Our last morning in Porto, we woke up bright and early, packed our bags, and rushed uphill through narrow sidewalks to get to our last must-see destination in the city before heading straight to the airport. What many consider to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world is situated 5 minutes from Porto’s city center. With its cascading staircase, ornate wood carvings, and stained glass roof, Livraria Lello is considered a national treasure and an architectural masterpiece.
I especially enjoyed Porto because we didn’t have much of an agenda, which was a perfect way to get to know this city. It was especially fitting because it was a Sunday, and though Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, the city had a very quiet, peaceful feel. We began the day with a very hearty breakfast (steak, fried eggs, and fries!), which fueled us to explore the city throughout the afternoon, stopping for wine and beers every few hours. We came across beautiful cathedrals, got lost in the super steep, narrow streets, and stumbled upon breathtaking views of the river.
After noting that the Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest aquarium in Europe, it was a must for us to stop by. It is located at the Park of Nations where the World Expo of 1998 was held, and was designed by Peter Chermayeff, a world-renowned architect who also designed the largest aquarium in the world in Osaka, Japan.
One of the best views of Lisbon is from the castle on top of the hill, St. George’s Castle. Throughout the hundreds and hundreds of years of its existence, it was ruled by the Romans, Moors, and later regarded as the royal palace. It has a total of 11 towers and a dry moat. Visitors can climb up many of the towers, by means of rugged, roughly cut stairs. A lot of the castle has been destroyed or reconstructed due to time and natural influences such as the detrimental earthquake of 1755. Stray cats and a handful of peacocks roam free throughout the courtyards. I have never been so close to a peacock before!
A few minutes past the Belem Tower is the Jerónimos Monastery, which serves as another symbol of the power and wealth that Portugal boasted during the Age of Discovery. It was built in honor of one of the most well-known and successful Portuguese explorers, Vasco de Gama, who commanded the first ships that sailed directly from Europe to India. His tomb rests within the monastery today, along with other important historical figures. The monastery was also built as a tribute to Virgin Mary for watching over the crew through dangerous waters.