Portugal, particularly Lisbon, has long been on my travel list so I was excited to finally make it here for 10 days this May! I booked this trip with a couple of friends nearly a year ago. The dates we picked ended up being somewhat bad timing related to some family stuff and put a bit of a damper on things, at times, but, overall, it was a fantastic trip.
We really had amazing weather the entire trip and every city we visited (10!) lived up to its expectations. I would go back here in a heartbeat and would love to explore some of the beach towns and islands around the country.
I was going to split this post into the various cities I visited but decided that was just going to be too much. So, instead, you’re gonna get another long one.
The first city we visited was Lisbon. We began and ended our trip here. Loved it here!
We hit the ground running on the day we arrived despite the jet lag. It’s a pretty easy city to navigate and the things you’re likely to visit, at least on your first visit, really are close together. You can cover a lot of ground pretty quickly and easily. Be prepared for lots of hills though!
There’s going to be a mix of phone shots (I’ll let you know when that’s the case) and “real” camera shots.
First up, those trams (phone). We rode both of these trams. The first up a steep hill, the second is the famous Tram 28 that takes you all over the city. Pretty nice way to see a lot in a unique way. I’ve seen some pretty amazing shots of these trams. Mine do not fit that category, lol. These are merely snapshots, and pretty crappy ones at that but here’s what the trams look like! This city is insanely busy, all the time. I’m pretty sure the only way to get unique shots is to be up at the crack of dawn for great light and streets devoid of masses of people. Anyway, cool to see and ride.
The tram line ends at the Cemitério de Prazeres, so we wandered a little and found this chapel with some nice light, color, and texture (yes, phone shots).
Moving onto some real shots at the Carmo Convent/Carmo Archeological Museum. The name pretty much explains what we saw here.
Next, the Santa Justa Lift. Luckily we stumbled upon this from the top down and avoided the super long line to ride up the lift. An unintentionally smart move to take it down instead!
I really should have taken more photos of this and some of the details of this beauty (designed by the engineer behind the Eiffel Tower (actually a lot of things in Portugal were designed by him) – Gustave Eiffel). But I wasn’t feeling well the first day or two of this trip. Now that I write this, it kinda sounds like somewhat of a disaster, lol. There were certainly some less-than-ideal circumstances surrounding this trip… All the more reason to go back!
Also, worth noting, this trip was a vacation and not a photo trip. Of course, I took photos but my mindset was a little different. So excuse some sloppy and unthorough shooting in a number of locations.
Now that I’ve cleared up the lack of quality issue, let’s get back to some photos.
Of course, Portugal is known for its tiled facade buildings. Apparently, this was to keep the buildings cool and avoid deterioration by the salt water blowing off the sea. Smart. And pretty. Another thing I should have taken more photos of, and in better light!
We wandered a lot this first day! But I didn’t shoot a whole lot. Onto day 2! We started at the Jerónimos Monastery. A VERY long wait to get in but it sure was worth it. So beautiful. The arches in particular but ceilings, columns, really the whole thing.
Finally some quality shooting with these first two, especially 😉
Say hi to my travel partners – Jess & Yvette!
I shot a lot here!
Now, for something much more recent and one of the locations I was most excited to photograph on this trip – MAAT (The Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology) designed by Amanda Levete.
She drew inspiration from the adjacent Tagus River which is clear in its undulating form. Always a sucker for any curvy building this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s covered in 15,000 white, three-dimensional ceramic tiles and has this great rooftop terrace.
Moving onto some color shots. A detail and then some stuff that’s more representational so you can get a better feel.
I’d love to shoot this again early in the morning when it’s quieter and the light is softer. This is the type of building that really changes depending on the light and I’d love to capture its various moods. Ah, next trip!
Back to the old with the National Tile Museum. This is one of many buildings we saw with these angled walls leading to setback windows. Maybe an architect can explain this to me. Is this to make for more diffuse light/control temperatures in buildings back before AC was a thing? Couldn’t make sense of it entirely but it sure creates an interesting effect and is unique.
This staircase was behind the ticket counter. Really would like to know where this goes!
Onto Parque das Nações and some contemporary architecture created for the last World Fair of the 20th century – Expo 98. First stop, the Portuguese Pavilion designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira. Much more commercial-like takes of this.
It’s a tough one to abstract in any way or even get many detailed shots that are interesting. But I tried. Oh, and we had the bad luck of some kind of event set up happening that involved a lot of ugly chainlink fences so I tried to avoid showing that as much as possible. So needed to be here at various times of day to capture well but got what I could under the conditions we had.
Had to share this shot of Yvette and her irritation at waiting for the “right” people to walk in the frame, lol. Something I battle with any time I’m shooting something wider. So very relatable. Oh, and thanks to her for modeling when I needed someone in the shot!
Now, for another location I was super excited about – Oriente Station by one of my favorites, Santiago Calatrava!
Liked this reflection on the mall’s facade across the street from the station.
That’s where the photography ended on our second day.
Day 3, off to Cascais & Sintra! We spent the morning wandering around the beach town of Cascais.
The afternoon was spent in Sintra. Another resort town but in the mountains, a bit cooler temps and lots of castles here.
Then we were off to Quinta da Regaleira which is made up of a whole bunch of interesting things – palaces, grottos, wells, towers, fountains, parks, lakes. Italian architect Luigia Manini was commissioned by Carvalho Monteiro to incorporate symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, Knights of Templar, and others. Sure makes for a unique space!
It was dubbed “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” at one point, sold to another family, then a Japanese Corporation and finally acquired by the city and opened to the public in 1998.
Here’s a look at some of the features.
Perhaps the narrowest staircase I’ve ever walked up.
The well most people come here to see. It’s next to impossible to get a decent photo here. There are SO many people and they make you move through here quite quickly. The two decent shots I managed. Not to mention, some PS magic to get rid of people.
Onto the National Palace of Pena. Someone on IG said this place felt like Disney. I had to laugh because it’s a pretty accurate description of the insanity of this place. It’s just so much of everything – colors, patterns, symbols. The best way to handle that photographically is to isolate details as much as possible. Which, is obviously how I tend to shoot anyway. So, it was kind of fun.
There’s a long history to this place which I’m not going to get into but you can read about it here if you like.
Here’s a wider phone shot to start with since I didn’t do it with my real camera.
A couple of BW’s of an archy ceiling at the entrance. Needed a visual break from all the color!
Day 4 we checked out 3 more towns. First up, Óbidos. The medieval town with its main area surrounded by a fortified wall. Really interesting to say the least. The town consists of a lot of really cute shops and restaurants and you can walk the wall for a nice view of the surrounding area.
We spent the morning here shopping and eating. A lot 😉
Climbing part of the wall and shooting the patchwork of rooftops was probably my favorite thing to photograph here.
The main attraction here was the Alcobaça Monastery. This place seemed to never end and is beautiful.
Those slanted windows again and some nice shadowplay.
Various stages of arches and the central window in the main church.
I know most of what I’ve been sharing has been in color. Sometimes it just tells a better story. Back to some BW for these next two. Just works better for these. Simplifies the texture and shadows.
We finished the day in Nazaré and spent the night in this beach town. We were wiped out by the time we got here. Just wandered along the beach and grabbed dinner around sunset.
Every photo I made here was with my phone. I was just over shooting at this point. Though, this sunset broke through and I wished I’d had my real camera. Oh well. Good enough!
Historically, a fishing village and still very much prevalent here, I had the best meal of the trip here – octopus. I’ve had octopus before but this was incredible!
The next morning we wandered around the beachfront again and came across all these vendors selling dried fish. I’ve never seen anything like this before but it was stall after stall of all sorts of dried fish, and octopus. I was not brave enough to try this!
Oh, and apparently Nazaré has some of the largest waves in the world but in the winter months. I’ve seen video of this but it was pretty calm on our visit.
Onto the next town and, in writing this, I’m only now realizing I didn’t take a single photo with my real camera. So, here are a few horrendous phone shots of the main area we explored – The University of Coimbra. Really beautiful buildings here.
There’s a library you see come up in any search you’ll do of this university but they don’t allow photos, even with your phone. So, you’ll just have to visit yourself 😉
At this point you can see my photography really began to wane. I was exhausted for a number of reasons and to be honest, sometimes it’s just nice to explore with no agenda or pressure. That’s where I was at this stage of the trip. I would love to go back here and spend more time.
This town was super cute and super busy. But, every place we visited was crazy busy! This city is known for its canals and colorful boats. There are also countless colorful buildings along the canals that make the city really vibrant. These photos don’t really do it justice but here’s a tiny sense of what it’s like.
For the other large city in Portugal, we spent a couple of days here. We got in pretty late our first night so didn’t really see anything. Our first full day started by making our way to one of the famous blue-tiled churches – Igreja do Carmo. The facade you most often see in photos was covered in this netting and some scaffolding for some restorations so I grabbed a couple of detailed shots.
Onto the Livraria Lello, which is the bookstore parts of the Harry Potter books were modeled after. I didn’t realize until this trip that J. K. Rowling was a professor at one of the universities here. It makes all the sense in the world because beyond this bookstore, we happened to be in the country at the time students were graduating and they seriously wear those black capes, hats, and have these brooms and things they walk around with that signify different levels at university or majors. I was very much wondering wth was going on, lol. Thankfully a guide we had for a wine tour we took (more on that soon) filled us in on all of this. I should have taken better photos of the students. I have one awful phone shot.
Anyway, back to the library. This place is madness. You need to get timed tickets and the small store is really crowded. But, it is beautiful and worth seeing. The central double spiral staircase would be so amazing to shoot without the hoards of people but I made do with some excessive crops.
The underside of the stairs is pretty great too.
And the ceiling.
The second shot in each pair is the same image – color vs BW and rotated to fit the sharing here. It works both ways.
Nearby the Clerigos Church and Tower, beautiful ceiling and there’s a tower you can climb to get great views of the city.
I was super lazy by the end of our few days here and didn’t even take my camera with me. But we did walk the Luís I Bridge, another design by Gustave Eiffel. More phone shots.
Also saw the Chapel of Souls, yet another phone shot. The phone can take amazing shots. Sometimes. But when you talk about zooming or cropping, it really is still pretty awful.
A truly beautiful area 60 miles east of Porto is the Duoro Wine Valley. The layers and patchwork of hills and vineyards is like nothing I’ve seen before. California’s wine region just doesn’t even compare to how beautiful this is.
We spent one day touring a couple of vineyards (wine and port), did a boat tour, checked out the train station, and had lunch in this area. Our guide was fantastic and it was a really nice relaxing day.
None of the photos were made at the right time of day but you can get a feeling for what this area looks like. Though some spotty cloud cover made for some dramatic light.
Phew, that was a lot! 10 cities, 10 days – we covered a lot of ground. I would, without question, visit Portugal again. The people were so nice and the country is really beautiful. Some areas I’d revisit and I’d really love to explore other parts of the country as well. I can certainly see why Portugal has become so popular.