5 REASONS TO GO TO PORTO
I have always had adoration for Portugal and I can honestly say is my favourite country in Europe. Why? Because from north to south is simply beautiful, because people are friendly and humble, because the food is delicious, the country is relatively cheap compared to other European countries and it has 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites, one of them, the old town Porto, since 1996. Do you need more reasons to visit? Some time ago I escaped for 4 days to Porto.
Porto is the 2nd largest city in Portugal, located in the north of the country and is a place I was curious to visit since long ago. Most tourists who visit Portugal will go to Lisbon or The Algarve, the most famous spots. But for me, it was about time to give a chance to Porto. And what a good choice I made!
Here are my top 5 reasons of why you shouldn´t wait for more to start packing for Porto.
1. The Ribeira District
Many districts of this city are beautiful, but walking around the oldest neighbourhood in the city is unique. You will get lost in the cobbled streets, the small alleys and the old traditional houses. This neighbourhood is full of small shops, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Is located on one side of the Douro River and even though is one of the most famous touristic spots which will make it sometimes crowded, is still beautiful and a must. It also holds one of the oldest squares of the city, Ribeira square, mentioned already in documents from the XIV century. The square is next to the dock, one of the most lively and beautiful spots day and night. The colourful houses scattered along the river walk will make happy all photography and selfie lovers.
2. The Wine
If you are a wine lover, this is your town. The Porto Wine is one of the most famous red wines across Europe and part of the world. It´s a fortified wine exclusively produced in the north of Portugal. Is sweet and also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.
You can do a tasting tour of the many wineries that lay down across the river. There you can not only try but also see by yourself the traditional distillation process. You will have the opportunity to try some of the best Porto Wine harvests. And if you are really into wine and you have the time, you can do a day trip to the vineyards located outside of the city.
In all these tours you will usually also be served with the “petiscos” or tapas, so you don´t drink on an empty stomach. Prices vary between 20€ and 100€ depending on the tour and/or the wineries/vineyard you are visiting.
3. The Nightlife
It doesn´t matter your age or your preferences, here there is a place for everyone. Porto´s nightlife will surprise everyone. The number of restaurants, pubs and clubs is insane. From elegant and pricey restaurants to small and cheap bars where you can have a quick bite. From quiet pubs to huge clubs. Get ready to drink and dance till the sun comes out.
I had some amazing parties in this beautiful town. Just head to the downtown (Ribeira or Foz) at night and you will be mesmerized by the vibe and the crowd. One local told me that Porto´s nightlife has evolved and increased considerably in the last couple of years. I guess this also has to do with the increase in tourism.
One thing I really love about the nightlife here is that it´s made for everybody. Doesn´t matter if you are with your other half, if you are alone or with friends, everybody is welcome. I´m an electronic music lover so the place for me was Plano B Music Club. The best house/electronic music in town. They will have national and international Dj´s and depending on who is playing the entrance price will change. This place also offers live concerts on an early hour so just check out their website. I was there for 2 nights in a row so I guess that says it all!
Now that Gin Tonic is the “it” drink, go to The Gin House. I have never been a Gin Tonic lover and just went there as my friends do love this drink and wanted to check it out. But even if I was happily drinking my cocktail, I have to say that the place is quite nice and fancy and one of the guys working there told me they have more than 150 different gins and they offer an infinite amount of combinations.
You have many more options depending if you are into Rock (Radio Bar), commercial music or Latin sounds.
4. The History and the Culture
For its geographic location, it became an important commercial point during the Roman Empire and since then it´s importance kept growing and growing.
The city just screams “History” on every corner! I have always declared myself as a history and art lover and is one of the many reasons why I loved this city.
What you have to see? São Pedro dos Clerigos Church, built in the XVIII century. Clerigos Tower, one of the symbols that define the landmark of the city. And Porto-São Bento Train Station, The famous train station is located in the centre and is famous for the beautiful tiles that decorate the walls.
What do you MUST see? Don Luis I bridge, the emblem of the city and one of the most beautiful spots connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. The Lello Bookshop considered one of the three most beautiful bookshops in the world, it became famous since a few scenes from the movie Harry Potter were recorded there. One of the negative parts of this is that since then, you have to pay 3€ to get in and is usually very crowded, but it still worth it to pay a visit as is magic.
And last but not least, the Viewpoint or MIrador Terreiro da Se, best views in town!
Along the river, you will see the ships known as “Barco Rabelo”. Historically, Porto wine barrels were transported along the Douro Valley on boats called Rabelos. They are between 19m and 23m long and nowadays are mainly used for tourist purposes.
Take a walk alongside the river, enjoy the sun and the nice air, and if you can afford it, don´t skip a nice sail on the Douro river.
5. Delicious food
Food all over Portugal is delicious and you don´t need to spend tons of money to try the traditional Portuguese cuisine or to get your belly full and satisfied. As a country with one side facing the Atlantic Ocean, no wonder why fish and seafood will be on the menu. I´m not a seafood lover so I will skip this part, but the fish is just yummy!
The codfish (bacalhau) is the most popular fish of the Portuguese cuisine and of course, I had to try it. Its famous dish Nacalhau com Natas (or codfish with cream) is richly flavoured. It may take some time to cook it so be patient.
Tripas a Moda do Porto is also a dish I tried and it was to die for especially if you are a meat lover. It includes a mix of meats: ham, chorizo, etc., accompanied with beans and vegetables, sometimes rice.
Soups are also part of the cuisine but I didn´t try any as when I visited Porto it was summer and it was really warm.
Even if Porto is beautiful any time of the year, as it happens with many European cities, I would recommend you to go in spring or summer. You will enjoy the city to its fullest and especially all the entertainment that concentrates on the surroundings of the river.
Is also easy to explore the surroundings on a day trip thanks to the public transport (check the small city of Guimarães!).
You can explore the city in one weekend and you have many flights that connect daily this beautiful city with the main European capitals.
So the only thing I can ask you now is what are you waiting to go?