TRAVEL GUIDE: Porto, Portugal
Porto surprised me in so many ways. I genuinely loved everything about the sweet little, azulejo-covered city. The food, the people, the architecture - it all won my heart over the second we stepped off the plane. We always try to hit the ground running after a red eye flight to try and adjust to the time zone, and it wasn't hard to keep our eyes open while exploring every nook and cranny of this place. I literally woke up the first morning at 5:45AM because I just couldn't wait to start exploring again (I'm also a crazy person). It's a safe, easy to navigate, charming city that is just begging to get lost in. We obliged.
Our Porto highlights:
This little city center is a UNSECO World Heritage Site - meaning they take serious pride in keeping it authentic for generations to enjoy. It's a charming, lively little center with a lot going on. It's great for a stroll (we purchased cheap beers and took them on our walk) or to watch the sun go down along the banks of the Douro. I would, however, suggest dining elsewhere. It can be quite touristy with all the river cruises, etc. Walk up the road a bit and there are endless options for amazing nibbles.
Definitely take some time to walk across the top of this gorgeous bridge (built by Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Eiffel Tower). The views are spectacular, and it's a great way to get over Gaia (aka the land of port caves).
This has to be one of the most beautiful train stations on the planet. And it's just their everyday station. We walked in and just stopped in our tracks because it was so stunning. We first went during the middle of the day when it was a tad hectic, but when I snuck out that first morning, I got the entire station to myself, and it honestly felt like heaven.
Everyone will say this is a must see spot. And I will admit, the staircase is quite interesting. We love bookstores, so we put this beauty on our list, but it was kind of a over-hyped tourist attraction if I'm really honest. Now, if you go mid-week when it's a bit quieter and there aren't one million tourists bumping into you, I'm sure it's a much better experience. Or if you are a huge Harry Potter fan, I suppose it's a must visit (this library apparently inspired J.K. Rowling to write the books - but that's just a rumor too). But we won't be hitting it up on our next trip to Porto, instead we'll just get some bubbly at the fun little bar in the park across the street - Base.
The photo at the very beginning of this post is from the side of this magnificent church. Pictures of this place honestly inspired me to convince Andrew we need to go to Portugal. SO many blogs and Instagram accounts have quoted incorrectly that this is the Church of Saint Ildefonso, so I searched for an entire day to find the real source, and boy was it worth it.
Equally beautiful, this stately church really has a presence when you pass it by. The tiles are stunning from every angle, and it honestly takes your breath away when you first approach it.
A small but really impressive church on the Rue de Santa Catarina. The azulejos are so stunning it's hard not to stop and stare.
This might be the one single fail of our trip, we made it to the port houses but not in time to do an actual tour of the port caves. We feel kind of silly for it since we were at the land of port wine, but we got "stuck" at the beach. We made up for it during our trip to the Douro Valley.
Speaking of the beach, this place is kind of magic. It's amazing that Porto has a quaint city feel and an amazing beach scene as well. There are a few fabulous little beach bars on the sand that are perfect for grabbing a drink and soaking up some rays. Not the mention the people watching is pretty fabulous.
We stayed here, and absolutely LOVED it. The location was perfect, and our balcony overlooked a lively square with great restaurants and live entertainment constantly. Not to mention, the design was spot on. Every night we'd grab a bottle of wine after dinner, and just enjoy the music before we headed to (the very comfy) bed. We'd close the wooden shutters, and it was like we were in a cave perfectly made for sleeping while the city continued it's revelry outside.
*TIP: we absolutely LOVED the location of this hotel. I would avoid staying in the Ribeira area because it's just always so crowded. This little gem was a short walk away in its on little square, but it felt perfectly tucked away from the crazy crowds or river cruises.
Nestled on a quiet little alley, this fabulous little place seems to a be a hot spot with the locals. We snuck in around 8:30pm, right before the rush hit, and actually got a table. But we were lucky - definitely be better than us and make a reservation!
So I suppose we aren't good about making reservations, but we got lucky again here. However, we watched easily 10 people get turned away right after us. The food and ambiance is unreal here. It didn't hurt that it was just a few steps from our hotel.
On one of the days I made Andrew walk over 8 miles (oops) we ended up here. It was like an oasis after a long journey. We were looking to sit at their more casual beach bar, but everything was full and we were starving so we headed up to their more fancy upstairs restaurant and ate like kings. The food and service (and views) were amazing.
We didn't get to eat here (due to our never making reservations habit), but it came highly recommended by everyone we chatted with so we'll make it a priority on our next trip!
We absolutely adored Porto, and would take any excuse we could to go back. Did we miss any must-see spots?