Porthole’s 5 Faves
It’s hard to believe I almost missed visiting Porto the first time. During a recent Windstar cruise, I sailed from Dublin to Lisbon on Wind Surf. Porto was one of the last stops on our itinerary. We were only scheduled to be in this port for six hours. I considered not even bothering to disembark as we only had a short window to explore the town. Additionally, we were there on a Sunday and I was unsure which shops and restaurants would even be open, if any at all. I am so glad I got off the ship because it was love at first sight. Porto is officially my new favorite European city.
Here are my five favorite Porto highlights:
Built into the cliffs at mouth of the Douro River, this compact hilly city is best explored on foot. It is an architectural gem. Meander through neighborhood squares, stroll down medieval alleyways and make your way down to the water. The Ribeira district is located alongside the river and is one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s part of the city’s historic center and is UNESCO protected. Shops, wine bars, and restaurants line the quayside, making it a picture-perfect spot for a drink overlooking the Douro.
Porto’s cobblestone streets are lined with boutique shops like A Vida Portuguesa. Visit the Armazém, a converted old warehouse with vintage shops, art galleries, and a tapas bar. Or walk along the Rua de Miguel Bombarda, known as the arts block, to browse in the stores that open at noon.
Among the architectural highlights of Porto are baroque and gothic-style churches. You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the beauty and history of these ancient structures. Probably the most famous are the Clérigos Church with its iconic, tall bell tower, and the Church of São Francisco with its fine rose windows and gilded interior. Not to be missed, though, is the Church of Santa Clara. Its unassuming façade opens onto an extravagant and beautiful nave adorned with ornate gold-leaf woodwork.
Located directly across from the well-known Carmo Church, you’ll find several cafés lining the street. We enjoyed a healthy breakfast at Noshi Coffee before setting off to explore. For authentic Portuguese cuisine make a reservation at Pedro Lemos, one of Porto’s Michelin-starred restaurants – or for more causal fare, try A Cozinha do Manel.
The city is recognized around the world for its trade in port wine, and port cellars can be found all over the city. Nearly all of them offer tours and tastings. However, you’ll enjoy more than just a sweet class of red wine at the Caves Cálem. In addition to enjoying premium wine tastings, visitors pass through an interactive museum to learn about the port-making process and have an opportunity to listen to traditional Portuguese fado music. Browse the store or relax on the wine bar terrace with a glass of port. From here, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. Soon Caves Cálem will be offering 5D film that is a complete journey of the senses.
— Dana Freeman
Dana Freeman is an entrepreneur, freelance journalist, and the editor behind Dana Freeman Travels. She is a travel enthusiast from Vermont who is always up for an adventure in a new location. Follow her travels on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Photos: Dana Freeman