Ah Porto, a city often overlooked by its famous sibling down south. A city full of surfing, seafood, port wine, pastel de nata’s, beautifully tiled buildings of old, new and antique, and an extremely varied weather pattern if you travel out of the typical summer months.
Pastries, Sweet Pastries!
Travelling to a new country or city should be focused around the fact that you will be able to taste new and sometimes obscure foods that you’ll never want to eat again – that’s fine by the way. On arrival in Porto your first thoughts may rush to the little custard tart famously known as a dessert at Nando’s, the Pastel de Nata. Try the real thing, we went to one of the riverfront cafes – Nata Sweet Nata. A smaller tart with a crisp pastry, and it even comes neatly contained in his own tiny box. I have to admit we didn’t try any others so we are far from knowing what we are talking about.
Also you must find a bakery, any bakery but I do recommend the Confeitaria Sao Domingos bakery in Ribeira, we didn’t make it to any others. The small round biscuits half coated in chocolate are delicious and at 30 cents each, along with an espresso at 80 cents you may stay away from cafes for breakfast…
Port from Porto!
How can you visit Porto and not taste the sweet nectar of port? A renown famous dessert wine made from grapes grown in the Douro Valley. Along the riverbanks over on Vila Nova de Gaia are the port cellars, positioned perfectly for a swift transit of the barrels of port from the cellars to the boats to be transported on the Douro.
Take your pick of cellars but I recommend Quinta dos Corvos, a family run business. We tried to avoid the main cellars along the main riverfront and so found this cellar on the road behind. For 10 euros you can take part in a small tour of the cellar, if you’re lucky, with Alfredo who previously lived in Southend on Sea for a while and immediately took a liking to us Kent girls, informing us about his guilty pleasure of a jacket potato for dinner. Three tastings of port are included in the tour, bringing your own pastel de nata was welcomed too to accompany the tasting.
Beautiful Azulejo Tiles
Not only does surfing, seafood and pastel de nata come to your mind when you think of Portugal but you may, unconsciously or not, be aware of these glazed ceramic tiles that adorn most of the buildings in the old towns. The word azulejo stems from Arabic roots, meaning ‘small polished stone’, coming from when the Moors invaded the land that is now Spain and Portugal.
Visit these places to see some of the Antique azulejos a design dominated by blues and whites. Along with the every other type of beautifully tiled building, bench, wall or pavement you find in Porto.
Igreja do Carmo (1910)
Capela das Almas (1929)
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso (1932)
São Bento Train Station
Watching the sunset is just a thing you ‘do’ in Porto, assuming the weather will let you. The sun sets over the mouth of the river during the summer months making a stunning sunset view. The month of October sees the sunset further south over the back of Vila Nova de Gaia, still an impressive site as the sun hits the multitude of buildings that climb up the hillside from the river.
Jardín do Morro is apparently the place to be which we discovered when greeted by crowds of people, street artists and doggos. Located on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river you’ll need to cross the Luis I bridge to get here. Perch on the wall, or find a spot to settle on the grass with some drinks if you’re in for the evening. Or for those wanting to work out your thighs, climb even higher to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar to sit on the edge of the wall and gaze out onto the city.
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is also a great spot, so I’ve heard. A selection a gardens situated high up above the riverside and it’s free to enter. Find the turret to get that picture perfect view at sunset.
Where to Eat
Tapas 65 is a cozy little restaurant in Ribeira, a selection of tapas style dishes ranging from calamari to baked camembert.
The Wine Box is where you go for the wine rather than the food. The cheese and meat board goes down a treat with some port.
Wine Quay Bar again for the wine, are you getting the idea? This place also serves a selection of tapas, we didn’t make it here as it was always busy. People arrived early to walk sunset and then that was it, try and book if you want to go there I’d say.
Planes, Boats and Trams
Catch a tram in Porto, much like Lisbon they are iconic to the city. In Porto 3 lines that still run through the city mainly for us tourists but nevertheless still useful for getting across the city and skipping out some of those never ending hills.
Catch line 1 to take you to the Atlantic coast, sit on the beach and watch the huge waves crash in front of you. Catch this tram at a stop called Infante, right near the riverbank in Ribeira. A return journey, will cost you a mere 6 euros.
Catch line 22 to take you on a little circular tour of the city. Catch it from the stop Carmo, near the famous library, Livraria Lello, and head over to stop Batalha to visit Capela da Almas and those blue tiles!
Take a boat along the Douro river, nice right? Don’t expect anything too in depth though. The so called 6 bridges tour does take you under 6 of the bridges in the city but without doing your own reading you’ll have no idea what makes them all so different. A good way of seeing the city from an alternative perspective for the very average price of 15 euros.
Tips From Me
If you visit in October, expect rain and hopefully some warm summer sun. In other words pack for everything!
Can highly recommend staying at Comercio do Porto by Oporto Tourist Apartments.
The wine cellars close at 6pm more or less, so day drinking is happily accepted.
Take a trip out of the city to the Douro Valley if you can. Either with a tour or plan your own trip via a train from Sao Bento maybe even with a night in the valley.