Overlooking the Douro River, Porto is one of the most ancient European cities, stemming from the northern bank of the river during the Middle Ages. One of the most significant aspects of Porto and its historical centre is its surrounding landscape, the steep river banks providing a dramatic setting for old town. Both the streets next to the river and the surrounding countryside have been classified as a World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Discovering Porto is full of surprises: beautifully cobbled streets and typical shops retain the feel of a bygone era whilst contemporary architecture jumps out in surprising places.
Head across the river over the Ponte Luis bridge to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here you can taste the port and see the barrels where the wine is aged. There are many right on the docks, but they all had lines or were fully booked, so we walked a bit up the hills and ended up going to Croft. After the tour we stayed a bit longer to taste some more exclusive ports and let’s say it was good we had to walk down on the way back.
A bit drunk and very hungry we decided to go for a taste of the local Porto specialty: Francesinha. Ever since I have been living in Portugal, people have asked me to go eat one with them, but I told them I wanted to wait until I was in Porto so I could have the authentic experience. And now when they ask me, I just decline. I’m not saying it is not good, and you should definitely try one while you’re there. But… To me, it is really ‘guy food’, it is basically 6 types of meat jammed in a sandwich, packaged in cheese with an egg on top and poured over with tomato/beer sauce… And we could have shared one, instead of both ordering one. It was gigantic and very heavy on the stomach. The port had made us very hungry, but still we could not finish it. And when we left and had to walk back up the hill, I felt as if I had swallowed a brick. It was definitely an experience though. Oh and I have to say I loved the sauce. But considering all the delicious fresh fish in Portugal, next time I’ll go for that.
I really loved the “Mercado do Bolhão, to see the most authentic side of the city. It is really worth it to admire the colours, sounds, and smells of such a special place that dates back to 1850. It’s closed on Sundays, mind you.
I really wanted to go to Lello bookshop as it is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts Castle was inspired on the Lello bookstore. But unfortunately nowadays there are lines and you have to buy tickets. In a way it makes sense, because it was being run over by tourists, taking pictures and not buying books, scaring off customers who would buy books. But since it is really small and I actually would have enjoyed browsing the books, I decided it was not worth the line and the ticket, so I skipped this. I think you can buy tickets in advance online, so if you want to visit, maybe it’s better to do this.
We took a walk through the gardens of the Palacio de Cristal, where the view over the Douro River is truly breathtaking. The park is inhabited by peacocks, which makes for beautiful shots. The Torre dos Clérigos is the one of the most famous sights of Porto and you can see it towering over the city from almost everywhere. You can climb it’s 240 steps for a beautiful view.
Overall, I really enjoyed Porto a lot. It is very small and in need of some TLC, but it has tons of charm that will win you over anyway. Also, there is a lot of street art to be found and the beaches near Porto are good for surfing. But… In the end I am glad I choose Lisbon as my home.