"Porto ages happily on the Douro River, along with most of the world’s port wine, near where the river meets the Atlantic. Porto comes with a steady sea breeze and a seagull soundtrack. Gritty, hardworking Porto is less cosmopolitan than Lisbon — but it’s also full of charm." —Rick Steves
I'll admit that I hadn't done my due diligence for Porto, and therefore I wasn't sure what to expect. So what followed in the final days of our tour was a wonderful surprise. I found Porto to be a delightful city, albeit with a rougher edge than Lisbon. Compared with the capital's refined character, Porto seemed a bit chaotic—but in a really good way!
Our hotel was in the heart of things, on a pedestrian street in the midst of shops and restaurants, and an easy walking distance to the sites we wanted to see.
My hands-down top highlight of Porto was the Taste Porto food walking tour. On the day we arrived, a gregarious guide took us through an outdoor food market, through back streets to one of the city's hottest restaurants for lunch, up hills to a popular city overlook, down hills to a wine shop where we rested and tasted, and more. It's a highly recommended to-do in Porto!
These are some of the other Porto memories I'll hold for a very long time:
- A river cruise on the Douro River that took us under six bridges of very different styles
- Insight into Porto's history provided by our local guide during a walking tour
- A guided tour with our group through the simply gorgeous Palacio da Bolsa, especially the golden Arab Room
- A private port tasting, an activity I chose to do during our free time
- The farewell dinner, with a pre-dinner champagne toast at the hotel
On the last full day in Portugal, as I enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, I reflected on the ending of the trip in my journal:
"Today is my last full day in Europe (for now), and that always fills me with mixed emotions. Part of me is ready to be back home with the familiar; part of me already misses everything great about this continent. Yesterday I had a moment of feeling overwhelmed with love for travel as I walked through a beautiful city—the entire city a World Heritage Site—with people who have ties to far corners of the world: a woman who lives in Portugal but was born in South Africa; a woman who, as a child 30 years ago, immigrated to Toronto from Iran; a man from Portugal who has lived in Africa and speaks at least five languages, including English as well as or better than anyone I know. And then there's the awesome architecture and deep history (earlier in the day, we'd driven through the town where Magellan was born, for crying out loud). Every trip makes me feel incredibly enriched."
During an afternoon stroll through Porto's back streets during a free afternoon, I found this quiet little corner with a view of the river, looking warm in the afternoon light, tempered with cooling shade. The scene seemed to capture all the charming elements of Porto—tiled buildings, graffiti, cobbled street, hill down to the river. It evokes the pleasant feeling of standing in that spot.
Click photos to enlarge.