Porto is a beautiful city that you should visit at least once in your life. Picturesque buildings covered in azulejos and the intriguing history of the Vila Nova de Gaia, it truly is a beauty. I suggest you walk the city, it can get a bit challenging at times for its steep hills but it’s a good way to not miss the gym and to digest the francesinha (we’ll talk about this interesting gastronomic beast in a bit)!
Breakfast, I can’t exist without it!
The breakfast is the most important time of the day right? Well this won’t be a healthy one, but since we are on vacation and they are so darn good, you should go to one of the Manteigaria places where you can get the famous pastel de nata with some cinnamon on top, some traditional coffee, a glass of port or maybe even a Ginja (a cherry liquor).
Sightseeing and getting to know the local landmarks
While walking in the morning hours, I suggest you go straight to the Clérigo tower, we got there by 9.30 and there we very few people, after that the place can get very busy. There you will see the beautiful renovated church, it’s quite small but very impressive, especially it’s holy water guarding post. Get ready to climb the whole tower up, right to the top, it’s pretty high up, but the view is definitely worth it! It’s a great way to get oriented in the city and understand what is where, and it’s the perfect way to see all the port producing wineries on the other side of the river, all of them have huge signs on top of the buildings.
While getting around Porto is challenging physically for its steps and hills, and if it’s raining, the bricks and stones are pretty slippery, you can definitely enjoy a ride on the antique tramway. There are also at least three options of tourist buses to see the city quickly sitting down and relaxing.
If at some point of your life you have been a Harry Potter fan, or you are just a very avid reader and like arquitectural wonders, the next stop after the Clérigo Tower should most certainly be the Lello Bookstore. Founded in 1869, an important historical monument, it might be one of the most beautiful and most known libraries in the world. You have to get a ticket to visit it inside, the cost is 5€. As it still is a bookstore, you can deduct the ticket price from any book you can buy. There are some nice Lello edition books of the classics with golden pages, like Little Pince, Alice in Wonderland, that make a very nice souvenir or a gift for someone at home.
I bet you’re starting to feel a bit hungry!
The walking will get you a bit hungry and there are plenty of great places where to go for an aperitif, we found an excellent place not far from the river, with a mouthwatering cheese selection, sardines, raw bacalhao traditional salad with a lot of onions, octopus, croquettes, just some nice things you can nibble on for a lunch in the sun before going to visit some port wineries. The place is called Taberna do Largo, you will not go wrong with this one!
There are more serious things you can eat, if you are ready for this! The FRANCESINHA! Have you ever heard of it? You probably have definitely heard of Croque Monsieur or Croque Mademoiselle, right? Some toasty bread and cheese and such. Well this one, translated in English Little Frenchie, was basically invented by Daniel da Silva, who returned from his foreign trips from France and Belgium and used local meats and cheese to reproduce the toasted sandwich. Slightly different, as this one contains steak or roast meat, sausage, ham, cheese, fried egg and the signature sauce made from tomato and beer. It’s a bomb, but I really suggest you try it at least once! To prepare your stomach for extensive wine tastings or the next day on a hangover.
And there is actually a wonderful little restaurant in the city center, Essencia Lusa, not only serving francesinha, so if you are the only one in your company eager to try this, their menu serves fish dishes, incredible rice, or roasted meat too, so a place for every taste! Be sure to go just before opening hours, or book a table because it gets crowded in the fist minutes after opening!
How can you go to Porto and not visit a winery or two!
So as you already know, I am quite fond of wine, so whenever there is a chance, I like to go visit wineries. I was in Porto quite some time about with my university, visiting Graham’s so it was nice to return once again and see what I remembered from the whole experience. And surprisingly enough, I didn’t remember anything… Must have been all the port!
Wait, but what is port wine actually?
The difference between a dry wine and port is stopping the fermentation when there is still some residual sugar in the liquid (before the fermentation gets to the end), by adding a spirt at 70 degrees of alcohol that kills any yeasts or bacteria. That way it will maintain its natural sweetness and have a higher alcohol content, up to 17-19% vol.
The varieties used are all autoctonous Portuguese grapes from the Douro river valley, famous also for dry white and red wines. There are more than a 100 varieties! And did you know the Douro valley was the first place where DO was registered (Denomination of Origin)?
There are many types, so visiting a winery is a great way to finally clear your doubts about it.
- Ruby ports – don’t have ageing in the barrels, the description comes from the color of the wine itself. The vintage ports that are the most expensive and most sought after are ruby ports bottled in the best years (you will see a specific year on the bottle), they can be aged for a very long time, but once opened, be sure to drink it fast, because as it hasn’t been aged in an oxidative environment (no barrels), it will not last long once the bottle is opened.
- Tawnies – these are the delicious brown-tawny coloured ports that have been aged in the barrels for 5, 10, 20 to 40 years, maybe even more in some special cases. The barrels are not new, because they don’t need to contribute in any way to the taste of the wine, it’s just the slow oxygenation happening through the porous wooden material. Colheita port wines are also specific years bottled after a long period of ageing in barrels, but a single year will be indicated on the bottle.
If you are still doubting, don’t! Go to Porto! It’s beautiful, tasty, and I didn’t mention this before, but they are really one of the nicest and kindest people!
I hope you enjoyed this!