This year for my birthday – a birthday that put me markedly in the late twenties category for the first time – rather than Mark buying me a present, I asked to be taken on a trip somewhere. The plan was for it to be a surprise, but a few weeks out I caved and needed to know where we were going – a girl’s got to know what to pack, right?!
When I was told Porto, Portugal was the contender, I was immediately excited. Going to Portugal would round out my visits of all the western European countries (except for microstates like San Marino) – but more importantly, I have a great appreciation for wine – and particularly port wine.
Porto, Portugal is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, situated along the Douro River in northern Portugal. The city is characterized by its colorful tiled buildings, stone architecture, hilly streets, and fresh seafood. The historical core of Porto, Cais da Ribeira, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A winter visit meant that temperatures were mild, which was perfect for our wanderings around the port cellars of the city. Across the Douro River from Porto is an area called Vila Nova de Gaia, where the port – named after the city – wine cellars are located.
So, how did I like it? I was surprised and loved Porto. What surprised me about Porto is that I feel like it’s greatly underrated – it’s a city with so much to offer, but isn’t as common as Lisbon or Algarve on the tourist path.
And, so much made it easy to love…From this square punctuated by the Fonte dos Leões (Fountain of the Lions), palm trees, and tiled buildings.
To the interior of São Bento Train Station, with its azulejo tiles depicting stories celebrating the history and culture of Portugal.
And Ponte Luís I bridge, the most famous of the six bridges that span the Douro River.
The historical UNESCO World Heritage Cais da Ribeira district as seen from across the Douro River.
And a vibrant, modern mural in a city square.
Stone buildings tucked in the passageways of Vila Nova de Gaia, with hidden port cellars abound.
The cellars of Taylor’s Port Wine, where the sweet aroma of fortified wine permeates the air.
A delicious white to red port flight at Ramos Pintos.
And the night sights as we headed to Restaurant Flor des Congregados for Portuguese fare.
Have you ever been to Porto? What would inspire you to go?