Prior to an article on a Porto wine tasting from our wine & Spirits columnist John Dunham, we didn’t know much about Porto. While it is a type of wine, it is also a unique destination in Portugal for visitors. Porto is a lot more than just wine and pretty tiles, as Kerry Wilkin tells s in her travel story.
For those of you who don’t know, Porto has always been perceived as a second place to Lisbon, Portugal’s capital.
Doing a quick INSTA-search beforehand and saving my favorite ideas to my collection, it seemed that there is actually a lot of charm to the city and perhaps less touristy than Lisbon. This really appealed to me as there’s nothing worse than wandering around on holiday and not being able to move in fear of ruining someone’s group selfie!
Hotel Vs. Apartment:
I was lucky enough to get return flights from Stuttgart and a cozy little apartment for 3 nights for two people for 200 euros – I KNOW! Skyscanner search has some amazing deals in February. Use your favorite website or app to get amazing deals. Search by the month to see which dates can give you the best deal.
We rented a little apartment called Casa Paraiso via Booking.com. I wanted to do Porto traditional-style, with a nice little place tucked away in a lesser-known area.
This place seemed perfect because my Portuguese is rusty and the host spoke 4 (yes 4) languages . Also, Casa Paraiso had amazing reviews.
I’d recommend this type of accommodation. Usually you can hire an entire apartment including a kitchen, bathroom and living room for less than 50 euros per night.
It’s also more flexible checking in and out.
The first day we got there we spent the afternoon wandering down from Lapa to Aliados, where there is an abundance of cute coffee shops and some fantastic architecture.
Not far away is a great market, the Mercado do Mercado do Bolhão. It has been placed in a temporary building while the market is being restored to its former glory.
Here you can find all the local vendors selling fresh everything, the fish being a standout product. Everything from octopus to a delicacy called ‘percebes’ or goose barnacles which are collected from cliffs nearby, It’s an extremely risky task which results in high prices, but the percebes is a must-try local delicacy.
Harry Potter Inspiration:
A wander up to the Livraria Lello where J.K Rowling gathered her inspiration for Harry Potter resulted in two new books purchased with the entry voucher (a great way to keep local bookshops going).
It was rather crowded towards midday. I’d recommend going later on in the afternoon to reduce the number of people wandering around taking selfies and offering you more of a chance to walk around with ease.
Nearby is the Torre dos Clérigos. For 5 euros you can visit a small museum and the church. Climb the tower for a 360-degree view of Porto.
If you’re afraid of heights or narrow stairs I’d recommend going to the other side of the river to get to see Porto from above instead! There’s a great little cable car which can take you up to the top for 2 euros.
A stone’s throw away is Porto University and a beautifully tiled church on Rua de Carmo, perfect for INSTAworthy street-style pics! The little square facing the church is a lovely place to stop by for a beer on a sunny afternoon and watch the world go by.
As for food, I was blown away by the prices of coffee and pastries as well as local delicacies. Barring the touristy area of the Ribeira district at the river, you can get a coffee and slice of cake or pastry for under 2 euros!
One of my must-visits is Tascö restaurant in Aliados. The staff were super friendly and it was an authentic but hip Portuguese restaurant.
I recommend getting 3 dishes for 2 people, tapas style. We tasted the Tascö style pork which literally melted in your mouth.
Normally I am not a huge octopus fan, but octopus appears to be their star dish. Fortunately, it was mixed with some other ingredients to look like a fritter – incredible!
I ordered some garlic and olive oil potatoes to go accompany it. Our 3 dishes and 2 drinks came in at under 20 euros, If you want to go, I’d recommend making a reservation as it’s always full.
Share and Save!
The other place which shows off Portuguese food at it’s best and a little away from the main tourist areas is Churrasqueira Paraiso (number 2) just next to the Faria Guimarães metro stop.
I ordered baby pork ribs which came with vegetables and a ton of potato chips. My partner had the typical Francesinha – it’s a sandwich filled with sausage, ham and a fried egg, covered in melted cheese and a beer sauce and baked in the oven.
Again, 2 dishes and drinks were just 20 euros. The portions here were unbelievably big. You could get half a plate and it would still feed 2 people bringing your total to a lot less, around 7 euros per person.
Drink Some Porto!
A visit to Porto isn’t complete without trying the famous Porto wine.
Port wine is generally a sweet, red, fortified wine most commonly enjoyed as a dessert or after dinner beverage. It’s produced in the Douro River Valley in northern Portugal.
The river flows from east to west across the Iberian Peninsula ending in the city of Porto.
We think of port as one thing, but actually, porto includes several different types of wine, including whites and Rose.
However, the vintage ports are all reds.
Vintage wines are not produced every year. The wine producers (or Quintas) declare vintages only during the best years.
Cross the bridge at Ribeira onto the other side of the river (Vila Nova de Gaia) and take a leisurely stroll along the riverside. There you can enter the different port wine cellars.
They often do tours and we even saw an offer for 5 different wines for 5 euros. Visit on a Sunday and avoid some of the crowds.
All in all, if you want the genuine Portuguese experience, I’d definitely recommend Porto. There’s more than enough to see for a weekend trip with endless little streets to wander!
Everywhere we went we met people who were super friendly and proud to help us around the city. I’d recommend visiting between March and October to guarantee sunshine and t-shirt weather!
Thanks to Kerry Wilkin for this travel story. Kerry is a young professional working to manage and grow content strategies in the beauty industry. Alongside her daily work in PR she has a passion for writing, language learning and travel. Visit her on social media Instagram: @kerryjwilkin and Twitter: @kerry_josie