Porto is a stunningly beautiful city and probably our favourite place we visited in Portugal! We arrived here in all honesty a little blind; our recent itinerary being so full on we hadn’t made time to do our usual thorough research of things to do or places to see, only hearing that it is a beautiful city and this was no exaggeration. We discovered during the taxi ride from the bus station that unfortunately it is as hilly as everywhere else, but Uber was available so that would certainly make our time here a lot easier.
We had a mid afternoon arrival from Nazare to our accommodation we had booked quite last minute on booking.com. We had booked three nights here although a later arrival on day one and an early departure on our last day meant really only 2 full days to explore the city. The accommodation we booked was Three Houses and despite our late booking we were really impressed. We had a lovely high ceiling room which was comfortable and had everything we needed. You could even get breakfast pastries delivered to your room in the morning – whats not to love!
After a quick unpacking we did a Google search of the ’10 best things to do in Porto’ First on the list was a visit to Cais da Ribeira, a lively riverside location full of bars, restaurants, and a few live music acts thrown in for good measure. Where better place to start – a quick Uber and we were there.
There was an assortment of bars and restaurants along the waterfront and we were a little hungry and thirsty so decided to stop and sample some of the local food and drink; especially Port in Porto!
The main focal point of this area is the Dom Luís I Bridge and we had a great view from the waterside; however we did notice there were two levels; the lower road bridge and the higher pedestrian and light railway bridge. Google had informed us there was a funicular which would take us to the top so we decided to seek it out; the views could only be better higher up. We found the funicular right by the lower level to the bridge and paid 5 euros each for the trip.
We crossed the bridge on the highest level, and we walked from Porto to the city of Gaia, which is just the other side of the river Douro. The views were great, although you have to be cautious of the passing trains when walking on it.
We noticed a crowd forming on the high grassy banks, so we went and joined them wondering what was going on. It became clear that this was a prime sunset viewing spot! People were gathering on the grass hill next to Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar in Jardim du Morri to get to see a beautiful sunset from the very best viewpoint. There was a busker there and the music added a little more charm. If we had known we would have brought a bottle of wine but it was magical nonetheless.
The next day, we decided to head via Uber to a recommended bookshop in Lisbon, Livraria Lello, known for its stunning architecture, neo-gothic fasade and stunning staircase. We got there but unfortunately the queue was ridiculously long snaking all the way down the road and up again so we gave it a miss which was a shame.
Instead we decided to do some essential shopping and to check out some of the other sights around town including the Ingreja dos Clerigos Church, City Hall and Iglesia de San Antonio de los Congregados.
We decided to head back down to Cais da Ribeira as we had been debating a boat trip; however on the way we went past a ticket agency and bought a €28 each 3-in-1 tourist ticket which enabled us to do the 6 bridges River boat cruise, visit a Port Wine Cellar, and use the hop-on-hop-off double decker open top tourist bus. It was valid for 48 hours which was great as we didn’t really know if we would get it all done in one day. The first stop we headed for however was the boat trip. We managed to catch the boat just as it was leaving so the only seats were inside but we sat back to enjoy the commentary…..which didn’t happen.
As boat trips go, this had to be one of the worst we had been on; it was too crowded in covid times, there was no commentary and we did a 40 minute trip up and down the river. There were no drinks or toilets on board but the views along the river were definitely worth taking a trip to see; note to selves to pay a little more if we want better a better quality tour. We spent the rest of the night just chilling in the bars by the waters edge; rather than watch the sunset from the top we sat on the Gaia side of the bridge with a beer and chilled.
The waterfront at night was just as spectacular as daytime and reminded me a lot of Budapest but with a smaller river; Nigel disagreed but it was lovely anyway 🙂 Apologies for the poor quality pictures here we only had our phones which aren’t so great at night…
We started our last day with pastries delivered to our room then headed downhill towards Palácio de Cristal and the gardens. This was in the hope of finding the stop for the tourist bus as it was one of the designated stops. We couldn’t find it…. instead we wandered round the gardens which were really well kept and free to enter too which was a bonus.
A walk along the waterfront brought us to our second pre-purchased attraction, the Port Wine Cellar tour at Burmester. When we arrived an English tour had already started so we hopped in and joined them a little hot and sweaty from the walk. The tour itself was quite short; we saw the barrels and had the Port making processes explained as well as a little breather out in the back yard which gave great views along the river.
Then it was time for the bit we had been waiting for….the tastings! We had two different samples, a ruby and a white port, included in our ticket price whereas some others had paid a few euros extra for an extra glass.
We enjoyed our port; both ports were tasty and we contemplated buying some in the gift shop if it wasn’t for the fact we had enough luggage to carry. It was a fun hour but don’t expect too much and don’t pay over the odds here because we could have probably Googled what we were told on the tour.
For the rest of the day we rode round on the hop on hop off bus – we were going to use it as we had paid for it! we found a bus stop just opposite the Port Cellar and had a long ole trip round Gaia and back into Porto where we changed buses and went to the end of the line to Foz Du Dourno before stopping for some dinner before heading back. Our time in Porto was now up! we had a great time here and the chilled out vibe at the waterfront really was lovely. Was the ticket we got for the bus, boat and cellar worth it? Despite the quite poor boat trip and short cellar tour yes we think so but our highlights were definitely the views from Gaia and the sunset. A lovely place and the port was just a lovely addition!
Time to leave Porto and indeed Portugal behind and get on a long bus ride to our next destination – Madrid!
Carol & Nigel x