Sunny and Super Porto, Portugal

In Spain, January 6 is a major holiday – it’s Three Kings’ Day, the day commemorating the wise men’s visit to the child Jesus and the gifts they brought him. These days, it’s also the day Spanish kids receive their presents. Spain is a madhouse up to January 6, with kids still on winter break from school, people buying toys and gifts, and everyone getting ready to spend the holiday with their families.

Portugal, unlike Spain, doesn’t celebrate Three Kings’ Day. Which means low season starts right after New Year’s and accommodations are super cheap! We closed Pilgrim House for a few days for a sabbatical, and for Kings’ Day our family was able to get away to the nearby town of Porto, Portugal. We booked a tourist apartment for 170€ total for three nights, which seemed like a steal.

During our trip it was a bit cold, but the sun was out and we could get outside. The kids loved exploring a new place and there was plenty for us to do as a family. When I was researching Porto beforehand, I saw some activities for families but not many prices, so I’ve included the prices we paid to help you plan if you’re thinking of taking a trip to Porto as well.

We started out by driving from Porto across the river to the opposite town of Vila Nova de Gaia, from where we could get great, expansive views of Porto spread along the river Douro. According to everybody, a boat tour was one of the best ways to see the area, and this was the red boat we rode. The kids were free, and it cost Nate and me 12,50€ each (25€ total for the 6 of us).

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The boys and I enjoyed the view from the open deck:

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When it got too cold and windy we sat inside and looked out the windows:

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Nate and I tried to get a picture of just the two of us, but then M wandered by, of course:

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The iconic narrow and colorful houses of Porto:

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The boat tour took about an hour. Later, while we were still in Vila Nova de Gaia, we took a Teleférico cable car to the top of a mountain for a better view of Porto. We paid 20€ total for our family to take a ride up and a ride back (again – not too shabby!).

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K loved the two cable car rides. It was her favorite part of our trip:

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There are six bridges over the river Douro, and this one, the Dom Luis I bridge, was built in 1886. This was the view after we got off the cable car:

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And this was the view from the bridge itself. We thought it was beautiful! Porto has so many different tiers and layers, it reminds me of a sprawling wedding cake:

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In Porto itself, we visited the São Bento train station, famous for its tile depictions of scenes from Portugal’s history:

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Based on a recommendation from a local, we also visited the landmark Majestic café. It opened in 1921 and through the years hosted many influential Portuguese customers:

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Everything else in Porto was cheap, but we unexpectedly had to splurge here. K’s freshly-juiced pineapple juice was 4€, and everyone else’s hot chocolate was 3,25€. We ended up paying 20€ for six drinks – all for the privilege of saying we’d now experienced the Majestic.

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Winding down our trip, we tried to make one more stop, this time to the Lello and Irmão bookstore. You can see some photos of the interior here. Unfortunately, since it was low season, the bookstore was closed for inventory. Bummer!

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If you’re a wine lover, you may enjoy visiting some of the wineries and wine caves in Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia and tasting their port wine. The wine was traditionally transported up and down the river Douro in barrels on these wooden boats. Several boats are on display in the river today:

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And that’s about it! Our three days in Porto went quickly, but we had a refreshing, fun time as a family and built good memories. We’d highly recommend it if you ever have the chance to visit, especially during low season.

 

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