Last week I spent 5 days in Porto and surroundings. I went to Lisbon 2 times and I have been dying to see Portugal’s other cool city Porto. I flew directly from Berlin with Ryanair and stayed in Porto for 3 days and then I went to the North of Portugal for 2 Days.
Many people are fighting over which city is the most beautiful, is it Porto or is it Lisbon? I think both city have got a lot of charm. Lisbon is a bit more modern and cosmopolite than Porto but this is also what I like about Porto,that it sometimes feels like it is stuck on time. I love to see abandoned buildings next to well-maintained ones.
Things are changing pretty fast in Porto though with many foreigners who fell in love with the city and who invest in it especially in term of real estate. While the city doesn’t have many 5 stars hotels, a few are now in construction in the city center to respond to the demand. Indeed many tourist come to Porto and it’s surroundings (The Douro Valley) for the wine. A part of the city is even dedicated to it with its many caves : Gaia, where I tasted Port Wine in the Old Bar, a tasting room of the 19th century at Caves Ferreira.
The city is also changing and moving in the term of Art. Many young people come to Porto to create Art. They even have a district where they have their coffee shops and galleries and where they meet, around Rue de Miguel Bombarda.
My favorite part of the city, is the one people come from all over the world for, the most traditional part. The one that looks exactly like on the postcards, around the Douro and the Ribeira square. I loved to stroll the Ribeira Embankment, sit for a coffee or to eat in one of the good restaurants (tips below) in the area and observe people pass by. Exactly like one would imagine life to be in the South of Europe.
In between Gaia and Ribeira square : the Douro from which raises many bridges that also make the city famous. Did you actually know that Gustav Eiffel lived in Porto and builded a bridge there: the majestic steel Ponte Dona Maria Pia? It is the construction of this bridge that gave him the opportunity to later build the Eiffel Tower. Another famous bridge from where you have a splendid view over the city is the Dom Luis bridge, build by a student of Gustav Eiffel. The best way to see the 6 bridges of Porto is to take a boat like I did. You will also have a nice view of the embankment from the water. One of the many things to do in Porto. More about that below.
WHAT TO DO IN PORTO
I already above said that Porto is famous for it’s Port wine and a good thing to do is to try it in one of the caves in the district of Gaia. It is also good to stroll around the old part of Porto : Ribeira square and maybe go on a boat tour on the Douro.
A few other things not to miss are definitely the Lello Library aka the most famous book store in the world. It is a truly beautiful old shop made famous by the Harry Potter books and movies at the famous staircase inspired J.K Rowling for her famous stories. Indeed she used to live in Porto for a while and used to go to this bookstore a lot.
For architecture lovers, Porto is also to enjoy. Not only for it’s medieval architecture and titled houses but also for some more modern buildings like Casa da Musica or Museum Serralves that is home of the Casa Serralves a pink villa in Art Deco style. Until the end of January 2017 you can have a look at an exhibition of Spanish artist Miro.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN PORTO
While in Porto we stayed a night at Hotel Teatro that is part of the Design hotels group and situated in the center of Porto, 10 minutes away from Ribeira square and a 5 minutes walk away from Santa Catarina street that is the shopping street. As the name says, the hotel is inspired by theatre and you can see it in the decoration. The hotel that was decorated by a Japanese designer, is quite dark and dramatic as well as the decoration in the bar and the lobby while the bathroom and the lights are golden, and remembers of the extravagance often seen in theaters. To complete the theme, the lobby and the bar are decorated with costumes and acting lights. Very cool and stylish.
R. de Sá da Bandeira 84
You can book it here
WHERE TO EAT IN PORTO
You can’t pass by Porto and not eat the tasty Portuguese cuisine.
Os Lusiadas, for those who love Fish
Os Lusidas was my favorite restaurant during the trip. I love sea food and fish and those are the restaurant’s specialities. I tried for the first time Gooseneck Barnacles (also know as as percebes), a Portuguese delicacy. It looks really disgusting but it’s SO good! And then I ate my first seabass cooked in salt. See picture below.
Cantinho Do Avillez, for the trendy crowd and revisited Portuguese cuisine.
I already went to Cantinho Do Avillez in Lisbon. It is a quite trendy restaurant that I read always more about in the newspaper because of it’s chef José Avillez a young cook who revisits the traditional Portuguese cuisine into something more modern.
Fish Fixe for the view and the tapas
Fish Fixe is a super cute tapas restaurant on the Ribeira embankment. Sit outside or at the window to admire the view of the bridge and Gaia.
Porto Cruz for the wine
Porto Cruz is a really cool space in Gaia, It’s restaurant : De Castro Gaia is a space for tasting and harmonization of Portuguese wines and appetizers. Porto Cruz also has got a rooftop that I recommend for sunsets 😉
Espinho is the closest little town fr a day trip away from Porto. It is a little town that is great for surfing. It is a quite new touristic destination but this little town has some of the best waves in Portugal. For both beginners and more experimented surfers. As it is a quite new touristic destination, but it slowly start to develop as a cool surfer city destination and they already have their first restaurant serving heathy food with self made bread and açai bowls. Also for those who like to go to the Casino, Solverde has got one in Espinho, as well as an hotel right by the beach with swimming pool and a mini golf. Perfect if you wish to surf or if you wish to stay out but still close to the center of Porto.
The region of Minho
– Viana Do Castelo
Viana Do Castelo is a perfect Sunday day trip destination. It is about 40 minutes from Porto. It is a cute little town by the sea. We stopped there for a little walk in the morning and then went for a lunch at the beautiful hotel Pousada de Viana Do Castelo a beautiful edifice that is about a hundred years old which view is supposed to be one of the most stunning views of Portugal – and the world. I have to say I really enjoyed eating my food while admiring the view over Viana de Castelo. I wish I could have stayed a night there as it is a truly beautiful and luxurious place. One of those you forget about the time. I believe it is the perfect place to watch the sun set or the sun rise.
– Alto Minho
On the last night/day we drove a bit more north, 10km to the border of Spain and stayed at Hotel de Minho, a modern spa hotel which treatments are made out of honey and Wine by the brand Vinoble cosmetics. Wine is indeed an important part of the region that produces a specific type of wine called Vinho Verde (young wine). It is then logical that spas use vinotherapy for their treatment.
For more informations about Porto and Surroundings visit Porto and the North
*This trip was made in collaboration with Portugal tourism.
*The opinions expressed here represent my own