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Going to Porto?
Porto is a totally beautiful city in the north of Portugal. Built alongside the huge Douro river, with views of the ocean, Porto is a perfectly picturesque place in Portugal you won’t want to miss (pardon the alliteration, but I couldn’t resist).
Here are SIX things you can do in Porto:
1) Learn too much on a free walking tour
As always, I am a huge advocate for free walking tours (Madrid, Valencia, Florence…). The best way to see a city is to walk around it, and on a free walking tour, you get stories and fun historical facts to accompany the views. Your tour guide works on tips, so you decide how much they deserve at the end of the tour. I tend to tip €5-10 (because I am traveling for an extensive period of time and have a SUPER tight budget), but it’s up to the attendees what they pay. I like that.
We did our tour with Porto Walkers, check their website here!
2) Indulge in a Francesinha sandwich
How could you go to Portugal and not eat the Portuguese food? About 50 years ago the Francesinha sandwich was invented at a cafe in Porto, and now, has become a staple dish in the city. Vegetarians and vegans look away! This is a sandwich of bread, meat, sausage, bread, meat, and sausage, wrapped in melted cheese, topped with a fried egg, served floating in beer sauce, with fries on the side. Oh. My. Gosh. It is amazing! Trust me you are probably going to want to share this sandwich. I ordered sauce on the side so I could decide how submerged I wanted my sandwich.
Cafe Santiago on R. de Passos Manuel serves an authentic Francesinha for €9.
3) See Porto from a different angle
Porto is a beautiful and super colourful city. They say the buildings along the river were painted bright colours as an attempt to cheer up the women whose lovers and husbands left on the fishing boats for weeks and months at a time. My favourite view of Porto is actually from Gaia, the city across the river. It is said that the best thing about Gaia is the view of Porto from the Serra do Pilar. You can either walk across the top level of the Luis I Bridge, which is dazzling, OR walk along the bottom level and make the trek up the hill on the other side. For a view of Porto you won’t forget, head here.
4) Go to the beach!
Porto is right on the Douro river, and very close to the Atlantic coast. Matosinhos is a beautiful little beachy neighbourhood that is only a 15-20 minute metro ride away from Porto. Here, you can try your hand at surfing some perfect beginner waves, have a beer on the patio of Lais de Guia, or just buy a bottle of wine and some olives at the nearby Pingo Doce, and bring it to the sand to watch the sunset!
5) Find out how Port Wine is made (and then drink a bunch)!
Porto, and more specifically, the Douro valley, is the home of Port Wine. In fact, in order for wine to be classified as Port Wine, it must come from the Portuguese side of the Douro valley! The grapes are grown and processed at the vineyards, about 100km away from the city of Port (see next thing to do), and the wine is brought to the wine lodges in the city to age. Porto Walkers does a great Port Wine tour for €20 a person. You’ll see three wine lodges and taste seven wines. This is absolutely the best bang for your buck!
For more information, check out the website here!
6) Go to the Douro Valley (where Port Wine grapes are grown)!
Now that you know where the Port Wine is aged and stored, it’s time to check out the vineyards where the grapes are grown! When looking at going to the Douro Valley from Porto, there are so many options online for tours you can book — a big bus takes you to the valley, you do a tour and a tasting, maybe hop on a boat and cruise down the Douro river — and the cheapest one goes for about €100 per person. The other option, is to hire a personal driver to take you and yours out to the valley for a private day. This is what we did. We booked through Maia Tours (their website here) and Ricardo gave us a personalized tour. We didn’t want to do another Port cave tour (we had done so many with Porto Walkers), and were more interested in lunch and multiple tastings, so he made that happen. He called a few wineries and made all the reservations for us. We were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! For the day with Ricardo, it was only €250 (€62.5 each for four people)!
Eat Port Wine ice cream at Porto Cruz!
In Gaia, amidst all the Port Lodges and wine tours, is Porto Cruz’ ice cream shop. Here, you can sample an incredible and delicious 10 year tawny Port mixed into a perfect sorbet. I promise you will not be disappointed!!
Need more? Check out Five Places to Eat in Porto here!