In May, we ended up going to 2 new countries — Portugal and Greece. But as the title of this post reads, I’ll only be focusing on our Portugal trip.
While planning my first visit, I wasn’t exactly sure where to go in Portugal. Over the past few months of living in Europe, we’ve met a handful of Portuguese, and my question has always been “what’s the best city to visit?” The answers that I got were always all over the board, with most individuals preferring their hometown regions.
I was split between Lisbon and Porto, but Porto ended up being the clear winner because food > beaches. Let’s be honest, I mostly like to travel so that I can try different foods.
So on Friday, May 10th, we flew into Porto, Portugal on a later afternoon flight. We ended up just grabbing an uber from the airport to better make the most of our time. When we arrived at our accommodation, it was a swanky corner apartment with gorgeous views of of the city (had no clue I booked something so nice!). Even the front door key was super cool.
The Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique (garden park) was right outside of our apartment. I highly recommend the location that we stayed at, as it was pretty central to everything that we wanted to see and do.
Our first destination was the Livraria Lello (bookstore). I was a bit hesitant on whether or not to go inside, but I was tipped off from someone that it’s one of their favorite places and a must see. To go in, you must pay 5 Euros per person. You can use the 5 Euro entrance fee as credit towards buying something in the bookstore, however. Also, it’s recommended to buy your ticket ahead of time from the website; That way you don’t need to wait in two separate lines when you arrive.
I thought the bookstore was quite beautiful, though a little annoyingly crowded with people taking selfies. The worst people are the ones who stand on the stairway shooting mean glances at people who are trying to walk up and down the stairs. I mean common, do you really expect to get a stairway photo with no one else in it? Besides, you’re blocking the stairs!! That’s a hazard.
This book store first opened in 1906, making it one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal. It’s also known to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Besides age and beauty, it’s also famed for being a direct inspiration for J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books. Check out the photos below.
And since we’re on the topic of Harry Potter… Just outside of the bookstore is Fonte dos Leões (fountain). If you take a closer look, what does it remind you of?
Also, the University of Porto, which faces this fountain, has a school uniform that resembles the Hogwarts attire. Though, I heard that the University doesn’t like when people mention the resemblance. It’s okay UoP, you the real OG.
This is Igreja do Carmo, a typical church in Porto. Many of the building designs are quite spectacular and covered with these immaculate blue and white porcelain tiles, creating a larger than life mural.
For dinner, we ate at Casa Virtude. Try getting a seat on the second floor near the window, it’s quite a lovely view and atmosphere in comparison to the first floor. The food was good and reasonably priced, and the service was excellent.
After dinner, we walked around to take in more of the night time atmosphere. There’s something magical about warm nights, cobblestones, outdoor seating, and live music. It doesn’t get old. Looking forward to the weekend, we grabbed some ice cream and called it a night.
The next morning, we ventured out to grab some pastries. We walked to Padeirinha Doce, an AMAZING bakery. You must try it if you’re in the area. We ate at least 3-4 pastries per person, it was that good. This is a 100% locals bakery, so you won’t see any tourists there, but it’s packed.
Our first destination for the day (just because we happened to pass by) was Sāo Bento station. It’s a famed train station with more of those beautiful blue and white porcelain tiles. Nothing too interesting in my opinion, as much of the city looks the same, but doesn’t hurt to walk through.
Just up the street from the station, we got some more pastries, this time from NATAS D’Ouro, Porto Baixa – Café Vinho Do Porto. Famous for natas, the Portuguese custard tart.
And if that wasn’t enough food, we also stopped by at Majestic Café, another Harry Potter related site where J.K. Rowling used to go to write. Of course now it mostly seems like a tourist trap, but if you’re able to find a table on a less busy day, it really is a beautiful cafe.
The street that the Majestic Café is on, is a great street for shopping. We ended up wandering off our planned itinerary to have a look around. Didn’t buy anything, but it’s always nice to window shop.
Eventually we made our way back towards one of several famed churches in Porto, Church of Saint Ildefonso. We weren’t able to go inside however, but it was still nice to look at from the outside. I’m not sure that this was a must see, but if you are going to look at a church, this is one of the nicer ones.
By now, the temperatures in the city were rising and all of the hills didn’t make it any easier to walk. We succumbed to calling an uber and travelled all the way over to Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (huge garden park). Totally worth the uber ride, as it would have taken us so long to get there walking, while driving took probably less than 5 minutes. The trip was much more enjoyable when we smartly mixed in uber rides and walking.
At the park, there was some construction being done, but none of it stopped us from catching the views! There were numerous vantage points with breathtaking looks over the city. Excellent for sunsets, so I’ve heard.
There are also plenty of wild birds at the park, like this peacock. It’s always nice to see nature thriving.
Later in the afternoon, we made our way back to the area where we were staying. We walked around the inside of the Mercado Ferreira Borges building, which had a sort of makers market going on. While we were there, Erick got 1 popsicles going in and a 2nd one coming out (because it was that good he says). He literally eats enough sweets for the both of us. I prefer wine.
Walking down to the water, we ended up at Portologia – La Maison des Port for a proper Port wine tasting. We paired our tasting with a cheese platter, it was awesome and the woman who poured for us was so kind. If you haven’t tried Port wine before, it’s a must! Just be careful, it’s much stronger.
Meanwhile, by the water, there was a timed moto race going on. The race went all throughout the small alleyways of the city, twisting left and right, including up flights of stairs. I couldn’t believe that something like this existed, or let alone was permitted by the city. It totally felt like something out of a movie.
There were people gathered in little pockets of the city trying to catch a glimpse of the action. Most others were clustered on walls or on the bridge. I’m not sure how much they could really see from those areas. For me, the action was in the alleyways. Every time we heard the exhaust of a motorbike, we went running in that direction. And that’s how you discover new streets that you otherwise wouldn’t have walked down.
By the water, we ended up getting some more wine to drink. We sat on the ledge of a wall with probably a 50+ meter drop into the Douro River. The waiter didn’t really like us doing that, but let us sit there anyways.
At 7PM, we caught a show at A Casa do Fado, which has nightly live fado music for 14 Euros per person. This includes a single glass of Port wine.
The space was intimate and the music was good. Music doesn’t need translating to listen to, because you can still understand the emotions from the tempo and the singers voice. It was powerful and moving at times.
When the show ended, we went to Terreiro restaurant for dinner, just around the corner towards the water. The food was okay (despite the 4.5 star rating on Google Maps), I probably wouldn’t go back. We sat outside as the sun set, listening to the music of various street performers in the nearby vicinity.
By the time night rolled in, the city was a completely different atmosphere, We didn’t get to experience enough of it since we were tired from a full day of eating, drinking, and sight seeing. However, we did walk through some of it. I’d definitely come back to this city again.
The next morning, I had plans to go to the spa (at The Yeatman Hotel, which also has a Michelin star restaurant), but Erick wasn’t into the idea. So instead, we walked over the Luís I Bridge to the other side of the city, where most locals tend to live. We crossed the top of the bridge to get there. The top is slightly longer and more windy, but also has no cars — except for an occasional railway that you need to look out for.
The views from the top of the bridge were quite stunning. This is also supposed to be another great spot for catching the sunset.
Once we arrived to the other side, we hung out at the park for a bit before making our way over to Taylor’s Port. I heard that Taylor’s is one of the best winerys to visit if you can only see one. But if you have more time, Sandeman and Croft Port are also great wineries.
For lunch, we ate at Tappas Caffé Regional, which I would recommend. We got an entire pitcher of sangria and I ordered a francesinha. You can imagine after having so much sangria, I was ready for a nap.
Our plan after lunch was to check out a second winery, but we were quite tired. There were numerous ways to get back to the other side of the city, including many affordable boats and ferries. But walking is healthy if you can muster up the energy. We walked back towards the bridge and crossed over from the bottom. The bottom of the bridge was less enjoyable, as the walkways are narrow and cars are allowed on this level as well.
By the time we got back to our place, we both knocked out for at least a good hour or two. We probably wouldn’t have woken up had it not been for our hungry stomachs.
For dinner, we set out to BOA-BAO, an asian restaurant. This restaurant was great on every single level. I couldn’t believe that this entire time, we didn’t discover “better” food. The food up until this meal was good, but not amazing. As we were walking towards BOA-BAO, we noticed that most of the restaurants in this area were super trendy. If you’re looking for good food or drinks, this is the area you should be heading to. Everything else that we had by the water was quite touristy and over priced.
We called it an early night again, as we had a morning flight to catch. But all in all, it was a great trip.
I’ve mentioned it before on my IG, but this trip to Porto was one of my favorites in Europe so far. Portugal is such a beautiful country and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of it.
Check out my IG story for more coverage on Porto! Thanks for reading.