I’ve heard a lot of good things about Portugal so I was very excited to have the opportunity to go to Porto this April. Even though my trip lasted three days, I had only one full day to visit the city ( because of the long layovers). Nonetheless, we tried to make the most out of our trip and hurried through the streets to see as much as possible.
My first impression of Porto was that it resembled Vietnam. In some parts of the city, it felt like I was back in my hometown again. The photo above shows the view outside our Airbnb room. You will see that a lot of photos are grim: unfortunately, the weather was not our friend during this whole trip.
Our first destination was Rua de Santa Catarina, a pedestrian shopping walkway. We planned to get breakfast here and since we were close to the Majestic Café, a famous historical coffee shop in Porto, we decided to go in.
I do have to say that this café had a good vibe. The waiters’ white uniforms, the leathered chairs, and ceramic tables said a lot about the prestige of this place. However, it’s also a touristic spot which equals to overpriced food and drinks. We took the cheapest item on the menu and then headed outside to look for pastel de nata (aka egg tarts).
We stopped by a place ( of which I don’t remember the name) and we each ate one of the egg tarts. They were delicious; I regret not eating more of them.
I really loved the buildings which had the blue mosaic tiles on them ( also called the azulejo tiles). They stood out beautifully from the grey constructions around them. If you want to see an inside of a building that is covered by these tiles, head out to Sao Bento, Porto’s main station.
We spent a lot of time in Ribeira which is known as one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and also one of its highlights. The city is built on a steep hill so very often we found ourselves at a weird angle while walking down or up the streets.
We walked a lot: sometimes we just let our feet decide the direction. The photo above shows one of the smaller streets. The mains roads are very busy and crowded but once you take a turn into one of the smaller paths, there’s a very different atmosphere. You can see laundry hanging on the balconies, little pots of flowers hanging here and there or wood panes covering windows of some houses that seemed to be abandoned. It was cool to be able to step out of the commotion into the quietness that easily.
At one point we reached Av. Dom Afonso Henriques, one of the main roads, without knowing how. We headed to Porto Cathedral (Se Porto) but we didn’t go in. We just took a break at the square and then we moved again.
It was in our plans to see Livreria Lello, known as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. But the queue was very long and time was gold so we decided against it. Instead, we went to Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. It’s a landscaped garden with fountains and surprisingly a lot of birds such as ducks, seagulls, and even peacocks. The birds there are quite bold: the ducks did not hesitate to approach humans and there was one peacock that was making a big show out of its magnificent feathers.
As we climbed off the hill looking for Museu do Vinho de Porto (wine museum), we stumbled upon a panoramic view of the Douro river. I have to say that it was one the best experiences I had in Porto.
Finally, we could not leave Porto without seeing Dom Louis I Bridge. It was completed in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel. It’s a nice construction but I did not hold my breath upon seeing it. What impressed me more is the street that goes along the river border. It’s a very dynamic, crowded place with lots of restaurants and street musicians. It was a nice place to end our trip.
Porto is a very charming city but what made the trip was seeing my friends again. It was fun to catch up with them while strolling on the streets ( and forcing them to pose for my photos). I feel like I haven’t seen everything that Porto has to offer because of the lack of time and unfortunate weather but there’s always next time. I’d like to come back to Portugal soon and discover more of its cities and towns.