Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

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Where to stay: There are a ton of inexpensive and highly rated hostels in Porto, so I really think that’s the way to go in this city.  Porto also really lends itself to social life, and staying in a hostel will make it easier for you to meet people to do things with during the day and at night!  Staying in the historic center is really important in Porto because it will give you the opportunity to walk almost anywhere you need to go (if you don’t mind walking up and down hill A LOT).  I think that anywhere in the center between the Clerigos Tower and the river would give you great access to anything you’d want to see or do, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg!

Where to eat: Cuisine in Porto is really more of an art form than it is a basic human necessity.  With that being said, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of eating at one of the outdoor cafés by the river and never actually experiencing good Portuguese food.  I recommend wandering around near the university (also near the Clerigos Tower) to find some more out-of-the-way spots for your meals.  You may also opt to get a bottle of wine and some snacks and sit under the olive trees next to the tower, it’s clearly a local hangout, and it’s completely beautiful.  I also recommend the restaurant RomeoGiulietta, which I stumbled upon while wandering around.  The food was delicious, as was the wine, and for what you get it wasn’t crazy expensive.  The service was excellent, and the atmosphere was great- a nice hidden treasure.  Fortunately, if you plan it right (read: stay away from tourist traps), none of the food in Porto is very expensive, so this is the city to treat yourself to a nice meal!

What to do: There is an absolute ton to see and do in Porto, aside from soaking up the sun in the summer!  I recommend checking out the Pancho Free Walking Tour on your first day, as the tour guides are truly incredible, and it will give you a great look into the city and an idea of where to go or what to see.  My tour guide was Graca, and I couldn’t possibly have better things to say about her, so if you have the chance, hop on her tour!  After you’ve had a good look at the city on the free walking tour, I’d recommend heading up to the Clerigos Tower for a beautiful view of the old town and gorgeous architecture and rooftops.

It’s likely that you’ll spend most of your time down by the river drinking wine and eating delicious tapas, but I strongly recommend heading across the river to try some port wines in the cellars.  Port wine is actually made in the valley east of Porto, but it’s aged in the cellars across the river from the old town.  I recommend heading to the Croft Port wine cellars, which is the oldest in Porto.  They given an excellent tour of a truly remarkable cellar space, and the tastings are much better than some of the other big names closer to the river.  I wouldn’t recommend going on a wine tour because you’ll have essentially the same experience just visiting Croft as you would if you were on a tour, but you’ll spend a lot less.  If you have your heart set on a tour, the Pancho Wine Tour is a good choice because it’ll bring you to Croft, and then to several wine shops where you’re served tapas, taught about other kinds of wine, and given the chance to chat with your tour-mates.  If you’re just looking for a good glass of wine or a cocktail outside, the Sandeman cellar has an outdoor bar which has great port wine cocktails.  The sangria, in particular, is incredible, so hop on over to drink some Sandeman port mixed with other delicious things.  There are some beaches close to Porto, although if you’re in the city for a few days, I recommend sticking by the river and soaking this gorgeous city’s atmosphere- it’s truly unique and incredible!

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Overall Opinion: My visit to Porto was my first visit to Portugal, and I must say, Porto has stolen my heart.  The city is a beautiful mix of perfectly imperfect architecture and city-scape mixed with amazing wine and food, as well as just an incredible and artistic atmosphere.  The key with Porto is staying in the non-touristy neighborhoods, and you’ll easily be able to find a “local” experience.  I truly loved how this city seemed so perfect in its imperfections; it feels “lived in” and loved.  I highly recommend spending a few days in Porto, it’s hard not to love!

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