This UNESCO World Heritage Site town gave port wine its name, but the ceramic-tiled, pastel buildings built on the hills overlooking the Douro River give it its charm. It is the second largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon.
You don’t need a lot of time to explore this city; a few days will do.
I stayed in Ribeira, the oldest district of the city, in a lovely guest house with exposed stone walls and an old record player. It was about a five-minute walk to the famous Dom Luís I Bridge and the river promenade. There were only nine rooms in the guest house . The staff was helpful and wonderful. A bottle of champagne was left in my room to be enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, which I thought was a very nice touch!
I busied myself most days pottering around the city with no real itinerary. It’s mild weather, hills, cobbled streets, colorful buildings and graffiti make for pleasant strolls and great photos.
I walked across the Ponte Luiz I to the town on the other side, Gaia, for stunning views looking back at Porto.
After walking up what seemed like 1,000,000 stairs, I stumbled upon the São Bento Station in Almeida Garret Square. It’s a nineteenth-century train station that has 20,000 tiles illustrating scenes from Portugal’s past.
Also in this square, I spotted St. Anthony’s Congregados Church.
I didn't find the Bolhão Market hugely exciting, but I did come across an odd street performance on the way out, which made it worthwhile for me. Yes that was a real bird on the kid's shoulder and a real chicken too.
Rua das Flores is a busy, pedestrian street, good for cafes and shopping.
Foz do Douro is slightly outside of the old town centre, but it’s a chic seaside area known for its beaches. Here, the Duoro River meets the Atlantic Ocean, which can be wild in winter. The waves were crashing along the breakers, spraying water higher than the lighthouse. Looking at the angry sea, you’d think a tropical storm was brewing, but in reality, it was a blue-skied, sunny, warm day. The sunsets viewed from Foz are also incredible!
On 30th December, there was a 10K road race that was apparently quite a big deal. I was told that 15,000 people partook in the event and it felt like the remaining 201,000 of Porto's population was out supporting them. Between the turnout and the passion for the race, you'd have thought this was an Ironman.
My New Year's eve was celebrated on a boat, cruising the Duoro River.
For food, there were so many yummy hidden joints, all relatively inexpensive, but the following places stood out:
Páteo das Flores - A modern wine bar set in an eighteenth-century manor house. It’s a juxtaposition of old and new that works really well. I recommend sitting in the glass-covered courtyard and eating all the truffle butter that they’ll give you. I had lunch here, but I think it would probably also be a suitable option for dinner as well.
If you prefer to mainline carbs and coffee for brekkie you'll be in heaven in Portugal, but if you fancy a more substantial breakfast, wander over to The Traveller Caffé on Rua de Passos Manuel for eggs, hot chocolate and/or a smoothie.
Don’t leave Porto without having a dinner at FLOW Restaurant. The ambiance was great, the staff were very good looking and friendly, the bar scene was vibrant and the food was delicious. For what you get, it’s very affordable as well. I would highly recommend the beef carpaccio, if you like that sort of thing.
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