Did you know… the word for ‘cool’ in Portuguese is ‘fixe’, which is pronounced ‘fish’? This is ironic, 1. because Porto serves up delicious and fresh seafood, and 2. It’s 100% frigging’ cool! Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and attracts students, artists and tourists to its universities, art academies and museums. I love this city because of its arty-farty nature, strips of boutique shops and buzzing atmosphere. Porto isn’t perfect, but that’s what makes it unique and here’s why you should visit.
The Port Wine
Porto’s most famous export is Port Wine, to which the city gives its name. Thanks to strong Portuguese – English alliance, wine traders set up their first bases in Porto. At the time it was illegal to buy wine from the French, so Porto’s famous port wine became the tipple of choice. But, it was in fact invented by accident! Whilst the wine was being transported to England, it was often spoiled, so brandy was added to survive the voyage. Sailors soon learnt that this procedure deepened the flavours and port wine was born! Port labels like Taylor’s and Graham’s are still popular today, you’ll see these names along the Cais De Ribeira. For years Porto’s motto has been “You‘ve tried the wine; now try the city!”
When in Porto, you must try the hearty and flavoursome foods, from potato hot pot that’s baked with cheese and salted cod fish, to sweet custard tarts sprinkled with a dusting of cinnamon. But the most typical dish to try in this city is the Francesinha, translating as ‘the little French girl’, but oh boy, there’s nothing little about this dish! Sorry vegetarians, but the Francesinha is made up of layers upon layers of meat, covered in cheese, then melted and soaked in a tomato, beer and chilli sauce. Traditionally you’ll find this dish served with a fried egg on top and a bowl of chips. Legend has it that the Francesinha goes back to the Peninsular war when Napoleonic troops would eat toast with all types of meat and cheese. Today the best place to enjoy this calorific dish is Cafe Santiago, which is situated right on the river.
I have a Portuguese boyfriend but that certainly doesn’t make me biased. Many of my friends/colleagues have commented on the welcoming attitude of the Portuguese. They’re super happy to invite tourists into their city with open arms. Whether it’s the older generation, or a crowd of students, the majority treat visitors with kindness and warmth. They’re super passionate about being Portuguese, you’ll see it in their food, in their mannerism and in their history. If you ask a simple question on any of these subjects, they’ll educate you for hours. We can all learn from the people here, they are the ones with a true un-jaded zest.
The Portuguese like to stay up late socialising with friends, drinking, eating and sipping coffee. This is a big part of the Portuguese culture and it is evident in Porto. The city is snaked with lanes of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops, all filled with locals laughing and joking. Want a slice of the action? Head to Galeria de Paris Road and explore the trendy venues, plus the streets that surround it. There’s one spot called ‘Galeria De Paris’, which can be described as a quirky junkyard. A beer will cost you €1.50 but the antiques, such as vintage toy cars and creepy looking dolls, are not for sale. Make sure you go to the loo, as the toilets are uniquely decorated with bicycles dangling from the ceiling.
There’s no concrete city vibe to Porto, as it’s saturated in nature. From wine valleys that curve all around the Douro river, to beaches that are popular with surfers and sun worshippers. There’s a little piece of mother nature for everyone to enjoy. Cork and olive trees twist and bend around its regions, but you have to travel a tad out of the city to experience nature at its best. Go for a hike, catch the bus to the beach, hire a car or jump on a boat to admire the valley. Get out and soak up mother nature!
I love to plonk a stamp on a postcard and send it home. It's a little piece of my adventure, that makes its way to my family ? My auntie Julie home schools her children, so I often post to my cousins to help with their Geography lessons. In their classroom sticks a large map on the wall. It's filled with letters and postcards from pen pals across the world! What's the one thing you always pick up and take home from your travels?
Oh. My. Golly. Gosh! The tiles of Porto are the most beautiful aspect of this city. Where do you find them? Everywhere! I was a ‘little’ tile obsessed and left Porto with a jam packed memory card of tiles alone. To see the best of the tiles, check out the stunning train station, Sao Bento. Around 1920, artist Jorge Colaço, presented historical tales through the painted blue tiles. Stories such as Prince Henry the Navigator conquering Ceuta in Morocco and the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez, can be seen within its panels. Not a history buff? Then just take a stroll and you’ll find plenty of photo opportunities – just make sure you bring extra storage!
The Dom Luis Bridge
Porto’s iconic bridge opened in 1886, when it held the record for the longest iron arch in the world. Today the metro crosses the upper level, while the lower level is used by cars to cross the river between the center of Porto and port wine warehouses of the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia. The design might remind you of something, perhaps something from Paris, maybe?! Théophile Seyrig designed it after working closely with Gustave Eiffel. So you’ll see it’s a very similar design to the Eiffel tower. For the best view of the city (not the bridge itself), hike up to the upper level where the metro passes. I’d personally hike up to the bridge, it’s not that difficult and you’ll find interesting street art work along the way. But if the weather’s too hot and you don’t fancy sweating, jump on the funicular for €2.50 each way.
– Practical information –
Where to stay? Blue Sock Hostel, located right by the city’s most lively area and part of the historic center of Porto; Cais De Ribeira. Its interior is sleek, homely and modern, plus the rooms are extremely comfortable. The hostel offers an underground bar and plenty of trendy chill out areas.
How to get around? Porto is a very walkable city, but if you want to use public transport then one single journey will cost you 1,80€ if purchased inside the bus. Inside the bus you can only pay with cash but in stations and other places you can also use your visa card. With the Porto Card, when using 1,2,3 or 4 days, unlimited access to public transport. For longer period of stay, I’d recommend hiring a car from the airport and exploring further. To experience part of the Duoro Valley, you can jump on a boat from the port.