My final stop for my recent Europe trip was in Porto, a somewhat heavenly location in Portugal. Located about a little more than 3 hours north of Lisbon, Porto was evidently colder and coincidentally greyer during the weekend I was there. That said, one of my favorite areas of the entire trip was Bairro da Ribeiro and Cais da Ribeira. Bars and restaurants line adjacent with one another, all of them overlooking the magnificent Douro River that looks as if it’s been sleeping for a thousand years. I remember just sitting at Cafe do Cais and lazily observing the sunset, and thinking to myself what a surreal and delightful place this Porto was.
Once again, I decided to book an airbnb since the airbnbs were more spacious and were better value. I actually managed to get a loft, so upstairs was the bed and a huge storage space, while downstairs was the dining room, bathroom, and also the kitchen. The location was convenient enough, located on Rue de Tomas Gonzaga, where I had to walk up the hill for about 8 minutes to get to the center of the city or the restaurants overlooking the Douro River, but hey where in Portugal would there be no hills right? A bit of an arduous walk as the hills were slightly steep, but nonetheless it was acceptable, especially since it was winter so it was easier to walk these steep hills (I would hate to walk during summer).
Getting to Porto from Lisbon, I departed from Lisboa Santa Apolónia, which was the closest railway station from my Lisbon location, and got to Porto Campanhã within 3 hours and 30 minutes. Very simple, no hassle at all.
There are also subway trains around Porto which you can take. It’s extremely easy to understand the system, and basically there are like 4 or 5 different lines, but all of them pretty much stop at the same locations, some just stopping at more locations than others, so the other trains are more like “Express” trains. I only took it once from the train station to my Airbnb, but other than that everywhere else I was just walking as everywhere was about a 20 minute walking distance max.
So funnily enough, or stupidly enough actually, I went to the the office of the agency that was in charge of managing my Airbnb, rather than the actual Airbnb where I was supposed to meet and made one of their staff wait for an extra 15 minutes for me -_-. Anyway, their office wasn’t very conveniently located, neither was my Airbnb since my Airbnb wasn’t near any subway stations, and while carrying luggages it was pretty much a hassle, so they recommended me to take an Uber instead.
And obviously, as I mentioned, you can walk about pretty much everywhere, particularly the two sides parallel to the Douro River.
During my last day of this entire trip, I had to take a short flight from Porto to Barcelona, and then take the flight from Barcelona to Hong Kong with a transit stop at Dubai, phew. Luckily, the flight from Porto to Barcelona was about 2 hours or less.
Restaurants / Places to Eat
The last morning I was in Porto, I stopped by this random cafe I passed by called Capela 51. It was serviced by this wonderful elderly couple, and I was the youngest person in the entire café (everybody else had grey hair already). Didn’t order anything special, just normal breakfast.
Nicolau Porto (website)
I was starving by the time I reached this restaurant. If I remembered correctly, it was a Sunday when I went to this place, and most of the restaurants were either closed or unwelcoming. Upon coincidence, I happened to notice this place as people were waiting outside the restaurant. As such, I felt that I had to go give it a try.
The concept of the restaurant was on greens, pancakes, and vegan, and I guess that’s sort of a trend right now, the allure of healthy greens cafe. I think what also made it appealing is that its instagram was colorful and sharp, and there was a “healthy” theme encompassing the account. Not only that, they’ve had had a few locations in Lisbon already, so I guess this was what made it appealing.
That said, the food wasn’t exactly terrific or anything. I think it’s more visually attractive than tastefully satisfying. I guess that’s what some people go for these days, to take a photo so they can share on their Instagram.
Incredibly, this was one of the favorite restaurants to have dined in for the entire 3 week Europe trip, and it was just a 2 minute walk away from my Airbnb! I was just looking for a nearby place to eat, and due to its location and rating, I decided why not give it a go! Plus it was still raining and it was cold, so I did not feel like venturing far.
Its a tiny small restaurant which is quite hidden, and you have to actually go down some narrow stairs before arriving at the restaurant. The first time I was there, the hostess told me to come back at about 9PM, so I came back about 9:15 PM and there were empty seats by that time.
I went during the dark winter days, but the restaurant actually had some outdoor seats with an incredible view overlooking the river. Despite not having this this time, the restaurant was quite cozy, and the dishes were served much quicker than expected. Also the servers and staff were all very friendly and kind.
And of course, I would definitely come back again because the food was actually quite exquisite and tasteful! It’s probably the first restaurant I said this in my blog posts, even I didn’t describe DiverXO like this. I love how they were creative and infused cool flavors… like grape jam with cod fritters? Amazing.
MUU Steakhouse (website)
I was facing a conundrum on my first night at Porto… where the heck should I eat? WHAT should I eat? I passed by Rua da Galeria de Paris in the evening, as supposedly there was a concentration of bars over there. After debating whether I should get Portuguese food or healthy food (but definitely not Asian food since I would have it again in two days), I thought and thought and thought to myself that since I haven’t had a steakhouse the entire trip, I would just go for the steakhouse. Plus it looked interesting anyway.
In fact, when I arrived at the restaurant which was around 9pm or 9:30pm, the place was still packed, so I ended up waiting until 10pm before I finally got a table. The hostess was extremely kind and offered me a complementary glass of Porto while I was waiting and looking at the menu.
I have to say, the place was quite lively and intimate at the same time, a place where it seemed to be the ideal location for double dates.
In general, I was quite pleased with the food, but I wouldn’t as far say I was awe struck by it. That said, I was completely stuffed after finishing the meal.
Café do Cais
Part of the Cais da Ribeira, this was my first eating place in Porto! I think what attracted to me about this place was the overall layout of the restaurant, where it was located, and also it served one of the staple dishes of Porto, which was Francesinha, a Portuguese sandwich combined with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat, and melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. Sounds deliciousss right!? So I had to get it and try it.
From what I remembered, yes it was quite wet and soft, a little salty, but the food just melts in your mouth. In general, I found it quite interesting and tasteful. Would love to have another francesinha again!
Things to Do
Visit Church Venerável Ordem Terceira de São Francisco and Monument Church Of St Francis
I will admit… I was incredibly stupid again. Upon my hastiness to make the Palácio da Bolsa before 5pm, the closing time, I assumed that the Church … Sāo Francisco was the Palace, and I was like… oh it was okay but nothing impressive. While writing this blog and trying to find the alt text for the images, I realise… wait a minute, these images of Palacio da Bolsa do not look familiar at all… I actually didn’t even step in Palácio da Bolsa! Grr… so I actually ended up being in the Church next to it, which was Church Venerável Ordem Terceira de São Francisco. For some reason, it didn’t show up initially in Google Maps, and all along I thought the other place I visited, Monument Church of St. Francis, was the only church there.
Walk along Cais da Ribeira and Bairro da Ribeira
As mentioned earlier, these were my favorite spots in Porto; the area was picturesque. I’ll let the photos do the talking…
Or walk along Ponte Luís I to get to the other side
Or visit the South side of Porto and explore the many things to do there
Kopke… the oldest wine house, crafting wine experiences since 1638 (website)
And one of my favorite activities done in Porto, the 360 degree Port Experience! What does it mean? (website)
Tada! Basically it’s not just about tasting or purchasing, but you get to see the history, there’s a restaurant, and there’s also an incredible terrace lounge which is like a rooftop always hosting rooftop parties
Do some shopping around Rue das Flores and Via Catarina Shopping Mall
For those who want to do some shopping, the area surrounding Rue das Flores has a few brand names and boutique shops. Via Catarina Shopping Mall is only popular just because its probably one of the “bigger” shopping malls in Porto, but nonetheless it wasn’t at all impressive compared to other shopping malls in the world. Not a lot of luxury brands are there, more like main consumer staple and consumer discretionary items.
Fernandes, Mattos & Ca., Lda. (website) – a quaint, interesting shop worth a visit
Loja Das Tábuas (website)
Sightseeing in Porto
Walk around and explore Porto. And now, lots of pics:
Portuguese Centre of Photography
Once again, I must highlight the stupidity of me. I actually passed by this on Sunday morning, and by Sunday morning it was about like 12pm by that time. When I passed by it, the door was closed, so I thought, OK maybe it’s closed on Sunday, no matter.
Monday afternoon was when I had to take a flight to Barcelona, so I thought I could stop by in Monday morning. When I get there, the security guard told me that I couldn’t go in because it was closed on Mondays. I was like huh!?? I looked at the opening hours again outside the building and realise… it was actually open on Sunday!! But just at a later time. Mondays were closed the whole day. So I never actually got to go inside 🙁
For your information, on Saturdays and Sundays it opens from 3-7pm
While I have to say Porto doesn’t have the most diverse nightlife, and I could imagine getting bored from it rather quickly, I managed to visit one of the best clubs I’ve ever been to my in life. Most of its nightlife is centered around Rua da Galeria da Paris.
THE ROYAL COCKTAIL CLUB
Decorated like an upscale hotel lounge, The Royal Cocktail Club is at the corner of around the area of Rua da Galeria de Paris. The bartenders are professional and there are a lot of cocktails to choose from. Well worth a visit.
Plano B (website)
Plano B was one of the best clubs I’ve ever been to. It’s unpretentious, it’s raw, and it’s got different rooms, it’s a good size, and the music was incredible. Upon entering, you would feel like you were partying in someone’s living room who also happened to install a disco ball. The room was sort of playing more disco music, how appropriate. Right next to the room feels like a kitchen where bartenders would serve cocktails hastily. As a first timer, you’d think… wait is that really it? The size of this “house party” was no bigger than 1,000 square feet.
While talking to the bartender, I noticed that people were disappearing. Towards the side of the living room, there was a staircase. I wanted to leave, but I asked the bartender what was down there and she said more partying. So what the heck, why not.
That’s when my impression of the club completely changed. Descending down the stairs was like discovering the secret door to a speakeasy, except, instead of finding a cool bar, you’d find the expansion of a huge club. As you walk down the stairs, you see a statue planted on the floor as if it was a tribute to Studio 54. The bars were open and ready, with bartenders occupied completely from serving drinks to partygoers. That’s just the foyer of the ground floor.
There’s another small bar right behind and pass that, you get a medium sized room which played dance music. And I’m not talking about the cheesy Electronic Dance Music with expected drops, but real underground dance music. I was loving the entire night in this room. The lights and ambience was amazing and the sound system was incredible.
But wait, there’s more. In fact, that dance room was actually the smallest room amongst the club. A few steps away from it lies the hip hop / pop room, and this was the large room, but again it was completely packed.
One of the best things I did my entire trip was Plano B.
Porto surprised me and impressed me in many ways. I loved the view of the Douro River and the Cais da Ribeira. I love the Porto Cruz 360 degree Porto wine experience. I love Intrigo, one of my favorite restaurants on this trip and its creativity and how its a little hidden and can be only found by descending a small staircase. I love first time trying Francesinha. And of course, I love Plano B. I guess I love things where you have to descend some stairs and realise its much bigger and cooler than its entrance.
It’s a little unfortunate I went when it was rainy and grey and on Sundays it was closed. Luckily for me, I have some direct flights to go there, so maybe I’ll make an excuse to go there sometime again.
***OTHER THINGS I WROTE DOWN***
Things to Do
- Serralves Museum & Villa*
- Palacio da Bolsa*
- Praca da Liberdade
- Beaches: Foz do Douro also has the Pergola da Foz
- Jardins do Palacio de Cristal*
- Porto Cathedral
- Livraria Lello*
- Avenida dos Aliados*
- Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis*
- Baixa district*
- Clerigos Tower climb to top of*
- A Vida Portuguesa
- Sao Bento Train Station
- Buy Portuguese illustration at Ó! Galeria
- Aduela people watching
- Take the tram (line 1) from the Passeio Alegre to the mouth of the Douro River
- Take a short cruise down the Douro River And under the 6 bridges of Porto, aboard one of the typical “Rabelo barcos”, which in the past were used to transport Port wine. A cruise on a Rabelo Boat can go from 15€ to 75€ depending on the route, duration and activities you want to do.
- Porto Belo Market
- Miguel Bombarda
- Serra do Pilar Monastery
- Casa da Musica
- Day trips: Porto serves as a terrific base for any number of day trips. There’s Braga to the north, with its awe-inspiring churches; college-town Coimbra to the southeast, boasting a bustling nightlife scene; and Aveiro, known as the “Venice of Portugal” for its meandering canals. But if time is at a premium, the most worthwhile excursion from Porto is Guimarães, the cradle of modern Portuguese civilization, where the first king of Portugal was baptized in the 13th century
- Miradouro da Serra do Pilar
Restaurants and Food
- Port wine
- Mercado do Bolhao*
- O Diplomata
- Chocolate bars, bonbons, and truffles from Equador
- Adega Sao Nicolau – octopus fillets with rice
- Taste the best francesinha in town at Café Santiago
- Eat the best hot-dog in town at Snack-Bar Gazela
- Have a fine dining meal at Euskalduna Studio
- Visit the carnivore paradise: Terminal 4450
- Try the Francesinha -It’s a type of sandwich stuffed with different meats and covered with melted cheese and a spicy sauce, whose secret recipe will never be revealed… For a special Francesinha, head to “Café Barcarola” (Rua de Costa Cabral, 213) and ask for the one with prawns and shrimp instead of meat.
- pastéis de Belém
- Vila Nova de Gaia district*
- Travel back in time to the Portuguese Belle Époque
- Galeria de Paris area and nearby streets
- Porto’s Ribeira is one of the most popular neighborhoods, lined with café after restaurant after café and offering spectacular views, including sunsets over Porto’s bridges
- Start with a cauldron of fiery and satisfying pica-pau— a saucy, deconstructed francesinha—at Zázá, a gastropub by Aliados metro station. Then meander down to Cantina 32, a relative newcomer on the scene that could pass as a Williamsburg or Kreuzberg hotspot, if it wasn’t for its predominantly Portuguese cuisine that runs the gamut from bacalhau à bras (a salt-cod) and shoestring potato scramble to a surprisingly delicious amuse-bouche of country bread spread with banana butter
- André Silva’s Largo do Paço
- Rua Galeria de Paris*
- Taberna Santo Antonio
- Taberna dos Esquecidos
- Cafe: Cafe Majestic (one of the oldest)
- The Yeatman*
- Pedro Lemos*
- Casa de Cha da Boa Nova*
- ODE Porto Winehouse
- Restaurante Cafeina
- Casa da Horta
- O Gaveto (seafood)*
- Casa D’oro (romance)
- O Comercial
- Bufete Fase
- O Paparico* (modern Portuguese)
- O Valentim
- Adega Sao Nicaulau
- A Marisqueira de Matosinhos (seafood)
- Grelhador da Boavista
- Tavi (breakfast)
- Euskalduna Studio
- DOP (a little out of the way)
- Brasao Coliseu (francesinha)
- Casa Alexio
- Ask for a beer at Bonaparte Downtown
- Galerias Paris
- Rua Galeria de Paris*
- Wine cellars: Taylor’s, Croft, Offley