This Porto travel blog is one of the easiest I’ve written to date – because the place is just so blimmin’ amazing! I visited with two girlfriends, for two nights, during which time I’ve lost count of the, “oh my god – I LOVE it!” comments.
Compact and walkable, beautiful, friendly, historical – it even rained most of the time and we barely noticed. Porto, Portugal, is a truly fabulous city and I can’t wait to go back. This is what we squeezed in to 24 hours in Porto:
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
GRAHAM’S | when in Rome. Or Porto in this case. An afternoon of Port tasting was unanimously agreed upon as a great plan for a wet afternoon. On the Vila Nove de Gaia side of the river you will easily find all of the wineries. A rule of thumb is that the further back from the waterfront, the better the quality. Lazy tourists stop at the first ones!
A friend recommended Graham’s and I totally agree for this Porto travel blog – gorgeous setting, informative tour of the cellars, prestigious brand, great ruby and tawny Ports and tasty cheese platters.
PORTO CATHEDRAL | this Romanesque landmark with interior Gothic cloisters is both an impressive attraction and superb viewpoint. After a quick peak inside, enjoy gorgeous views of Porto from its vantage point on top of a hill.
ESTACAO SAO BENTO | this grand train station opened in 1916 and contains hand painted tiles depicting scenes of Portuguese history. Tiles, or ‘azulejos’ – derived from an Arabic word meaning polished stone –, are a bit of a big deal in Portugal. 20,000 delicate blue and white azulejos cover the walls of the regal main hall, which buzzes with action as travellers come and go.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
ARCHITECTURE | all of Porto’s old quarters are jaw-droppingly elegant. You’ll get dizzy from constantly marvelling upwards at the incredible buildings, wrought iron balconies, quaint shuttered windows – and of course, the azulejos. My Porto travel blog advice is to tear up any agenda and just get lost in the back streets for at least one full morning.
PONTE LUIS | impossible to miss, this arched low- and high-level bridge connects the old town of Porto with Vila Nove de Gaia. Pedestrians and the metro enjoy the upper concourse (crossing it was pretty windy!) whilst traffic is confined to below. Rio Duoro flows below the towering construction, started in 1881 and designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel.
PRACA DA RIBEIRA | this historical square is designated as World Heritage by UNESCO. The entire area of Ribeira – previously an intense commercial and manufacturing area since the Middle Ages – is perfect for exploring on foot.
Aim to end a morning of walking with lunch here, as you’re now at the bottom of a very steep hill! Right on the waterfront, the area bustles with cafes, bars, tourists, boats and shopping.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
SANDEMAN’S | ignoring my Porto travel blog rule above, we also visited Sandeman’s – a major winery right on the river. We sat outside and enjoyed a Port in the sun. Inside looked a little theatrical, with characters dressed in Sandeman costume and beckoning tours.
LELLO & IRMAO BOOKSTORE | also known as ‘Livraria Chardron’ or simply ‘Livraria Lello’, is understandably world famous as a sumptuous Art Nouveau bookstore. It was also where J.K. Rowling started to write her Harry Potter series whilst teaching English in Porto.
As a result, they now charge €3 to enter (refunded with a purchase). Whilst I do appreciate they need ‘crowd control’ and I would have loved to have seen it, this seems excessively commercial.
OVER ORDERING | exceptionally cheap prices led us to debate whether Portugal also served tapas, like neighbouring Spain. No, as it turns out. The main meals are just excellent value. We (girls with decent appetites) typically found a basic mixed salad, starter and main between two was usually too much. Which makes Portugal a great country to travel in on a budget!
Also check out: this great value restaurant near our beautiful Airbnb called Restaurante Romão.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
CASA DA MUSICA | with just 24 hours in Porto, I left happily knowing I would return again for a second Porto travel blog instalment – and hopefully soon. I really want to see the city’s iconic Casa de Musica. This is a huge music space featuring gigs, jazz, opera, free events and much more. Akin to Sydney’s Opera House, its also the architecture – by Rem Koolhaas of Holland – that attracts crowds. Architecture students give tours for €7.50 in various languages.
AND KNOW THIS: Portugal is actually named after Porto: the Latin name for Porto was Portus Cale. Then, in the Medieval times, this northern region was named the ‘Condado Portucalense’ (county of Portucale), which then eventually led to the country of Portugal.[affilinet_performance_ad size=728×90]