[Portugal] What to See and Eat in Porto
Our next stop in Portugal was beautiful Porto! The train from Lisbon to Porto takes around 2 hrs and 50 mins on average, and the ride was uneventful for the most part. Except that we almost got off at the wrong train station because there were no announcements and we were going by the arrival time on our tickets. We actually got off with our luggage before realizing the station name didn't look right and had to jump back on after asking around (turned out it was the next stop since the train had been slightly delayed!). Otherwise it was smooth sailing into Porto - the second largest city in Portugal and one of the oldest European centers. I liked Porto a lot and I think I'd preferred Porto over Lisbon actually with its charming city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) facing the Douro River - read on for my travel guide on what to see and eat here!
What to See:
For a bird's eye view of the city, go up the Clerigos Tower at the Clerigos Church (admission cost €4) and climb 225 steps through a pretty narrow passage. It's worth it at the end though as you will be rewarded with a 360 degrees view stunning view of Porto, and apparently you can come at night for a different view as well!
Along the way to the top, you can already get glimpses of the city through the concrete lookouts in the tower.
An unparalleled view of the Porto, Douro River and Gaia - the city on the other side of the river.
Besides the Clerigos Church, Porto also has a number of beautiful cathedrals and churches like the Porto Cathedral, Church of Saint Ildefonso, Saint Anthony's Church Congregados, etc.
The Ribeira is the historic center and was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. It's arguably the most picturesque part of Porto in my opinion as its colorful houses along the promenade are just postcard perfect! With lots of shops and restaurants, it may feel touristy but it wasn't too crowded at all and we managed to find pockets of charm here and there.
Loved these beautiful and colorful tiled houses!
The area exuded a different type of feel at night, and we caught a beautiful sunset while walking along the promenade towards the Ponte d'Arrábida after dinner one night.
The most iconic landmark of Porto has got to be the magnificent Ponte D. Luis I Bridge! It's a double-deck metal arch bridge that connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia over the Douro River. The cool thing is that you can walk across the bridge on top and on the bottom layer so we did both while traveling between Porto and Gaia!
The views you get from atop the bridge of both cities and Douro River were simply amazing!
On the Gaia side, the most popular activity is to visit one of the many port wine cellars! Did you know that port wine is actually named after Porto because it's where the wine are aged and shipped from to all over the world? Sandeman is probably one of the best known brand for port but we ended up visiting Graham's because we heard good things about the tour and the view from the lodge was simply stunning!
Reservations for a tour are required while the tour ranged from €12-17 including 3 port tastings in the main tasting room. Similar to the champagne tours we had in Champagne, we were taken through Graham's history along with an explanation of port making while touring the cellar.
At the end of the tour, we headed to the main tasting room where our port wine tastings had been prepared for us already. J and I each chosen a different tasting so we ended up trying 6 different types of port in total...which in hindsight was a bit too much since port is so sweet in general so it was hard to finish them all in one sitting.
Check out the beautiful views of the Ponte D. Luis I Bridge from Graham's!
What to Eat:
One of the most popular food to try in Porto is Francesinha - said to have been an adapted version of the French sandwich croque monsieur! It's a sandwich layered with pork, sausage, bacon and beefsteak, and finished with melted cheese and egg before being drenched in beer sauce - pretty much comfort food at its best! Cafe Santiago is known as one of the best place in Porto to try this traditional dish and while the sandwich as well-executed here, it's not my cup of tea to be honest - it's too heavy and I'm not so hot on soggy bread.
Another popular sandwich to try is Bifana which is basically pork steak in bread roll! We tried a few and my favorite was the one at O Astro near the Campanha train station as the pork had been seasoned with a delicious spicy sauce. The sandwich only costs a little more than a €1 so it makes for a great cheap snack!
Seafood in Portugal is not to be missed and Taberna dos Mercadores was highly recommended to us by our Airbnb host! The cozy restaurant is located in a tiny alley, and it's highly popular so reservations are recommended - we were lucky enough to score the last seats by walking in early. The octopus fillet rice was amazing here and the flaming salt-crusted sea bass seemed to be a popular choice as well!
Cantina 32 is another highly popular restaurant with its trendy hipster decor and delicious food! Both the food and service were above average so I can see why it can be hard to get a reservation. We tried the squid, moelas (stewed chicken gizzards) and tiger prawns but the most unforgettable dish was the bread and banana butter with salt!
Hope you enjoyed seeing Porto and Lisbon through my eyes and stay tuned for my eating adventures in London next!
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