Portugal – Porto
Porto is the second largest and arguably the most charming city in Portugal. Situated on the rough northwest coast of Portugal and built into the steep slopes of the Douro river with several impressive bridges spanning the width, this city leaves a deep impression on all visitors.
Like all great cities of the world, Porto’s charm can be simply found by wandering the streets and back alleys of this gorgeous city, stopping off for the occasional coffee or beer in the city’s many unique bars and cafès. Most of our time here was spent doing exactly this. Below are a few photos of the sights we came across, followed by a short guide on the three tourist sites we visited during our time in Porto.
The Clérigos Church, built in 1750 is an impressive example of baroque architecture and is well worth a visit if in Porto, not only for the beauty of the interior, but also for the view from the 75-metre high bell tower (Torre dos Clèrigos).
This is a bit of a clichè, but also a must do when you are in the home city of Port. There are many port cellars that offer port tasting sessions and tours on the waterfront of the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the Duoro River. Many of the smaller operations require online bookings at least a day in advance, but several of the larger companies allow you to buy tickets on the day. Being as unprepared as usual, we only decided to go port tasting on the day and therefore picked one of the larger companies, Calem. The tour of the wine cellars was informative and entertaining and we enjoyed the port tasting afterwards. However, if you want a more personal experience, the smaller port companies may provide a better experience.
Being one of the most famous book shops in all of Europe, you have probably seen photos of Livraria Lello’s unique wooden staircase before. Unfortunately, the store has become a victim of its own success and the store now has large queues extending far outside for most of the year. In fact, the store has now started charging €5 for entry (signs point around the corner to the building where you must buy the ticket and leave any backpacks before you start queuing). However, if you buy a book inside, you will be refunded your €5 entry fee. Either way, the beauty of the interior of this book store is worth the fee and I would recommend stopping here if you get the opportunity.
Recommended Bars and Restaurants
- Cafè Santiago – This was the most recommended spot to try Porto’s world famous francesinha (a Porto specialty which consists of bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce.) When we visited the queues were so large that we were moved to the cafè’s sister restaurant Cafe Santiago da Praça which served up an incredible francesinha which still lives long in my memory!
- Vegana by Tentugal – If you want to try a vegan version of the francesinha, this cosy little cafè does a very nice recreation of the famous dish as well as offering many other great vegan dishes. Note that the location on Google Maps appears to be wrong. Instead the restaurant can be found next door to this vaping shop on R. Formosa.
- daTerra Baixa – This is another great vegetarian/vegan option. They serve huge lunch and dinner all you can eat buffets each day.
- Taberna Folias de Baco – This was our absolute highlight of Porto. This small restaurant offers some of the finest home made wines in the city, and an exceptional menu of local food that compliments the wine superbly. With only six tables in the restaurant, the waiter will help choose a menu that works with the wine you have chosen. The cheeses, cold meats and especially the moira were all of exceptional quality and left this as the best restaurant we visited in all of Portugal.
- A Sandeira do Porto – This is another hidden gem, tucked away down a narrow alley away from the heavily touristed streets of Porto. We only drank wine and cocktails here, but the sandwiches on offer looked amazing.
- Cais de Estiva – This is more a recommended area than a restaurant. If you want to escape the crowds, but still want a meal with a lovely view over the waterfront there are a series of restaurants right at the western end of Cais de Estiva that will offer it without the crowds. We ate in Muralha do Rio, but the food was a bit underwhelming. However, the other nearby restaurants (with the exception of Beira Rio) all seem to have good reviews, so may be worth checking if you want a nice riverfront meal without the crowds.