Katie’s husband Nick escaped on a boys weekend to Porto last month to do a bit of walking …. and some eating and drinking. Here’s why he loved Portugal’s second city.
Getting there – we flew from Stansted because it was cheap. Next time we might fly from Newcastle to Faro and head North on a very reasonably priced train.
First Impresssions – it’s not as grand as Lisbon but it’s beautiful. Like our nearest city Newcastle it’s compact in the centre, is set on the river, has a lot to see and do and is great value. Like Newcastle it also has a rather splendid selection of bridges. We stayed in a city centre Ibis for €60 per night – an identical hotel in Edinburgh cost £120 recently! Cafes and restuarants were very cheap and the food was great – if you are going to spend all day on you feet packing as much in as you can I’d recommend Francesinha – a Porto hot sandwich with ham & sausage, covered with molten cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. Plenty of calories.
What to do – firstly, you must free half a day to wander aimlessly around the city centre, up and down the hills and along by the river. Pick a random cafe, order some simple food and a bottle of red wine from the Douro Valley and take it all in. We did and we throughoughly enjoyed it – so much so that one of my travelling companions had to have a mid afternoon snooze. See the tiles in Sao Bento railway station, visit the very modern Casa da Musica concert hall, reflect in the Sao Francisco church and see the whole city from the top of the Torre dos Clerigos (240 steps vs 325 in Durham Cathedral) .
Port – you really can’t go to Porto without visiting a port house. Every famous name making this eponymous fortified wine can be seen from the D. Luís I bridge. Cross the river Douro, admire the iconic Maria Pia bridge by Gustavo Eiffel and take your pick. Most of them do very good tours but you might be advised to eat somewhere else – their restaurants are good but they charge tourist prices. We went to Grahams and next time we’ll do a smaller one.
It’s not far to the beach – we walked 14km along the beach and saw one person! Bring back some locally hand made soaps as presents and you may be allowed to go again.