Portugal shares two things with Spain: one is a border, the second is wine. Other than that, these countries have more differences than you might think.
After spending a week in Barcelona, we flew into the small, charming, coastal city in Portugal, simply called Porto. Now you probably have heard the word "port" before. Port is also the name of a wine that comes from this region of Portugal, and like every good story, ours starts with wine.
We are not wine experts, but we sure do like to drink, and when it comes to wine, Portugal has some of the best wines in the world.
Porto is famous for port wine (red or white, sweet dessert wine) which is delicious , but you should also try Vinho verde (fresh white wine, low in alcohol, which is a bummer but it's still delicious!). Porto blends of Vinho verde: rosé or red, are also very good!
Plus, wine is almost as cheap as water here. You can get a very good bottle of wine at a store for about 3 euros. So drink wine all day long!
What to do, see, and eat
Porto is full of old historical buildings and museums, which are very easy to find on Trip Advisor or similar websites. We have some great off the beaten path tips to share with you but before we get to that, here are some of the more obvious activities that we actually loved:
The "hop-on, hop-off" tour bus is a really good deal. You can get a 2 day pass for 15 euros. The bus will take you to the most iconic places, and if you are planning on spending a day at the beach the bus stops there too. We found it to be more cost effective than buying public bus tickets to all these places.
- Ingreja do Carmo - an incredible Rococo style church built in the XVIII century. The entrance is free.
- Igreja dos Clerigos church - free entrance to visit the church. For about 3 euros you can climb the tower Torre dos Clerigos to see the view of the city
- Serralves museum - the entry is kind of expensive, about 10 euros/per person, but it is really worth visiting. It's an impressive museum with modern art, some provocative art installations and beautiful gardens surrounding the premises. If you can, plan to spend the whole day at the museum and the park. The park is huge, with many gardens and shaded areas to sit down and have lunch. It's a great spot for wine drinking and a picnic!
Our favorite part of the museum was the art installation made by kids on the second floor. The subject was "Body Images, and what role it plays in our society". It is absolutely brilliant and moving to see what these kid-artists came up with and hopefully we all learn from them that body is only what carries your soul.
The Serralves gardens
- Bairro Herculano
This is the more "off the beaten path" guide to Porto.
Walk to the little district of Porto, called Bairro Herculano. This is a non-touristy area with cute, little houses, that were built between 1880 and 1886, originally for the working class. These two-story dwellings, were designed with communal restrooms, showers and an outdoor laundry facility, where women used to wash clothes. At that time these houses were considered very luxurious compared to the rest of the working suburbs.
This is a great neighborhood with amazing photo opportunities. If you visit Bairro Herculano, just be mindful and respectful. People who live in this quiet neighborhood, are not used to seeing many tourists wandering through the streets.
When you are done in Barrio Herculano cross the Ponto Do Infante bridge to see the spectacular view of the city and walk over to the other side of Porto. You will find yourself walking on a small road Cabo Simao, along the Duro river. There is a really cool abandoned church and Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, with more spectacular views of the city.
- Afurada Village
Afurada is a small fishing village about 4 km (one way) from the D. Luís Bridge. It's a bit of a walk, but this is where you can get the best fish in town and a big carafe of chilled vinho verde. The prices are much better than in the center of Porto. Along the way, you can see the locals literally fishing their dinner in the river. Afurada is very authentic and you won't find many tourists here. There is also another public laundry facility here, that is sill very much in use by the local gals.
If you don't feel like walking back to Porto, you can take bus #14 that will drop you off near the D. Luis Bridge.
TIP: You can also rent bikes near the Trindade Metro station if you'd like to cruise here by bike!
Francesinha is a dish made with bread, loaded with meats, covered with melted cheese and topped with spicy tomato sauce and served with french fries. OMG!!
What you don't want to miss in Porto is the famous "Francesinha" dish. You will see that every restaurant in Porto serves it. Francesinha is EVERYWHERE!! We thought we could get it in other parts of Portugal too. Well, it turns out that Francesinha originally comes from Porto and it is hard to find an authentic one in other cities. Apparently, the secret is in the sauce and even Portuguese will tell you that the best Francesinha is in Porto. So make sure to try one before leaving!!
Food in Afurada Village
We had a lovely lunch at Casa do F.C Port. Fried fish and a vegan lunch: potatoes drenched with olive oil and garlic plus fresh tomato salad. We drank vinho verde and cold beers. It was a perfection!
Casa do F.C Porto, address: R. Antonio dos Santos 90, Sao Pedro da Afurada, Portugal
An evening in Miramar near Porto
OK, so this is technically a bit outside of Porto, but we highly recommend that you take the local train to Miramar, where you can watch the sunset on a beach. There is also a beautiful old chapel on the beach over there. The sunset was breath taking. Just don't forget to bring a bottle of wine!
The Tipsy Gypsies would like to thank our Airbnb host Dorta Woicka who shared some of these of the beaten path places.
Looking for more inspiring ideas for Porto? Check out this article from our friends at The Crazy Tourist!