Before the pandemic I had the privilege to travel lots in Europe while living in Madrid. One of my shortest by very memorable trips was to Portugal. On February 15, 2020, I travelled with two friends/roommates whom I was very compatible in terms of travelling style. We flew from Madrid to Porto around 9 am (the flight is 1 hour and 15 minutes, but with the time change you lose almost no time!). This was a weekend trip, we left Saturday morning and returned early on Monday with the hope of making it back before our classes. With plans to see both Porto and Lisbon, we had no time to waste.
We arrived in Porto and took the metro into the city. We stopped first at our Airbnb, then took an Uber into the city centre. The Uber was very affordable (3.80 euros), much less than we were used to in Spain.
Our first tourist destination was Igreja dos Carmelitas, an iconic church covered in blue and white tiles along the side. We took in the view across the street first, then crossed to take in the tile art up close.
Next, we walked to the Clérigos Tower, a baroque-style bell tower that is open to the public to climb and take in the view from above. The line was long as we were here at mid-day (around 1 pm). Tickets to the tower were 6 euros per person. We climbed the 225 steps to the top and we breathless from the exertion and the view! You are able to circle around the top of the tower and enjoy a 360° view of the city. The steps do get quite narrow in spots and occasionally it is difficult to maneuver around those trying to get back down, so stay patience and courteous of others through this area, especially near the top of the tower. This may not be the best stop for you if you are uncomfortable with confined spaces.
After the tower we wandered around to find lunch. We ate at a small, but busy restaurant serving many Portuguese dishes. I tried one of their fish plates, but I wasn’t a huge fan. That being said, fish are something I keep trying to pretend to like while travelling, but I am really a full vegetarian at heart.
After lunch we stopped to get dessert from the cutest ice cream shop called Santini’s. It’s a two minute walk from Clérigos Tower on Largo dos Lóios street and was absolutely delicious.
Once we were finished our ice creams, we walked to Livraria Lello, which has been named the most beautiful bookstore in the world. The unique central staircase and stained glass ceiling are certainly eye-catching, but there is also a significant selection of books available in many languages. In order to enter the bookstore you must purchase a ticket (5 euros per person). These tickets can be used towards any in-store purchases. We found the store to be busy, but manageable. Due to its popularity on social media, it can definitely become overcrowded at times. If this is on your must-do list, you may want to try to avoid peak times.
Our next stop was Ponte Luis I, or the Luis I Bridge. This bridge connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. After walking across the top level of the bridge (shared pedestrian walkway and metro line), we decided to splurge on the Teleférico de Gaia, a cable car that brought us down to the walkway along the river (from Jardim do Morro station to Cais de Gaia station). We could have walked down to the riverside, but the cable car gave us a great view as we decided into the valley, and the tickets were 6 euros per person.
After a short walk along the river, we found our way to Burmester Winery which still had spots open in their Spanish tour. We chose the “Classic Tour” which included two Port wines and the tour itself, which cost 13 euros per person. We toured around and learned about the wine, pretending to understand the intricacies of wine making and tasting as if we weren’t all university students on a budget. We were the youngest members of our tour group by far, but we still enjoyed the experience (and the tasting, though the wine was a little sweeter than we were used to).
When the tour concluded, we walked back across Ponte Luis I, this time along the lower deck. We walked on the Porto side of the river, where a few artisans had set up shop. We ate at a restaurant along the river just after 8 pm, where we were each able to get a great meal for between 12-18 euros. Then called an Uber to get back to the Airbnb (4.93 euros). We had an early morning ahead of us.
Part 2 will cover Lisbon. Stay tuned!