I have arrived in Porto. Technically I started my Portugal adventures here but quickly made my way into the Douro Valley for a couple of days of wine tasting, river cruising and sleeping in some very impressive winery hotels. It has been an epic adventure so far and it is not even over. For my last 48 hours in Porto, I plan on exploring the city by foot, eating more great food including Porto’s own signature sandwich, and touring three major institutions that cover commerce, art and music. Oh, I almost forgot the drink that made the city famous. Port. I plan on drinking lots of Port and touring one of the main Port Houses that can trace its history back to 1692. Stretchy pants and walking shoes are on. Let the adventures begin.
First, let me start off with where I chose to stay for my 48 hours in Porto. As part of my Air Canada Vacations Europe Your Way package, I’ve selected the Eurostars Das Artes. Pretty good location paired with affordability and nicely appointed rooms mean I give this location two thumbs up. Breakfast was included on both days and just like everywhere I went the coffee was superb!
Now that my sleeping arrangements are taken care of I’m off to explore the city by foot. Porto is a very walkable city and the historic old town even more so.
The first thing you’ll notice is the amazing array of well-preserved buildings and churches that date back over 100 years. The Igreja do Carmo is a Catholic church in the baroque style that stands and has a very famous tile facade. I particularly loved the water fountain across the street from it.
A short walk from here is the Livraria Lello. Quite possibly the most famous bookstore in the world, it was often a favourite place to visit and shop of JK Rowlings as she was writing the Harry Potter series. The architecture of the building is the inspiration for Hogwarts School of Magic and a step inside makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the movie.
Engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves designed the space as it is known today and when the doors opened in 1906 it made as big a splash as it does today to the thousands of visitors that pass through its doors every day. PRO TIP: The cost to enter Livraria Lello is 5 Euros but you get it back if you purchase a book from the store, It is a bookstore after all.
Directly across the street from Livraria Lello is a cool and unique string of shops. From the historic bookstore to the ultra-modern Praca de Lisboa complete with green roofs, coffee shops (Costa) and a Lacoste store.
From here we turn towards the river and walk past the Palacio Da Bolsa. The centre of commerce for Porto dating back over 100 years I will be back tomorrow for a guided tour.
The hot spot for all visitors has to be the waterfront. The city is built right up to the edge of the Douro River with a wide boardwalk and cafes and restaurants all along the way. It is only the beginning of the tourist season and already this part of town is packed.
From here you can walk along the river until you get to Ponte Luis I bridge. An arched bridge that connects Porto to Vila Nove de Gaia where all the major Port houses are located. This bridge is iconic and offers some amazing views of Porto. A must walk when you are here.
This is just a taste of what’s in store for your eyes when you walk the streets of Porto. My next story will focus on a cultural tour of Porto at three major attractions.
Also to follow is a story on the places I ate at during my 48 hours in Porto. A lot can happen in such a short visit.