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Douro Valley Views

Before I started developing my itinerary for Portugal, I knew there was one activity that belonged at the top of my list: visiting a port winery (or two, or three…).

One of my favourite summer activities is wine tasting. Back in Canada, this was an easy afternoon outing, with my hometown quite literally surrounded by dozens of wineries. However, Sweden and wine don’t really go hand-in-hand. This means I’ll be spending a lot less time sipping wine in vineyards this summer. For this reason, I knew that I wanted to take full advantage of Portuguese wine country while I had the opportunity.

When I began researching the best way to visit the Douro Valley, most itineraries only detailed day trips from Porto and I really struggled to find the information I was looking for. After lots and lots of research, I’ve put together this two day guide to visiting the Douro Valley that will guarantee you the best visit.

Seriously, prepare to be amazed by one of the most drop dead gorgeous locations I’ve ever visited.


THE TOWNS OF THE DOURO

The first choice you need to make when considering visiting the Douro Valley is which towns to visit.

After doing lots of research, we settled on staying near the town of Pinhão. We ultimately made this decision based on its distance from Porto, and its location within the Douro region.

Pinhão is a lovely little town, surrounded by vineyards and offers plenty to do. Additionally, the drive from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222 has be voted the be drive in the world! Based on this, we knew Pinhão would make the perfect resting point.

Douro Valley

WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOURO VALLEY

Two words: Casa Cimeira.

Once we settled on a town, we began scouring surrounding properties for the perfect place to rest our heads. We wanted to stay at a popular ‘homestay’ [often affectionately referred to as a wine hotel, because these family-owned properties often also make their own wine]. When I came across Casa Cimeira, I knew I had found the spot.

Casa Cimeria is located just outside of Pinhão in Valença do Douro, a small village located amidst the rolling hills of wineries. Casa Cimeira is an immaculate family-owned property. It features spacious rooms, a pool, and the most spectacular views of the Douro Valley.

The owner and host Miguel is very welcoming and helpful. He offered us lots of tips to help you make the most of your time in the region.

And perhaps the most special part of the Casa Cimeira experience are the family dinners each night. We enjoyed an amazing home cooked Portuguese meal amongst other guests from around the world, sharing stories and bottles of Miguel’s homemade wine. This experience only costs 20 euros per person and was a highlight of our time here.

See also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.


GETTING TO & AROUND THE DOURO VALLEY

BY CAR

Driving is easily the best way to get to the Douro Valley. Plus, it is the only way you’ll be able to experience the ‘best road in the world’ from Peso da Régua to Pinhão along the N-222. And let me tell – for this reason alone, the drive is worth it. I must have said “wow, look at that” at least 100 times.

Valenca de Douro Views

To get to Pinhão, we rented a car in Porto. For the most part, the drive was seamless. The roads were well paved, there was very little traffic, and they had two wide lanes. Getting to Pinhão was easy; however, getting to Casa Cimeira in Valença do Douro was not as straightforward. If you choose to stay in a neighbouring village to Pinhão [or any other Douro Valley town] be aware of the very steep, narrow, mountainside roads that you may have to navigate to get there. Sure, there are guard rails. But the roads are VERY narrow, and the locals do not drive slow.

However – I would argue that the ten minutes of white-knuckle driving was absolutely worth these views [although Sebastian might argue otherwise, since he was the one driving LOL]. Plus, I think I have been numb to all risky driving experiences ever since we braved some seriously scary roads in the Greek Islands.

See also: You can read all about our single-lane, cliffside, no-guard-rails driving experience in Naxos here.

BY TRAIN

The main towns of the Douro Valley, including Pinhão, have train stations, and you can take the train from Porto. I have heard from other people that this is a pleasant experience if you’re hesitant to drive. However, I would argue that it would be difficult to see everything the Douro Valley has to offer without a car, unless you want to hire a car/shuttle service to some of the local sights and wineries once you arrive in Pinhão.


THINGS TO DO IN THE DOURO VALLEY

EXPLORE THE TOWNS & VILLAGES OF THE DOURO

During our time in the Douro Valley, we visited Pinhão and Peso da Régua.

Peso da Régua is a charming town nestled into the mountains, where we stopped for lunch and took in the most beautiful views along the lake. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but we did have one of my favourite meals in Portugal at Churrasqueira Rio Douro. Here, we were greeted by this fiery little Portuguese women, who was running around the tiny restaurant serving all the diners. We were told to pick a meat, which was served alongside plates of fries, rice, bread, and salad. The food was incredible, and the service was amazing. This massive meal only cost 16 euros!

Lunch at Churrasqueira Rio Douro

Pinhão is a larger town, and a popular hub for visitors to the Douro Valley. We spent an an afternoon wandering around Pinhão, having ice cream by the waterfront, visiting the local shops, and going on a boat ride along the Douro Valley. In town, there are a variety of tour operators that you can walk about to and book a boat ride [it only cost us 10 euros per person]. I really loved this experience because it wasn’t a tour – no history, no stories. It was just a relaxing time where I was able to sit on the bow of a small boat and admire the beauty of the Douro Valley.

DRINK ALL THE WINE

Shocker: we drank lots of wine in one of the world’s most popular wine regions.

A short distance from both Pinhão and Valença do Douro is one of the Douro Valley’s most popular wineries: Sandeman. The wine estate was, simply put, STUNNING. We visited their tasting room where we sampled a few of their wines, and admired the views of their vineyards and gardens. We didn’t book a winery tour at Sandeman; although based on the grandeur of the location I can imagine it would be impressive.

Located a short [very steep] 15 minute walk from our homestay in Valença do Douro was a much smaller, lesser known, winery called Quinta da Côrte. This spot is home to some of my favourite wines I had in Portugal. It also offers a “casa” where you can stay overnight if you are visiting the region. Here, we toured the facilities, learned how port wine is made, and tasted some of their signature wines – I couldn’t recommend this winery, and this experience, enough.

Quinta de Corte Winery

See also: The best food and wine tour in Porto.

ADMIRE THE VIEWS

I don’t know if I have ever been to a place as serene as the village of Valença do Douro. With not a person in sight, we felt as though we had the world to ourselves. We hiked around, took lots of pictures, and sat on benches and just admired the views. I had a few serious “pinch me” moments, feeling so grateful that these locals had welcomed us into their little, tiny community.

If you are planning on visiting the Douro Valley, I highly suggest taking a day or two in your itinerary to slow down and admire this agricultural masterpiece. Far too often travel can feel fast-paced and hectic. Visiting the Douro Valley was the perfect reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Views of the Douro Valley near Pinhao

FEELING READY TO GET YOU WINE DRINKIN’ ON?

Before visiting the Douro Valley, I knew almost nothing about port wine [aside from the bougie-ness factor]. And I assumed that the highlight of my time in northern Portugal would be spent drinking wine on terraces and roaming through vineyards. Don’t get me wrong, we did a whole lot of that – but the Douro Valley is SO MUCH MORE. And it should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.


PLANNING ON VISITING THE DOURO VALLEY? PIN THIS FOR LATER!

And check out some of my other Portugal posts, including my guide to all the things to do, see, and eat in Porto!

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It’s safe to I fell head over heels during my two days in Porto. The city is so much more than just Lisbon’s little sister and offers to so much to do and see – and [perhaps most importantly] EAT.

As a relatively new player to the tourism scene, the vibes of the city are organic and raw. In fact, many of the popular tourist areas were quite unsafe a mere two decades ago. The architecture isn’t perfect, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. It is easily one of the most charming cities I have ever visited, and I already can’t wait to go back.

I’m dishing all the deets that are guaranteed to make you have the best two days in Porto. Are you ready? Let’s go!

GETTING TO PORTO

By Air: Porto has a small airport, with direct inbound flights from select European cities, and is located roughly 20 minutes outside of the city centre. We flew direct from Copenhagen to Porto and found the process to be very seamless. If you’re headed to Porto and there isn’t a direct flight from your hub, you can book a flight through Lisbon. There are several flights from Lisbon to Porto daily.

By Train/Bus: If you’re heading to Porto from another city in Portugal, it is well connected by train and bus to other popular cities, like Lisbon. We didn’t use this method, but I know many people who have who have said that the experience was very positive.

By Car: If you’re openminded to driving, the best way to get to Porto – and travel around Portugal – is by car. We opted to rent a car in Porto, and drive it down the coast to Lisbon. We made stops along the way, and saw things that we never would have been able to if we were not driving. Driving in Portugal was very easy. The roads were well maintained and paved, and there were very few drivers on the road. The only downside is that there are several tollbooths along the way. However, the cost of these tolls are marginal.


GETTING AROUND PORTO

Walk: Porto is a fairly small city, and is easy to navigate by foot. If you’re capable, I suggest this option because you can see so much more by just wandering around.

Uber: Uber in Portugal is cheap. We used Uber to get to/from our hotel when we had luggage, and the couple times that our destination was not within walking distance


WHERE TO STAY IN PORTO

We stayed at the absolute best hotel in Porto: ZERO Box Lodge. In fact, I loved it so much that I wrote an entire blog post about it. Click here to read all about it.

See Also: The best hotel to stay and play at in Lisbon.


THINGS TO DO IN PORTO

Cais da Ribeira

This waterfront district of Porto is so incredibly charming. Filled with waterfront patios and the most perfectly imperfect buildings – you’ll feel like you’re sitting in a postcard.

Take some time to explore the narrow surrounding alleyways and stairwells. Here, you’ll find so many unique shops, architecture – and of course, TILES. I loved this region because it felt so authentic. It wasn’t perfectly maintained like many other European cities, and you could often spot the locals wandering around amongst the tourists, picking up groceries at the local shops, and hanging their laundry out to dry.

Luís I Bridge

This industrial structure stands tall along the Porto waterfront, and features two layers that you can walk across. I would highly recommend heading up to the top layer for the best experience.

Tip: For the best views of the picturesque Casa da Ribeira, walk across the Luís I Bridge and snap a few pictures.

Port Tastings

Once you arrive on the other side of the bridge, you’ll be greeted by winery after winery… after winery. This is the best place to spend an afternoon indulging in Porto’s namesake beverage: port wine.

There are dozens of wineries to choose from. We opted for a tasting at Ramos Pinto, where we were educated on the different types of port wines offered by the winery. If you have time, I would suggest doing a tour of the facilities to learn about how the wine is made. We didn’t do one in Porto, because we had tours planned on the next stage of our trip in the Douro Valley. But, if you’re not able to make it out to the Douro Valley, you should definitely do a winery tour in Porto.

After a port tasting, sit along one of the many patios along the waterfront, sit on a glass of wine, and enjoy the views of Cais da Ribeira.

Eat Your Heart Out

One of the best things about Portugal is the food. Pastel de nata, francesinha, and SO much seafood – need I say more?

We wanted to make sure we had the best foodie experience during our time in Porto, and so we took a tour with Secret Food Tours Porto. If you want to know more about this amazing experience, I wrote all about it here.

Visit the Douro Valley

On our trip, we opted to spend two days in the Douro Valley [you can read more about that here].

If your itinerary doesn’t allow for an overnight visit, you MUST take a river cruise day trip to the Douro Valley from Porto. There are a variety of tour operators along the Porto waterfront to choose from. Book a trip and I can guarantee that you’ll see some of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen.

Clérigos Church and Tower

For the best views from the top of Porto, visit Clérigos Tower. Here, you can walk through the most beautiful church and climb up the (very narrow) winding staircase to the top of the church tower. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views of the city.

São Bento Railway Station

You’ll find beautiful tiles everywhere in Porto, but some of the prettiest hand painted can be found inside the São Bento Railway Station. This spot is absolutely worth a stop when you’re wandering around the city.

Tip: If blue tiles are your thing, my absolute FAVOURITE are located at All Souls Church. Here, you can take an iconic Portuguese picture – just like this one.


WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN PORTO

Porto Food Tour

I already mentioned my tour with Secret Food Tours, but I truly can’t stress enough how great this experience was! You can read all about it in my Secret Food Tours post here.

O Carniceiro / Big Bad Bank Bar

This restaurant-bar combo was located inside of our hotel, ZERO Box Lodge and it was EPIC. O Carniceiro was hands down our best meal in Porto, and the cocktails at Big Bad Bank Bar we so well done. Not to mention, the ambiance was just so cool. You can read more about it here.

Mercado do Bolhão Market

A favourite sopt for locals, you could wander around this market for hours, tasting all the best local foods. And don’t be afraid to try the sardines – they were actually very tasty!

Capa na Baixa

For the prettiest terrace in Porto, check out this place. I would highly recommend this stop if you’re looking to indulge in the classic Portugese favourite: francesinha.


BEST TIME TO VISIT PORTO

I loved visiting Porto – and Portugal in general – in April. The weather was warm, but not too hot. And it wasn’t swarming with tourists yet. The only downside of visiting Porto in April is the potential rain. Although we were (mostly) lucky, we did experience a couple wet days, which is pretty typical for this time of year.

For the optimal weather, Porto is best visited during the shoulder season of May and September.


Okay, seriously. How beautiful is this city? If you’re headed to Portugal, you CANNOT MISS this place. I mean it – add it to your itinerary, right now.


HEADED TO PORTUGAL? PIN THIS FOR LATER!

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The city of Porto is seriously cool. It’s gritty. Charming. Inviting. And perfectly imperfect in every single way.

Coincidently, I would use all these same adjectives to describe one of my favourite hotels, ever: ZERO Box Lodge.

This spot is definitely not your typical hotel, and quickly challenged all my expectations of what I typically expect from a hotel: because it is so much more than just a hotel. A trendy hub in the centre of Porto where you can sleep, eat, drink – and be amazed (seriously, this hotel was definitely designed with Instagram in mind).


ABOUT ZERO BOX LODGE

ZERO Box Lodge describes their hotel design as a new way of sleeping. And suggests that their model could be the future of tourism.

The hotel was the brain child of Gonçalo Carvalho, who had a vision to transform an old t-shirt factory from the 1800s into a revolutionary hotel concept. It was a one-stop-shop where visitors could feel like they have entered a different world.

In short, in every single way this place is the complete opposite of an ordinary hotel. ZERO Box Lodge is…


A PLACE TO REST

The room concept at ZERO Box Lodge was inspired by the Japanese “capsule hotel” and features rows of simple wooden boxes with plenty of room to move around, stand, and sleep. Each of these boxes features it’s own private, very modern bathroom.

Although the rooms were small, we rarely spend time in our hotel room when travelling. And found it was spacious enough to relax after a long day, with a very comfy bed and a large welcoming bathroom and shower (with huge towels, which I find are ALL TOO RARE when travelling – it’s all about the little things, you know?).


A PLACE TO EAT

Would you believe me if I said that the best dinner we had in Porto was at our hotel?

I never eat at hotel restaurants. I typically find them generic, overpriced, and lacking any sort of culinary creativity. O Carniceiro at ZERO Box Lodge challenged every single one of those opinions.

The concept was simple: look inside the glass refrigerator, pick a cut or two of meat, and they will prepare it for you. Pick a side dish (or two or three). And ENJOY.

We opted to share a couple different cuts of beef (they do have veggie/fish options if meat isn’t your thing). Indulged in two sides. And were totally blown away.

I was so full, but the food was SO good I knew I had to get dessert. And the sweet/spicy mix of the blackberry and green pepper chocolate cake was easily one of the best desserts I’ve had in awhile.

And the best part: this meal was so affordable.

See Also: The Best Food Tour in Porto


A PLACE TO DRINK

Why leave the hotel when you have one of the coolest bars in the city onsite? The Big Bad Bank Bar not only looked cool, but the cocktails were so on point. We enjoyed our pre-dinner cocktails so much on our first night in Porto, that we returned for another drink before our dinner at Big Bad Bank Bar the following night.


A PLACE TO BE AMAZED

Bank Vault

Inside Big Bad Bank Bar, they have designed their very own bank vault, complete with thousands of bills behind bars and traditional Portuguese tile patterns. It is easily the most Insta-worthy spot in the hotel.

Free Room

Yes, you heard that right – FREE HOTEL ROOM. This unique feature helps you answer the question: how far would you go for free accommodations?

Located in a highly visible location between the reception and bar is a glass-enclosed “free room.” The catch – zero privacy. And I mean literally zero. In fact, when we were going to breakfast in the morning we walked by the room to witness the occupant passed out in the midst of all the commotion around him. And we came home from a busy day in the city to see him playing video games in the room.

Personally, I’m adventurous, but not THAT adventurous. However, if you are ready to put yourself on display, this is the perfect opportunity to stay in Porto for free!


A PLACE THAT HAS IT ALL

Welcome Beer

Cold beer? Yes please. When I walked into the hotel and was offered a cold beer, I knew were in for a special stay. And the hospitality didn’t stop throughout our stay. The staff was friendly, helpful, and really rounded out the whole experience.

Breakfast

We also opted for the breakfast, which was served at O Carneceiro in the mornings. For only 8 euros per person, you were given a choice of four breakfast options, which included coffee and freshly squeezed juice. The portions were generous, making this option an incredible value and one I would absolutely opt for so you get up and start exploring early.

Watertank & Sauna

The “watertank,” or rooftop pool, wasn’t opened yet when we visited in April, and it still says that this feature is “coming soon” on the hotel website. But, once it is opened it will be a fantastic amenity with views overlooking Porto; it’s something that I can’t wait to return to try.


LOCATION

ZERO Box Lodge is located in a fabulous location, right in the city centre. Porto is a small city, and virtually everything is accessible by foot. This spot is perfectly situated to help you make the most of your city exploration.


PRICES & BOOKING

ZERO Box Lodge is super affordable, and offers an incredible value for your money. Check out the latest prices and book your stay: click here.


In short: ZERO Box Lodge is JUST PLAIN COOL & if you’re visiting Porto, you NEED TO STAY HERE.

I really couldn’t recommend this spot enough. The concept was so unique, and absolutely contributed to making our stay in Porto that much more special. And if sleeping in a box isn’t your thing, you can still stop by and enjoy the bar and restaurant. Because this spot is so much more than just a hotel.

See Also: The Chicest Boutique Hotel in Lisbon


ARE YOU HEADING TO PORTO?

PIN this article for later and stay at Porto’s trendiest hotel! And subscribe to my mailing list to stay up to date on more Portugal recommendations coming to your inbox soon.

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Rooftop Pool Lisboa

When travelling, nothing is more important than having a place that I’m excited to relax at after a long day of exploring. A little home away from home where I can take a hot shower, get cosy under the covers, and catch some much-needed ZzZz’s.

That’s why, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a big city like Lisbon, I was so excited to find my little oasis: Hotel White Lisboa.

Hotel White Lisboa Bed

ABOUT HOTEL WHITE LISBOA

Hotel White Lisboa is a boutique hotel located near the centre of Lisbon, offering 41 rooms, a rooftop pool, and amazing breakfast spread to help you fuel up for your Lisbon adventures. And it’s name is no coincidence – the hotel has a very minimalistic, modern design and is virtually all white.


GETTING TO HOTEL WHITE LISBOA

From Lisbon Airport: The location of the hotel is near Lisbon airport, roughly 15 minutes away by Uber or taxi. We opted to take an Uber to the airport, as this option was a much better value than taking a taxi (cost: ~7 euros).

From the Train Station: When arriving in Lisbon, we took the train to the ‘Entrecampos’ station, and then transferred to the metro system. The closest metro stop is ‘Saldana’ which is located literally right in front of the hotel.


HOTEL HIGHLIGHTS & AMENITIES

Breakfast

Hotel White Lisboa offers a ‘Bed & Breakfast’ rate, which includes a buffet-style breakfast served from 7 until 10 am. We indulged in the breakfast during our stay, which included a wide spread of options including a variety of bread, fruits, Portuguese pasteries (you can never eat enough pastel de natas), juices, coffee, tea, and yogurt. It was the perfect way to begin our day and saved us the hassle of finding a breakfast spot, so that we could get our day started.

Hotel White Lisboa Breakfast
Rooftop Pool

Admittedly, this was my absolute favourite part about my stay at Hotel White Lisboa. The rooftop infinity pool felt so refreshing after a long, hot day wandering around Lisbon, and the lounge chairs offered the perfect vantage point to take in the most beautiful views.

If you’re looking for a hotel with a pool in Lisbon, this is your spot.

Hotel White Lisboa Portugal Sunset

TIP: To avoid the crowds (and expensive drink prices) in the city centre, head up to the rooftop with your favourite drink at sunset and watch the planes glide across the skyline.

See Also: The trendiest hotel in Porto.

Front Desk Staff

The front desk staff was available 24/7, and offered us some great tips on how to make the most of our time in Lisbon. Additionally, they provided an all-day drink service that definitely came in handy (sometimes a girl just needs a pre-dinner espresso pick-me-up).

Spacious, Modern Rooms

I truly can’t saw enough about our hotel room at Hotel White Lisboa. It was incredibly chic and modern. Very spacious (which was so welcomed after staying at a string of small hotel rooms throughout Portugal). And most importantly, SO CLEAN.

It offered all the amenities that I typically look for in a hotel room including a large, modern shower, and toiletries including shampoo, soaps, and other vanity items.

For when you’re looking to unwind before bed, the room also featured a large TV that was mounted to the wall and disguised as a mirror.

And we loved our window views overlooking some of the most beautiful Portuguese architecture.

Personal Touches

Our room was stocked with a large spring water bottle, chocolates, and fresh fruit. This hotel seriously thought of everything. And was so committed to making sure their guests have the best possible stay.


LOCATION

I can’t say enough about the location of this hotel. Located just north of the busy city centre, Hotel White Lisboa is located in the business district of Lisbon and right on the metro line. And I truly mean RIGHT on it – the ‘Saldana’ stop is located outside its front door.

During our time in Lisbon, which purchased 24 hour unlimited metro passes each day for only 6.40 euros, which meant getting virtually anywhere in the city was a breeze.

What I loved most about the location of this hotel was that even though it was on a main street near the city centre, the neighbourhood was away from the heart of the most touristy locations, and as a result was very quiet at night. It was the perfect escape from the busyness of Lisbon.


PRICES & BOOKING

Prices for a basic room begin at 102 euros a night, which is quite the bargain in a large city like Lisbon. I would recommend adding the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ option for grab and go convenience.

For the best rates, you can book on the Hotel White Lisboa website here.

And in case I haven’t convinced you to stay here yet (which I find incredibly hard to believe)…

Fodor’s Travel named Hotel White Lisboa the #4 hotel on their ‘9 Best Value Hotels in Lisbon’ list.

It’s no secret like Lisbon is a trendy travel destination. And for good reason – the city is so cool. But with trendiness comes rising hotel prices, and Hotel White Lisboa provides the perfectly affordable little home away from home oasis you’re looking for in Lisbon. I’m so thrilled that I was able to spend three nights here, and would urge you to book this hotel in Lisbon if you’re planning a trip to the city.

If you’re heading to Porto: check out the trendiest hotel in Porto.


Are You Planning a Trip to Lisbon?

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