Porto, Portugal: A Lazy Day in Porto

August 30, 2018
A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal


Much Ado About Doing Nothing:
A BLISSFUL LAZY DAY IN PORTO, PORTUGAL



Porto was the perfect antidote to my short but frenetic tour of Portugal. I had shown my mother (who was visiting Portugal for the first time) Lisbon in 24 hours, trekked across the hills of Sintra in search of castles in the sky, and made a day trip to Fatima to witness the largest gathering of Catholic pilgrims in the country. A highlights reel of 3 cities in as many days; travelling by train, coach, trams had made for a hectic pace, and it came as a relief to spend a lazy day in Porto before flying back to London.

That’s not to say that Porto had little to offer. Quite the contrary. From the moment the train emerged from the pitch-black tunnel to reveal a bird’s eye view of Rio Douro and her graceful arched bridges; Porto wowed me with the faded opulence of her medieval walls covered in hand-painted azulejo, the rustic charm of her hole-in-the-wall taverns, the prettiness of her pastel houses carved into hills that stopped short of the promenade, and the joie de vivre that one gets from sipping Port Wine by the riverbank from dusk till dawn. Porto, in short, was like a pop-up book of life’s greatest pleasures, laid out for the languid perusal at the tip of this lazy reader’s fingers. This is my photo diary from Porto I hope that it captures the sultry, sun-drenched, soirée I enjoyed during my last day in Portugal.






A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal
This weary traveller who wanted her cake and eat it too (but didn’t want to stray too far from bed) had found a hotel that was basically the Deliveroo to her carbs-based analogy. The 5* InterContinental Porto - Palacio das Cardosas lies in the heart of Porto’s historic centre at the end of Porto’s main avenue, the imposing and regal Avenida dos Aliados. The location was simply unbeatable; not only is the hotel a skip and a hop away from major cultural monuments (as well as the first stop for the Yellow Bus that tours the city highlights), it is barely a 100 metre walk from the São Bento railway station - and thank goodness, because dragging my luggage over cobblestones is not my glass of Madeira. 

 The InterContinental Porto - Palacio das Cardosas is located in a newly renovated 18th century monastery and palace; indulging my desire for historical surroundings (and appetite for grandeur), heritage, and authenticity; yet with the luxury of all the modern comforts and conveniences I had come to expect (no draughty castles for me!).

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal


In a matter befitting of the InterContinental Porto’s former incarnation as a palace, the hotel’s design is spectacular. Neoclassical in style, with marbled foyers illuminated by Swarovski chandeliers; satisfying symmetrical arches and wall panels, and armchairs upholstered in flocked and jacquard velvet; the vibe is thoroughly luxurious, classical, and elegant. 

Likewise, the service is top-notch, with obliging and knowledgable staff who did everything they could to make my stay enjoyable as well as indulge my carelessness (like when I decided I wanted a different room, had them move me, then promptly left my jacket in the first room which had to be searched for and retrieved).

As for the rooms, mine really was the best of both worlds. My room faced the lively square where I could watch the ebb and flow of the city, yet with the soundproofed windows shut I could disconnect from the outside world. My room was spacious, well-appointed (eight pillows for my bed? Yes please), and decorated in that traditional style I like (chandelier lamps, heavy tasseled curtains, winged velvet armchairs) with old pictures of Porto adorning the walls. It was all rather indulgent, so it came as no surprise that I opted to spend my first evening with room service while people watching from my window.

Rooms start from €350 in high season.



A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal
MUSEU NACIONAL SOARES DOS REIS


You know by now by affection for both art and air-conditioning. The two combined are my favourite way to while away a hot summer’s day. My destination of choice was Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, the most prominent museum in Porto. The museum was inaugurated two centuries ago and is the country’s oldest and first public museum. Throughout the museum’s history, the collection is varied: from confiscated property of monasteries dissolved in the age of Liberalism to a much more PC roster of decorative arts, archeology, and fine arts. The piece de resistance of Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis is its collection of paintings and sculptures, the most magnificent of which are by the sculptor whose name graces the museum.

I was surprised that the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis was so quiet in peak season, given the gravitas of the museum. For one, the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis is housed in the country’s oldest palace, Carrancas Palace. Then there are the graceful gardens, surrounded by pink walls covered in (of course) azulejo. Or perhaps I was just lucky. Having craved a quiet afternoon of solitude, it was a dream to wander, alone and undisturbed, through a warren of rooms and corridors, unlatching doors and windows to sneak onto balconies. It felt very covert, very clandestine, very cheeky, and certainly very intimate - less like being at a museum and more like wandering through a stranger’s home while peeking at their collections.


A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal



A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

Having committed to move as few muscles as possible, I decided to see the city by a much-underrated (or rather, less commonly used by yours truly) mode of transport: the Yellow Bus. The Yellow Bus is the perfect hop-on-hop-off service that follows 2 routes: the purple line that takes visitors to the castles of Porto, and the orange line that follows the historical route. I rode both (the routes were about 90 minutes each) and was extremely content to just sit at the open-air top of the double decker with my audioguide, making only a few stops. 

My mission was mostly to see as much as I could with minimal effort. And such sights. Driving over behemoth steel bridges (themselves a feat in engineering and design) over the Rio Douro. Rumbling along the Ribeira through the Unesco World Heritage maze of medieval alleys. Driving so close to the Church of St Ildenfonso that I could almost reach out and touch the azulejo bell towers. Rolling by the promenade at the perfect vantage point to spy the many port wine cellars that line the river banks. Waving back to the crisp white linens that flap in the wind from laundry lines in the many pastel-hued houses along the river. Crawling up hilly backstreets and through the upscale residential district of Serralves via Avenida do Marechal Gomes da Costa. Gasping at the immensity the beaches and the wide open ocean in Foz do Douro. It was all postcard perfect, and all I had to do was pay pennies for a ticket, alight from the square opposite my hotel and disembark right by my doorstep.


Why do I not clamber on sightseeing buses more often?! 
If all sightseeing bus tours were this blissful, I could honestly make a habit of it.



A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal


But of course, at some point I had to get off the bus and stretch my legs in an outdoor setting. Naturally, I chose the most tranquil destination to do so - the beguiling Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. Perched atop a bluff, this beautiful botanical garden is dotted with fountains, sculptures, and a rose garden. Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is strictly speaking, a mosaic of small gardens linked with paths and accented with arches that perfectly frame the view of the river, promenade, and the city below. 



A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

A Lazy Day in Porto, Portugal

From that elevated point, Porto was a tableau of bell towers, churches, and terracotta-roofed houses; fringed by palms, olive trees, and cypress. It was extremely romantic to see the city shrunken down to a postcard, and the perfect parallel to the end of a trip which served as an overview to a city I’d love to return and take a closer look at.

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