Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal (5/14-17/2016)

Sunset Douro River Porto Portugal
Sunset Douro River - 
Porto, Portugal
In the mist of a remarkable renovation, Porto quickly reveals its once historical spender. With new redevelopment everywhere, there are enough charming elements and new trendy hotels and restaurants to easily overlook the scattered dilapidated buildings.

Villa Novade Gaia Port Wine Cellars Porto Portugal
Porto, Portugal
Staying in Porto’s energetic Ribeira historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, next to the Rio Douro river is a great place to be - surrounded with restaurants, wine bars, and traditional wine boats traveling up and down the river. The excitement here is contagious and there are many things to do.

Port Wine Boats Night Porto Portugal
Port Wine Boats at Night - 
Porto, Portugal
We very much liked wandering along the river on Porto’s picturesque Praca da Ribeira promenade framed by the titled town houses (now many are small hotels).

Port Wine Tasting Augusto's Porto Portugal
Port Wine Tasting at Augusto's - 
Porto, Portugal
From here you can see the port wine lodges across the river, have a lunch/dinner (or just a drink) at one of the many restaurants/cafes, and watch the former port wine boats (barcos rabelos - see photo) make tours up and down the river (a fun thing to do). 

The food in this region is normally traditional Portuguese – very filling but sometimes rather bland. It appears the spice route bypassed Portugal.

Villa Nova de Gaia Port Wine Cellars Porto Protugal
Villa Nova de Gaia Port Wine Cellars
From Porto’s riverside promenade you can easily cross the huge double-decker Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge to the Villa Nova de Gaia waterfront esplanade where you can visit scores of port cellars open for wine tasting. Some of the better ones are Kopke, Noval, and up on the hill, Graham. We stopped into Augusto’s for a nice presentation of port wine making, history, and tasting.

Great walking tour of old town Porto...

Porto Historical Center Portugal
Porto Historical Center
Although we started this walking town from the Ribeira riverfront area, this walking tour can be started and stopped anywhere along it. (Note: * denotes the things we liked best.

1) Portugal history buffs will love the Casa do Infante (birthplace of Henry the Navigator) on Rue da Alfandega.

Wayne Pat Dunlap Porto Portugal
In Front of Our Hotel - 
Porto, Portugal
2) At the top of the street turn left for a visit to Porto’s most beautiful church (Igreja de Sao Francisco) for a baroque gold leaf overload. If you have seen other larger churches around the world, you may be a bit underwhelmed by this one. Then next door poke your head into the Palacio da Bosa. This former stock exchange building is a nice example of the splendid neoclassical period from the late 19th century.

Shop Porto Portugal
Shop - Porto, Portugal
3) * Head north and walk along Porto’s interesting shops and cafes on lovely Rue des Flores. This is where the rich and famous lived and is a great example of Porto’s historic slender.

4) * At the top of Rue des Flores, do go into the front hall of Porto’s train station (Estacao de Soa Bento) for a wonderful display of tile work (azulejos) showcasing Portugal’s history and every day life in the past.

Port Wine Boat Ribeira Old Town Porto Portugal
Port Wine Boat in Ribeira Old Town - 
Porto, Portugal
5) North of the train station is Avenida dos Aliados with Porto’s grand building where they hold many public events and festivals. Having reached the top of Porto’s hills, we enjoyed a break at one of the cafes at the bottom on the left to enjoy some coffee and beer.

Mercado do Bolhao Porto Portugal Fruits
Mercado do Bolhao - 
Porto, Portugal
6) A couple of blocks east of the top of Avenida dos Aliados is Porto’s open market (Mercado do Bolhao) – interesting to visit where you can find fresh produce, cheese, less costly port wine, and local Portuguese handicrafts (closed Sundays). You may want to make a church stop just west of the market at Capela das Almas.

Cafe Majestic Porto Portugal
Cafe Majestic
Porto, Portugal
7) * Head south on Rue Santa Catarina for some upscale shopping and nice walk. A great place to take a break for lunch or just coffee/tea is the beautiful Café Majestic (see photo). For tea lovers, try the wonderful vanilla bourbon tea – it’s wonderful!

Rue Santa Catarina Porto Portugal
Rue Santa Catarina - 
Porto, Portugal
8) Now cross back over your path taking Rue de 31 de Janeiro for several blocks enjoying the shops along the way to the Igreja e Torre dos Clerigos. The energetic can climb the 225 steps to the top of the spiral staircase for one of the best views of Porto’s historic center. At the plaza there, we stopped at the Portugal Experience for a codfish cake filled with cheese and small glass of port wine – very nice.

Chez Lapin Restaurant Ribeira Porto Portugal
Chez Lapin Restaurant in Ribeira - 
Porto, Portugal
9) Just west enjoy the nice park (Jardim de Cordoaria) and then make your way south down back to Porto’s Ribeira waterfront. Drop into one of the restaurants/cafes for a drink and some food – you deserve it now! We liked the atmospheric Chez Lapin restaurant (see photo).

Breakfast Guest Hotel Douro Porto Portugal
Breakfast at Guest Hotel Douro
Porto, Portugal
We stayed at the beautifully restored Guest House Douro located in the middle of the action in the Ribeira area on the Douro River. With fantastic views of the river and its activities, it is definitely the place to be and owners go out of their way to welcome you and make your stay in Porto a memorable one. Breakfast is one of the best we have had (see photo).

 Pat Dunlap Porto Portugal
 Pat - Porto, Portugal
Porto Travel airport tip: Take the modern metro from the airport and old town area. For a few Euros, it takes about the same time (30-40 minutes) as a taxi costing much more. You can buy a metro card at the Information Booth right outside of customs – get some Euros at the nearby ATM first because they only take cash. We got off at Porto’s Trindale station and took a less costly taxi ride to our hotel – reversing this process back to the airport.

Please see our other 5 travel blog posts for Portugal:

Lisbon, Portugal (Capital)

Portugal Algarve Faro Praiada Rocha (Portugal's most popular tourist destination)

Madeira, Portugal

Douro Valley (Portugal's premier port wine country)

Medieval Towns of Obidos, Aveiro, Figuerira da Foz, &Coimbra, Portugal

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