Tuesday, 31 October 2017

3 Days in Porto

At the end of our magical week and a half in Lisbon back in June, we boarded a train and headed to Porto. I didn't really have any expectations for Porto, and after absolutely loving Lisbon I was hoping that the end of our trip would be just as amazing. Well, as soon as we arrived in Porto I knew that this city was special.

Porto is a much, much smaller city compared to Lisbon. I think that three days was the perfect amount of time for Dylan and I to explore the city. However, if you don't have much time, I think that you could easily take in the city in 2 days, or even 1 if you're just passing through.

Day 1

After checking into our Airbnb and freshening up, we headed out to explore the city. Our apartment was right in the city centre, making it the perfect home base. Right around the corner was Igreja do Carmo, which has a beautiful blue tiled wall, and it was certainly a good indication of the beauty of Porto.

Igreja do Carmo Porto

My top priority for our time in Porto was to visit the Dom Luís I Bridge, and I'm sure that it tops most traveller's Porto itineraries. The two story bridge connects the cities of Porto and Gaia over the Douro River. We walked across the upper level of the bridge, stopping to take in the views of the river. We crossed over to Gaia, and bought some super cheap churros and ate them in Jardim do Morro. It was a beautiful early Summer afternoon, and it was really nice to just sit back and enjoy the sunshine.

Dom Luís I Bridge Porto

Douro River Porto
View of Porto & the Douro River from Dom Luís I Bridge

We then crossed back over the bridge and explored Porto a bit further. We stumbled upon a Fado performance, where locals were sitting on church steps and the singers were on an apartment balcony. At this moment in time I felt completely immersed in Portuguese culture, as Dylan and I listened to the beautiful Fado music, and danced in the streets of Porto. 

Fado Music Porto

Day 2 started off with a visit to Mercado do Bolhão, a fruit market. I picked up some local produce, and Dylan bought some olives, which locals seemed to be snacking on. 

Mercado do Bolhão Porto

Mercado do Bolhão Porto

Livraria Lello was Dylan's must-see spot in Porto. This bookstore is so popular partly because it's absolutely stunning, and partly because J. K. Rowling spent quite a bit of time here while she lived in Port in the 90's. We passed by this bookstore a few times before we finally realized that it would always be busy, and that we should just face the crowds and go in. You do need to buy a ticket to enter Livraria Lello, but you can use the cost of entry towards a book, which both Dylan and I ended up doing. The red winding staircase is stunning, and the wooden details add to charm of the shop. I've read online that photos are prohibited, but this definitely wasn't the case when I visited in June 2017. 

Livraria Lello Porto

Livraria Lello Ceiling

After wandering around the city for the afternoon, we found our way to Park Palacio De Cristal just before it closed. We were able to walk around the front of the park, and we caught sight of a few wild peacocks before they flew into the treetops for the night. I knew that I wanted to explore the park further, so Dylan and I vowed to return the next day. 

Park Palacio De Cristal

Day 3

As promised, we returned to Park Palacio De Cristal in the morning, and we spent a few hours slowly wandering throughout the park. There were peacocks, chickens, roosters, ducks, and more. There were quite a few momma peacocks with their babies, which were incredibly adorable. The park is beautifully maintained, and offers beautiful views of the Douro River. 

Park Palacio De Cristal

Park Palacio De Cristal

We then strolled back over to the Douro River, where we decided to buy tickets for a river cruise. There were a few different companies offering boat rides, and we just went with the cheapest option as we weren't too picky. Our boat ride lasted about an hour, and it was a great way to see the city from a different view point. 

Douro River Cruise

Once we were back on land, we spent a few hours browsing the shops along the Douro River, picking up souvenirs for our family and friends back home. We crossed the city for our last dinner in Porto at Lupin Restaurante, where we ordered vegan versions of Porto's famous francesinhas and pastel de natas for dessert. I'm going to be sharing my top vegan restaurants in Porto in a separate blog post, but Lupin was definitely a stand out! 

Dom Luís I Bridge at Night

After dinner we headed back to the Douro River to see the Dom Luís I Bridge by night. Porto is such a delightful city by day, but it's absolutely charming by night. I felt very safe in Porto, the locals were incredibly kind and welcoming. Dylan actually accidentally left his wallet on a bench after we finished eating lunch, and a local construction worker ran it over to us! While Lisbon is a fun and vibrant city, I was definitely always aware of my surroundings, and even had to swat away a pickpocket for the first time in my life! In contrast, in Porto I felt a sense of security and calmness that comes naturally with a smaller city. After a busy 10 days in Lisbon, it was really nice to end our vacation in Porto. 3 days was the perfect amount of time for us to leisurely explore Porto, recharge our batteries, and get ready for the transition back to working life. 

Porto Portugal

I went into our time in Porto with almost no expectations, and I'll be honest: Porto was a bit of an afterthought once I already planned out our time in Lisbon. However, I'm so, so glad that we were able to squeeze a few days in Porto into our Portugal itinerary.

Have you been to Porto? Did you love this charming city as much as I did?

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