Tag Archives: Porto

This is why Portugal has become such a popular travel destination: 5 arguments

2018-02-26

The differences between north and south, east and west in Portugal are surprisingly big, even though the geographic area of the country is not large. Is it possible to identify reasons for the growth of tourism that apply to all parts of the country? The author of the travel guidebook Algarve, Southern Portugal lists five key reasons for the success of tourism in this southern European country.

Carvoeiro, Algarve, Portugal

1. Nonuniform cities.
2. Nature and landscapes.
3. Tourism infrastructure.
4. Pleasant climate.
5. Colorful history.

Cities are different from other old cities in Europe

Two largest cities in Portugal, Lisbon and Porto, are old cities and they show their age. There is nothing like these cities in Europe – they are odd, strange, but lovable. The unique Portuguese culture defines the way of life in all communities. Traditions are readily visible in small villages, but city residents also like their cod and coffee. Digital nomads may choose to stay in Lisbon or Porto, or head to the south coast for a less hectic environment. Towns like Faro, Lagos and Albufeira in Algarve draw thousands of people from Nordic countries who spend their winters on the coast.
Faro old town, Algarve, Portugal

Varying landscapes from beaches to mountains

Mountains, hills, and rivers define the inland landscape in Portugal. In central Portugal, large fields dominate the landscape, but in other regions, the sceneries are varying.

Both the west coast and south coast have so many types of beaches and coastlines that they provide endless possibilities, for instance, for hiking and birdwatching. Most visitors spend their time sunbathing and swimming, but beaches near town centers, like in Portimao (Praia da Rocha) and in Albufeira have plenty of activities on the sea as well.

The west coast that faces the Atlantic Ocean is a home for many of the best surf beaches of the world.

Services for tourists

Services for tourists, such as hotels, apartments, restaurants, shopping malls, health services, car rentals, motorhome parks, and tour services have been built relatively recently. Of course, tourism started in Portugal a long time ago, but a big investment in infrastructure has been made later than in other southern European countries. It means that many facilities are modern in Portugal.

In Portugal’s main tourism regions (towns on the south coast of Algarve, Lisbon region and Porto region), everything a traveler needs is readily available. In these areas that have plenty of tourists, English is widely understood. Outside those areas, everyone has to survive in Portuguese.
Surfers in Sagres, Algarve, Portugal.

Coast vs inland, north vs south

The most pleasant climate around the year in Portugal is in the south, Algarve. That is why winter escapees from other parts of Europe have discovered it.

The rule of thumb is that it rains very little in the south, and the amount of rain increases the further north you go. The same with the temperature: south is warmer than north. Inland is another story. For instance, in summer, it is not a pleasant destination for outdoor activities because of excessive heat.

Rich history

The oldest Portuguese towns were established even before the Romans moved in to the territory, but the richest history in Portugal was created by Moors who ruled large regions of Portugal and Spain for hundreds of years. Castles, fortresses and other buildings that they left behind have been restored, and can be visited in many towns.

The rich history is visible in everyday life of Portuguese people. It is easy discover: find a fishing village that still has wooden fishing boats on the beach. Follow how the fishermen work and spend their time in there while other locals hang around in cafes and restaurants.

How come “incredible food” or “friendly people” didn’t make it to the top 5 list? Well, there are good reasons for it that are explained in the book. A travel guide to Algarve, the warm south coast of Portugal is available at bookstores, including Amazon.

How to avoid crowds at Lello (aka Harry Potter) bookstore in Porto, Portugal

2016-11-05

As a travel destination, Portugal has a lot going on at the moment. Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Algarve and Porto are world class destinations that attract an increasing number of visitors. One of the lucky Portuguese destinations that gets more visitors than it perhaps ever wished for is a beautiful bookstore in the city of Porto in North Portugal. The author of Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, drew inspiration from it and perhaps also used the bookstore setting as a platform for the Harry Potter world.
Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal. Photo: Michal HuniewiczPhoto by Michal Huniewicz.

So, it seems that every tourist who arrives in Porto wants to visit the Lello shop in the city center.
Porto, Portugal, Lello bookstore
The result is that the shop is crowded. Once people discovered the store and the word spread, it has been a travel destination. The bookstore eventually became so crowded that the owners had to think of something to allow people to actually shop books and to look around, too.

They invented a scheme that works like this: outside the bookstore is a kiosk (the red kiosk in the photos) where you have to buy an entrance ticket (yes, you pay to enter a bookshop). The kiosk controls the flow of people to the store. Once you buy something, the ticket price is deducted from the total. Fair, and simple system that allows some breathing room for bookstore visitors.

lello bookstore, porto.

Visitors to the Lello bookstore have to get a ticket from the red kiosk first.

As you can see in the photos, the Harry Potter fans’ and curious visitors’ queue can be quite long to the ticket kiosk – before you even get to the bookstore. The photos were taken in September. We can only imagine how long the queue was in August and July.

How to avoid spending a long time in the queue? Arrive early in the morning. Early is a relative term, but if you hit the scene before 11 o’clock, you should be fine.

An important tip for Porto explorers: Beware of the traffic in Porto and everywhere else in Portugal. The way locals drive is very fast, dangerous and unpredictable, and it is against their religion to indicate which way they are going.

Here is where you can find the Lello bookstore:
porto, lello bookstore, map