You know those cities that you just instantly and obsessively fall in love with? I can only count a few of them, and Porto is definitely one of them. Surprise surprise, the Portuguese city was also just named the Best European Destination for 2017!
As an architecture student, I was pretty much a broken record, and lost count of the number of times I exclaimed “oh my god, this is so beautiful!” But I think I speak for basically any sane person who visits Porto. What I especially loved about this city is that you didn’t need an itinerary to feel like an accomplished tourist – something I struggle with when I visit places.
My first OMG moment – our hostel: Best Guest Hostel Porto. I’ll admit, I like my comfort and I like my luxuries but as a broke college student traveling Europe, my luxurious extend to ordering wine at dinner. Thankfully, €15 a night got us the best “hostel” I’ve ever stayed at, mostly because it was basically a boutique hotel right in the heart of Porto complete with our own private bathroom!!! After hostel-ing it for 2 weeks with communal showers, a private bathroom was my equivalent to a 5 star spa. Definitely recommend! Not to mention, we had a balcony with a killer view.
Porto is quite a small city, making foot really the best way to get around. Whatever agenda you’ve planned for the day, scrap it. I’m a planner, I always have a plan, and I had one for our 24 hours in Porto. Not really sure what happened to it, but boy am I glad it got lost. Just put on your walking shoes and wander; walk Porto’s quaint streets and keep look up. Not to worry, you’ll be a broken record just like me. Each building in Porto’s historical district is just so pretty with its colorful facades, wrought iron balconies, white trimmed windows, and of course, the azulejos. You won’t want to look down. Azulejos are decorative painted ceramic tiles unique to Spain and Portugal, and they’re everywhere! I happened to show my mother a photo of a Porto tile – bad idea. I ended up having to buy a bag full of azulejo inspired souvenirs for her…
Porto has some beautiful churches, and like all of them in Europe, they are steeped in history. But after 20 odd churches, visiting another church was the last thing on my list. But there’s none like the Church of Sao Francisco. No photos were allowed inside the church, and for good reason. The interior of the church is one of Portugal’s finest displays of baroque style, completely steeped and ornamentally decorated in gold. There is not a surface not covered in gold, except for the simple statue of St. Francis himself. It’s lavishness is a must see (the gold ornamentation is said to weigh up to 400 kg!). If you must see a church, it has to be this one.
Next OMG moment – sangria. Porto, by far, had the best sangria I’ve had in Europe. Surprisingly, I loved the Portuguese sangria far more than Spanish, its a tad bit sweeter. After aimlessly wandering Porto’s streets, walk down to the river and sit yourself at any of the restaurants along the waterfront in the Ribeira district. The area is bustling with shops, cafes, and boats. You can’t beat the view nor the atmosphere, but most of all, you can’t beat the €7 pitchers of sangria under the Mediterranean sun!!! What intended to be just a short lunch before continuing the sight seeing ended up being a 3 hour day drinking session with THE best and cheapest sangria, delicious traditional seafood dishes, and an unbeatable view of the river and Porto’s famous Dom Luis Bridge. Plus, sightseeing when sangria tipsy is sure to make any holiday better!!
Between wandering around and sipping sangria by the river, it was dark before we knew it. Not complaining, because Porto by night is, in my opinion, even more gorgeous. Just, keep walking!! If you’ve seen any photos of Porto, you’ve probably seen the iconic Dom Luis Bridge, which links Porto to Villa Nova de Gaia (where you can taste port wine to your heart’s content!!!!). I really wish we crossed this bridge during the day because the views from up there are phenomenal, but we did get around to it at night, which was probably equally stunning. Not to mention, the bridge itself is a structural feat and an architectural must see; it was constructed using iron framework with a great arch supporting the transit way.
Porto, like most Portuguese cities, is built on a very very very steep hill. If you do Porto and Lisbon in a trip, get ready for some bomb ass legs by the end of your trip! Thankfully, there’s plenty of beaches just a short bus ride from the city center for when you’re lazy. SO if you’ve time, make sure you head down to Foz do Duoro, a really pretty boardwalk on the Atlantic Ocean, for a little R&R. Though, forget about entering the water, because it is FREEEEEEEEZING, or maybe I’m just a whimp.
Ok, i’ll stop now. Basically, point of this blog, go to Porto!