Feature Article - Travel - Porto
For many years Porto was this biggish city in northern Portugal, known for the fortified wine and ... many derelict buildings in the centre. In all fairness, that bit has not changed much, one of the most amazing things about the city is still getting slightly pissed when sitting on a wobbly metal chair, at slightly wobbly metal table, sipping red or white Port and looking and the river life go by. Equally, one of the most charming things about the city, are the tall walls of windowless tenant houses, which state is far beyond repairable, but UNESCO would not let them being demolished (thank God for this). However, Porto has evolved greatly over the past decade and now is one of the most lively and vibrant European cities you could imagine.
Historically, it is about defences and Porto. No denial here. So, to do your bit, you simply must get through at least one cellar tour. We recommend starting early, and our favourite is definitely one of the most remotes houses - Grahams. Not only they make one of the best ports, but the views from their terrace are ones you could admire for hours. Then there is also quite a lot of local agencies offering tours down the river Douro, where the grapes are grown and wine is being made. And this as well is one of those thing you might see as touristy, but in reality it truly is a great way to spend a lazy day.
Then there is Casa do Musica, and the musical life of the city. There is so many festivals happening there, everyone surely would find something for themselves - from the amazing Fiesta do Sao Joao, nearly a week long festivities in June, that take parties from stages to streets, park and beaches. There is Primavera Sound, with independent indie and Electronica labels, reggae festival and many many more.
Food - when Anthony Bourdain came here he ate boiled octopus, and yeah - you can find a decent ‘polpo’ almost everywhere (apart from the tourist traps covered with white table cloths on the riverbanks near the bridge), but Porto has so much more to offer! Now it has Michelin star restaurants, and my favorite place to go for the cheap but fresh and honest food is any small restaurant near the port in Matosinhos. Apart from the rich bean and pork stews (which probably were the ones to inspire the Brazilians), and flame kissed chourico, 355 versions of Bacalhao, fresh sardines from the grill and boiled cabbages, Porto gives you the ultimate night out snack - the Franchesinha - a toasted meaty sandwich, griddled with cheese on top and served with a unique peppery tomato sauce. And finally - a word on pudding, or shall we even say anything? Seriously, we can't really imagine anyone who would plan a trip anywhere in Portugal not knowing about their custard pastries...
Let’s not forget that Porto, unlike Lisbon, is a coastal city, so they have fantastic beaches. Quite a few of them are surfable, but just a short train ride from the amazing train station Porto Sao Bento, there is Miramar. This stunning golden sand beach is famous for the picturesque small chapel, but also it is now the hub for surfers and gives you best imaginable waves ever.
The top touristical things you can’t give a miss, are obviosuly the incredible bridge, designed by no other than Gustav Eiffel, and the old tram ride, which we promise won’t be as crowded as no 18 in Lisbon. You can hang around the Praca da Liberdade, go for a walk along the shore from Jardim do Passeio Alegre and have a lunch in one of the restaurants around Av. Do Brazil.
Stays? There is not that many luxury hotels in Porto, but there are decent boutique hotels, and quite a few traditional quintas (wineries) which now offer Wine and Spa experiences.