I thought I would dedicate my first blog post to my most recent travels, which lead me to Porto in (somewhat easy to guess) Portugal.
Some coursemates from my Master’s degree and me decided to reunite in this warm place since we all missed the sunshine being located at various places throughout the UK – and so our journey led us to Porto.
To be honest, I didn’t really know much about Portugal before my stay there, and it was decided as our destination as the flights were reasonably cheap. However, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit (despite the fact I was starving for most of the time, more on that later).
Porto is a cosy city of about 300,000 inhabitants located on the West Coast of Portugal at the Pacific Ocean and at the River Douro, which flows inwards the country. I am used to cities being very hilly, but Porto is definitely one of the most steep cities I have encountered recently. This makes exploring Porto by foot more challenging, but you’ll also feel better about yourself and burn the calories the food and wine will probably have added to your body.
We stayed at a loft in a historical portuguese building (where the bourgeoisie lived – the hallway was majestic) which was our base for exploring the city for the 4 days we were there. Obviously, I claimed a spot in the bed on top of the room-dividing element and it was super cosy up there! Getting down was somewhat adventurous in a sleepy mood, but no-one hurt themselves so it was all good. Our accommodation was reasonably close to the city centre and within walking distance from shops, restaurants and cafes – basically all you need! There was even a lovely back garden, which we didn’t make use of very much but would have liked to (we were just very busy in the end).
Once you have explored all of Porto by walking, you might want to cross the river by the Ponte Luiz I and visit one of the many Port wineries there. The views over the city are stunning and you can find a place to relax at the promenade.
We didn’t read up too much on specific sights before we went but rather decided to just let the impression of the city sink in to us. The city offers a couple of very nice churches and a cathedral. Even just normal houses and tiny streets are interesting to explore though, reflected in the Unesco World Heritage Status of the historic centre and a couple of adjacent bridges crossing the Douro.
FOOD & DRINK
I have already hinted that I was pretty hungry most of my days spent in Porto. Don’t let this discourage you: Porto is an amazing place for food, my friends who actually tasted the food assured me. However, like many Southern European countries, it has not quite caught up with the fact that some people do not eat meat. I have been vegetarian for a while now (I never really liked meat for most of my life), and usually I have no problems finding food in the UK: there are lots of places actually specialising in vegetarian meals, and even if they aren’t, I’ll probably find something. Not so much in Portugal. Traditional Portuguese food consists of a lot of meat, reflected by one of the most traditional foods, the Francesinha: it is originally from Porto and basically a meat feast sandwich drenched in cheese with the optional egg inside (don’t really have anything against the last two, but the overall thing doesn’t work so well).
Another specialty and must-try in Portugal is the seafood, in particular Bacalhau (cod), which you will see in every restaurant. Again, my friends really loved it!
What I really loved was the Nutellandia – a place dedicated to Nutella. I had delicious pancakes there with fresh strawberries and (obviously Nutella) – probably my best meal in Porto.
When in Porto, the must drink is obviously port wine. I never had much of Port wine, so this was very new to me, but it is indeed delicious – especially white port. Furthermore, I discovered green wine, which I haven’t seen around too much before: it’s similar to white wine but a bit sweeter and slightly fizzy (sometimes); as a person not too fond of wine, this really changed my mind!
We were not in Porto for too long, but managed to discover the nightlife area for young people – it is very condensed to a specific area. People will be standing outside and you can still smoke inside, which is a bit unusual coming from a country where it is barely allowed to smoke on the streets anymore.
In order to see a bit more of Portugal, we decided to do a whole-day boat tour. It would include food, crossing two dams and a visit to the wine town or Regua. The whole day was very relaxing – it was very warm and we even got a bit burnt! The tour we chose gave us two hours in Regua; we didn’t really know what to do so much so we visited a Port Winery’s visitor centre, and they advised us to their little garden where we did Yoga in. Enjoyable!
Overall, Porto is a lovely destination for a weekend city trip in the South and definitely worth a visit if you ever come by!