At a time when I found Portugal, to the south of Porto, very drab and lifeless, I wasn’t expecting much as we zipped north on the Alfa Pendular train from Albufeira to Porto. My dear wife insisted we stop in Porto (or rather Oporto), before departing for the Balkans. Up until recently, I had no real knowledge of the region, except that it is the home of port wine, which I love. That was all the motivation I needed. I like it when my expectations are wildly inaccurate.
Porto was buzzing when we arrived at the station. People going about their business, plague masks on in tighter quarters, but still living like life was worth living instead of hiding from. It was nice. After our taxi ride to the hotel, we were welcomed by the friendly and helpful staff and shown to our spotless room (this level of cleanliness was something we enjoyed everywhere in Portugal), though we were hours early. Which left plenty of time to explore. So we did.
First stop, brunch at Zenith Brunch & Cocktails. Absolutely Divine. Was my faith in Portuguese food restored?
As glorious as it was to be in the mecca of port wine, the city has a few other characteristics of note as well. Many restaurants, shops, beautiful and interesting boats, an amazing number of gorgeous churches and cathedrals, and just the perfect arrangement of culture, style and class that profoundly appealed to me. The ultimate goal for the day was to get to Cais da Ribeira. The very underrated riverfront of Porto, their own little Venice.
Strolling along the Cais da Ribeira, taking in the sights and smells, I could see many of the names I’d only read on expensive bottles back home: Fonseca, Sandeman, Ferreira, Taylor’s, and plenty more. I was like a kid across from a candy store, but instead of a candy store, it was a deep, moving body of water named the “Douro“. It was for the best. I was off the Port wine at the time anyway because of some overdrinking in Albufeira that resulted in what I was sure was permanent brain damage. Oh well, like I need another reason to go back, but I have one if I get desperate.
“Port is not for the very young, the vain and the active. It is the comfort of age and the companion of the scholar and the philosopher.”~ Evelyn Waugh
Every single block we walked (and we walked for many, many hours) was postcard-worthy, the architecture in Porto can be insufficiently showcased through words and pictures, which is precisely the approach we’re utilizing here, but if you have a chance to see the place in the flesh, do.
A couple of informative, but rather hectic taxi trips (due to insane traffic, coupled with intense hills & narrow streets), plus brief visits to amazing places that perhaps the accompanying photos can do some justice to, only added to the draw of this special town. I have to wonder why it’s so downplayed, from what I’ve seen, as a place people should see? Maybe it’s intentional. Perhaps those that know and love Oporto don’t need hordes of gawking tourists shuffling along, filling up the width of entire sidewalks or crowding out restaurants all year long, stealing the magic of this truly enchanting place. In that case, I understand completely. But I’ve seen it now, and I know. And I want more.
If you are in Porto for less than a day, here are the must-sees:
- Igreja do Carmo
- Livraria Lello
- Igreja dos Clérigos
- Porto São Bento
- Rua das Flores
- Igreja da Misericórdia
- Palácio da Bolsa
- Cais da Ribeira
- Extensão do Douro
- Bairro da Ribeira
- Miradouro Ponte D Luis Porto