I think I fell in love this weekend, head over heels with the lovely city of Porto. I took a very much-anticipated trip with two girlfriends to Porto in Portugal (also known as Oporto) and I can truly say that my Top 3 of favourite European cities needs revising, as this place needs to be in there. Porto is the second city of Portugal (after Lisbon) and with ‘only’ 250.000 inhabitants, it’s a very friendly and kind city. Though lively, it’s not hectic; exactly what my friends and I needed for this three-day trip; a break away from hectic times back home.
If I would have to sum up Porto in a few words, the words colourful, easy-going and authentic spring to mind. I have also seen Lisbon years ago, and I much prefer Porto. It may be that I have a soft spot for underdogs, but I just find the atmosphere in Porto more pleasant. You have to go see it for yourself. I Insist.
Porto is a coastal city, located in the North of Portugal, situated on the Douro river.
The quaint waterfront properties are stunning, and you will find more of these colourful buildings throughout the city.
Porto is mostly known for its Port wine and the many Port houses along the river, which I tell you all about in this post. The Luis I bridge is a famous landmark, connecting Porto to Gaia where you can taste all that lovely port.
Perhaps the bridge reminds you of the Eiffel tower; it was designed by Théophile Seyrig, business partner of Gustave Eiffel.
The rather industrial bridge is a stark contrast with the historical buildings surrounding it, but in a weird way, it fits.
From ‘Cais de Ribeira’, the quay in the historical area of ‘Ribeira’, you have a great view over the bridge and the river. It’s a great spot to have a late afternoon glass of wine…
… while enjoying the sunset…
… and see how all port houses on the other side light up at night.
When walking back uphill to the metro, we noticed this is a city where you can leave your laundry out at night.
That’s always a good sign.
After a good night of sleep, we had breakfast on the go.
We didn’t want waste any of this sunny day, so we were adventurous and got some coffee and pastries from a local bakery by pointing things out that looked tasty, and sat down on a bench in the gentle Southern European November sun.
If you do want to have breakfast (or lunch or dinner) at a café or restaurant, you will find a lot of small, local places to eat on both the quay and on the ‘balconies’ above. Find a hidden staircase and go up there, it’s worth it!
Porto is a bit stretched and hilly, but if you don’t mind that, you can see a lot by foot.
Should you want a quicker way to get around: there is a very convenient metro system too that will get you around town seamless and efficient, and it won’t costs you a lot (we paid 14,50 EUR each for 72 hours). Taxi’s are not very expensive either.
Our hotel, the always reliable Sheraton, was located in a more quiet business area, a little bit outside the city centre, but close to a metro station that linked directly to both the airport (within 20 mins) and the city centre (within 5-10 mins).
If you want to visit Gaia on the other side of the river, a fun way is to walk over the Ponte Luis I, and take the cable cart down.
The views from both sides of the bridge are amazing.
Another fun way of transport is the old-fashioned tram line.
You can take various lines, but make sure you pull the cord in time or it won’t stop.
Along the way, you’ll see some pretty sights.
One of the lines runs all the way to the beautiful coastline.
If you can’t get enough of ‘transport-bingo’ after tram, taxi, metro, cable cart and walking, you can always take a boat tour on the river to see the six bridges.
Apparently, the Dutch love boats even though we have a love/hate relationship with water ourselves in NL (a big part of our country being below sea level and all).
We had to keep up with that reputation and booked a boat tour. I just find the different perspective from the water intriguing.
We had a lovely weekend, and I will absolutely be back in Porto as soon as I can.
The laid back atmosphere, the sights, the wine, the food (indeed, wine and food ARE priorities for me. 🙂 ), it ticked all the boxes for me. A lot of people speak decent English too, which always helps with getting around more easily.
I had the very pleasant company of two very close friends, and nothing beats spending a weekend with girls who you go back with 20 years, to just have fun and chat about nothing and everything.