A POSTCARD FROM - Porto, Portugal
I recently spent 10 blissful days in Porto. I’d been to Lisbon before and loved it, but this was something else.
At the start of the holiday I was with 800 fellow artists from around the world as part of the Urban Sketchers Symposium, and then I had an extra week on my own exploring the city further. I’m a slow traveller. I don’t enjoy racing around, standing in queues or snapping photos of the key sights for the sake of it. Instead I prefer to wander rather aimlessly and stumble upon a gorgeous cafe with a great view to draw. Porto is perfect for this - it’s beautiful and friendly (and the wine is fantastic).
Porto is a very hilly city and it’s best to get around on foot. There are trams, buses and of course Uber, but I loved getting lost in the windy streets. In terms of accessibility for those with limited mobility, I found this article here that I think is probably quite useful.
The buildings are stunning, as are the churches (many of which have external blue and white tiles) and the hills mean there are views a-plenty. It’s quite small so you can walk around easily and cover a lot of the city.
It’s a city geared to tourism, so most people speak great English. I think it’s always good to be able to say hello and thank you in the local lingo but being understood isn’t a problem at all.
There are plenty of ATMs and I got money out at Porto airport for my taxi into town (30 Euro). I flew direct from Bristol airport too which was a real bonus.
WHERE TO STAY
The map of Porto is deceptive and makes this small city look huge. Basically staying anywhere in the city is central enough. However if you don't like walking up hills or aren't able to, then stay as close to the water as possible.
I spent 8 nights at this Air BnB (photograph above) and I can’t recommend it enough. It was around £33 per night so great value for money, in a good area that was reasonably central, and was next to a great cafe (see below). I felt safe staying there alone and arrived late at night to a friendly welcome from the hosts. I felt so relaxed there that I spent some hours painting at home, and I cooked for myself quite a lot too as there was a really good supermarket 2 minutes away.
I then moved for the last two nights to an apartment that was much more central. It was smaller and very recently renovated so still a little unfinished, but I’d still recommend it.
WHERE TO EAT
Breakfast in Porto is an espresso and a pastry and so it’s not so easy to happen upon great places if you’re after something more substantial. The below do nice options that include eggs, bread, yoghurt, coffee and juice etc. I tended to just eat a large breakfast and then a late lunch / early dinner…..
I had my best brunch of the trip at Hungry Biker Cafe. It's in a cool location near to the colourful and cobbled backstreets on the way to the water. You can hire bikes here, and there is wifi too.
Cafe Progresso is a great spot for breakfast. I had scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and juice for around 9 Euro.
Cafe Obio was next to my first apartment so I went a couple of times. Really relaxed atmosphere, chilled tunes, good food and a little shop selling ceramics and beautifully wrapped chocolate.
LUNCH / DINNER
I’m a vegetarian so can’t offer up too many suggestions of WHAT to eat. But I’d make sure you go to each of these different areas and then find somewhere that takes your fancy.
RUA DAS FLORES
Rua das Flores is a pedestrianised street. It's touristy but for a good reason, because it’s super pretty and a lovely place to hang out.
Both Puro 4050 and Cantina 32 are on Rua Das Flores. Both of these are good (they are sister restaurants). It’s worth booking ahead although I managed to just walk into both during the day.
The Ribeiro side of the water (the Porto side) has loads of places to eat, and whilst they all seem OK I would really recommend walking over the bridge (lower level) to Gaia and eating there. The views back to Porto are great and it’s also where all the wine tasting happens too. I had a great lunch there one day and whilst it’s still busy, it’s less busy. When you come back over the river then go to the higher level of the bridge as the view is brilliant!
THE BEAUTIFUL SQUARE (It’s actually called Praca Infante Dom Henrique but I could never remember that)
I loved this square and spend hours (honestly) sitting in it and gazing and sketching. It’s so stunning - there’s a monument in the middle of the grass, you can see the water, a breathtaking church and lots of other amazing buildings. And from the Hard Club (the Victorian looking red building) there is a terrace bar with really good views. You can eat there but I don’t think it’s that great and service is super slow. But get a decent spot and it’s the perfect place to sit and drink wine in the sun with a cracking view. The tram to the beach goes from near here by the way so you could tie that all in…..
I didn’t go out much at all as was on my own, but one night I did go to see some live music with some friends in a really sweet candlelit place called All In Porto. We had lovely wine and a cheese and fruit platter which was really delicious. The staff are so friendly and it’s very chilled.
I didn’t seek out a huge amount of shops, but I would say def worth going to A Vida Portuguesa (it’s near the famous Livraria Lello bookshop that I didn’t bother going to as the queue was ridiculous), and then Mercado 48 was cool for homeware, lamps, artwork. Then Coracao Alecrim which was green / vintage / indie clothing and homeware.
My favourite find was the Claus Porto shop on Rua Das Flores. They sell soaps and perfume, but upstairs there is a free exhibition with all of their old advertising and packaging and it’s lovely.
The first time I went to the beach I walked there and back from my apartment. It was such a lovely thing to do, all the way along the water. It took about an hour each way.
The second time I took a tram (the number 1), which was a fun experience too (they are the really old fashioned wooden trams), was 3 Euro each way. There’s also a bus, the 500.
Where to go
I went to Praia da Luz and it was brilliant. Cool tunes, really relaxed but also quite chic. Good wine and food. The sea is freezing so don’t expect to swim (I tried - my conclusion is that paddling is ok)! It’s quite expensive compared to other places nearby for food and drink, but it’s so much nicer than them too…..
I didn’t go in the evening but I think it would be fun. I’d say go late afternoon for the sunshine, then have dinner there whilst watching the sunset…..(you might need to book, I expect it gets busy).
Please do leave any comments or questions below as am more than happy to help with any questions you might have. And if you find these tips useful then please do let me know!
Please note that this post is not sponsored and I paid for the trip with my own money.