Porto is the city of history, colours, Port wine, the small restaurants, breath taking view points, the bridges … The list is never ending. Porto is impressive on every corner.
As many travelers know, it is hard to go through all the important sightseeing points AND sense the true rhythm of the city if staying only for a night or two. What to see, what to do and what not to skip are the important questions for everyone who visit a new place for the first time.
After visiting Porto for many times and many days I found a way for every traveler to conquer it in a Weekend in order to meet its past and present, basic cuisine an feel the romantic place that Porto is. Let the journey begin!
Meet the City with a Tour
A tour is a perfect way to orientate in a new place better and to see all the “must see” things on a tourist’s checklist. At the same time it is time efficient if you do not spend much time in the city. It is great to meet the local tourist guide who presents the city from his point of view and has the answer to all the additional questions. The tour usually takes around three hours and covers the most important parts of one of the oldest cities in Europe to catch the first sights of:
- São Bento railway station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the World,
- Ponte Luis I, a bridge engineered by Téophile Seyrig, a partner of Gustave Eiffel,
- Rua de Santa Catarina, one of the main shopping parts of Porto,
- The Lello bookshop, one of the inspiration places for the J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books,
- Cathedral, one of the important points of the pilgrims that walk a Santiago de Compostela road,
- Torre dos Clérigos, with a beautiful sight of the city,
- Ribeira district, the district next to the Douro river, full of the rabelo boats that were used to transfer the wine in the past,
- Praça da Liberdade with the monument of King Peter IV,
- Henry Square with the Statue of Prince Henry the Navigator,
- Café Majestic, where J. K. Rowling spent quite some hours working on her books while she still lived in Portugal,
- McDonalds Imperial on the Avenida dos Aliados recognized as one of the most beautiful McDonalds restaurants.
While staying in Porto I took a free tour option, which is free of charge, however, if satisfied, tipping is a usual practice (but not a necessity). Porto Free Tour and Porto Walkers are the examples of such tours.
Vila Nova de Gaia & Port Wine Cellar
Taking a walk over the Ponte Luis I bridge there is another city called Vila Nova de Gaia (the city of Porto is only on one side of the river). People from Porto like to make a joke that the best thing in Vila Nova de Gaia is the view on Porto. It is possible to buy some delicious baked chestnuts (they prepare them very well!) and sit on the bench next to the river Douro looking at the beautiful sight of Porto and a numerous amount or rabelo boats that were used to transfer the wine in the past.
Tourists mostly visit this side of the river because of the wine cellars of Port wine. There are around ten of them and are in a big amount owned by English businessman who saw the big potential of the area and wine yards in the past. The presentation guides you through the differences of Ruby, Tawny and Vintage Port wines, show more than 100 years old bottles and enormous wine cellars. The final degustation will make the experience definitely worth the visit but expect to be tipsy, Port wine contents 20% of alcohol in average. Its sweetness helps to cover the taste of alcohol and makes it seem very innocent on the first “sip”.
Francesinha, the most famous dish from Porto
Porto is full of small restaurants that are very crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings. The typical ones barely have enough of the space for the amount of people that are inside and in some the visitors simply sit on the bar eating and not seemed bothered by it at all.
It is worth ordering a famous Francesinha, a typical dish from Porto. It is made from bread, meat, egg, sausages, cheese and a special sauce, served with fries. It seems like a small version of lasagna that was made of toasts instead of pasta slices and a special beer sauce instead of bechamel under which was hiding a whole royalty of meat. And crowned by a cheese and an egg and dressed in fries.
In conclusion – very famous, very good and very very caloric. Thank the waiter with »muito obrigado« and finish all.
Portuguese Pastries & Coffee
Portuguese love coffee and they drink it even at ten in the evening, after dinner. Coffee places where they serve some of their typical sweets can be found on almost every corner. It is worth trying Merenda Mista (a pastry with ham and cheese) and the famous Pastel de Nata, the most known Portuguese sweet made from eggs and sugar. A drop of heaven, on which you can spread some cinnamon if you wish.
Night Life in Rua Galeria de Paris
You will finf the centre of nightlife on Rua Galeria de Paris and the near streets. It is important not to show up before eleven, when people only start slowly gathering. People stand outside on full streets, with beers in their hands, catching up with their friends and enjoying the night – the whole streets turn into the bars.
By taking a tram or renting a bicycle it is necessary to visit the coast side. The endless sand, the blue of the ocean and the bright sky give Portugal special colours. It feels like watching the poster and the photos barely need any editing after.
To relax next to the ocean while listening to the loud sounds of the crashing waves means meeting one part of the Portuguese nature. If the weather and the waves are appropriate you can see hundreds of surfers fighting with the force of the water. When being next to the ocean in Portugal, watching breath taking sunsets no one can help himself but to think that Portugal is amazing.