Portugal itself is a relatively cheap country in comparison to some it’s nearby European neighbors. All in all we managed to book flights and accommodation for five nights in Porto for under £170.
Having just got back from my trip to Porto, I’ve now got a case of holiday blues. So in an aim to relive those great memories, I’ll share my highlights and tips of the visit.
We stayed in a lovely Airbnb on Travessa de Cedofeita. A 20 minute metro ride from the airport, also the most cost-effective (around €2.40 for a single trip). The area itself, Vitoria is an old-town neighborhood which houses the famous Clérigos Tower. Our apartment, like others in Porto appear to be such good value in comparison to other city breaks I’ve been on, i.e. Brugge, Paris and Palma. The apartment had all we needed for a short stay, small kitchenette, dining area and an outdoor terrace – perfect for our breakfasts in the sun! A staple when going away in the warmer months. The only down-side to staying here was having a bar on our doorstep. So unless you were out partying with the locals, chances are you’re not getting a quiet nights sleep. That aside, our trip was so relaxing, it wasn’t much of an issue.
Architecture, Sao Bento Station & Carmo Church
With Porto, you immediately get a sense of the Baroque and Neoclassical buildings that line the streets. Its heightened contrast is what I love about this city, from it’s grande cathedrals to it’s shabby residential buildings. From afar, it’s all so picturesque. Porto’s São Bento station and Carmo Church are my two recommendations for seeing Porto’s history in art form. The interiors of Sao Bento’s station are that of something to be admired. The famous azulejos tiles line from ceiling to the station floors. Carmo Church on the other hand has the famous blue and white tiles decorating the exterior.
Cycle Around, Luis I Bridge – Matosinhos
Porto may be like Lisbon in that it’s made of up of steep hills, but that’s only in the very center. It’s also not as steep as Lisbon with that there’s many more steps rather than just roads. On our day to venture out and explore beyond the central Porto, we decided to hire bikes for day. After some browsing on our phones, we found a place near the river which let us have the bikes for a bargain €10 a day, per bike.
Tip: Research first. Although the prices don’t vary much (average around €12) closing times for the hire shops can. Wanting to make the most of our day hire, our place closed at 8. Giving us a complete day for a great price!
Taking out the bikes and cycling around the city reminded me of how much I love being on a bike. I used to cycle so much growing up and to have amazing views on your doorstep, why would you want to be cooped up on a metro or car? Our hire shop was central, so we had about 10 minutes to cycle on Porto roads until we reached the cycle path. After that – it was a breeze! The paths were great as they’re clearly marked out along the route, gradually getting wider as you bypass the route.
Foz do Douro
After our first cycle stint, we had a strategic pit stop at the Praia da Luz – Avenida do Brasil, Foz. A great little cafe/bar situated on the beach, meaning the morning coffee went down well with a great sea view.
Parque da Cidade, Porto’s City Park
Cycle stint two. Fact: one of the few parks in the world that has a seafront.
So for that reason alone you should go and visit. We headed over there after the coffee-gate. But back on the bike for another hour, this was a welcomed break for (for my bum). A little green oasis in amidst of city life and stark beaches. Besides a few families, dog walkers and fitness fanatics the park was fairly serene. Due to scale of the park, it’s easy enough to find somewhere secluded from other people. We did just that.
Final cycle stint and we arrived to Matosinhos. This stretch of the route was definitely my favourite, the wide cycle paths and the crystal blue waters to the left of me. We stopped off here for lunch and all whilst making good time. All in all it took around 2.5 hours (including pit stops). I’d recommend having lunch out here as there’s a little strip heaving with grilled fish restaurants. We went to the lovely O Valentim. It can get super busy – so again if there’s no reservation, be prepared to wait for a table. Honestly, you won’t regret it though. We ordered off the specials of the day, it happened to be an almighty red snapper and had fresh pepper salads to go with. NOM.
Finally, the reason why I chose to cycle all this way, Matosinhos Beach. We were lucky enough to have the clouds disappear for us. How nice of them to do so.
Miss O’po, Restaurant
A very moody yet stylish decor. Good for dinners – it brings in all the hipsters (locals). The menu may be small but it boasts some delicious sounding food. It also changes regularly / daily (so the staff told us). The idea, like many restaurants now – is tapas style dining and it’s recommended to have around 2 plates pp.
- Ceviche, with a summer salad. A Peruvian-style dish using raw seafood using citrus flavours and chilli to taste.
- Bread pitt with fish and winter vegetables. This was so tasty, almost fish pie meets seafood risotto without the rice. Cooked through with garlic and herbs.
Tip: Book beforehand, and if there’s two of you – request a sharing table. The two person tables are very small and with multiple dishes – you can struggle to arrange all your food! Sharing tables are fun and a great way to meet other people.
Boat Ride, River Douro
One of the things I enjoyed most whilst out here. For €12 you can get yourself a ticket with the journey lasting around 50 minutes. The boat takes you upstream past the famous bridges. The bridges (Pontes) are Freixo, S. Joao, Dona Maria Pia, Infante, Dom Luis 1 and Arrabida. As well as spectacular views, of each side of the river you get a sense of the crumbling buildings taking a closer look at Porto’s rich heritage and it’s all-famous Port wine business.
Tip: Book on the day, there’s no extortionate prices as it’s all competitive. Take the boat on a clear day as the boats are open, the last you’d want to see are all the spectacular views from under a blanket of rain and dark clouds!