t help but to think of the tiles you have decorating your kitchen and bathrooms with, but it’s pretty cool to see people using it in a completely different way.

I love people doing things the opposite way to what I’m used to – which brings me to the next point…

They Stand Up While Eating.

I couldn’t make any sense of this. In all cafes, people would ignore the many free seats and tables, preferring to stand up to eat their soup on standing at the counter.

Were they really that stressed? Were they trying to avoid wrinkles on their suits? Were they taking an opportunity to stand up a little before going back to work in an office?

Portugal so far has been my personal favorite country on this trip, I loved the vibe, the cities and the people.

How about you? Have you visited Portugal … what did you think?

26 Responses to Spend 3 Days & Gain 3 Pounds In Portugal: Our Impressions

  1. Unexpected Traveller July 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I loved Portugal and driving up the coast led to some amazing discoveries, esp in Summer: http://wp.me/ppqxP-5w

    • Sofia - As We Travel July 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks for the link – yeah we would love to go back and spend more time driving up the coast :)

  2. Andi Perullo July 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    I would gain 10 pounds to visit Portugal!

  3. Acceleratedstall July 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m with Andi Perullo.  Sounds like the extra few pounds is an irresistible risk that provides a high yield. *grin*

    • Sofia - As We Travel July 3, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

      exactly right :) you can always lose it again when you leave right :p

  4. Anonymous July 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Portugal sounds awesome, but where is the port wine? Hey, when do you guys take off on your next train challenge? I really wish I could do that, maybe next year. Safe travels,

    • Sofia - As We Travel July 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

      Hey Leif – we drank Port wine while in Lisbon, and absolutely LOVED it, I could really drink it every day :) We are not sure if we will do another TRAIN challenge, but we are already planning the next phase of our travels for 2011 – will update the site soon :)

    • Straykitten July 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

      To really experience Port wine you have to go to Porto – that’s where all the Port Wine Caves are.  Take a tour of a wine cave (some are free) and then sample their port wine.  Choose from the likes of Sandeman, Croft, and Ramos Pinto to name but a few! Or why not combine a tour of the caves with a short boat ride up the Douro River for only 10€.  The River Douro is right in front of the caves (the wine used to be transported by boat from the Douro Valley, where the vineyards are, to the cellars in Porto).

      Porto really is an amazingly beautiful, shabby-chic city and really good value for tourists.  Plus there are loads of blue flag beaches to choose from. :)

      • Sofia - As We Travel July 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

        We did go to Porto, but unfortunately we didn’t stay long enough to take a tour or visit the vineyards. Next time we will give ourselves a few days there to explore it all!

        I loved what I saw of Porto, shabby-chic is a great description of the city.

  5. Tom Leicher July 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    A couple of weeks ago I spent a week in Porto and absolutely loved it. Great city!
    And I also had the Francesinha for dinner once. My God, was I full after eating it! Luckily it tastes better than it looks.

    • Sofia - As We Travel July 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

      Hey Tom, yeah it didn’t really LOOK that amazing, but what was inside was incredible and how many dif. things they added inside was crazy!

  6. Carlos Manuel Pereira July 4, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Hi Sofia,

    It’s great to know you loved our small country.

    I leave here a link to some Porto photos:



    • Sofia - As We Travel July 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      Hey Carlos, yeah we absolutely loved it – will be back for more! Thanks for sharing the photos, looks beautiful.

  7. Traveller July 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    A presentation about Portugal you might enjoy.. 

  8. roy | cruisesurfingz.com July 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    For some reason Portugal is a place that keeps escaping me. Did you ever find out what was up with the standing up and eating? I’ve seen it in some Czech lunch places where they have long high tables with no chairs.

    • Sofia - As We Travel July 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

      Yeah it used to escape us too, and this was our first time in Portugal. 
      I guess it often escapes people because it’s so out of the way and kind of hard to reach. Unlike Germany and other countries in central Europe you never just happen to “go through” on your way somewhere.We still have no idea why people stood up while eating!

  9. Globetrottergirls July 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    We just spent 3 weeks in Lisbon and absolutely loved it. Even though we stayed there for so long, we still discovered something new every day. Totally agree with the ‘gaining 3 pounds in 3 days’ (do the maths how much weight we probably gained in 3 weeks 😉 …) But we loved all the pastelerias and how people went there for coffee & pastries all the time. We also loved the tiled buildings everywhere and not only the Port wine, but also Vinho Verde (Green wine). We have yet to visit Porto and the rest of the country!

  10. Andrea and John July 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    We’re in Cascais at the moment, having just spent four days in Lisbon. It’s very beautiful here – the Portugese language keeps spinning me out – it almost sounds Middle Eastern sometimes. We head to Porto in a few days – looking forward to the homeless mansions…  ~Andrea.

  11. Isabel November 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm #


    I’m from Portugal and I never tought why sometimes we eat standing up. I have to say that it is not happening all the time. Portuguese people love to sit down and have a good meal and enjoy their time eating, talking and drink some good wine with family and friends. 
    The thing is – during the week – many people have a short time to have lunch and go back to the office. The easy way is go to a café and eat a soup or a sandwich. Is not a matter of stress or nothing like that. In our lunch break we have to do everything we need to do, such as go to the bank, post office, do some shopping and – believe it or not – some people go to supermarkets to buy the ingredients to do their dinner – for when they get home. When it is time to go home every service – like banks, post offices, social security, etc – are closed, so we have to do what we can in our lunch break. We are used to this kind of routine.
    I can assure you one thing: go to a restaurant (and not a café) on Friday and weekend nights and you will see how Portuguese spirit is regarding the food enjoying each others company. Even for me, is an unforgetable experience…a warm and suprising experience! 

    I love your blog! Keep doing what you do 😉



    • Sofia - As We Travel November 8, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks Isabel for explaining why they stand up, it seems like a very stressful lunch break having to do all your chores in such a short time. 

      I had some great experiences from the restaurants in Lisbon, I especially enjoyed the little Fado restaurants and the atmosphere was so cozy and romantic!

  12. Pauline | pinaytraveller.com June 25, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Lisbon is my most favorite city in Europe so far. Its people are as warm as its weather. And the pasteis de nata? Heavenly! Thank you for bringing me back! Happy travels!

  13. Togravus Ceterum July 12, 2012 at 1:45 am #

     I travelled in Portugal for a year and places I recommend to visit are Tomar (not only the Convento de Cristo but the town too), Évora and and the mountain villages of Castelo de Vide and Marvão.


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