Last month, we had the opportunity to do two wedding events in Portugal. It was such an amazing and surreal experience and we felt so honoured and blessed to be part of those events. After all the hard work, it was time to play! As we both like to travel and eat, we decided to stay a few days after our work to enjoy ourselves and have some fun.
Porto or Oporto is the second largest city in Portugal and it’s filled with delicious food and breathtaking views. Located along the coast with its beautiful natural surroundings, plenty of historical architectures, and charming little streets that seem to weave itself seamlessly into the surroundings, it’s easy to see why this is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. Everyone we met there was so friendly and easy-going and it definitely made our stay more relaxing and enjoyable. We’ve stopped by Porto a few years ago for a quick visit, but we didn’t have the chance to really see and explore the city and what it has to offer. So this time, we wanted to walk around the city and have a better look at this port city.
If you google or ask for advice from friends on what tourists should do when they visit Porto, I’m sure everyone has a different list. Some people like to visit only a few locations and spending time getting to know that place. Others might like to visit as many places as possible and they go through all the places on their checklist. For us, we wanted to have a relaxing time – trying some good food and seeing a few must-see places in Porto. Porto is a city where it’s easy to go from one point to another by foot, so we walked through most of the city centre and visited the places we thought would be interesting for us to see. Let us show you the 5 places we went to explore in our self created walking tour.
1. São Bento Railway Station
We decided to start at one of Porto’s famous landmarks and must-see places: the São Bento Railway Station. This 19th century railway station, located in the historical district, was designed by a José Marques da Silva, a local Porto architect. Through the tall arched doorways at the front of the building, you will find yourself in a large area with walls covered in the azulejo tiles. These tiles give the distinctive blue and white colours to the station while depicting battle scenes and stories of the history of Portugal.
With the high ceilings and decorative moulding and art work all around, it gives this station a very grand and airy feeling. As this place is quite popular with tourist and locals traveling to and from other places, it can get very crowded. If you would like to spend more time looking at the tiles and also take some pictures without people pushing to get past you, I would suggest visiting this location on a Sunday morning where it tends to be quieter and less crowded.
2. Rua Das Flores
Leading up to the São Bento Railway Station is a pedestrian street called Rua Das Flores. Traditionally it was a street for goldsmiths and jewellers, but it is now home to modern and traditional shops. This charming little street seem to have taken us back in time and overall the designs are quite representative of the city and the facades of the buildings are quite interesting. There are some buildings who are a touch more modern with its windows and terraces covered in bright colour flowers. Along this street, there are plenty of street performers and artists selling their creations, as well as cafes with plenty of seats outside for you to enjoy the beautiful weather and entertainment.
3. Cantina 32
Walking along Rua Das Flores, we came to the first restaurant we wanted to try, Cantina 32. When we are traveling, we try to find places where the locals like to frequent which will give us a better experience of that city’s culture and society. We came to this restaurant after doing some research and we were pleasantly surprised there were more locals than tourists – definitely our kind of place to visit.
Entering into the restaurant, we saw that the waiting area was filled with a collection of eclectic items such as old bottles, a typewriter, and a piano against the wall. While the polished concrete walls throughout the room give off an industrial chic feeling, it is warmed by the sunlight that streams in through the skylight windows. We started our meal with a bread basket that is served with an interesting homemade banana butter as well as traditional Portuguese beans and olives. For our main dish, we both chose their popular crispy pork sandwich. With succulent pieces of roasted pork and caramelized onions between a toasty bun, it was a wonderful match.
4. Ponte D. Luís I (Dom Luís I Bridge)
After the delicious meal, we walked down to the bankside area with plenty of shops and stalls to visit. Along the bankside is also home to one of the most famous icons in Porto, the Ponte D. Luís I (Dom Luís I Bridge). This arched double deckered bridge stretches across the River Douro, and is used not only by cars and pedestrians, but also the Porto Metro Train. As we were exploring and staying on the Porto side, we decided to walk across the bridge to the other side, Vila Nova de Gaia. After crossing and standing on the other side, we had a stunning view of the Porto bankside. If you are looking for a beautiful backdrop of Porto to use when taking pictures, we will highly recommend this location. You might also catch some young people taking heartstopping plunges into the river from the top of the bridge, at 60m (190ft).
5. Majestic Cafe
As you may know from our previous blog posts, we love finding different cafes when we are traveling. While we like to visit restaurants that aren’t very touristy, we decided to visit a well known tourist location, Majestic Cafe. Known as one of the most beautiful cafes in the world, where it was once a gathering place for the elites, we had to come and experience it in person. Stepping through the big wooden doors, was like stepping through a time machine and we could almost feel all the history that has taken place here. With intricate decor from walls and ceilings to the chairs that we sat on, the cafe is filled with 1920s glamour. We especially love the small terrace at the back that is ideal for those looking for a quieter area.
So those were our 5 places we visited on our own created walking tour of Porto, and we are so glad we had the chance to do that. By walking through these places, experiencing the cobble stone roads, the steep and winding streets going up and down the hills, it gave us a better sense and grasp of all the various areas and secret places in the city. We would love to come back in the future to see some other places on our list, and perhaps next time, we will venture a little farther out of the city center to see other points of interests.
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