Many people have heard about the wonders of Portugal and it’s perfect city break credentials – but no, I’m not talking about lovely Lisbon. I’m harping on about the city that holds the best Port houses in the world, and has the best secret sunsets to boot – Porto.
I’ve always had this beautiful hot spot on my travel list, but never took the plunge until this year when Mr S was super keen to drink some extra strong wine. Now I only wish I’d visited sooner. And here’s why….
THE BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS
Wherever I am in the world, architecture simply fascinates me. I could get lost in the pretty facades and beautiful brickwork in many a fair town. Porto however, takes it to a new level. The tiles. Did I mention the beautiful tiles?? Blue, Yellow, Green, Patterned. They will literally take your breath away as you see each and every design adorning the beautiful architecture around the City.Azulejos (their official name), were adopted into Portuguese culture as far back as the 1400’s when King Manuel I took inspo from Seville. Now Porto’s walls are covered in these beautiful tiles and it’s even been named a UNESCO World Heritage site because of this.
If you stroll down to the waterfront you will see multicoloured buildings beautifying the streets like giant jewels. They are well loved and characterful, and they are perfect to sit in front of whilst sipping a reasonably priced wine (please remember I’m from London so 4-5 euros a glass is good where I’m from).
THEY HAVE THE VERY BEST VIEWS
As Porto is situated on the banks of the River Douro, the streets climb up through the city of Vila Nova de Gaia on the South and Porto on the North. This makes for some gorgeous views to enjoy whilst you devour your favourite Port. The city streets are so steep that you are sure to work up your appetites for your daily Natas!!
If you are looking to chase the sunset you will need to head up the hill on the Vila Nova de Gaia side. I suggest checking out The Yeatman Hotel for an stunning sunset you won’t forget in a hurry. Here you’ll find sophisticated cocktails, friendly waiters and an atmosphere which will leave you questioning how to move to Porto before the dreaded ‘B’. I devoured an espresso martini and Rich went with an old fashioned as we watched the sun disappear beneath the city.
If you fancy a more casual affair you may want to sit directly next to the banks of the River and snack on olives and crisps as you say your goodnights to the big ball in the sky.
Top Tip: Get to The Yeatman early to secure a front row seat on the terrace.
THE DOURO VALLEY IS SPECTACULAR (AND A STONES THROW AWAY)
You may well have noticed that Vineyards feature extensively in my trips abroad, and Porto was no exception. I suggest taking a day trip from the city and checking out a few Vineyards a mere 1hr 30 away from the city. You can take a tour complete with stop overs at many a picturesque spot as you go, you can even head there on the river from the harbour if that floats your boat (sorry for the naff joke).
Once you are there, they are mighty generous with the pouring too, so make sure you eat a decent breakfast before you set off into the Valley. I suggest some Natas and yummy croissants to fill your tum. If you’re lucky like us you will have been treated to both by your lovely Hotel.
We went with Efun tours and booked via Trip Advisor. Throughout the day you will sample Port straight from the barrels in some locations. You will also learn how they crush the grapes (with their actual trotters – yes, it nearly put me off too but I soldiered on and drank all the port).
Top Tip: The weather is generally a little warmer out there than in the city, so you may want to take off a layer when you get out there. Don’t forget the Sunscreen.
Being a longstanding Port (who’d have known), Porto is up there with the best city seafood i’ve ever laid my nashers on. The restaurants have some lovely seafood selections and I would urge you to try their catch of the day which has likely been caught just a couple of hours before making it to your plate (yum).
TOP TIP: Head one street behind the riverfront for really yummy traditional Portuguese restaurants which happen to be a 1/3 of the price.
Okay, so it may come off a little extreme to dedicate a whole paragraph to the Natas. But we are talking about one of the cities in the world where you will you find fresh out the oven insanely good Natas at every turn. First created by monks (yes really) over 300 years ago near Lisbon, the recipe made its way up through Portugal and is now an everyday staple for many.
My recommendation? Head to Manteigaria near the Igreja dos Clergios Church. You will not be disappointed by the texture, flavour and taste of these beauties. I’m considering a fight back just for these alone!!!
Where to Stay
We had an epic adventure at the Pestana Vintage Porto. I booked it months in advance and can honestly say it blew us away.
The hospitality upon entering this hotel was just fabulous. The room overlooking the river was unforgettable. And the breakfast? The breakfast was up there with the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. The perfect pastries, eggs cooked to perfection, sparkling wine on tap, freshly squeezed orange juice. It was the best possible way to start our days in Porto.
You are also welcome to visit their sister hotel further along the river if you want a day of R&R at the spa or lying by their infinity pool. Pestana Palacio do Freixo is an eighteenth century palace and a perfect way to spend the day.
TOP TIP: Book ahead if you want a reasonable price at this stunning hotel (you’ll thank me later).
Now I’m off to hunt down a Nata.
*this blog contains my personal Porto opinions (tongue twister eh?) and is not sponsored by any of the above highlights mentioned in any way. *