Porto, PORTUGAL – lured in by the beautiful blue azulejos and Douro wine valley, we headed north to the country’s second largest city.
4 days / 4 nights
I must admit, traveling to Portugal takes some patience and planning. Even though it’s situated in the Iberian Peninsula, it’s not super connected to Spain – and I don’t think they want to be. There are no train routes (my favorite way to travel) between the two countries in the south. I’ve tested just about all methods: a 6 hour bus from Sevilla to Lisbon, flown transatlantic from Miami into Lisbon on TAP Airlines, and rented a car from Sevilla to Lagos. This time we were coming from the El Clasico match in Madrid and flew Ryan Air (cringe). Surprisingly enough if you know what to expect on their bag policy, it’s not a bad way to arrive. A $25 one way ticket turned into $125 because we had 3 checked bags from our 3 week adventure, and Dmitriy claims it was a better experience than flying Air France!
Here is your first PSA: pack light! It’s hilly with many changes in elevation so sneakers will be your best friend. Porto is also one of the wettest cities of southern Europe so research the drier months to visit and grab your rain jacket and an umbrella.
One of our top criteria when booking our stay is the view. Instead of staying in the city center, we opted to look at the Ribera district from across the river in Vila Novo de Gaia (technically a separate city from Porto). Plus, on this side of the bridge you’ll find all the Port houses and the gondola.
Riverside Douro Apartment – pack light because there is no elevator, but it’s totally worth schlepping up your luggage to stay here. Evidence below.
Airbnb – I accidentally double booked our stays in Porto, so we ended up cancelling this one the day we arrived. Oops! You’ll have to climb some stairs from the street to reach this beautiful blue apartment, but you’ll have access to the most charming little private terrace.
EAT & DRINK
Nata Sweet Nata – top choice for breakfast with views of the Douro River. Their daily menu includes a ham and cheese croissant, fresh orange juice, choice of coffee, and a famous nata custard pastry for €8.50.
Check out Cafe Embaixador near the train station for one of the best pastel de nata in the city.
Ribeira Square – fresh plates with friendly trilingual staff, good option for lunch.
Pregar – the onion or garlic “prego” steak sandwich is a must!
Bacalhau – look for the thinly sliced smoked duck and the corvina. One of our favorite meals. Fun fact – cod fish (bacalhau) is not native to Portugal. It’s imported from England (and Nova Scotia) as part of Portugal’s strong alliance with England.
Adega Sao Nicolau – book in advance! Fan favorite = fried octopus and rice
Taberna Dos Mercadores – couldn’t get in sadly, book in advance!
Gazela – an Anthony Bourdain favorite, their famous hot dog
Pizzaria Bella Mia! – when in Europe, pizza is a must at least one night.
WINE & MORE!…Don’t miss Vinho Verde!
Prova – friendly staff who will educate you and recommend wines from Portugal and other select wine regions. We liked standing at the bar to get a glimpse at all the variety of wine being poured.
Wine Quay Bar – views of the Douro, great charcuterie. Smoked meats not to be missed!
Lado Wines – for Porto & Douro Tastings
The Royal Cocktail Club – upscale cocktails, highly recommend the Holly Grail
Douro Valley Airbnb Experience – trust me and book it! You’ll visit two vineyards, enjoy a one hour boat trip down the Douro, have a huge family style lunch, and try ALL the Douro and Port wine (about 10 different wines!). Excellent value and experience with some cool people.
Luis I Bridge – this famous double decker bridge spans the Douro River linking Vila Nova de Gaia with the downtown Ribeira district. Cross on foot both ways on the upperdeck for the best views, but if you are afraid of heights there is also a lower deck. Head into Gaia to watch the sunset at the Jardim do Morro and then down to Port houses like Quinta do Noval, Taylor’s, Sandeman, Calem, Graham’s and Burmester.
River boat – you can cruise along the Douro with any of the companies along the river, but keep in mind there is no guide so it’s a boat ride versus a learning experience.
Clerigos Tower – 360* views of Porto but beware of a VERY tight climb to the top. Time slots must be reserved in advance to help manage the flow of people. It’s named as one of the top things to do, but I prefer the views from Gaia.
São Benito Train Station – if you don’t arrive by train from Lisbon, make sure to add this to the list to see the beautiful hand painted tiles that tell the story of Porto’s history.
Livraria Lello – the most beautiful bookstore and said to be J.K Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts library. She lived in Porto and taught English for two years, but denies the tie to the city. The Portuguese say she wanted financial compensation from Porto to credit the inspiration. Who knows? Entrance is by time slot (book online!) and costs €5. If you buy a book, your entrance fee is applied towards your purchase. Go early – it’s a madhouse with people trying to get the perfect IG shot.
Ate logo, Porto!