Having lived in Spain for the last 2 years we were lucky enough to have traveled a lot of Europe and seen some amazing places. Of the all the places we have been, I enjoyed Porto in Portugal the most - so much so we have been back at least 3 times! We were lucky to live about 3 hours drive from Porto.
Among the many things I loved about Porto was the laid back vibe of the city, the lovely river and bridges, the ancient architecture and of course the food!
The views from the far side of the Douro river (opposite the old town) are absolutely breath taking, and well worth a walk up the hill to explore and take in the views. During the day you can see the unique architecture from above, and also enjoy fantastic views of the river. It is also worth going back in the afternoon and watching the sunset, as the river and old town provide an amazing backdrop.
If you are staying across this side of the river, there are a couple of things I recommend before heading across to the old town.
The first is coffee (obviously). 7g coffee roasters is up there with the best, as they offer a wide range of coffees such as espresso, v60 and aeropress. The coffees are brilliant, and also the food is top notch - having breakfast there is a fine way to start the day before exploring the old town! If you are a coffee buff, then the "coffee tasting" is brilliant - a chance to try out a variety of different coffees. 7g is a place we visited every time we were in Porto!
There is also a really cool piece of street art nearby - a rabbit made entirely out of recycled materials. See if you can find it....
The other thing to check out is the market. It is easy to find, as it is at the bottom of the Gondola ride. Here you will find all sorts of locally created pieces. There is a lot of nice pieces of jewelry to be found here.
Now, to get across to the old town there are 3 main choices. First choice is to take the water taxi. This is the quickest option, as depending on the schedule you will be over to the old town within a few minutes. The water taxi is a fairly cheap option, only costing a few euros.
If you want a more scenic view on your way to the old town, then the best option is to take a Gondola. The Gondolas run frequently, and climb to the top of the hill where you can then walk across the high bridge into the old town. This option is a bit more costly, but the panoramic views are worth it.
The third option is to walk along the lower bridge. After walking the lower bridge, you have the option of walking the stairs up to the old town (not recommended!), or taking the "elevator". This takes you up the side of the hill in less than a minute and gives and amazing view of the river.
Ok, so now we are over in the old town there is alot to see! I will just highlight a few of my favorites. Probably my favorite is the Monument Church of St Francis. From the outside it is a lovely stone church, however, it is the inside that is stunning - a church fully covered in gold. It is like something I have never seen before. Sadly I didn't get any pictures from the inside as pictures weren't allowed so you will have to take my word for it!
For something unique and different, I recommend checking out the Igreja do Carmo church, which is known for its tiled design. It really is a great piece of design.
If you are into this design, then I would also recommend the São Bento railway station. The interior has a massive mural with many of these blue tile designs, and each of them tell a unique story of Portuguese history
These are just few of the sights to see in Porto. Porto is one of those European cities which has endless things to do, and is just a wonderful place to wander around. There is great shopping, and often you will find street performers to entertain you.
All this sight seeing made me hungry! Lucky Porto has a great food culture. One of their popular dishes is the Francesinha - a.k.a the most crazy sandwich you will every have! The Francesinha comes with up to four different meats, including ham, sausage, steaks or roast meat. It is also covered in cheese and gravy, with an optional egg on the top! Make sure you have this one on an empty stomach. As this is a local dish you will find it at alot of places, and so I wont make a recommendation as to a specific place to try it out.
If you still have any room left in your stomach and feel like something sweet, then I recommend trying a Pastel de Nata (Portuguese tart). These are another great part of the Portuguese food culture and are absolutely amazing!
To try these out I highly recommend Manteigaria - Fabrica de Pasteis de Nata. Not only can you try out the Pastel de Nata here, you can also watch them being made.
With the mix of culture, food and history, Porto is one place I would highly recommend for a weekend visit.
Hopefully we will be back one day!
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