My friend and I went on a three day city trip to Porto. I was really excited, because this city has been on my traveling list for ages! I heard so many good stories, so I wanted to explore it myself. And now I finally got the opportunity to go there.
Azulejos in Porto
The first thing we noticed when we entered the city were all the buildings with azulejos, the colored and patterned tiles. It looked so happy! Lots of them were blue, but others were green or red or any other color. We followed Joana, our host from the Airbnb, to the apartment. We got more and more excited, because the city came across so vibrant. She didn’t live at the apartment herself, but we shared it with other guests. It was a nice typical Portuguese apartment, located right in the city centre.
Porto has been on the list of Unesco World Heritage since 1996. That’s when they got subsidy to renovate all the buildings. And that is a great thing, because they are so beautiful. Still we've seen quite a lot of ruinous ones. Maybe in a few decades the city will be completely transformed and look polished again.
Ribeira, The Old City CentreRibeira is the historical area of Porto. ‘Ribeira’ is also the Portuguese word for ‘river’ and, how coincidentally, it is the area near the river. We found out the word ribeira means river, when a very old lady tried to help us find our way. We walked through narrow streets in an area without tourists. We walked down stairs and past tiny houses. The lady sat on the pavement in front of her house. She asked something in Portuguese and probably wanted to help us, as she saw us with the map in our hand, looking kind of lost. She kept talking and talking and pointing and pointing. We were like ‘ok thank you madam , but we didn't understand a word of what you just said’. We just nodded and thanked her politely. That was the moment we found out that ribeira means river, so we followed her directions and indeed we found the river, which is called the Douro.
The old city town is very romantic and picturesque, with steep narrow streets, laundry hanging to dry on every balcony. It made us feel like we just entered a film set. The centre is also very compact, it's all in walking distance. But be careful to not misjudge the map, as some streets can be a very big climb.
Vila Nova De Gaia
When you are in Porto, you cannot skip the port houses. They are in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the D. Luís bridge. This bridge is made by Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel tower, and you can definitely recognize his characteristic architectural style. The port houses are a little touristic of course, but as we are tourists, we are also allowed to act like tourists, isn’t it? To add even more power to these words, we also took the cable car down the hill. Our legs were really tired of all the walking we did yesterday, so we thought we'd gave them some rest.
We took a guided tour at the Sandeman port house. I have to mention that all the port houses close between 12.30pm and 02.00pm, so pay attention to that if you plan a visit. The tour was half an hour and only cost you 10 Euro, including a tasting of two different ports. And that doesn’t mean you get a tiny shot glass with just one sup. No, you get two normal sized glasses. So I have to say we felt quite relaxed when we exited the port house.
We crossed the river on the Infante bridge, D. Luís’ little brother. There we took another cable train up the hill. It was only 2 Euro 50 and we were tired, hungry and we had been acting like real tourists this whole day anyway.
Breakfast In Porto
We had a nice breakfast menu at Antiga Leitara (R. de Passos Manuel 55). It looked like an English tearoom and we got our breakfast served on a cute little tray with pink flowers. We ate the typical Portuguese Pastel de nata, a custard tart. The other day we had breakfast in a bakery in our street. You can find those bakeries on every street corner. Apparently the Portuguese like sweet, doughy pastries. We liked them too by the way.
Vegetarian Food In Porto
For us, as vegetarians, it was quite hard sometimes to find good vegetarian options as the Portuguese eat a lot of fish and meat. But Joana was a great host, we could text her any time with any questions and she gave us some great advice. The first day we went to Da Terra (Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira 249). For 10 Euro you can join an extensive vegetarian (I think even completely vegan) buffet. It all looked so fresh and tasted delicious! For a moment I was in heaven.
Another place we went was Duas de letra (Passeio de São Lázaro 48). Here you can get a menu for only 9 Euro. To start with a soup and a drink, then followed by a main dish. Fresh and tasty! The food and drinks are really cheap in Porto anyway. A coffee usually only costs 0,80 cents and a wine is not more than 2 Euro. Just another reason to love the city!
Another place we found by accident was Raiz (Largo dos Lóios 8). Well, actually we couldn’t find the other place we were looking for. That happened to us quite a few times. Porto is not such an easy city to understand. The map made us confused as well, some streets were not even listened on it and others seemed really big on the map, but turned out to be just a small path and the other way around as well. With some annoyance sometimes and getting a little lost now and then we always found our way. But this restaurant we couldn’t find, so we asked a girl, who turned out to be a vegetarian herself. She directed us to another place, called Raiz. Raiz serves traditional Portuguese food and has great vegetarian options. We also drank a delicious port and as we learned how it is made, it tasted even better.
Poruguese Dish Francesinha
We also wanted to try a Francesinha. It didn’t look appealing to us, but as it is a typical Portuguese dish we didn’t want to judge it before trying. It is a dish with two layers of white bread with cheese and a baked egg on top and in between some sausage and roast meat in a spicy tomato sauce, served with French fries. Joana gave us the name of a restaurant where we could get a vegetarian one, with sausage made of soy. Well, it tasted just like the way it looked. Not our cup of tea...
Shops And Drinks In Porto
The biggest shopping street in Porto is Rua Santa Catarina. You can find all the big shops like Pull & Bear, Bershka, C&A etc and even a small shopping mall. The area around the Carlos Albertos theatre has some nice smaller shops and you can find the shopping mall El Corte Inglés in Vila Nova de Gaia.
When you are tired of shopping and wandering around, you can take some rest in one of the many bars you will find in this city. The whole area between Rua Miguel Bombarda, Carlos Albertos theatre and Torre dos Clêrigos is really great if you fancy a drink. The small streets just above Torre dos Clêrigos, like Rua Cândido Reis, have a broad range of bars. Rua Miguel Bombarda has nice street art. We walked there on the day, so we only saw some terraces, but we have been told that it is quite nice during the night.
Jardim Do Palacio De Cristal Park
If you just want to take some rest and get out of the city I would suggest you to go to Jardim do Palacio de Cristal. This park has lots of flowers, fields of grass to lay down, a nice terrace next to a pond and as bonus you will be accompanied by peacocks. It’s all peace and quiet, so an excellent spot to reload yourself. From the park you also get a wonderful view of the Douro and the bridge.
I can confirm all the good stories I have heard about Porto. It is a great colorful city, with beautiful architecture, romantic alleys, nice bars and a good atmosphere. Highly recommend you go visit Porto yourself!
Blog + photo's by ArnhemLife blogger Franka Otten.
2 HOUR MURAL CITY WALK WITH LOCAL GUIDE
4 HOUR SIGHTSEEING IN ARNHEM WITH LOCAL GUIDE
ArnhemLife blogger Franka tells you about her recent trip to Porto. Sightseeing and vegetarian restaurant tips inside the blog!