I like spoilers, they make me want to experience whatever is being "spoilt" for myself, and interpret it in my own way. So, yes, let’s jump right in, shall we?
Porto is a beautiful city, with lots to offer. You can visit for a couple of days or a week. I would personally live here, for me it's the perfect mix between a cosmopolitan city (which I don't enjoy for more than a couple of days) and a quaint little village with solid traditions.
Porto is very well connected. You can fly there from many European cities with Ryanair. We also rented a car from them. That didn’t go well since Ryanair changed the time of our flight a couple of weeks before we left and instead of informing Ryanair car hire of the change, I informed the car rental company the booking was made with. The rental terms clearly stated that any change in the booking should be made with them. Yes, we all should read the terms and conditions, but most rarely do. So I decided to ditch the car and Uber around for a couple of days. It was a good decision.
Autumn is a great time to visit Porto. It’s not hot, yet not cold enough to be lugging a ton of clothes to keep you warm. To me, the city is the perfect marriage of traditional European and modern architecture. Spaces have been beautifully designed around the antique architecture while keeping a healthy level of greenery.
The Porto Cathedral is a must see. Completed in 1737, the romanesque building has since undergone many changes and is flanked by two square towers. The cathedral also houses a beautiful cloister which you can visit by paying a €3 fee.
Also make sure you pay a quick visit to the São Bento Railway Station. Designed by Porto architect José Marques da Silva, the interior of the main hall of the station is beautifully cladded in azulejo (a form of painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work which is common in Spain and Portugal) . Even though the main hall in train station is very busy with tourists compelled to see its interior, the station is one of Portugal’s main railway stations.
LIFE IN PORTO
Navigating your way around Portuguese life is not difficult. Most people working in restaurants would speak English. If you have whatever knowledge of Spanish and/or Italian, you should be able to deal with the rest who don’t. Portuguese are easy and laid back. Be cool and joke around with them, they and you will enjoy it. But they are also very respectful.
You cannot come to porto without trying out Port wine. Porto is where the Duoro river meets the Atlantic Ocean and the Duoro valley is home to some of the worlds best vineyards. The geographical position of this area and its climate make it ideal to grow grapes. That is why the Duoro region is home to over a 100 variety of grapes and home to many Port wine cellars such as Graham’s, Taylor’s and Cálem to name a few. Almost all of these cellars offer port wine tours which offer you the opportunity to delve into the art of port wine making.
Port is fortified wine, wine produced with distilled grape spirits (hence the higher alcohol level). Port wine is exclusive to Porto. Many other producers around the world produce fortified wine, but only the ones that hail from Porto are labelled “Port”.
Port is essentially a dessert wine, sweet and warming. It goes well with desserts, cheeses and comes in different styles: Ruby, Tawny, Crusted and Vintage amongst many. A tour around one of the port wine cellars will give you insight into how to port (and wine in general is made) and how you can learn to appreciate and comprehend the different styles it comes in. We were lucky to make it to the Graham’s cellar for a tour. Most of the cellars do tours at predefined times throughout the day and cost anywhere between €15-€50 including a tasting session. The good ones will fill early, book in advance by calling them.
Click here to learn more about Port.