Porto has been on my list for years. I will admit that it partially made it on the list because its a photographers dream but there is so much more to this riverside city then just beautiful blue tiled buildings (although they certainly add to the charm). I studied viticulture (wine) at university and I love the history and tradition that goes into the creation of a bottle, having already explored some of the wine hubs around Europe Porto was my next step to learn all about the production of Port and as a side bonus my cousin was also in Porto at the same time.
I arrived in Porto for four days after a 10 hour long bus ride from Santander. This seems insane but it was honestly the easiest way to get from Spain to Porto along the northern coast because all the trains come inland first. My bus dropped me just up a hill from where I was staying, it had been a long day sitting inside which made the spectacular sunset that I was greeted with on my way from the bus stop to my accommodation even more gratifying.
I’ll admit that I basically wrote that first night off, I was absolutely knackered, somehow a day of doing nothing can leave you exhausted. I wandered around the old church grabbed a quick bite to eat and then headed to bed to wake up early to explore the city.
I woke up and went on the hunt for some breakfast and exploring may have been slightly delayed when I stumbled upon and amazing Australian style brunch spot Zenith. In my defence I had been travelling around Spain for over a week where breakfast consists of pastries or bread so I could not pass up the opportunity for a good hearty brunch, especially not one that serves Spanish eggs.
From Zenith, I headed off to explore the rest of the city. First on my list was a view point but I got distracted when I stumbled upon my first beautiful blue tiled church (this is actually two churches that have been fighting over being the tallest for a few hundred years)
If the beautiful blue tiles weren’t enough there was also beautiful street art on the corners and facades painted with incredible detail
Back on track, I finally found a view point, Porto is a hilly city so if you manage to find what the locals call a mirror point you should have a great view over the city. I did a little bit of research and then stumbled around until I hit a dead end with a view and to top it off there was even a busker playing pachelbels canon so all the love birds that were gawking at the view could add an extra touch of romance to their moment.
From the viewpoint I wandered down, all roads in Porto lead to the Douro river and that is where I was headed for my next stop. If you are looking for fresh seafood for dinner then any of the restaurants on the Porto side of the river are a good bet and decently priced, if you cross the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, you will pay significantly more for your Arroz de Polvo (octopus and rice) and vino verde.
By this point I’d managed to make a friend, Molly, we wandered around for the afternoon with no particular purpose meandering up and down the hills of Porto. By the end of the day I felt as though I hadn’t put a particularly large dent in exploring Porto even though we had covered a fair amount of ground geographically.
To make up for it we went to a traditional restaurant tascö and sampled the cod which is a local delicacy- personally I didn’t love it but I am not a massive fish eater in the first place.
After dinner we decided to find a hole in the wall for another glass or two of wine, we proceeded up the smallest street we could find in the hope of stumbling upon something local and it was a success! Seated at a little table we chatted to the locals and drank our green wine until closing time, which was long enough that another friend from Santander managed to get dinner and then come and join us.
The following morning I woke up early and headed out to take some photos while the city was asleep and then quick trip to the bakery to grab a Portuguese tart to nibble on on our way up the Clergios tower.
While there is a great view over the city, this is probably an attraction that is not worth the 5 euros it costs. You can access the church for free during the day, I even accidentally stumbled into it mid service as they were saying the Lord’s Prayer (I assume since I do not speak Portuguese, the tempo was correct for it to be the Our Farther)
After wandering around the Baroque style church and up through the cloisters, visitors are ushered into a line in a rather small hot and smelly room that has a few small fans, we then waited in line for about 15 minutes moving sporadically at random intervals before we were ushered up a narrow flight of stairs (think heading up the Notre Dame) after weaving and winding around a very old staircase in a group of about 15 we were shepherded out onto the view point where it was so narrow everyone had to move in a line and you could not possibly have gone back the way you came as you’d have to literally crawl over another person.
After a few minutes on this first balcony there was further shepherding up another flight of teeny tiny stairs to the top. The view from here was significantly better however it still has nothing on the other view points around the city. Again the time you get to spend up here is cut short by the attendant who is ready to herd you around and down the same flight of stairs but this time all the way to the bottom to the same point you were 45 minutes earlier but now your 5 euros poorer.
With what is probably the biggest tourist site ticked off the list Molly and I headed off to find some blue walls, first stop was Cappella Das Almas,
(dress is topshop)
(I may have already visited to shoot at about 7am), the blue wall that pictures the death of Fransisco is actually located at the end of the main shopping street Run de Santa Catrina, near the temporarily re located market where you can grab some yummy fresh produce.
We took photos between the pedestrians trying to go about their days and the hordes of cars on their way to what I like to imagine were very important meetings. When I had been there early in the morning while there was a lot less foot traffic I still had to time my self timer with the cars coming past so there really is no perfect time of day to visit. Although Molly ended up with a lady who decided she had found the perfect spot and chose to stand right next to her while I was taking photos from across the street. Thankfully after a polite word we regained a few meters so she could have photos on her own.
We then headed to our second beautiful blue tiled destination the Igerja de Santo ildefonso I had walked past this church a few times and if you follow me on Instagram you would have read that every time I wandered past it was closed, I had never come across a church that had a fence and was locked off from the public before but this one is 99% of the time so when I wandered past on my final day and instead of being a dark and gloomy shadowy place it was as though it had sighed and been greeted with a whole new breath of life by the people that were taking the time to attend the service inside.
From here we headed to a very, very traditional lunch spot Casa Kanimambo. We could order meat or fish, after being shown by the table next to us what each looked like we decided to order one of each so we could try both. The food was amazing, home cooked and really hearty. We paid 6 euros each for our meals which also included a soup starter and a milk jug with Vino Verde in it. I sent my cousin here as well, she went for dinner and they too had the option of meat or fish but it was a different meat and fish but they still really enjoyed it.
After lunch and finishing off our milk jug we wandered down to the main bridge of Porto. The views we’d been promised crossing over to Vila Nova de Gaia were breathtaking.
Or that might have been that fact we were soooooo high and it was windy and people kept pushing. I mean there was a whole wide bridge with only the occasional funicular, there was no need to hurry.
If the steel work of the bridge reminds you of another famous landmark in Paris then you wouldn’t be wrong, the bridge was designed by Gustav Eiffels’ apprentice,
there is an upper and lower level so if you are afraid of heights I’d recommend crossing on the lower level, however you will miss out on the views of Porto and Gaia.
Once we finally made it across the bridge, we actually just sat and looked at Porto for a little while, I think we were still digesting our lunch.
Gaia is where all the port that is made in the wineries of Douro Valley is stored in barrels to age (port does not age in the bottle). When we finally got up to wander around we checked in at some of the big tasting rooms but ultimately decided to try Augustos partially because it was only 5 euros in comparison to the 15-20 that most of the cellar doors charged and also because the guy on the street was nice and came and spoke to us and we weren’t 100% certain of the etiquette of approaching the cellar doors so having someone approach us made it far easier. Or you could just pick a tour and be escorted and educated all in one.
After our port tasting we headed back to the river where my cousin joined us for a sunset picnic and to get organised for the following days trip to the Douro Valley.