'porto. the small city with a big heart. this travel guide is a journey
through one of europe's best kept secrets'
i arrived late in the evening after flying in from liverpool on ryanair. you can take the metro from the airport to the city centre for around €3 it takes around 30-40 mins depends on where your located.
I was staying at the bluesock hostel right next to the river. its a new hostel that opened just over 6 months ago and wow you can really tell that this is a new breed of luxury hostel. if it where a hip 5* hotel i could not really tell the difference on first impressions. i left my luggage in my room and that evening i decided to check out that was happening in the hostel. at first you'll notice that the design quality of the whole place amazing. they have a hugh bar and lounge area serving great drinks and good food. its one of the best bars i have seen in a hostel it takes up the whole of the basement along with the cinema in the corner for these rainy days. i had some food and a chat with the staff they are super professional and always happy to help this will be my first choice when i return to porto.
the next day i organised a trip with cooltours to visit the douro valley. its actually one of the oldest wine valleys in the world and is most famous for making port wine along with olive oil and cork yes cork the top that you find on most bottles of wine around the world. portugal is actually the biggest producer of cork in the wold more than 80% is grown here.
i was picked up around 9am by maria from cooltours she was super cool and very informative about the region. we spent the whole day in the valley that included a boat tour, lunch and two wineries. the trip is super informative about the history of port wine and of course you’ll get to taste this beautifully complex fortified wines. close to the end of the trip i could really feel the port work they don't skimp on the amount they give you.
as a continuation into the introduction of port wine i had organised a tour & tasting of different port wines at probably the most famous producer taylors. the cellars are extremely old but the place its self has gone through a recent renovation for tourists to visit. they have organised it like a museum with a self guided digital speaker. this helps a lot as you can take your time around the cellar and you don't have to wait for your specific language guide to be available. at the end of the tour comes of course the tasting. you have a classic tawny and a chip dry. most people don't know the chip dry variant but its a white version that is much dryer than the red it goes great with tonic as a long drink.
porto is a small city in comparison to the capital lisbon. but this does not mean that it does not have as much to do. it has so many thing to do. it has actually won the european best destination to visit three times. i cannot tell you truly the amount of great restaurants, bars and beautiful building that are adorned with the famous blue tiles. its an absolutely stunning city that i found i was never bored every single second i was there. some of the highlights for me are...
chapel of souls
this has to be one of the most famous monuments in porto. its was completed in the early 1900s. the tiles depict the saints lives and deaths. its on one of the major shopping & restaurant streets you can't miss it.
the river you may think cuts right through the city but actually over the other side of the river is a totally different place called gaia. gaia is actually where all the port is made. you have all the most famous companies located there.
i found this place last minute on trip advisor and wow am i glad i found it. its a trip up the arch of one of the bridges that stretch along the river. its super easy to climb for both adults and children you need no physically to do it. you do it for the views at the top. i would recommend going at sunset as you can get some incredible views and photos on both sides of the bridge. €12.50 (see image at the top of this post). book here
nata, it's all about the data...
oh nata… its a portuguese custard tart. this was my staple food at least twice per day and my favourite place to experience it was nata lisboa. one nata with a coffee is only €1.80 its a very economical breakfast or snack.
you can't come to porto without having a few glasses of the cities most famous export. I came to porto not really appreciating or understanding port wine but after my trip to the douro valley and more importantly taylors port wine cellar. i have now come to truly appreciate the complexity and different varieties and flavours that can be found. it goes great with portuguese tapas. my favourite place for the port pairing with food was the wine box.
the food tours...
one of my favourite things to do while visiting a new country or city is to sample the local food. especially in cities like porto that is know for its gastronomy. i can highly recommend two companies to you as both go to different places and experience different food. you should defiantly go on both if you have the time its a great way taste everything that porto has to offer. i went with blue dragon & taste porto both companies and guides are amazing. this will be something that you'll never forget they take you to places that you never knew even existed. the photo on the right is actually my favourite food store and it makes for a great gift. its the canned food store. you may be thinking canned food but here the canned fish is a gastronomic marvel not to be missed and its such a colourful place to visit.
porto is a very walkable city as all the major tourist attractions are within walking distance their is no need to take cabs or the metro. even though its hilly if your mildly fit its not to difficult on the legs just make sure to wear comfortable footwear. if you happen to go on sundays you will find that most of the museums are free of charge this can save you a fortune as they has some great art galleries and museums. you will also find the library where j.k rowling got the inspirations for the moving staircase in harry potter. she was an english teacher here in the 90’s. looking around porto i can really see some of the inspiration that she took from the city.
i was expecting a lot before arriving in porto. i was scared that i would be disappointed by porto but this couldn't be further from the truth. i had a truly magical time meeting lots of cool and interesting people on the journey thats the beauty of traveling everyone is open & happy this is why i do it fully time. there is so much positivity in the city the locals are very hospitable to foreigners unlike in some other european cities. ahh... i forgot to mention that portugal was voted one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
my recommended places to visit
- chapel of souls
- port wine cellars
- old town
- douro valley
places to eat
- nata lisboa (best custart tarts)
- wine box (port and tapas)
- wine house bolhao (wine and tapas in the market)
- pasteis de chaves (best original portuguese pasties)
- flor dos congregados ( need to book weeks in advance)
how to get around
-uber (super cheap here) (use code; carlm5078ue for a free ride)
where i stayed
- bluesock hostel. this is an amazing luxury boutique hostel with private and dorm rooms. probably one if the best hostels that i have had the pleasure to stay in my life.
length of stay
- perfect weekend city its super compact and can mostly be done on foot.
- currency here is euro and its one of the cheapest countries in wester europe. you can get a meal and wine for less than €10. i had 3 course lunch menus for only €6
country travel tips
atm: any is fine they all charge a small fee.
taxi: can be expensive here take an uber
sim card: if your european then a new law in june 2017 made it free to use your sim.
uber: use code; carlm5078ue
Booking.com: get $20usd off your booking click here
airbnb: get $20usd off your booking here: www.airbnb.com/c/cmuies