The Porto vs. Lisbon debate has been going on for long. While all year around temperatures are not so distinctly different in both cities and they both come with the delight of the river side and stunning beaches, still Porto has retained it’s old world charm massively.
Now here’s where the love/hate relationship begins. For those who like to wake up in the morning opening their hotel room windows to lavishing beaches and flawless buildings, well let’s just say you’re going to be complaining about downtown Porto. Not that Porto doesn’t have modern neighborhoods, it does! But that’s just not why you would go all the way to this beautiful city.
|Douro river, with Vila Nova da Gaia, Porto’s sister city just across the river|
Porto takes authenticity and heritage to a whole new level. It’s all about it’s narrow alleyways, tiny bars and restaurants, balconies with hanging clothing lines and locals, busy with their people watching.
While you’re in the city you ought to enjoy a dinner at the Douro river side with a view of Ponte Luis (I) and street performers entertaining you with their relentless talents.
|Ponte Luis I|
We didn’t get to stay there for long, but we were on the run to absorb the aura of the city as much as possible. And here’s a few amazing places we got to visit between all that Porto has to offer.
1. Livraria Lello
If you didn’t know already, Porto is where the Harry Potter series took off. J.K. Rowling spent a few years of her life living in Porto and writing her best selling novel. While wandering around Porto you can see how she’s been influenced by the traditional black capes of university students and places like this one: Livraria Lello. Known as one of the most beautiful book shops in the world and one of the oldest in Portugal. This book shop is so extravagant, stunning and definitely a must see if you’re in town. Photography was not allowed inside therefore my only cheeky photo surely doesn’t do justice to how beautiful this place is.
2. Estação São Bento
This is the Porto’s main railway station which is known for it’s excessive tile work depicting the history of Portugal.
3. Avenida dos Aliados
This avenue is a dazzling show of beaux-arts facades, packed with cafes and pastry shops where the Portuguese would sweeten the taste of their strong Espressos with a typical Pastel da Nata.
|Avenida dos Aliados|
Beautiful churches are to be found excessively all around Porto. Not so much of a surprise for a major Catholic country I guess. Due to our time limit we didn’t get to visit so many of them but here’s a little something of what we saw.
|Main Cathedral of Porto|
5. Casa da Música (house of Music)
Casa da Música is a major concert hall and an iconic symbol of Porto, designed by the famous Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaus. This is where you’ll get to see a major contrast between the historic city center and a modern masterpiece. This structure is an absolute sensual beauty.
Porto turned out to be a delightful experience with great company. We didn’t get to explore too much but from what we saw I would definitely want to go back.
Porto has something to offer to everyone, whether you’re an art history freak, in search of great architecture, or you’re just looking for a laid back holiday where you can get a sun tan, eat well and do a little touristy exploring in a beautiful city. But above all, if you’re tight on the budget, well, let’s just say you might as well raise Porto immensely on your bucket list, because it might just be the perfect destination for you.
I hope you’ve found this post inspiring. I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.