Porto arrives into view like a colourful, illustrated children’s book and enthrals with it’s quirkiness while wrapping it all up with a ribbon of history filled with captivating locals.
It’s my first visit to Portugal so let’s touch on the port first. I’m surprised to see that many of the port houses here are the British names we know in the mainstream; Graham’s was started by two brothers from Scotland a couple of hundred years ago. We decided to undertake our obligatory port tasting as part of Tim’s birthday celebrations in Kopke, the oldest port house in Portugal. As novices, (and lightweights when it comes to alcohol) we chose a flight of five ports with a platter of fine chocolates to accompany and a lovely time was spent picking favourites and experimenting with which chocolate works with which style of port. The taster especially worked well as at the time, the rain decided to come and it’s always magical being snug with a drink looking out to the river views.
On the first night, we dived straight into Portuguese food at Rapide, which is a lovely local restaurant slightly off the beaten track. It was recommended by the highly rated eaterie a few doors down in which we couldn’t get a table on any of our nights in Porto. Rapide is a family business where like everywhere else, everyone proudly points out when they serve something in Portuguese style and what makes it special. The portions were huge. Note, many restaurants only opened up again for dinner after 7.30, much like in Spain.
On the Friday night we popped into Hamburgeria de Gema just before all the locals descended and waited in line. This was after a lunch & coffee at 7g Roaster and all the chocolates during the Kopke Port tasting. The drug sellers were even more apparent tonight and we got asked if we wanted ‘weed’ several times during the evening.
I only counted one shopping centre in bustling Porto, however, the shopping action is endless along the many streets which eventually lead to the river with all the port houses on the other side. The food court in the shopping centre has good fast food and I loved the Indian platter there. Huge portions again. The shopping centre is also handy for public loos which are tricky to find otherwise.
You can walk across the magnificent Dom Luis Bridge if you have a head for heights or jump on a tram or bus or indeed a boat. I didn’t really see the point of the €5 cable car as you can see the views from the bridge, even from the tram. Porto is quite hilly so just a climb up a steep street or plentiful steps will enable you to see the city views.
For coffee, we loved Calma Coffee, 7g Roaster and Combi Coffee and we even found the one Costa in the city - as that’s the only coffee place that opened late. It’s huge and it was busy at gone 9pm. The Portuguese chain is Jeronymo coffee is cheap and cheerful and we found it to be handy when we needed a loo too. There are public facilities in Hard Club, a rock venue. It turns out the facilities in rock venues in Porto are as bad as those in the UK, even during the day.
There are amazing buildings everywhere you look from churches to yet another amazing but it’s worth a little trek out to Casa da Música, even just to see the outside of the venue although it’s quirky inside too plus offers affordable food in the cafe. That will explain why it was full of students.
Transport is inexpensive as is most often the case outside the UK. The Andante card is rechargeable with either a number of single tickets or unlimited travel for 24 hours the trams/trains/buses are not as frequent as I’d expect.
I love Claus Porto where we bought a teeny tiny soap for many €€ after we fell under its mixed spell of heritage, quirky and prettiness, which exactly sums up beautiful Porto.