I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.William Shakespeare.
I loved Porto, it’s beautiful and picturesque from every angle! A coastal city in North West Portugal, famed for the many stately bridges and of course port production. It has a palace and a cathedral, personally I loved wandering around the narrow streets and taking it all in. I’ve always loved a city break, seeing the architecture and just absorbing and ‘feeling’ a place.
The brightly coloured and also the stunning blue and white tiles is another thing Porto is famous for. Azulejos is the name for these painted glazed tiles. From the Arabic word az-zulayj, which translates to polished stone.
Porto Sao Bento train station is famous for its fantastic display of tiles portraying the history of Porto. One side is currently covered as its under restoration but when complete there are approximately 20,000 tiles displaying the history. It really is a stunning piece of art and worth a look.
I definitely recommend a boat trip, enabling you to tour up and down the river seeing Porto at its prettiest from both sides. As well as seeing the many bridges.
There are plenty of companies and you can buy tickets on the day. I went with Manos du Douro who I would recommend. It was a traditional style boat that used to bring the wine barrels from the Douro valley. They go on the hour, the tour lasts 50 minutes and cost 15 euros. Take cash for payment, and you get a free glass of port after at one of the local places.
I loved Porto it was so beautiful and the boat trip really allows you to take it in from a different view. A must if you’re visiting!
Located just underneath the lower level of one of the famous bridges – Luis bridge – you can find Burmester. Well known as the best port tour and tasting in the area. Personally I’m not a fan of port, nonetheless it was one of the more interesting wine tours I did on this trip.
Established by 2 brothers from London in 1750. From Burmester road SW, turns out to be remarkably close to where I live! You can see the age and quality in the barrels made from French oak. The set up is impressive, partly inside the mountain with natural spring water flowing.
Luis Bridge is also known as Eiffel bridge, attributed to Gustave Eiffel. You can see the resemblance to the Eiffel Tower. Due to the height variation around Porto this is a double deck bridge where you can cross on both the higher and lower levels across the River Douro.
The most beautiful bookstore in the world
The Livraria Lello bookstore is one of the worlds oldest bookstores and often ranked as the most beautiful bookstore in the world. It’s worth a visit if you’re in Porto though I recommend getting there early in the morning as its now somewhat of an instagrammers paradise and queues can be extremely lengthy!
Porto entices with a great choice of restaurants, food and wine. I enjoyed every meal I had. Fresh fish is plentiful. My favourite was the seared tuna which was exquisite. I had delicious sardines and lots of fresh sea bass too.
Cais de Ribeira is a beautiful area on the waterfront with plenty of lovely restaurants where you can enjoy great views of the area. Its also a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Practical stuff
I stayed in hotel Moov – the central one, which is a great location and reasonably priced. It used to be a cinema! You might prefer to stay closer to the river, though nowhere was far to walk. Hotel Moov is near a lot of the shopping streets.
Do bear in mind how steep it is the walking round Porto. It’s very hilly! Though you can get the tram!
Another option is the fenicular railway. Takes you from the river back up to the top in a few minutes for 2.50 euros. They run every 10 minutes and a great view at the top!
You can also hire bikes, with or without a guide. I recommend hiring an e-bike given how steep some of it is!
Some restaurants require you to scan a QR code on your phone to read the menu. So carry your phone, and check your EU roaming / data allowance.
As always I recommend a Starling bank card for the excellent exchange rates and ease of use on the app. https://www.starlingbank.com/
Another annoying thing about leaving the EU is that our covid certificate is not part of the EU program and therefore not recognised locally. As I entered from Spain I didn’t need a negative antigen test to get in. Some hotels therefore make you do a lateral flow on arrival, they’re sold everywhere for a couple of Euro’s. Though some places will accept our NHS ones if you have any with you. Others will look at the certificate and check that the brand of vaccine you had and dates are ok. If you enter from the UK I assume you can use your negative antigen test for the first couple of days.
As with everything covid related it changes so frequently that this is correct at time of writing, but might not be by the time I’ve finished typing so please do check on this!
Also worth bearing in mind some restaurants will want a negative test or valid covid certificate too. Usually in the bigger towns, on the weekend, because covid doesn’t get you during the week.. or in small villages.. but worth bearing in mind!
Currently you also need to complete an online form to enter Portugal, this can be found on the FCO website. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal And also still need to complete a passenger locator form to re-enter the UK. You’ll also need a pre-booked day 2 PCR, you need to enter the reference code for it on your form. That said I believe this is about to change imminently so again please check!
Happy travelling – it really is worth the effort! And of course – stay safe! x