We arrived in Porto on a sunny morning in December 2015. Yes, you read that right: “sunny morning”. You are thinking why is that such a big deal? Well compare to where we were coming from in UK that is a big deal, you be lucky to get a glimpse of the sun even in summer, but hey I digress.
Our Arrival @ Vincci Hotel did not disappoint. The venue, location, service and room were worth of more than 4 stars as advertised. We didn’t sign up for the all“breakfast included” as Porto is quite affordable for eating outdoors and we were very excited to try all the local cuisine.
We find Porto to be reasonably cheap and your euro can really go far here: Example, you can get coffee and a pastry for less than €2.00! Just word of caution, the size of the coffee is not the massive “grande latte” you might be used to but more a “flat white”. We recommend you try the “natas” which basically is the local portuguese dessert.
With breakfast done, off we went to explore the city. Be aware of the tram! It’s on most of the main street and will appear from nowhere when you least expect it.
Without even realising it, we arrived at the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique (Henry’s Garden), named after Prince Henry the Navigator statue, in the centre of the gardens.A XIX century market “Mercado Ferreira Borges” and the Stock exchange building surround the gardens.
Well deserve quick coffee break in one of the “cafeterias” in Rua Das Flores (Flower’s Street). The name comes from the Bishop’s garden located here which has plenty of flowers adorned everywhere you look. The street was commissioned in the XVI century and you will be sure to find colourful doors, restaurants, cafeterias and shops here.
At the end of Rua Das Flores, you can see the old train station and just 2 minutes away, you can also spot Clerigos Tower. You can buy your ticket on arrival and it is more than worth it. The 360 view of Porto is spectacular. If you’ve been to Venice, the view is as spectacular as the one you enjoy from St Mark’s Bell Tower. The Clerics Tower is part of a bigger architectural complex formed by the Clerics Church and the Museum.
The baroque tower was built by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni at the request of the Brotherhood of Clerics. It consists of 225 steps and over 75m height. It is open until 11 pm and offers and spectacular panoramic of Porto from the top. We were visiting during day times but it may be interesting to also see Porto at night depending on your preference of course.
Time for well deserve rest and a lunch as we still had a 3-hour walking tour ahead.
We chose Pancho Tours on both days and two different walking tours.
We met up the tour guide at Avenida dos Aliados (Allies’ Avenue) at the heart of Porto. Where we congregate with other travellers waiting to be guided through the town of porto and it hidden secrets gems. We chose the Romantic and Artistic City Free Tour to start exploring the city.
The Allies’ Avenue is the main boulevard of the city for shopping and social life. At the end of the avenue you have the Town Hall, an impressive building made of marble and granite. On the other side of the Avenue, you find the Liberty Square (Praca da Libertade) with a statue of King Pedro IV of Portugal and I of Brazil riding a horse – Time for little history lesson folks, at this point, we have to tell you the story of the heart of the king. Have you heard about it? Truly interesting, a bit macabre you could say. The heart’s King is actually a real thing; it has been guarded on “Nuestra Señora da Lapa” church under 5 KEYS.
The keys are kept by the Council Hall. The box where the heart is kept is only open on exceptional occasions. King Pedro had a profound relationship with Porto and he left a deep mark on their people which related him to the restore of liberty in Portugal. His heart is a symbol of freedom and it has been kept in this church since 1836.
Worth mentioning that famous poets’ statues can be found in Porto as the one in memory of A. Garrett
We continued our tour on Santa Catarina Street : there are shops and restaurants everywhere, but there is one thing worth to checking out: The Majestic Cafe, a landmark on its own. Rated as the sixth most beautiful café in the world, you can imagine a coffee being that pricey, but you should check it out if you are a coffee lover with a sweet tooth (Ana would recommend the “Traditional Portuguese Sweet Symphony”).
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may already know that J.K.Rowling lived in Porto for a few years. Some say that she started drafting “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the Majestic Café.
Interesting little factoid: The Porto student’s uniform is surprisingly similar to the Hogwarts uniform.
Also the Fonte dos Leões (Lions’ Fountain) inspired House Gryffindor. Coincidences don’t end here: it is believed that the portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s name gave Rowling the idea for… of course, Salazar Slytherin’s name!
And of course the cherry on top was the artistic tour was the artistic streets, we were taken to those hidden places where you can enjoy urban art, finishing the tour by the Corcoaria Garden!
To be honest we were so tired from the previous day that we nearly missed the morning Historical and Enchanted Porto Tour (English).
We meet with our tour guide and group at the Avenida dos Aliados on this occasion. This tour is more focussed on history than arts although it touches upon artistic aspects of Porto so it’s worth it.
We were taken to another place where you can enjoy a stunning view: Miradouro da Vitória, possibly the best free viewpoint in Porto. You can see the other side of the city, Gaia – highly recommended if you are a wine lover.
You will also pass by Clerigos Tower on this tour but if you want to enter, you will come another time
After the Miradouro da Vitória, we went to Sao Bento Train Station, a XIX century railway station beautiful adorned with white & blue tiles. the most famous one, the “azulejo” where Egas Moniz presents himself to Alfonso VII of Castille, by Egas Moniz”
We were lucky the weather was good to be december as this made the walk through the Ribeira (Riverside) much more enjoyable.
We finish our city in the Cathedral, one of the oldest buildings of the city. A Roman Catholic church guarded by two squared shape towers gives the Cathedral an appearance of fortress.
After a long tour that lasted nearly 4 hours, Gaia was our next stop on the other side of the Douro river, for a deserved lunch. Here are the main two reasons as to why you can´t miss Gaia:
We met up with few friends for Dinner @ Traca that were also visiting Porto. It is a tapas style restaurant, quite popular amongst locals. It is the best way to try different dishes when you are abroad! We were looking for a local place to eat cod (bacalhao) but no luck, no worry our next stop was Madeira.
We had such an intense two days that we wanted to chill a little bit, take it easy and enjoy our last day wandering around the city, taking our time to admire our favourite places.
That is why we spend part of the morning visiting Livraria Lello. The most beautiful bookshop in my life! Entrance is not free of charge but it is affordable and truly beautiful inside, and yes, it also influenced by J.K. Rowling to describe the grand staircase of Hogwarts. Be aware that it closes on sunday and it only opens until 1pm on saturday.
We spend the rest of the day shopping & enjoying our last “nata”. A Shopping and relaxing afternoon was exactly what we needed before our next stop in Madeira (Link to Madeira post)!
Thanks For Reading.
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