Porto, Portugal. Why you’re Crazy not to visit Right Now!
Port Wine & Unique Cuisine
Welcome to Porto, Portugal!
I’m 80% certain I say this about every city, but Porto, Portugal is a seriously cool city that should definitely be on this years travel list. What can I say I’m a city girl. I’ve yet to find a city that I haven’t fell in love with.
I had no expectations of Porto before arriving, and I sometimes think when this is the case, they city in questions turns out to be amazing, surprising me in ways I never imagined. Porto was in fact one of those cities.
In some ways you can see how it has been affected by the up’s and downs of the economic crash, with certain parts of the city a little rough around the edges. But the spectacular bridges, beautifully mosaiced buildings, whimsical tram lines, all set in and almost swiss hillside setting with crazy beautiful views of the Douro Valley, is truly what captivates you.
I find it hard to believe that tourism only began infiltrating Porto City a mere five years ago, with the introduction of low cost Ryanair flights from the rest of Europe to Porto.
The History of Porto, Portugal:
Before this time, Porto city centre was unfortunately very bleak with little to no sign of development. This all changed when the first tourist set foot on Porto soil, bringing interest, investment and hope for the future of Porto. As tourists continued to arrive, the demand for hotels, hostel, restaurants and attractions grew.
Five years ago, there was only one hostel in the city centre, not there are over 70 hostels within the historic city alone. This just highlights the demand and speed at which it’s changing. For the first time in years, even the people in Porto are enjoying their own city.
Porto, Portugal is now a thriving city, show-casing the best of Portuguese Port Wine, hospitality and gastronomy. With thousands of hotels now occupying the city, many considered luxury or boutique, finding a place to stay “in style” should be no trouble, here in Porto.
Something more significant that changed the face of Porto was the World Heritage recognition it received in 1996. This status gave the tourist platform an invitation to discover the city and continue to be intrigued by the UNESCO declaration of the old town.
It’s impossible to mention Porto without paying tribute to its famous Port Wine trade. Now mainly owned by the British, the Douro Valley is said to be the only region that can grow and harvest such variations of the ‘port wine’, due to it’s unique micro-climate. Recognised worldwide, many of the port wine distilleries such as Porto Calem, Taylor’s and Ferreira house some of the finest port wines that will cross your lips.
A visit to porto would be incomplete without sampling a few “tawny’s”, “LBV’s” or “Vintage” port wines, learning some fun facts about these unique wines at the same time.
Porto’s Quirky Cuisine:
The unique eating habits of northern Portugal, especially Porto, have become an interesting allure for tourists. Nicknamed “tripe eaters” by the Portuguese, they are accustomed to their infamous “tripe stew”.
For years their diet mainly consisted of seafood, due to it’s close proximity to the atlantic. But with the introduction of meat in the 17th century, Portuguese went mad for it. As with many cultures, it was originally reserved for the upper classes but it finally it trickled down to the urban bourgeoisie, thus the birth of the “francesinha”.
Francesinha; Literally translating to beautiful french girl and commonly known as “heart attack on a plate” and by far the most famous dishe of Porto, francesinha is not for the faint hearted. Fully loaded and layered with as much meat & cheese as one can possibly fit into a small sandwiched parcel, this concoction of bread, meat, cheese, egg & a special spicy sauce will definitely keep you full for the day.
Luckily we got to sample a Veggie version, which was less filling, less fattening & a little less ferocious on the plate. But you simply must try one when it Porto considering it is a local delicacy & you can only find it in Porto. Known to the locals as the ‘best sandwich in the world’.
Why visit Porto, Portugal?
The food, the wine, the culture, the scenery, the history, the beautifully azulejos churches on every street, around every corner are only a few of the reasons to visit Porto.
And with tourism only scrapping at the surface of Porto, this has to be the best time to visit. I have no doubt it will grow in popularity over the coming years , which will dramatically change the city in terms of authenticity, charm and cost. Get yourself to Porto Pronto!
Here’s what we got up to while in Porto:
Delicious Porto Food Tour with Bluedragon City Tours, Porto.
We highly recommend doing this tour on the first day of your trip. Not only will you learn the basics of what to eat and where to go, but you will get a feel for the city from a local expert, find your bearings and learn some history about the city and it’s surrounding. If you want a full review of how our tour went, where we ventured to and some of the flavours we got to sample. Read all about it here!
Free Walking tour with Porto Walkers
Another great tour that should definitely be included in your Porto itinerary, at the beginning of your trip. Learn the deep history of Porto, how it’s tourism has boomed since the opening of low-cost Ryanair flights and sample the best kept secret chocolate cake of Porto! Our tour guide Anna was amazingly knowledgeable, giving us some much information about Porto, past & present. We walked the length and breath of the city, in and out of the cobbled streets, down crooked alleyways to eventually end up and the banks of the river.
Rota do Douro River Cruise
We were pleasantly surprise at how inexpensive this tour was that also included a few port wine tasting sessions. I have to tell you I’ve never drank as much on a city break in my life. But once I got a taste for the port wine, and my god do you get a lot of opportunity to taste, I was hooked! Luckily it’s a very strong, sweet tasting alcoholic drink that meant I could only consume a few glasses per day.
Back to the boat cruise……
There are a few boat rides leaving per day, but it’s always a good idea to book in advance, especially in high season. The day we took the boat out, the whether was perfect, so we got to enjoy our cruise along the river in the sun, while we took in our surroundings and listened to some brief history of the six bridges dotted along the Douro River.
There are a few cruise options you can choose from, but I highly recommend taking the full day river cruise that incorporates the train to the Douro Valley, then the boat ride back, fully inclusive of dinner and wine. It comes highly recommended.
You can’t miss the abundance of boat that dock alongside the main waterfront on both sides of the Dom Luis I bridge. But I recommend to take one of the traditional rabelo boats, that were once used to transport the port wine from the Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia. You will find them located along the riverfront on the same side as the Port Wine Cellars.
To sum up our trip in Porto, Portugal ~
Here’s 40 photos that will leave you with some serious Porto Wanderlust.
With so many hills, so much to explore and too many port wine houses to sample, we left a little stronger, a little drunker and a little wiser having journeyed through Porto, Portugal.
September 23, 2017
September 14, 2017
August 30, 2017