Porto

Where: Porto,  northern Portugal.

When: Five days in early December 2016.

Why: Our school half term holiday fell at the start of December, two weeks before the Christmas holiday (they do everything very late in Spain). We wanted to go on a simple, easy, cheap and fun trip, so we decided to head to Portugal.

We initially wanted to take the sleeper train from San Sebastien to Lisbon, to have a few days there and to then go to Porto for a few days – in fact it was the sleeper train which inspired the holiday – but we just couldn’t book it and so we ended up just going to Porto, flying there via Madrid.

(Incidentally, if you’d like to get this sleeper train it runs from Hendaye, on the French/Spanish border, to Lisbon. It leaves at 18.30 and gets to Lisbon at about 7.30 in the morning. Tickets start from €28.50. You’re either allocated a bed in a single-sex compartment or you can buy a cabin – but that’s more expensive. Find out more and book tickets at the Renfe website).

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Map

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Intro

There’s something very familiar about Porto: it’s a little bit like Bristol, a little bit like Madrid, a little bit like an Eastern European capital. I love cities of layers, cities and towns with lots of hidden places to discover, hills to climb, tunnels, caves, Escher like staircases and streets that weave around each other. That is Porto.

We had a city break in Porto at the start of December 2016. We wanted to visit somewhere easy and fun, with lots of things to do, restaurants to eat in and other sights in the local vicinity. Porto fit the bill perfectly. It’s easy to access and navigate, it’s quite touristy and so there’s a lot of holiday infrastructure, accommodation is great quality and good value and it’s just a great fun city to be in. I think if we had stayed any longer we might have gotten bored, but five days of pre-Christmas fun was just perfect for us. We drank port, ate great food, shopped, walked, visited stuff and also had a rest – which we needed.

Porto is by the seaside and I suspect that you could base yourself on the beach and just pop into the city. I’d like to return in summer to see how things are different and to explore the one or two sight we missed.

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Getting there and getting around

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We flew from Madrid to Porto with Ryanair.

Porto airport is amazing: the building is so cool, with amazing music-video, space-age design. It looks fantastic. As an airport it was quick and easy to navigate.

www.aeroportoporto.pt

To and From the airport

From Porto airport we caught a Metro/tram to Trindade, in the city centre. Metro tram E (purple line) runs from the airport every 30 minutes or so. You can download a Metro map on the Metro do Porto website.

To travel on the Metro we had to buy an Andante Card. To be really honest, I have no idea how this card works. I think it might be in zones, like London, but the explanation on the machines was so confusing! The Andante card is a pre-pay card and you can pre-load it with a single journey, ten journeys or a day pass. The card cost 60c and a single trip from the airport, which is in zone 4, cost €1.85. Introducing Porto has a really good guide to the Andante card. Their information is much better than the official explanation on the machines.

When we left at the end of our trip, our departure was too early for the metro, so we caught the airport bus from the city centre to the airport. Even though it was 4 a.m., the bus was full of locals going home after the pub and tourists with huge suitcases heading for the airport. The journey took about an hour and stopped loads of times. We caught bus 3M from Avenida dos Aliados (the big square pictured at the top of this page). I seem to remember that the bus departed from outside MacDonalds.

The STCP website has information about the day and night airport buses on their website.

There’s a number of private shuttle bus companies who run from the airport to the city centre or other cities in northern Portugal. The airport website public transport page has information about and links to all of these companies.

Train to Guimarães

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As we were here for five days, we decided we wanted to get out of the city for one of those days. We really wanted to go up the Douro Valley, but the train times didn’t work for us and we weren’t sure where to go exactly – so we went to the ancient town of Guimarães instead.

Getting there was really easy, we caught the train from the stunning São Bento station, which is located in the very centre of the city. This has to be one of the most beautiful stations in the world – a tourist attraction in itself. The walls of the booking hall are covered in wonderful blue tiles and I highly recommend visitors to the city to go visit the station, to see the interior, even if you’re not travelling – as it’s just so gorgeous.

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We bought our ticket at a machine at the station. It cost €3.25 each.

Coming back, we couldn’t buy a ticket at the machine in Guimarães as it wasn’t accepting notes, which was all we had. The train was about to leave and the conductor told us to jump on – that we could buy tickets on the train. The train was one of those interconnecting ones, where you can see all the way down and we spent the whole journey watching the conductor get closer and closer to us – but he reached the seats next to us just as we got to Porto – so we jumped off and didn’t pay. Sorry CP.

The train was a Metro like train and didn’t have toilets. The journey took about an hour and a half each way.

You can get train times and prices, and book tickets, in English, at the Comboios de Portugal (CP) website.

Porto to Douro Valley (Regua or Pinhão)

If you’d like to visit the Douro Valley, you can get there by train. Apparently the journey is very pretty. The train runs from Porto Campanha Station to Regua or Pinhão.

The train to Regua departs about every two hours, costs €7.50 or €9.80 one way, and takes about two hours to get to Regua.

There’s five trains on a week day to Pinhão. The journey takes about two hours fifteen minutes and tickets cost about €11 each way.

Again, you can get train times, prices and book tickets at the CP website. If we go back to Porto, this is something which I think we will do.

Getting around downtown

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For us, we pretty much got everywhere on foot. The only public transport we took was I got an old tram along the river front, we took a cable car down to the Port cellars and we caught the funicular up the hill, from the river side to the upper town. We did these as tourist attractions though, for the fun of it, rather than as transport options. I’ve written about these in the what we did section.

Though much of Porto is steep, it’s a great place to get around on foot – with tiny alleys, hidden houses, small saints embedded in the walls, sunning themselves in the sunshine. There’s so much to see, smell and hear, shops to look in, alleys to peer down, that this is a city best appreciated at walking pace.

Porto is a well-connected city with buses, trams and the Metro spanning the city. You can plan your journey (in English) at en.metrodoporto.pt.

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What we did on our holiday

Clerigos Tower (Torre dos Clerigos and Irmandade dos Clerijos)

I have a bit of a travel rule. When you go to a new city, it’s great if you can visit a tourist attraction where you can get high, to get an overview of the city and work out where everything is. One of the highest points of Porto, and perhaps its most famous tourist attraction, is Clerigos Tower – attached to Irmandade dos Clerijos.

Clerigos Tower was built in 1763. It is very distinctive and a symbol of the city.

We had heard that Clerigos Tower was closed for restoration and was going to be reopening after our visit – but then we happily found out that it was open and we could climb the tower after all.

First of all though, we went to have a look at the church that it is attached to. Irmandade dos Clerijos’s interior is wonderful. You can ascend to different levels of the church, and this allows you to appreciate the art and decorations from different aspects. I particularly liked being able to go behind the high altar piece. Much as I enjoyed climbing the tower, I think I enjoyed this part of the building more.

After visiting the church we climbed the tower. There are 225 steps to get to the top. Some of the early staircases are quite well made and easy to climb; there’s rooms and exhibitions on the different floors. Towards the top though, the staircases become quite thin and rickety – and a little scary.

The views from the top of the tower were stupendous. We were there on an icy-clear, sunny December day and we could see the scenery stretching out for miles. We could see all of Porto laid out below us; the sea off in the distance one way; the mountains in the other.

The top of the tower was very tight and hard to navigate. I think there’s a system in place to manage visitors and everyone is supposed to circle the tower in the same direction at the same pace; but that wasn’t happening when we were there. I was glad it wasn’t too busy a day for visitors, otherwise I think I might have become annoyed.

Entry for the tower and museum was only 3€ each.

You can find out more, including up to date prices, opening times etc and pre-book tickets (in English) at www.torredosclerigos.pt.

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Ribeira

Ribeira is the district of Porto on the north bank of the river. To me, this is the heart of the city. It’s a fascinating district of colourful, riverside houses. This is an area to drift about in; stop for a coffee or a glass of Vinho Verde in the sunshine; wander the alleyways and look in the shops. There’s not much to do here per-se, apart from enjoy being in this gorgeous city. 

Ribeira is the Portuguese for river – which this district is named after. If you are looking to take a boat trip on the river, either to head up the Douro Valley or to see the five bridges, this is where the tourist boats depart from. There’s also party boats here and loads of riverside cafes and bars. 

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Dom Luis 1 Bridge

The most famous place in Porto is the stupendous Dom Luis 1 Bridge, spanning the Douro River between Porto and Gaia (the area of the city south of the river). This double-decker bridge has a road running over the bottom section and the metro running over the top. Pedestrians can walk over both sections of the bridge.

At the base of the bridge is a cool tower, which has a great-located cafe on it, and tucked behind the bridge at the river side is the funicular, which runs to the upper town. The bridge is a great place to get fantastic views of the riverside, colourful houses.

You can find out more about the history of the bridge at Wikipedia

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Cable car – Teleferico de Gaia

A cable car runs from the side of Don Luis 1 Bridge’s upper platform, down to the riverside. We caught the cable car from the bridge down. It probably would have been more useful catching it from the river-side up. The journey only lasts about five minutes. You could probably do the journey just as fast on foot – but the cable car is fun and the views over the river and the port houses are wonderful.

A one way ticket now is €6; €9 for a return. Included with our ticket was a voucher for a free port at Quinta Santa Eufemia – which we gladly took advantage of.

gaiacablecar.com

Port tasting

Port is a fortified wine, from Porto the city. This pretty strong, sweet wine is made from grapes grown in the Douro Valley – then processed in Porto – where it is mixed with a brandy-like substance. It was originally made to be a durable wine, able to be sailed across the seas to the UK – hence the strength and also hence the very British names of some of the port houses, the wine exporters. Red port is the most famous but there is also tawny port and white port, which I think is absolutely delicious, served ice cold and sweet.

We hoped to be able to do a comprehensive tour of a few of the port houses, but we never quite got round to it. I think this is partly because the Gaia area and most of the port houses were a little bit out of the way.

We did visit two of the port houses and though we weren’t able to have a tour, we were able to sample the wares in their attached bars. First of all we were given a voucher for a free port tasting at Quinta Santa Eufemia, by the cable car company – and we used this. Quinta Santa Eufemia is a smaller, more traditional port house. Their port house is set slightly back from the river. They have an interesting display about the wine in the lower part of their building and then upstairs they have the light, airy tasting room where you can sample the wares. www.qtastaeufemia.com.

We also tried to take a tour of the Sandeman port house, but sadly we mis-timed our visit and we missed the English tour. We did sample their wares in their cafe though, and we had a lovely time sat by the river side drinking our sweet wine.

A tour to the Sandeman cellars costs €14 per person. I’ve just tried to book a tour in English and it seems that there are only one to three tours per day in winter, which is why it’s advisable to book first. www.sandeman.com.

If we go back, I’ll definitely do a little more research before visiting the port-houses or I’ll book a tour so that I can get the most from a visit. At most of the port houses tours of the cellars are only at set times and sometimes need to be booked in advance, so I’d do this. Most of the port houses you can just pop in for a tasting, but you have to go on a tour if you want to see the cellars.

We are on the Globe has a lovely guide to port tasting if you’d like to find out more.

Funicular (Funicular dos Guinades) and steps

Tucked behing Don Luis 1 bridge is the funicular which travels from the river side (Ribeira) up to the upper city (Batalha). 

A funicular was originally built here in 1891 but was closed again after an accident caused by excess speed. This version of the funicular was built in 2004, to help improve public transport around the city. 

We got this up the hill as we were feeling lazy and because we love funiculars. It’s a great way to travel between the upper and lower towns if you can’t be bothered to walk up all of the steps, though apparently it can get quite crowded.  

Later on, we did walk up the neighbouring staircase. It was steep!

There’s great views of the Don Luis 1 bridge from both the funicular and the stairway – though if you’re hoping to take photos the staircase is probably better as there’s less people.

Our one way ticket cost us €2.50. 

You can get more information on times and tickets (in English) from the Metro Porto website.

Cathedral (Se de Porto)

To me, Porto Cathedral actually looks quite modern, but it was in fact built between 1150ish and 1600ish. The cathedral sits on a bluff, right in the centre of the city, up above the river. It seemed to me to actually be quite separate from the rest of the city, sat up on a plateau with everything else slightly below it and around it. I think that’s why visiting the cathedral was one of the last things we did in the city.

Although it is pretty, Porto Cathedral is not particularly distinctive. It’s quite plain as cathedrals go, light and airy inside. It’s nice – don’t get me wrong – but not so much a tourist attraction. The alter piece is very pretty and some of the chapels are nice. However, other churches in Porto are more distinctive and impressive. 

Wikipedia can tell you more about the history.

What is wonderful though are the views over the city from the cathedral grounds. Being in the heart of the city, high up above it, some of the greatest views of Porto are here.

Shopping

As we were here pre-Christmas, I had some Christmas present shopping to do and Porto has some good shops and a big central market. The main shopping street is the pedestrianised Rua Santa Caterina, which has many of the international chains as well as many local shops too. About half way along is the Via Catarina Shopping centre, which has a nice food hall. www.viacatarina.pt

Bolhão Market is a very local market, which has food stalls and some touristy stores. It is located over two floors in a covered building. To be honest, I felt like it was quite run down and I didn’t like being here. It was a bit dingy and not that friendly a place. We just walked through and didn’t really stop to look at any of the stores. There were some interesting food shops and cafes in the area around the market, however. www.mercadobolhao.pt

Crystal Palace

My brother used to live in Crystal Palace in London, whose crystal palace burnt down long ago. Porto has its own crystal palace, which still exists, and so I was fascinated to go see it. 

I had a lovely walk getting to the palace. To get there I strolled past Clerigos and through Jardim de Cordoaria and Jardim de Roseiral – both lovely parks. The Crystal Palace itself though, if I found the right place, is not really crystal – it’s a funky UFO like dome which has a concert hall / exhibition space inside – which has porthole-like windows in the roof. It was very cool and made for great photos, but was actually all locked up and empty. 

After peering through the windws for a while, I carried on walking through the park in the direction of the river, and I ended up in the grounds of the Romantic Museum of Quinta de Macieirinha. This small museum has pretty gardens and inside there is traditional furniture and art work of a 19th century, Porto aristocrat. I liked the house for its gardens, more than anything, and also for the great views over the mouth of the Douro River. 

After visiting the house and gardens I headed downhill, down long staircases and down tiny streets, down to the river side. Here I went to the supermarket and then I sat and watched the helicopter tours take off from a pontoon on the river. It was exciting watching them go – it must be an amazing thing to actually do. A 10 minute helicopter tour costs €175 and can take up to 3 people. You can find out more and book at the Porto and Douro Experiences website.

Old trams

One of the things that I loved in Porto, and which adds so much character to the city, was the old-fashioned style trams which run around the city.

I really wanted to go on the tram which runs via Clerigos and Batalha, so that I could do sightseeing from this clickety-clackety, rickety ride. I wanted to ride past tourists and shoppers, being a sight ourselves; waving at people as we toured the city on this pretty transport.

There’s three historic tram routes that run in Porto: Line 1 runs along the river, from Passeio Allegre to Infante; Line 18 runs from next to the tram museum up to Jardim de Cordoaria; Line 22 runs in a loop around the city centre, going via Clerigos Tower and Batalha.

I wish I’d had this webpage then, as I appear to have gotten very confused. I thought the end of the circular route (line 22) was by the tram museum, so I walked down the hill to the river side, hoping to catch this tram around the city. I just missed the tram, so went off to have a look in a supermarket and to peer in at the tram museum. I mis-read the timetable, so after waiting half an hour I then missed the next tram on this route too. So instead of hanging around another half an hour, I decided to jump on the next Line 1 tram which took me along the riverside, to the city centre at Infantil. 

This was still a really interesting journey and a lot of fun. I loved being on the old tram, swaying along in the sunshine. It’s such a nice way to travel. The driver is in the same compartment as the passengers and it’s interesting to see how they drive the trams. I wish I could have had a go. The journey only took about ten minutes, but it was interesting riding alongside the river, in a quieter area of town.

As it was, even if I had have got the tram I was waiting for it would have been the wrong tram – and would only have taken me up to the top of the hill – as I was waiting for a line 18 tram when I wanted a line 22 tram!. So there you go. Hopefully this information can help someone to not make the same mistake I did – and will help me get the correct tram if we go back to Porto. 

The Tram Museum (Museu de Carro Electrico) contains old trams and explains the history of the trams in Porto. Admission to the museum is €8. You can get opening times and ticket prices at the Museum website (scroll down for the information in English).

Blue Tiled Churches

Porto is famous for its fabulous blue tiled churches. Of note are Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, located next to Batalha, and the stunning Capilla de las Almas, which is located on the shopping strees, Via Santa Catarina. Both are worth seeking out as they are so pretty.

Guimarães (UNESCO)

One of the nice things about Porto is that there are lots of easily-accessible, interesting places you can visit near by. We originally hoped to take a train up to Douro Valley, but we weren’t sure where to go exactly and what we would do when we got there – especially without a car – so instead we decided to visit the old walled town of Guimarães – which has two castles!

To get to Guimarães we caught the train from Såo Bento station, which was really easy to do (see the getting there/getting around section for more information about this). 

Once in Guimarães we wandered into town, about a ten minute walk, then went for coffee while we tried to get our bearings. The medieval walled town of Guimarães is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but we somehow managed to completely circumnavigate all of the cool, medieval stuff on our way to the castles – and we wandered through the new town instead (don’t worry – we got there later on). 

The first place that we visited in Guimarães was the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza. The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza opened in 1420 and was lived in until the 16th century. After that, like many deserted buildings, locals borrowed the stones to build their own houses and the palace was left in ruins. The palace was reconstructed in the 1930s and now contains decorations from the 16th and 17th centuries.  

This ornate manor house is pretty complete and a lovely place to wander through, seeing all of the old decorations. I particularly liked the chapel, which was small and pretty, and the dining halls – which had boat like ceilings. 

We spent about an hour at the Palace, following the set tour. Entrance to the palace is €5. You can buy a combined ticket for the Palace and castle for €6.

Next door to the palace is Guimarães Castle – a much older, ruined castle. This is a much more fort-like edifice, rather than a manor house. This castle was built in the 10th century.

There’s wasn’t a huge amount to see in the castle – we walked the exposed outer walls and had a look in the central tower, but it was still cool to see. The walls are quite ‘rough’ and it was quite exciting clambering all over them – though also a little scary.

I can’t remember if it was at the castle or the palace but one of our favourite parts of the visit was an information video we watched about Alfonso Henriques and the history of Portugal. It featured a really cute, rollo-like cartoon Alfonso and showed his battles etc. We liked it so much we watched it twice.

Entrance to the castle alone is €2. We spent about half an hour here.

You can get information about the palace and castle (in English), including visiting hours and ticket prices, at the Paco dos Duces website.

After visiting the palace and the castle we walked back through the medieval, walled city – which was very pretty – almost Bavarian like. We stopped for a very late lunch in a busy restaurant and then headed back to the train station. It was a fun day out. 

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What we didn’t do

Boat trip

The two main boat tours of the Douro River are the Six Bridges Boat Tour and a tour of the Douro Valley. 

Portoaliteis has a fun guide to the six bridges, with comprehensive information about each one. The Six Bridge Boat Tours depart from next to Luis 1 bridge, on both sides of the river, and they go upstream to see five of the bridges and then downstream to see Puente de la Arrabida, an incredibly impressive bridge which carries the A1 motorway over the river. On the way the boat passes through the heart of the city, past the port houses. The tour lasts 50 minutes and costs €15. You can buy tickets in advance, which is recommended, at the Get Your Guide website. It’s not for a specific sailing but you do get a voucher for a particular day. 

If you want to sail up to the vineyard region of the Douro River, you’d need to get a cruise to/from the cities of Regua or Pinhão and then get a train the other way.  Get Your Guide lists tours which start from €60.

Another option is to make your own way by train to Pinhão and to then take a local boat tour. These tours are a lot cheaper (€10 – €20) and shorter (one to two hours) and focus on the most beautiful section of the river. 

Lello Bookstore

One of the most famous bookshops in the world, Lello Bookshop (Livraria Lello) is an ornate dream of a bookshop, located in Porto. J.K. Rowling was previously a TEFL teacher in Porto and it has been noted that she may have been influenced by Lello’s bookshop in the design of Hogwarts.

It’s now so popular you have to buy a ticket to get in. €5. I think you get this €5 back if you actually buy a book though. You can buy a voucher online at the Lello website or at the shop before you queue to get in. www.livrarialello.pt

Igreja de São Francisco

Igreja de São Francisco is a fabulous ornate church, whose interior is covered (and I mean covered) in frescoes, statues and gold leaf. Sadly, we didn’t make it here on this trip as I didn’t know it existed before I did research for this page, but now I know I shall have to go back. It looks amazing! Much more impressive than the plain old Se. 

FC Porto

While we were in Porto there were loads of Leicester City Football Club fans everywhere – there for a match against FC Porto. I might have had to support Porto as one of my favourite football players, Iker Casillas, played for them at the time. 

You can buy tickets for matches at the FC Porto website. Tickets start from €10.

Camino de Santiago

The Camino Portugues passes through Porto and for many people Porto is their start point of the walk. Jeff, being awkward, has walked the Camino Portugues from Lisbon to Porto but hasn’t done the final section yet – so we have this trip to do sometime soon in the future.

To get your compostela in Santiago de Compostela, you need to walk 100km. It is 248km from Porto to Santiago.  

For more information on the Camino de Santiago visit my Camino page. You can find more information about the Camino Portugues on Wikipedia or at the Camino Portugues Coastal Way website

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Where we stayed

Porto Lounge

A lot of accommodation in Porto gets top ratings. Many of the hotels, hostels and apartments we looked at had ratings over nine on hotelscombined.com, which is amazing.

Much of the accommodation in Porto is private hostels. When we first looked to book the prices were pretty reasonable, but then when we came to book a few weeks before our trip there was limited availability and the prices had jumped. I think this is probably because there was a Leicester City-Porto football match taking place whilst we were there and so much of the cheap accommodation had been booked up.

We decided that we would prefer to stay in a hotel/hostel rather than a private apartment, as we wanted somewhere where we could be looked after a little, rather than be independent. We looked at lots of options and eventually we settled on Porto Lounge which had a rating of 9.1! It is a well deserved rating.

Porto Lounge is located very centrally, on a street parallel to Aliados, which is the square at the heart of the city. The hostel is based in a lovely old building and has a mixture of private and dorm room accommodation. At the base of the hotel is a large lounge area and a kitchen/diner area where breakfast is served. There’s also a small garden area, which would be a nice place to relax in summer. There’s two computers to use, free wifi throughout and staff on hand 24 hours to help – and to open the door every time someone wants to come in.

We booked a private room, which was like a self-contained bedsit. We had a shared bathroom and separate toilet with one other room. The bathroom was perfect, with amazing hot showers, free hairdryers, fresh towels etc. The room was bright, warm and comfy, we had a TV with English channels and the hostel welcomed us with a free bottle of port!

The only minor problems was that you had to get staff to let you in the front door each time you wanted to come in and the rooms were upstairs and there was no lift (though this wasn’t a problem for us as we’re used to living in a fifth floor apartment with no lift).

I’d give this hostel a 9+ rating too. The location was perfect, the staff were friendly, the room was well-designed and kept to a high standard and it was good value too. Our double room cost us €238 for five nights (that’s about €48 per night). 

portoloungehostel.com

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Where we ate

O Forno dos Clérigos

One of my favourite foods in the world is Pasteis de Nata. These Portuguese tarts, yummy vanilla custard wrapped in flaky pastry, are just yum. I could eat ten of them in one sitting.

O Forno dos Clérigos is a bakery that I had to walk past, which had piles of Pasteis de Nata in the window. How could I resist? I had to go in – twice – for breakfast of coffee and nata. This sweet treat was the perfect way for me to start the day.

Petiscaria Santo António

Tucked behind Clerigos Tower are a row of colourful fun, touristy restaurants. Luckily they were not too pricey and served good light meals, so Jeff and I decided to go into Petiscaria Santo António for our first lunch in town. From what I remember, we had delicious roast meat sandwiches – full of interesting flavours.

One thing to note in Portugal is that extras that are delivered to your table usually cost extra. In Spain, if something extra is delivered to your table, whether you’ve ordered it or not, it is usually a free treat. in Portugal that is not the case and we got caught out here. We had to pay extra for the bread and a lovely broad-bean snack. We didn’t mind paying extra, especially as it seems to be a common thing across the country – it was just this was the first place we experienced this and we were a bit put out. 

You can view the menu in Portuguese at The Fork website

Tascö

Tascö is a very trendy restaurant which serves traditional Portuguese food. We went here for the roast pork and it was amazing! That is all.

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Cervejaria Brasão Aliados

One of the traditional foods of Porto is the Francesinha Sandwich: a sandwich of ham, sausage and steak – covered in melted cheese, gravy and topped with a fried egg. Served with chips. It is obscene. Jeff had to try one.

Cervejaria Brasão Aliados was a restaurant bar that we walked past a lot – and it always looked really inviting. It was usually full of happy people; they looked busy and cheerful; the food looked good and they had a wonderful layout of hidden tables and a large brass bar. It was dark and snug and exactly the sort of place we wanted to eat on a cool, winters night. Luckily, they also served Francesinha – so we went here to try one.

The thing about very busy restaurants is that often they are quite hard to get into and it took us a few nights to get a table here. When we did we were placed at a small table, tucked up on the balcony. The food and the service were okay, but not the most amazing. I had a bloomng onion, a deep friend onion flower, and it hadn’t been cooked enough and was slightly raw, so for the next twenty-four hours all I could taste was raw onions – even though i brushed my teeth many times. The Francesinha was fine, but Jeff wasn’t that keen. I don’t think that’s the restaurants fault though – just that it’s a crazy sandwich. 

Cervejaria Brasão Aliados also serve craft beer, steaks and bar food. Even though we didn’t have the best experience, I would still recommend this place as it has such a lovely atmosphere.

www.brasao.pt

I love Nicolau

On our second day in town we went exploring to the west of our hotel, away from the tourist side of Porto, and we ended up in a lovely cafe where we had yummy burgers (O Maria Concept Burgers). I don’t think this burger joint exists any more but in its place is an amazing cafe called I love Nicolau, which appears to have an fantastic range of healthy foods (lots of avocado), including lots of vegetarian options and yummy looking deserts. If we go back, this is somewhere I think we’ll head to – especially as J is now vegetarian.No more Francesinhas for him.

www.ilovenicolau.com/en/menus/nicolau-porto

Cafe Java

One of the nice things about Porto was that most restaurants were affordable and there wasn’t a huge process about going for dinner. If we saw a restaurant and liked it we could go straight in – without having to dress up or book a table. Cafe Java looked quite snazzy from outside and was in a pretty prestigious location – but we were able to just wander in and get food there and then. 

It was the night of the Leicester City – Porto match and there were screens in the Cafe, so we actually ate our meal watching the footie – which I didn’t mind. Most people were there to have a drink and watch the game, but there was a fun, friendly atmosphere. I cannot for the life of me remember what we ate – probably something with chips. I seem to remember it was pretty good value though.

Via Catarina Shopping Centre

The Via Catarina has a food court on its top level with various food stalls. I went to Vitaminas to have a massive, healthy salad.

You can see a list if the food options at the Via Catarina website.  

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Useful links

www.visitportugal.com

wikitravel.org/en/Porto

www.lonelyplanet.com/portugal/the-north/porto

www.timeout.com/porto

Disclaimer

Please note, some, if not much of this information may not be correct, or may be out of date. All these articles show is how we found these places when we visited and what we personally thought of each place. Where possible I will include links to site which will contain more up-to-date info. All of this is our own work and any opinion expressed is that of the author only.

All photos copyright of J Clemo-Halpenny, unless otherwise stated. If you would like to copy or reproduce any of these images, please email me to ask permission.

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