Guest Author: Escape Hunter
The northern Portuguese city of Porto is an enthralling travel destination, which unfortunately is too often left out of travel guides and top lists of great European destinations. Porto is a city with a mercantile history, famous for its wines and vintage patina. Porto has a strong identity and it’s situated at a splendid location, near the mouth of the Douro Valley. The river with the same name flows south of the city, dividing Porto and the city of Vila Nova de Gaia. But what exactly can the traveler see and do in Porto? Based on the Escape Hunter detailed guide journal (an unbiased destination review with photos and plenty of facts), one can easily identify the key attractions and best activities, then simply put together an itinerary.
Here are some suggestions for attractions and activities:
- Take a river cruise on the Douro River and taste wine
The views are splendid and there are countless companies offering cruise packages – some include guided wine tasting tours (for which you’ll have to disembark, of course). Some of the ships are sophisticated modern river cruise ships even with helicopter landing pad and swimming pools on their top deck. Others are old-style replicas, resembling the old ships that once navigated on the Douro. The Douro Valley is world-renowned for its wine production. This is where the famous Port Wine is produced.
- See the beautiful churches, admire the azulejos
Among the primary targets of your visit should be Porto’s beautiful old churches, some of which are covered with delicately-painted blue azulejo ceramic tiles. In fact, the azulejo tiles are among Portugal’s iconic unique attractions. And Porto is a great place for checking them out.
View details about the churches to be able to put together an itinerary.
- Cross the Luís I. Bridge and catch a glimpse of Porto’s panorama!
Another strong asset of this city is its breathtaking panorama. Few cities in Europe can pride themselves with skylines that even come close to Porto’s. And there’s no better place to view it from than the old Luís I. Bridge, built in 1881-1886. Also known as the Dom Luís Bridge, it has two decks – the light metro runs on the top deck, while road vehicles on its lower deck. Pedestrians are allowed on both decks. If you walk across it, you will end up in another city – Vila Nova de Gaia or simply, “Gaia”.
- Ride an old tram
A trip with the vintage tram will take you through Porto’s scenic old neighborhoods – in order to get the best out of the tram ride and see the city centre, you’ll have to take tram number 22.
Just like Lisbon, Porto too has an impressive number of vintage trams that are still circulating. Just like a century ago, they are part of the city’s vital transportation network. Although, they’re mainly used by visitors nowadays. A ride will take 2.5 EUR out of your pocket.
- Visit the Livraria Lello & Irmão
An old library, built in Art Nouveau style, established in 1919 is still in use today, can be visited, although photographing the interior is restricted to some intervals. The Livraria Lello & Irmão was voted the 3rd most beautiful book store in the World by Lonely Planet. The façade is beautiful, but especially the beautifully-decorated interior is what you should focus on.
- Delicacies of Porto
Among the most abundant foods locally-prepared are the grilled sardines (very popular), grilled peppers, codfish (bacalhau), tuna salads and the Francesinha (literally: “Frenchie”). In fact, the Francesinha originates from Porto and it’s based on a meat product like sausage, roast meat or a steak, layers of which are placed on or between layers of bread. Melted cheese is poured on top and then covered with hot tomato-beer sauce. Fried potatoes are added to the whole thing.
- Attend the São João do Porto Festival
One of the weirdest festivals in Europe: people head for the streets in the evening and night of June 23rd each year with soft toy hammers. During those late hours, everyone is allowed to hit anyone on the head with the soft hammer. Fireworks, concerts, flying lanterns and others spice up the atmosphere even more. The city gets jam-packed with people, you’ll find it hard to walk around. Porto really knows how to party. So, if you can – don’t miss out on the São João do Porto Festival!