3 days in Oporto, for a taste of Porto

In recent years Porto has become more and more popular with tourists thanks to low-cost flights from Europe, to a point that its recent development has been strictly related to this phenomenon.

As we get out the metro in Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira it feels almost like being in Regent Street in London. The special relationship between Portugal and the United Kingdom dates back to the first peace treaty of 1373, and leaves its traces in architecture too.

If at first sight Porto seems quite rough, especially in the outskirts, in the central areas you’ll find characteristic corners and yummy street food. From bolinho de bacalhau, battered codfish, to sardine paté, not to forget the very typical francesinha, a sandwich made of 8 different types of meat, melted cheese and a secret sauce using beer and/or porto. Every restaurant will tell you theirs is the best! We had francesinha at the food festival of Jardim de Sao Lazaro, taking place in August, and loved it, especially after an iced caipirinha.

Not far from here we’d recommend going to Casa Kanimanbo in Rua de Augusto Rosa 32, an old-style cafe that’s probably been exactly as it is for decades (including the man at the counter!), for a favourite-between-locals bolinho de bacalhau or tasty bread and tripe: sounds scary but it’s actually tasty.

Finding out where locals love eating, in spite of ending up in restaurants often catering solely for tourists, it’s definitely one of our favourite part of a trip: and yes we have been eating quite consistently!

If you have enough of town, go to Foz du Duoro, where river Douro meets the Atlantic ocean. At the lighthouse you can peer at fishermen trying their luck, and relax looking at waves crashing incessantly on the walkway. On the way back at sunset the atmosphere towards town is peaceful and the landscape turns evocative.

In full touristy swing is also the town south of Douro river, Vila Nova de Gaia, simply called Gaia. Originally an industrial settlement to store Porto, its cellars have now converted to welcoming visitors for wine tastings. From Gaia it’s possible to get on a cable car taking you right back to the south side of Dom Luis I Bridge, connecting Gaia to Porto.

For tasting and getting to know more about this world-famous wine, it’s definitely worth going to the Douro Valley. For who doesn’t have a few days on their hands to explore this region given its vastness, it’s possible to join an organised tour that allows you to have a glimpse of it in one day. Alternatively you can rent a car and go on your own although roads are quite twisted so you risk loosing time.

The highlight of the days in Porto are without a doubt visiting estate Quinta do Tedo in Douro Valley. They offer a very informative guided tour of the cellar in English, as well as tasting of premium quality Porto.They show you how the production takes place, and explain the difference between a Tawny and Ruby, for example, or what does it take to make a vintage Porto etc.

We bought Tawny Porto from the vineyard: opening up the bottle after months of this experience was totally reminiscent of being there and magically brought back the same images, smells and flavours.

From Porto we collected our rented car and headed towards Cabo da Roca, the most Westerner point in continental Europe, and home to an important lighthouse.

 

 

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