I was so happy to finally start this holiday as I booked it 6months ago! Have had a kind of turbulent year with a back injury so I really needed something to look forward to and my first visit to Portugal was really keeping me going.
Flying into Porto (Oporto) late at night, the metro was really easy to figure out, the ticket system was not. I like to think I’m quite experienced in figuring out public transport in other cities and countries but I seriously struggled in Portugal. The English translation on the machines was really strange (it used the word “check-ins” for “zones”….?!). Anyway bought some sort of ticket, and in Porto especially there were only 4 tube lines so it was really easy to navigate once you’d stressed about tickets.
I found a great flat on Airbnb that was right next to Casa De Musica, a little far out of the city at first glance but only three stops on the metro to get to the centre so was actually very convenient.
My friend and I seriously packed it in today since we didn’t have a full 48hours stay in the city we were worried we wouldn’t have enough time to see everything. We were wrong, we saw everything in one day! I think to stay in Porto for a longer time would involve day trips out of the city to see vineyards etc and to move at a sloth-like pace so our second day was really all about cafe hopping and having a little bus drama, so I’ll only detail what we did on day one.
Got the Metro to the centre (Trindade) and walked down the street to the city hall. We wanted to go to the Majestic Cafe but it was closed so we had breakfast across the road at a really good place (my friend had her first pastel de nata and the fresh orange juice was amazing!
This area (Bolhao metro stop) is big for shopping and has all the high street brands so it was quite busy. We then walked to the river via Rua das Flores which had loads of cafes and bars, street art and performers. Porto was strange because at first sight a lot of the buildings were really shabby but eventually your eye tunes in to the pretty tiles and nicer touches.
The riverfront (Ribeira) was very lively and vibrant, we had a drink here and decided that we would cross the bridge to the other side to see the viewpoint and check out some of the port houses.
I’d advise crossing the Ponte de Luis 1 on the top pass because you have great views and the bottom section is actually so busy that you get pushed into the road. There are stairs to climb or you can get the funicular.
The other side has nice gardens and lots of riverfront bars because this is where the Port houses are. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t realise these houses are all originally Scottish so I was laughing at the names like Grahams’ and Churchills’ thinking “oh the Brits put their pubs everywhere!” We first went up to the Serra do Pilar for views of the city.
We then visited the university sector where Livaria Lello is. J K Rowling lived in Porto for a time when she was married and it’s said that the staircases in this bookshop were the inspiration for the moving staircases at Hogwarts. She was also depressed at this time because her husband was an alcoholic and apparently the dementors are a representation of her feelings at this time and also loosely based on the appearance of the University professors who swan around this area in black gowns. An amazing and beautiful bookshop, it was 5euros to get in but you also got a discount on books. Quite busy inside so you’d need to time your visit well.
We stayed in this area to get dinner, ice cream and drinks. It’s really nice lit up at night and it feels like a very safe city to walk around in. The evening would be a really nice time to go up the Torre dos Clerigos for a 360 of the city.
The next morning we managed to get into the Majestic Cafe, its art deco inside and really beautiful. Have to say I was pretty disappointed by the food. They have a really high turnover of tourists come in and so they clearly go for fast and poor quality food. We ordered scones which were pretty bad and scanning the room the other food looked unappealing too. HOWEVER you should definitely go to have a coffee and Pastel de Nata the cafe can’t be missed.
The bus station (Sao Bento) is also worth seeing as you walk down towards the river as the tiling is really nice. Very crowded though as tour groups go there.
So that was our 1.5 days in Porto, I’m sure there would have been more to do, but we weren’t very happy about paying entry fees for churches etc but we had a nice time cafe-hopping, tile hunting and being down by the river.
Ciao for now x