Travel Thursdays: A weekend in Porto

by Karisa

Check out my other Portugal posts here: Lisbon, Tavira, Faro, Albufeira, Lagos, Coimbra.

My very last stop in Portugal was the birthplace of port: Porto! Now I have to mention upfront that the rain I had experienced in Coimbra unfortunately did follow me all the way to Porto & it ended up raining the entire time I was there. This is why you’ll notice a lot of grey skies in my photos & probably also why I didn’t enjoy Porto as much as I did Lisbon. But looking back, it really was an awesome city to see, throw in a wine tour in the lush Duoro Valley and it really becomes a must-see.

I left my accommodation booking a bit late, so was challenging to find something budget-friendly, but I was lucky enough to find a double room in Faria House (União de Freguesias do Centro) for about R1000 per night. It was very close to a metro stop, which made it easy to get around. The house also had lovely shared areas and an outdoor space, so it ended up being a really great place to stay all round.

On my first night in Porto, I headed down to the Duoro riverside to get my first look at the Dom Luís I Bridge, enjoy my first glass of port wine & to meet up with fellow Capetonian & avid world-explorer, Allison Foat otherwise known as Cape Town Diva.

Pretty city lights…
Down by the river… also known as the Ribeira district.
The original Diva herself…. Was so good to see a friendly face!
Chilling in Praça da Ribeira square – Glass of port on the left & a francesinha sandwich on the right…

The francesinha is a Porto “delicacy”. This strange looking sandwich is a combination of ham, sausage, steak, cheese & bread, all drenched in a beer sauce and served with chips. If you think that sounds hectic, it’s because it really is. I couldn’t manage more than a few bites, way too rich & weird for my taste. But from what I understand it is one of those “you either love it or hate it things”. I was definitely not on the “love it” side. 😉

More pretty evening scenery…

Sadly on that same day, celebrity chef and legendary food & travel documentarian, Anthony Bourdain, had decided to take his own life. This was very sad news to me as I had really fallen in love with his dry sense of humour & bold personality while watching his Parts Unknown television series. I very much looked up to him for his no BS & no fear travel style.

After hearing about his passing, I decided to make it my mission the following day to go and check out this tiny little “snack-bar” he had featured in his 2017 season of Parts Unknown.

The place? Cervejaria Gazela What’s good there? Cachorrinhos (otherwise known as: “hot dogs”)

I know it doesn’t look like much, but trust me… this was so worth the long queue I had to stand in to get my hands on one. Since the Parts Unknown feature, they have become a bit of a cult spot to visit. So do expect it to be quite busy. What’s nice though is that they do still have a huge local following, so you won’t just be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists.

Other cool spots to check out in Porto:

Capela das Almas – This chapel is a great example of the use of azulejo tiles (hand painted tiles, typically blue & white) dating back to the 19th and 20th century.
Hop onto a vintage tram – the most popular is the Linha 1 tram which travels from the Ribeira district of Porto to the Foz district.
Café Majestic – a striking Belle Epoque-era cafe with an ornate interior featuring intricately carved wood, gorgeous vintage mirrors & beautiful chandeliers. The coffee is way overpriced, it’s always super busy, but it really is a very pretty cafe to see.
Livraria Lello – aka the Lello Bookstore. This Harry Potter style bookstore is absolutely beautiful – just two things to note: 1) Entry is not free, and 2) Expect big crowds.
São Bento train station – Another great example of those magnificent azulejos (hand painted tiles). This really is a beautiful train station, and very easy to pop in & have a look without having to queue or pay a cent.
I was also really impressed with the underground station… I mean just look how spotless it is!

I also enjoyed exploring the other side of the Duoro River by crossing theDom Luís I bridge. This is where all the Port wine cellars are located, so good if you want to do a couple of tastings. I didn’t opt to do tastings here though because I had booked a Duoro Valley food & wine tour, so decided to just spend my time roaming around

How’s that view…
Cable car ride anyone?
A look at Rabeira from the other side… kinda has some Venice vibes hey?
Views from up on the hill…

So as I mentioned above, I had also booked a full day Duoro Valley food & wine tour, which I had booked through these guys – Bago D’Uva 360.

What I liked is that they keep the group small – my group for instance was only 8 people & we travelled around in a super comfy, air-conditioned mini bus. My absolute death are those massive tour busses, jam-packed with people. My top tip is always: If you don’t want to do a self-drive or you’re a solo traveller wanting to meet people, small group tours are the best.

The tour included coffee & typical Portuguese sweet treats in the lush town of in Amarante, 4 wine tastings, a lunch in the village of Pinhão, and the most beautiful views.

You don’t get greener than Amarante, that’s for sure…
Lining our stomachs before the wine tasting begins…
Quinta Da Avessada
White wine tasting & snacks…
Followed by a port tasting in their cellar…
A traditional lunch with the gang…
Views, views & more wine at D’Origem…
Not ugly, not ugly at all…
Oh and more views…
Final stop of the day – Quinta de Santa Eufemia.

Was a long day, but definitely worth it. I wasn’t really a port fan when they collected me that morning, but by the end of the day I had a totally renewed appreciation for this fortified wine.

Last mention regarding Porto has to be its trendy food & bar scene. My most memorable meal was at a restaurant called Flow. But trendy eateries are very much common place in the baixa (downtown) area of Porto.

Flow – Beautiful decor & lovely atmosphere
And a killer ceviche!

Walking around that area you’ll also find tons of little bars where the drinks are pricey, but creative, and the night can easily run away with you, leaving you with a killer hangover (and empty wallet) the next morning…

Can’t remember the bar’s name, all I can tell you is that I had a great time. Haha.

To see lots more photos & videos of Porto, check out my Instagram accountctmylove.  I created story highlights for each city that I visited during my trip last year which you’ll find on my profile.  Scroll through these and select the one called “Porto”.

Next stop: Zagreb, Croatia!


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