With direct flights from Lille, I’m surprised it took me almost two years to make it to Portugal. It’s really the perfect European destination- warm, cheap, and a bit off of the beaten tourist path. On any trip to Portugal, the city of Porto, in the north Portugal, is absolutely worth at least a few days of your time. Oporto, as the Portuguese call it, is Portugal’s second largest city, and was built overlooking the Douro River. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Old Port and Dom Luís Bridge
If I have one word to describe Porto’s port, it would be breathtaking. My first views of Porto literally took my breath away. You should definitely spend some time just walking around, lounging about, and sipping Port wine. Porto is small enough to do on foot, and you can even walk across the famous bridge to get various different angles of the city
Port Wine Cellar Tours
On the other side of the river is actually the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, where most of the wine cellars are located. Tourists can take cheap, informative tours about how port wine is made. (Just pick a spot and go on in!) Tours usually last for thirty minutes and cost approximately 5€. Usually you are given a few glasses of port wine to taste during the tour.
Port wine (or Vinho do Porto) is a Portuguese fortified wine produced solely in the northern Portugal. Usually, it is sweet, red, and tangy, although we also partook in a few different white varieties. Port wine is produced from grapes and then processed with aguardente in order to stop fermentation. As a result, this greatly increases the alcohol content. I highly enjoyed port wine and believe it is an essential part to partaking in the culture of the city.
One of the many wine cellars in the city
Church of São Francisco (Saint Francis)
Also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, this Gothic church is known for its gold, Baroque interior. It costs 3€ for students to enter and also gives access to the small, adjoining museum.
Livraria Lello & Irmão
As on of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, it is also known as the third best bookstore worldwide. In recent times, perhaps the reason that the bookstore is so well known is because it was frequented by Harry Potter series author JK Rowling while she was teaching English in Porto. It is rumored that the architecture was inspiration for her writing– I am inclined to agree.
Azulejo, or Blue Tiles
One particular thing that stood out in Porto were the blue tiles– found inside and outside of churches, train stations, schools, bars, and more. They served as both an ornamental art form as well as a form of temperature control (air conditioning doesn’t really exist in Europe). Most of the azulejos represent major historical and cultural aspects of Portuguese history.
Whether you have a long weekend or a two-week vacation, Porto, or Oporto, is not to be missed. Have you ever been?