We managed to snag one way flight to Porto with a return out of Faro at the last-minute, then a new Ryan Air connection from Porto to Lisbon during the first week of January. From Lisbon, we rented a car to drive the two hours from to Albufeira in the Algrave coast to cap off the trip with some sun.
New Years Eve in Porto
We took a new car service from the airport called Welcome Pickups and stayed at the Pestana Vintage again right on the water at Ribeira which is the perfect location for exploring both sides, and it was surprisingly quiet despite the NYE parties that carried on after we went to bed.
There are two areas for fireworks in Porto, and no, they are not over the bridge as you may see in photos when searching about the new year there. That was a little disappointing, though there were fireworks all around (nothing will compare to London). The bigger party and concert was happening up the hill at the Avenida dos Aliados. The crowd didn’t form really until about 10-11 p.m. and the bars started closed at 8-9 p.m. for private ticketed parties. We managed to still grab a drink at the bar of the new brewery Fábrica Nortada a few minutes away which had standing areas at the bar for the public open. Because of our last-minute booking, we tried The Fork pp for dinner reservations, however, they all cancelled out after booking – it’s the only negative about Portugal, you can’t really book anything successfully online during a holiday. So, we found a burger joint and Munchie and waited far too long to eat, the only plus was we could sit inside. We made it back out by 11 p.m. and the crowds on the avenue had multiplied like crazy. We decided to take the lesser crowded NYE spot at the water, though now we aren’t sure what would have been best.
Pros: The water was way less crowded with a fun atmosphere still, fireworks on both sides of the river, and right outside our hotel so we could stop indoors for warmth till it was time.
Cons: You can’t see the fireworks from the Avenue from there but you can hear them, so you do feel like you missed a big show. However, if you were there, would you feel the same way about the river? We will have to go back again to see the other side and compare.
The next day, it was about 50/50 to what was open or not, but again, you don’t know that by the online hours, you just have to wing it. We did make reservations for dinner nearby at a tapas place which was OK, nothing special.
The best restaurants this trip were tapas places and our favs were of similar name: The Wine Box and The Wine Barrels. Meat and cheese plates, goat cheese salad, cooked dishes, lime tart… all good and casual. The wine Barrels place has spots to sit in and outside while the sun is out also.
On the Gaia side (where all the Port is) we stopped at Bacalhau for lunch. It looks touristy on the outside and small but it was actually huge on the inside with good fish, and good service. It was better than expected and filled us up until dinner.
The fanciest stop was DOP for lunch because it was open, and we thought it meant the official mark of Italian products. It was not but still good – way overpriced for the size of the dishes though. There was even a family from Modena, Italy there who we overheard asking the waiter about the name because the food wasn’t what they expected. Modena is where DOP foods like Parmesan and balsamic come from so it made us feel better to know we weren’t the only ones confused.
None will compare though to our favorite dinner from the last trip at Camafeu. You have to call or Facebook message for a reservation, but they were unfortunately closed for the holiday.
Last trip we really made the rounds to all the places so this trip we caught up with our favorites (like Croft) as well as two new ones, Calem and Cockburns which is actually pronounced Co-Burns we are told. We didn’t have reservations, we just got lucky and walked in a few minutes before the English tour. Both tour were different and included tastings.
Cockburns tour was our favorite of the trip because we also got to see the barrel makers/repairmen in action and the place is huge, you would never know it from the outside.
We did a lot of transport this trip that we didn’t get to before. Plus lots of wandering around areas we may not have noticed before, looking at all the architecture, 3-D tiles and murals deserving of a photo opp every block or so. It was much more crowded than it was in March, and colder too. Winter jackets were a must once the sun set.
Boat: We took the boat trip touring the 6 Bridges, which in reality only tells you about 5. It was freezing when we weren’t in the sun but it was cool. We bought a ticket at one of the kiosks on the water for 15 euros but we could have saved by booking in advance online. Again, we didn’t plan ahead much this trip. There is also a water taxi where for 3 euro in stead of walking the bridge you can boat across, however, it stops at sunset (which in Jan. is 4-5 p.m.) so we missed it this time.
We also walked across the bridge to Gaia to take the cable car up to the fortress overlooking the whole city.
Monastery of Serra of Pilar: The fortress, monastery and circular shaped cathedral. Inside are several wood carved alters with tons of detail. The cathedral was open but the rest of the place was closed. A fantastic view on a clear and sunny day.
You don’t have to take the cable car round trip, we walked back via the upper level pedestrian deck of the bridge we came over on. If you’re afraid of heights don’t look down, you are as high as it gets on this level. On the other side is another cathedral and an easy walk down to the center from there.
Our flight to Lisbon was in the evening so we had the hotel pack our sandwich to go and we headed out to our Welcome Pickup driver. The airport only takes about 30 minutes or so without traffic and security was also a breeze so we had time for the lounge before take-off (Priority Pass is the way to go).
Stay tuned for Lisbon, Sintra and the Algrave region soon!