Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Visit Porto in 48 hours

If you're visiting Portugal soon and you're wondering what cities to visit and how to split your time, this is the read for you. Of course, people have different interests and are in different state of minds when they visit a place thus perceptions are subjective. My personal preference is Porto; it's small and cozy, and a lot can be done in 48 hours.  One thing for sure though, I wish I had even more time in Portugal to explore more of the country, it certainly is a beautiful one. Keep an eye for Lisbon post coming soon.

Porto - July 2016

Recommended Trip Duration

Based on my own experience, 7 days days felt a bit short for all of Portugal. If you're planning to cover the major cities, Lisbon and Porto, then you should aim for 10 days total as it will be at least 2-3 days each, and some day trips to the likes of Peniche, Algarve, Cascais, Sintra...

 Praça da Liberdade - Porto
Vibrant yet cozy city of Porto

Transport in and out of Porto

  • Transport from Lisbon to Porto: I was in Peniche and wanted to go to Porto, however, whether you're taking the train (AP) or the Rede Express bus, you still have to come back to Lisbon and take the second leg from there. I booked my hotels per city first, and then realized the mess I made. 
    • My recommendation would be to check transport timings first and then book cities accordingly. 
    • And if you're 2+ people, I highly recommend renting a car. It's much more convenient and saves a lot of time.
  • Transport in Porto: Porto is quite walkable, but if you want to sit and enjoy the scenery, you can rent tuktuks or bicyles / tricycles, hop on hop off site-seeing bus, hop on the old line of tram from near the river that takes you all the way to the port, it's quite a scenic journey. 
Interior of the very old tram operating beside the river

Accommodation

Stay near the city center or close to the river. I was staying in a refurbished 3 apartment building called ExtendALL, I recommend it with all my heart, the interior design of the building and the studio apartments is worth it, and you get to have a very interesting view overseeing quite a typical Portuguese street. I was 5 minutes away from the center, 7 minutes away from old town, and 3 minutes away from River. Moreover, staying in an apartment always has an advantage over hotels, as you feel more at home, with your kitchen, can cook and do laundry if needed. I did laundry and well... I had them dry on the balcony!

How cool is this welcome? This is in ExtendALL apartments in Porto
So cool right? ExtendAll in Porto
Smart use of space in the apartment in ExtendAll
White building left of picture, second floor :) Cannot get any more home-y than this!

Things to do

 

Walking tours:
As usual I always try to start with a walking tour as you hear it firsthand from a local, specially when I am in a city I know nothing about (and sometimes I like to keep it that way so I discover it on the go). Evidently, bring water with you and a fruit or snack, wear comfortable shoes, put sunscreen on (ended up with a red nose and quite a tan), and carry a light cloth to sit on if you get tired. And please please, leave at least 10€ as a tip, this is the main source of income for these guys and they talk for 3 hours non-stop!



Porto walking tour (afternoon), this is the end of it, 2 minutes away from my apartment. Super convenient.
Had a lot of fun with Porto Walkers - this is the morning tour
Walking during the walking tour of Porto Walkers in Porto

I went with Porto Walkers; I loved their afternoon walking tour so much to the point that I came again the following morning as the morning walk covers a different part of the city. If I had more time in Porto would've joined the rest of their tours which include a wine tour and a pub crawl. Some of the stories that I heard on the tour:
So Porto has 2 churches separated by the narrowest house. Reason behind that was to make sure there was no communication of the worldly kind between the nuns of the Carmelite Church (Baroque architecture) and the monks at the Carmo Church, as well as the fact a certain unwritten law stated that no two churches should share a wall in common.
Look out for the monastery turned train station "Sáõ Bento", where they had to wait for all the nuns to die before being able to convert it.
Carmelite Church and Carmo Church
One of the most beautiful wall art you can see in a train station - Sáõ Bento
Sáõ  Bento

And the tour guide will do the next best thing at the end, and that is to take you to a secret place where you will have the best chocolate cake on earth.

That secret chocolate cake place in Porto

The actual famous chocolate cake


Boat Cruise (Porto): Well they're known for their 7 bridges, and what better to see a bridge than from underneath? To get a ticket, just show up to the river and you will find many people selling cruise tickets, find the time that suits you. I believe all cruises do the same thing, so no need to worry about which company you pick.

7 bridges Boat Cruise - Porto



Known as Eiffel bridge in Porto, Eiffel from Eiffel tour, unfortunately it seems like he took credit for somebody else's work


Fado Music: Fado means fate or destiny, and is the music and the soul of Portugal. How do you find the right soul music? This is a tricky one because you might not land on a good one or you might find one and not be sure if it's good or not. Happened to me in Lisbon where I kept feeling that the 2 guitars weren't going together. Until I saw one in Porto, the 2 guitars (classic and Portuguese) complimented each other perfectly and were even outperformed by the amazing voice and feeling of the singer. She was extraordinary and full of emotions (in a good way), here is a video of her mesmerizing singing. The place I went to and recommend is Casa da Mariquinhas. The walk there is beautiful, try to go there a bit after sunset time and you get a treat of a view just before you get to the place. You wouldn't stumble on this place by coincidence, so enjoy and you're welcome.


Fado at Casa da Mariquinhas - Porto
Windows and doors under the Porto sunset


Places to visit:
  • Tram River Line: As I mentioned in Transport section, you can catch the river Tram line for a nice ride by the river until you reach the port, over there you can have really good fresh fish from small low-key restaurants.
  • Lello Library: This is the famous bookstore that inspired the Harry Potter library. It's very pretty indeed, unfortunately it is packed with tourists (guilty as charged) and you won't be able to take a proper photo of it. Interesting story here, after J.K. Rowling made this library famous, the bookstore started getting a lot of visitors, but not increase in profit, so they decide to charge entrance! Good news though, you can use the entrance fees to redeem inside the bookstore and buy a nice souvenir to a book worm or harry potter fan you know.
  • Wine Tasting: As I mentioned, you could do a wine tasting tour, but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to do it. Or you can find a local wine shop to try out different wines. 
The Wine Box - Porto

Lello Library (aka Harry Potter bookstore)
Luckily got a misty view of the port and the end of the river in Porto

Local Food & Drinks:


  • Fish: Always ask for the catch of the day, you're in for a treat.
  • Port Wine: So this wine is a bit sweet, I wasn't a big fan of it, but some people really like it. Click here to learn more on how it's made.
  • Pastel de Nata: this was my favorite, it's a dessert with.... Just please try it! I had several of these every day, in fact I used to pack these with me for my walking tours, and eat them before or after lunch... yeah let's just say I didn't lose weight on that trip even after all this walking :)
The place where I had the below amazing fish - Porto

Yeah, Yum! Porto
 I bid you farewell till the next one with few more pictures From Porto with Funk :)

Apparently Majestic Cafe is the one of oldest cafés in Porto due to its "Belle epoque-era"

Ask about the story / myth of the Rooster in Porto :)


Tetris - Porto
Porto
This is on the other side of the river, a city known Gaia facing Porto
It's like a work of chaotic art - Porto

Until the next destination #FromPortoWithFunk

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