Portugal Travel Series

Portugal travel series

In case this is your first visit to my blog… the month of November 2010 was been about Portugal. This month long series included travel tips and photo highlights along with special “Story Behind the Photo” posts.

Go back and read more or click on the name of one of the cities below for a direct link to the post. Enjoy!

What was covered this month on Portugal:

–      Lisbon

–       Sintra

–       Porto

–       Coimbra

–       Palace Hotel of Bussaco

To see more photos of Portugal visit The Monica Store or my stock photography site.

Travel Tips for Porto, Portugal – Part Two


Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal – Part Two – Photography and Travel Tips

What else to see in Porto Portugal continues… I last spoke of the main sites to see by the river in Porto, and now I move up the hill and further.

1 – Cathedral of Porto– This is one of the oldest monuments in Portugal. The Porto Cathedral was constructed in the 12th century. The Gothic cloisters are beautiful as the entire lower and upper portions are covered in the classical blue and white Portuguese tiles, azulejos.

2 – Train Station of Saint Benedict– This train station is actually located within the historical center and even if you are not planning on taking a train from this station you need to visit it because of the azulejos – the blue and white tiles decorating the lobby. The tiles depict different historical scenes of Portugal in great detail. When I was there the tiles were in the process of being cleaned so I hope to return one day to see them in all their glory.


Heading outside of the historical city center there is still more to see!

3 – Livraria Lello – This is a bookshop that is a must see for it is considered one of the most beautiful bookshops in Europe! Again, no photos are allowed inside and unfortunately they do not even sell postcards that give the space enough credit so you need to stop by and see for yourself. Notice the tracks on the floor for the book cart – so cute! And if you just can’t wait and curiosity is eating away at you… click here for a full 360 degree panoramic view of the bookstore via a Portugal virtual tourist site.

4 – Walk down the Avenida dos Aliados to see City Hall as well as some magnificent buildings lining this broad avenue.  Also venture off onto the side streets to find local cafes and charming stores. A Vida Portuguesa is a wonderful store with a second floor of just Portuguese made goods that include wonderful soaps!

And… that is not all! There is still more to see which will be revealed in Porto, Portugal Part Three.


*For more photos of Porto visit my stock photography site by clicking here. And for photos of Porto, Portugal to purchase as posters, canvas prints, and cards visit The Monica Store.


Useful Links for Porto, Portugal:


1 – For more information on Porto Cathedral click here.

2 – To read more about the Saint Benedict Train Station click here.

3 – For a quick guide of what to see in Porto click here.

4 – To read more about Porto, Portugal click here.

5 – For a useful and simple guide to Porto, Portugal click here for Wikipedia’s travel guide.

Travel Tips for Porto, Portugal – Part One

Porto, PortugalPorto, Portugal – Part One – Photography and Travel Tips

I went to Porto, Portugal this past summer planning to see all of the tiled churches and the wine boats and that is just what I did. I highly recommend visiting Porto if you like old world charm.


Porto is the second largest city in Portugal. Porto spans the Douro River and reaches out to the ocean. Now fishing towns touch the outer limits of the city. If you visit Porto I suggest staying just outside the historical center and make sure you get a map from your hotel before you venture out and ask for directions as it takes at least a day to get your bearings.

The historical center is on a steep hill that meets the rivers edge. I would recommend getting lost in the historical center and exploring the streets but this will undoubtedly happen anyway.


Main Sites in Porto’s historical center:


1 – Church of San Francisco – To visit the church you buy tickets in the convent right next to it, which is now a museum. What makes this church unique is that the entire interior is completely covered with wood and painted gold! It is truly astounding. No photos are allowed inside so you simply must visit it to see for yourself.

* Side note – There is an adorable English restaurant, Pimms, across the street from the Church of San Francisco that serves wonderful food (a very good vegetarian chilli!) and the all white interior is charming.

2 – Stock Exchange Palace/Palacio da Bolsa – You must be on a tour to visit the palace and when you purchase your tickets you will be given a tour time. This is a must see site and unfortunately no photographs are allowed inside so again you really have to go to see it! The Palace is still in use but you see the main rooms and they are all spectacular and the central courtyard has an exquisite mosaic floor. The palace also has an Arab room, which is breathtaking in all its detail and is shown with great pride as the last room on the tour.

3 – Ribeira – the Riberia is the portion of the city near the river and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will find classic tiled buildings lining the river. There are also boat tour companies along the river walkway.

4 – Ribeira de Gaia – This is the area right across the river from the Ribeira. I suggest walking across the D. Luis Iron Bridge, which is an impressive bridge with two levels to accommodate trains, cars, and pedestrians. Once on the other side of the river you will have a closer view of the old boats once used to transport wine barrels. You can also visit various wine cellars and taste the famous port wine.

After exploring the riverbanks, make your way up the hill to see more – to be discussed in Porto, Portugal Part Two.

* To see more photos of Porto visit my stock photography site by clicking here. And to buy a photo of Porto for home or office decoration click here for The Monica Store.


Useful Links for Porto, Portugal:


1 – For a quick guide of what to see in Porto click here.

2 – To read more about Porto, Portugal click here.

3 – For a useful and simple guide to Porto, Portugal click here for Wikipedia’s travel guide.

Travel Tips for Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, PortugalSintra, Portugal – Photography and Travel Tips

Sintra, Portugal is a charming town not far from the coast. I went to Sintra via the train from Lisbon – an hour ride with rural scenery. Although not far from the coast you can’t really see the ocean from Sintra and the town is located in the mountains so even in the summer’s it is cooler then expected.


What is there to see in Sintra, Portugal:

1 – Pena National Palace – Perhaps the main attraction, this Palace is certainly not to be missed. The palace is a whimsical fairytale castle that looks like a mish-mash architectural styles.

— Brief history of the Pena National Palace

The complex started with a 15th century chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena and a monastery was added later on. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the Earthquake of 1755 the monastery lay in ruins until 1838 when Ferdinand II decided to build a palace around the ruins and the chapel to be used as a summer residence for the royal family. Now the palace is owned by the Portuguese state and stands as a museum.

— Visiting the Pena National Palace

The Pena National Palace sits atop a mountain above the town of Sintra and I advise you take advantage of the bus that delivers you right to the Palace gates. You can walk but I think this would take a couple of hours. (The bus tickets can be purchased at the tourist information center and the bus stop is right across from it. And remember to bring a sweater, as it is quite chilly on top of the mountain and windy!).

You do not need to take part in a tour, you can simply roam through the palace and every room has information in English. It does take a whole day to see the palace, the monastery and the gardens, which are very extensive (you need to use the map provided at the ticket desk to navigate the garden paths).


2 – Castle of the Moors – A castle that dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries with a long squiggly wall that provides wonderful views of Sintra and the Pena National Palace. The castle suffered from neglect and little use after the 15th century until King Ferdinand II started to renovate it.

3 – Quinta da Regaleira – This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and this palace and gardens is yet another whimsical site in Sintra. The Quinta da Regaleira is an estate that was owned by three different families and constructed and reconstructed throughout the 1900s. The gardens ascend up a hill with several tiers, caves, tunnels, ponds, and fountains. The whimsicality of the gardens continues in the palace where elaborate carvings and colorful tiles decorate the rooms and twisted and playful chimneys are guarded by sweet gargoyles that are bunny rabbits and kangaroos. The Quinta da Regaleria is strangely fascinating and a must see!

4 – Sintra National Palace – The Sintra National Palace is in the center of town and appears rather subdued from the other sites as it is all while and features few adornments on the façade. However the interior has a few stately rooms with decorative tiles. I found the kitchen rooms particularly interested with the large smoke stacks for the fireplaces – these chimneys rise high above the palace and distinguish the palace from afar.

For a brief History of the Sintra National Palace (also a UNESCO World Heritage site) click on the link below at the end of this post.


A few practical tips: Make sure to wander around and see the local houses with the tiled details. There are many steep paths as the town is built on a mountain so I advise good walking shoes. As for food, the cuisine is good and fresh and there are of course many seafood options. The tourist information center is not only useful but in a very nice building with clean public restrooms (always good to know). And a final tip – try to see the Moorish fountain which can be reached by following the road leading to the train station for it is really a work of art.

Overall Sintra is lovely town perfect for romantics and those who want to live in a fairytale world even just for a day.

To see more photographs of Sintra visit themonicastore or my stock photography site.


To read more about Sintra, Portugal click on the links below:


1 – Read more about the Pena National Palace

2 – Read more about the Castle of the Moors

3 – Read more about Quinta da Regaleira

4 – Read more about Sintra National Palace

5 – Read more about Sintra