As isolation and coronavirus rage on, I’m continuing my tour around Portgual from my armchair – reflecting on happy memories of past trips. I hope everyone is staying safe and well through these mad times. I’ve now had to cancel all of my planned trips up to end of June (Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Romania, Italy and Spain). I’m upset about it as holidays and exploring are really special times to me – but staying safe, protecting everyone and things recovering is way more important.
So next on the list is Porto – situated in the north west of the country. The real draw for me, obviously, was the port wine – which is literally named after this city. A city with a wine named after it….why wouldn’t you visit?
As my better half always tries to remind me though, there’s more to life than wine….and it’s true of Porto too. It’s also home to lovely weather, a nice river, epic bridges and some really delicious food….and if anyone doesn’t know what Fado is, it’s so worth experiencing it. We spent a relaxed 3 days in the city and then spent a couple of days exploring outside of it. You can read my post on potential day trips from Porto here.
If you’re visiting Porto, here are some of the things to do in this amazing city.
1. The port wine
The Vila Nova de Gaia area has been home to port wine companies for centuries. The area is situated right on the river bank, and along the water’s edge are posts with the names of the port wine traders based in Porto. There are a LOT. My favourite was Taylor’s Port. Here you can visit the cellars, an on-site museum and the visitor centre.
But most importantly, you can taste the wine in the garden of this historic home (founded in 1692). We learnt all about (and much more importantly, tasted) white, rose, red, tawny and vintage port. What better way to spend your first afternoon in the city, and then roll back to your hotel?
2. The massive bridge(s)
Ponte Dom Luis I is a double deck metal arch bridge spanning the River Douro linking Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (the port wine area, above) on the opposite river bank. You can cross by car, foot or train, and I recommend crossing on the upper deck as the views are amazing. On the Vila Nova de Gaia end you can walk to the Belvedere for even more amazing views over the city. There is a restaurant with a sunny terrace just below the Belvedere which is great for watching the world go by.
Further downriver is the Maria Pia Bridge built in 1876 by Eiffel (Eiffel Tower fame), which is also well worth a visit.
So one of the main reasons I like travelling is learning about other cultures and traditions. ‘Fado’ is one of these experiences, and you can’t visit Portugal and not experience Fado! You basically have your dinner, and the courses are served in-between being entertained by musicians and singers playing emotional tales of lost love and longing. The Portugese present all sang along, and it was an amazing evening of entertainment. Have some port wine with it and it’s a winner. We visited O Fado to experience this.
This area is the harbour front on the Porto side of the river. It’s full of really characterful buildings which make for great photos and lovely views to the river and the bridge.
5. The Sao Bento train station
Opened in 1916, this historic train station is truly special. The main entrance hall is truly incredible, as it’s full of beautiful blue and white moasics, made with more than 20,000 azulejos (handpainted tiles) depicting the history and legends of Portugal. It took 10 years to complete!
6. The Palacio de Cristal gardens
If you want some lovely views of the Duoro river, then the Palacio gardens are for you. They are the perfect place to take a stroll and snap some photos.
7. Porto Cathedral
A lovely Cathedral to explore, and just outside the cathedral is a statue of Vimara Peres a 9th century duke who secured Porto and Gaia from the Moors and became the Count of Portugal (the name Portugal is derived from combining Porto and Gaia).
8. Church of St Ildefonso
This church is well known from Instagram due to its striking blue tiles. Completed in 1739, the church is named in honour of the Visigoth, Ildephonsus of Toledo who was bishop from 657-667.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ve found this post interesting and helpful in either planning a visit to Porto, or just learning about it. You can also read my other Portugal posts here: