They say, “What’s in a name?”, well – if a city’s name is embedded in the country’s name, then no wonder that there is something worthy out there to explore. What Porto is to Portugal is what breathing is to living it seems. Because Porto still being the 2nd largest city of Portugal, holds the most of the charm, history and energetic vibe the country has to offer. So if you have a couple of stop-overs planned in Portugal, certainly Porto must feature there. If you are thinking of visiting only one city in Portugal, shall we dare say that just visit Porto and you will not regret?
After a bonbon introduction to Lisbon for 3 days, our roadtrip brought us to Porto to the north of Portugal. Get up to speed with our earlier experiences on day 1, day 2 and day 3 before transporting yourself to Porto with us.
In 2014 and 2017, Porto was elected as The Best European Destination. With its historical core district declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Porto lends its name to the naming of the country itself, where the original Celtic-Latin name Portus Cale went through several interpretations over the centuries.
· Walk, walk and walk more. Get in your comfortable shoes as the major attractions in Porto can all be enjoyed on foot. Two full long summer days will be perfect to soak up all the “im-Porto-nt” sites.
· Buy a traditional Portuguese hand-made straw basket bag. Authentic, unique and high quality – these bags are seriously en vogue. Read here to know more about this buying experience.
Pastel de nata
· Sardines are aplenty and what best way to have some during your dinner by the River Douro.
· Sandwiches – possibly the smallest and the cutest sandwich shop on earth, take a pause for your lunch break at the super cosy “A Sandeira do Porto” to try out their artisan sandwiches.
· Cod Fish Cake at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau
· It is a no-brainer that it is obligatory to drink Porto while in Porto. Period. The best place to try out 5 different flavours of this port wine is at the Ferreira Cellar as a part of their guided tours. More of this experience will be shared in the next post. You don’t want to miss this, we warn you!
· Its always ‘sangria-o’clock’ in Portugal, so beat the heat with the fruit induced red wine beverage.
If you really want, you can certainly stay in the Porto Old Town. Keep in mind that there may be options to stay at the neighbouring Vila Nova De Gaia too which is well connected by overground metro lines which are convenient and economic. So we stayed at Hotel Black Tulip which had the Dom João II station just outside and it took us only 10 minutes to arrive at the Trindade station from where we started our walking tour. We will share more about this in the next post.
Lets start walking!
Note that Porto old town has a sloping surface, downhill towards the river. So the farther one may be from the river, the higher the surface. As a result, it is strongly advised to start the walking tour from ‘up to down’, otherwise you will end up walking against the slope which will exhaust you quickly. We came out of the Trindade station and found the Igreja da Santíssima Trindade. A short walk from there was the gigantic Monumento a Garrett. From there we walked towards the Torre dos Clérigos – the bell tower which is visible from long distances and considered as one of the iconic monuments of Porto skyline.
Near this tower it was a great place to try out some cod fish cakes at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau. This location offered a nice view point where the roads converged and tram lines met. The neighbourhoods still held on to their old-school charm – congested and small houses, but super clean and with character. Doors, windows, festoons, alleys – there seemed to be a storytelling going on at almost every turn and every step. We came across the cosy sandwich shop “A Sandeira do Porto” and took a brief pause trying out their brilliantly made sandwiches and wedges.
Re-energised, we walked to the Central Railway Station which could be easily mistaken as a museum itself. With classy Azulejos designs on the walls and ceilings portraying various Portuguese historic episodes, we only wished if the trains there could transport us back in time.
Coming out of the station, we followed the Rua de Janeiro to arrive at the Church of Saint Ildefonso. Against a bright blue backdrop of a sky, the church itself looked as if it had taken a share in the blue-ness for that day. Roads teeming with tourists and local alike, the entire town seemed festive and buzzing. A group of school children were seen carrying out a procession, singing and performing.
From here we took a long walk as we tried to find out the famous Livraria Lello. The bookstore where J.K. Rowling had drawn some inspirations turned out to be very popular with visitors. There was a small entrance fee of 3 euros and there were facilities to keep personal belongings before entering the library. Stocked up with books from floor to ceiling, the bookstore had an unusually attractive feel to its ambiance mainly due to the wooden staircase that leads visitors to the 1st floor.
Equally pleasing the design of the stairways from both upstairs and from the ground – it felt as if these were not ordinary stairways. Whoever would set foot on these would elevate themselves to a higher level of knowledge and discovery – such was the charm, such was the appeal. Keep in mind however that the number of photo-takers will outshine the number of book lovers – so we had to wait for a long time to capture some moments with the camera.
From this point onwards, we kept walking down the slope and arrived at the river bank which was abuzz with life. A glass of sangria was a must have to chill things down while soaking in the activities. The beautiful Dom Luis 1 bridge was visible from here with all its architectural delight. Worth knowing that Porto is also known as the City of Bridges and it has 6 of them!
Ferries and boats were seen sailing gently with the merry-making visitors. Possibly a great site in Porto to enjoy the sunset, we settled down to have traditional Portuguese food for dinner in one of the restaurants on the bank. Shehzaad tried out Francesinha – the Portuguese traditional sandwich while Tanusree tucked in to some freshly grilled sardines to sign off the activities of the 1st day in Porto.