After my semi-disastrous trip to Lisbon, I was greatly looking forward to connecting with my friends in Porto.
While Lisbon is the bustling country capital of Portugal, Porto is the quieter, more scenic city to visit. The vibe feels different in Porto – in a good way! Here’s why you shouldn’t skip Porto when planning a trip to Portugal.
1. Porto’s Trendy Food Scene
We had so many good meals in Porto! Porto’s cuisine doesn’t differ much from what you’ll get in Lisbon, but the restaurants seem to be a step above. Anthony Bourdain was actually filming in Porto while we were – despite our best efforts, we didn’t run into him. One of our best meals was from Tapabento, a place Bourdain himself recommends.
In the mornings, we had brunch at Rosa et al Townhouse, a cute restaurant/bed & breakfast on the same street as our Airbnb. The portions may look dainty, but we were happy and full after our meals. I loved the decor and atmosphere so much that I may look into staying there when I eventually return!
2. Porto is a Book Lover’s Paradise
Non-Americans may not notice as much, but Porto is a book lover’s paradise. Unlike the USA, which is slowly getting rid of all their brick and mortar bookstores, Porto seems to have an infinite amount.
One of the most famous bookstores in the world is in Porto – the bookstore that gave JK Rowling her inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. The Livraria Lello bookstore is available to visit but you must buy a ticket. To me, it would be better if they said you must buy a book, but what do I know! While I will say that the bookstore is beautiful, it does not look as beautiful as the pictures online. Manage your expectations so you won’t be disappointed.
3. Porto’s Wineries
Porto is located near/in the Douro Valley, which is a popular area for wine. Port wine actually comes from Portugal and there are lots of opportunities to taste it while in the city! I didn’t have the opportunity myself, but along the riverfront are tons of wine houses that offer both tastings and tours everyday. If you have a little more time and want to go to the vineyard, that’s available too. Viator has many tours that can give you a comprehensive look at how wine is made in this region.
4. Douro River Views
If you haven’t noticed, I love being near water. Porto has a well-developed riverfront area, full of restaurants, bars, the aforementioned wine houses and shopping. There is a market where you can buy all types of items from local artisans – from jewelry to home decor to linens.
If you want to take a picture of the river, the best views come from the bridge. The bridge may look like it’s totally pedestrian but it’s not! So watch out for the train that comes barreling through every so often. If you’re too tired to walk uphill to get downtown, I recommend taking the cable car. It’s a short ride and the view isn’t shabby.
5. Porto’s All-Around Chill Vibes
Overall, Porto is a lot more laid back than Lisbon. There are a few things to check out, but you feel less rushed to check things out than in the capital city. Be sure to check out the in the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal – it has great views of the city and locals and tourists alike are having picnics or even taking naps on the lawn.
The garden even has peacocks!
One of the biggest tourist sites in Porto is the São Bento railway station, which has been called the most beautiful in the world. On principle, I haven’t included a picture of the train station. Why? Because personally I believed that it was extremely overhyped.
The combination of the laid back vibe in Porto with the lack of hundreds of major attractions to see, makes Porto a city that’s best to be experienced. It’s not like Paris or London where you’re frantically hitting various sites – you can sit back, relax and drink in the culture (literally and figuratively).
Although I enjoyed my time in Porto more than Lisbon, my bad luck streak continued. During my trip someone hacked my PayPal to buy themselves an iPad, and I fell prey to some sort of spam attack. I was subscribed to THOUSANDS of newsletters all at once – some that I’m still unsubscribing from months later! In addition, Vueling attempted to bump me from my paid seat on my flight back to Paris. It’s incredible to me that you can pay for a specific flight, months in advance and then the airline can just cancel your seat because they overbooked. While it worked out eventually and they put me on the flight, I don’t believe I’ll EVER fly Vueling again.
I don’t know what it was about Portugal, but that country was not a fan of me!
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