Porto, Portugal

September 2019

Porto is colourful, lively, expansive and full of history. It is a very popular tourist destination, both for those taking river cruises on the Douro and those who are land based.

The wonderful Igreja do Carmo, Porto
Porto in the evening light

On one side of the river you will find the main attractions, restaurants and bars and the airport; on the other, the old Port wine warehouses where you can take tours and sit in the Jardim de Moro park and watch the water traffic down below.

View of the River Duoro from the Jardim de Moro
The port wine warehouses on the opposite side of the Douro River, Porto
The rooves of said warehouses after an impressive climb

There is a lot of information available online, so I will not attempt to replicate it, but instead to show you some of the beautiful places I visited and some useful information.

Torre dos Clérigos (tower)

The Clérigos Tower, Porto

You can see the Clérigos Tower from a long way away and it is free to enter the little museum and church where there are some heavily decorated, religious artworks.

The Virgin Mary and her big heart
The putti try not to look up her skirt
Baby Jesus taking after his mother
Church below the Ledigos Tower, Porto

Wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere

The streets are teeming and oh so steep – down to the river, up to the rest.

Down to the river where you can sit on the steps and know you are on holiday!

Red and yellow buildings reflect the earth and sunshine of this east coast Portuguese city.

The old market place – now cafés

Intricate decoration

It was the peacock which attracted my attention, Porto
And the globes on these university gates, Porto

Tram line 1

We took a tram trip along the side of the river, but sat on the right hand side and so our view was walls, in the main, and some graffiti. This mode of transport is very crowded and not necessarily on time, but they are quaint with wooden seats and a decidedly old-fashioned feel.

Line 1 goes from Infante to Foz (and back again) where there is a nice park – Jardim do Calem – and a lighthouse, good cafés and restaurants and a walk by the river. You can also take the 500 bus (same route and quicker).

Jardim do Calem, Foz

The river walk and bridges

Angel by the river Douro, Foz
I spotted some great sea birds on my river walk

There are a series of smart bridges across the river, one by Eiffel (of Paris Tower fame) and one which looks just like it was designed by him, but wasn’t.

Ponte da Arrabida across the River Douro on the walk back from Foz at sunset
As well as ruined buildings with morning glory clambering all over them, there are tiny, ramshackle dwellings fitted in beside each other where washing hangs and women work
See the people high up on the bridge looking down!
Worth the climb!

Getting around

The metro crosses Ponte Luís 1 if you want to go to the outdoor swimming pool to cool off. My daughters and I went twice to the Piscina da Quinta sa Conceiçao in Leça da Palmeira as it was affordable (you can either pay for a half day or full – not much shade) and in the middle of a park with fully grown trees. There were local people lunching there in their business clothes and clean changing places. It was very well run.

This outdoor pool was right beside the sea (often too rough to swim and too windy to sun bathe) and we went just once – it was very crowded

It does take some time to get your head around metro tickets as there are zones and each andante card (80 cents) can only have one zone so if you are going across 2 zones you need 2 cards. (Remember to write on them so you know which is which.) You can get them topped up by the very helpful man in the wee shop almost opposite the Igreja do Carmo right by the main bus /tram intersection. Look for the sign…

The metro – just make sure you know the name of the station at the end of the line, so that you go in the right direction!

You could also take the river taxi – cheaper (3 euros), fresh air, and more fun!

The river taxi. Facing back towards the main city from the warehouse side of the River Douro
There are beaches near the city – I swam at Matosinhos (along thwhere coast northwards) where the locals go to eat the delicious seafood
Looking up as you walk, you will often spy gorgeous flowers tumbling over walls

The Sé Cathedral

The Sé, cathedral, where the Portuguese Camino from Porto starts
Another (evening) view of the Sé Cathedral, Porto
Stone detail of the Cathedral, Porto

Estaçao de trem, train station, Porto

Porto Station – rural tile scene
General view of Porto from the train station
Fountain with pigeon drinking

To stay, eat and drink

Breakfast is of course the most important meal of the day! We enjoyed them in these cafés, bars and bakeries: Our local favourite was on the corner of Rua dos Mártires da Liberdade (where we stayed in an air bnb) and Tv. de Sao. It is cheap, small, friendly, crowded at times and there is a delicious array of pastries, cakes, and other morning fare. We also enjoyed Nicolau Porto (eggs and avocado on toast eg) on the corner of Liberdade and Rua da Conceicao; one of the cafes overlooking Praça de Carlos Antonio; and Antonio Névés & Ça. also on Liberdade.

Antonio Névés & Ça

The best evening meal was at Idiota with Portuguese shellfish and great service on Rua das Oliveiras.

We loved Mon Père Vintage (Rua Liberdade as above) where I brought a much admired, silver coloured Camino shell to hang round my neck for 1 euro (10 euros in Santiago de Compostela!) and there was another such shop in a little arcade much further down the same street. Also Livraria Poetria (poetry bookshop) and the Oporto Invictus Hostel (great garden with lively bar, yoga classes and free outdoor cinema showing shorts), both on Oliveiras.

The best bar (for port wine of course- red, white, rose) was the Taberna Aduela where you can sit outside (opposite the Teatro Carlos Alberto) on Oliveiras.

Practicalities: at the top of Liberdade, on the left round the corner onto Praça da Republíca, is a self service laundry and Pingo Doce supermarket, while to the right is a big store, such as you find in all big Portuguese and Spanish cities run by Chinese families, which sell ‘everything’ very cheaply, particularly phone chargers and leads, sun hats and underwear!

Don’t forget to visit the Serralves art museum – my favourite and so it has a blog all of its own! It has a small farm and garden not mentioned in the blog.

Places I wanted to see but there was no time or I was too busy

Libraría Lello – famous bookshop (book tickets online and get your money back when you buy a book – long queues)

Jardins de Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens)

The Botanic Gardens.

I hope you enjoy Porto. Make sure you drop me a comment to say what your favourite place was!