For me, Porto is traditional Portugal at its finest: architectural treasures, delicious food, narrow cobbled streets, late evenings on the Douro river with a glass of Porto wine, friendly people and laid-back atmosphere.
It’s a mix of history, culture and that “dolce far niente” feeling, and if you are looking for a diverse and relaxed travel experience, look no further, Porto is the place to come in and fall in love with.
We chose Design Palacio Flats for our three nights stay. The hotel is set in downtown Porto, in Palacio Condes de Azevedo, an old palace from the XIII century fully renovated with the preserving of its architectural features. Bonus: the breakfast was delivered every morning in a basket in front of our door!
You can find Design Palatio Flats here: Rua Saraiva De Carvalho 61, Porto, Portugal
Since we had visited Porto before, this time didn’t put too much on our visiting list; the only goal for the next two days was to relax and to rediscover the city vibe.
With that in mind, the first day started with a stroll on the beautiful Dom Luis I Bridge, from where you can take in all the fantastic views of the city.
Old town of Porto
And then we lost ourselves among the narrow cobbled streets of the old town of Porto, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Besides its tourist hot spots, the beauty of Porto lies slightly beneath its surface: washing lines hanging on iron balconies, terracotta plant pots, ruined houses whose former inhabitants are long gone, beautiful old buildings decorated with blue and yellow azulejos, small hidden restaurants or local shops.
After wandering around the old town, we stumbled upon Confeitaria Sao Domingo, a small cafe where locals had their breakfast. They have a large selection of traditional Portuguese sweets, and I highly recommend the classical Pasteis de Nata and the Brazilian Pasteis.
You can find Confeitaria Sao Domingo here: Largo de São Domingos, 36-37, Porto 4050-545
Bolhao Market, the oldest local market in Porto, was our next stop. If you fancy a local experience, you should go there and just walk among the stalls with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, seafood and handmade souvenirs. You can also have brunch or dinner at one of the small tavernas located inside the market.
You can find Bolhao Market here: 508, Rua de Fernandes Tomas 506, 4000-211 Porto, Porto 4000-251, Portugal.
A glass of wine in Vila Nova da Gaia
In the afternoon we crossed the Douro River to Vila Nova da Gaia, the neighboring city located on the South bank of the river, world-renowned for its port wine cellars. There are plenty of things to do there; but if you don’t feel like taking a classical tour of the wine cellars or visiting Serra do Pilar Monastery, you can easily spend some time just having a stroll on the river promenade. And soak in the sunset, with a glass of Porto wine, of course, which is truly amazing.
Best octopus I’ve ever eaten
Sure enough, there are many restaurants and “cafetarias” near the Douro River or in Gaia District, but if you’re looking for something not so expensive and with a local feel, go further than the touristy area located on both of the river banks. Only 10 minutes walking we found Cafeteria da Bolsa, a small family restaurant, with no more than 4-5 tables. Fresh fish and seafood are grilled in front of you, in a tiny open kitchen behind the counter. The octopus I got was cooked to perfection, and the family who runs this little restaurant makes you feel at home. So if you’re not looking for fancy meals and touristy restaurants, but a homemade Portuguese cuisine, this is the place!
You can find Cafeteria da Bolsa here: Largo Sao Domingos 24, Porto 4050-545, Portugal
The Gold Church
Our second day in Porto started with a visit to Igreja de São Francisco (Sao Francisco Monastery), known as the “Gold Church.” The monastery houses a museum, and one of the top attractions inside is the sculpture of Jesus’ family tree.
You can find Sao Francisco Monastery here: Rua do Infante D. Henrique, Porto 4050-297.
Where the river meets the ocean
Our trip couldn’t be complete without going once again to Foz do Douro (in Portuguese, “Foz do Douro” means the mouth of Douro River, and it’s the place where the Douro river flows into the Atlantic Ocean). Porto’s chic marine district is easily reachable by bus or by tram from the city center and can keep you busy for an entire day.
You can take long walks on the esplanade that stretches around the beaches and stop for a glass of wine at one of the many beach bars and terraces. The best golden sand beaches you can go to are Praia de Matosinhos, Praia dos Ingleses and Praia do Molhe, very popular with surfers.
You can get to Foz do Douro by taking tram 1 from Infante to Passeio Alegre.
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