Don't Sleep on Porto!
by: Connor Gribbon
Don’t sleep on Porto! “Porto?” The inexperienced traveler asks. Google Maps it… or just keep reading.
Paint this picture in your head: blue & white mosaic tiles covering the walls of cobblestoned alleys, Port wine cellars overlooking the Douro river and the smell of Bacalhau (traditional Portuguese cod dish) flowing from one of the many restaurants. This is Porto.
When inspired to travel to Portugal, the average Vagabond set their sights on Lisbon, as lovely as Lisbon is, don’t sleep on Porto.
Just under a 3-hour train ride north from Lisbon (pack a bottle of Vinho Verde for the ride) takes you right into the cobblestones and charisma that is Porto.
Still not convinced? Keep reading.
Porto is a small city and a very inexpensive one. The city can be seen in as quickly as a day/night or as long as… up to you, but I would definitely live there. Anyhow, just going for a weekend visit? Here’s how my experience went.
I landed at Aeroporto Francisco Sa Carneiro, hopped in an uber, checked into my room at Casa Carolina (I highly recommend) and was off to embark on my favorite hobby: wining & dining.
My journey led to me to a quaint riverside wine bar called “Wine Quay Bar” – definitely go here. Wine Quay Bar exclusively sells wine, cheese and meats. Score a seat outside and be careful of the seagulls (my brick of cheese was stolen by one).
With a nice buzz and some fuel, I was off to do some exploring. Off all the sights I saw in Porto, my three favorites were: Igreja Dos Carmelitas/Capela de Santa Catarina (the iconic blue tiled cathedral in Porto’s city center), Porto Cathedral (pay for the behind the scenes pass to access great city views and more beautiful tiles) lastly, you can’t leave Porto without seeing the Jardins do Placio Cristal (manicured gardens with beautiful views of Porto and the Douro river).
Having checked off all the sights I wanted to see, the remainder of my time in Porto was spent enjoying my favorite hobby: wining & dining. And what better place to do that than in the birthplace of Port wine?
No trip to Porto is complete without visiting at least one Port wine cellar. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Port, but going to Porto and not visiting a cellar is like going to Rome and not eating Gelato…
The cellars in Porto are located on the Douro river, opposite to the urban city center of Porto. If the weather is nice and you packed your walking shoes, I suggest walking across the Dom Luis bridge to reach the cellars.
From what I have heard, all the port cellars are good, but my experience at Calem Cellars was great. They advertise themselves as the oldest Port winery in Porto and for a guy who doesn’t like Port wine, their port blanco was excellent.
My time in Porto concluded with a meal at Bacalhau (the restaurant is called Bacalhau and yes, I ordered the Bacalhau). Definitely go here. Make reservations in advance.
All in all, Porto is a small city with a lot to offer. Don’t sleep on Porto!