Porto, Portugal. A city of beautiful sights, food, and of course Port.

Porto. It is a city we regretted not visiting six years ago when we visited Portugal. Instead, we chose Lisbon which we very much enjoyed.  But now finally, we had time for a five-day visit to Porto.

Apart from escaping a Wellington NZ winter, the main aim was to try the port wines and visit the Douro River, the port wine-growing area inland from Porto.

It was a breeze to travel into Porto from the airport using the metro, and with one change, we exited the metro and were directed around the corner and halfway down a pedestrian street, to within a stone’s throw of our fully equipped, secure apartment with a view over the busy pedestrian shopping street of Santa Catarina. The Hotel do Norte.

Our arrival was a late Sunday night and restaurants were closing. However, Honest Greens

Santa Catarina, only a short stroll from our apartment, was open. Serving large healthy food options with a range of tasty beers and wines.

We like to wander and explore places on foot. Porto is a compact city and made on-foot exploring easy.  The next morning my wandering took me to the Mercado do Bolhao, a glorious produce and food market just around the corner from our accommodation. The distinctive Portugal-tiled buildings were everywhere which kept my eye and camera busy.

For more photo-ready opportunities and if you have time, visit the Central Train Station, Porto São Bento, which has an amazing interior.  (Though it was in the midst of some major and chaotic exterior construction when we visited).

We were there in July. A time when Europe was sweltering with extreme heat waves. It was hot in Porto but not too hot as the proximity of the ocean had a cooling effect on the temperature.

On another warm beautiful day, we ended up in the tourist mecca of Ribeira, on the banks of the Douro River. We chose to head to the south side and, although still touristy with touts, tacky souvenirs, and overpriced restaurants, we had a delicious lunch of octopus salad and bread with a cool beer.

We decided not to do any of the numerous port house tours but simply asked for port tastings. This was a delightful way to spend the afternoon watching the busy river trade, tourists, and locals promenade in front of us whilst we sipped on our chilled white port and 20-year-old tawny.

Thanks to the reviews we had read, dinner that night topped our dining experience of the whole trip. Aquele Tasco, is a small Portuguese family restaurant around the corner from our hotel.  We arrived early, got a table, and then over the next couple of hours and some superb dishes, we were entertained watching the waiter sending potential customers on their way.

Tables were at a premium. It was interesting that there wasn’t much room for larger groups of noisy tourists with space tending to be provided for quiet couples and locals! However, towards the end of our evening, we were asked to move, to make room for such a group. We were given a complimentary white port to complete our meal, while we mused on the idea of doing a tour.

Not usually enthused with taking standard tourist activities and tours, the following day, we decided to book one tour. A full day on the Douro River.  It was fully catered, with entertaining guides, a river cruise, port tastings, and local quirky cuisine. We realised it is well worth supporting these tour companies as they too are recovering from the recent COVID pandemic.

Our stay continued with more exploring of Porto, including by foot; a crossing of the magnificent Dom Luis I bridge, a short cruise to view Porto from the river, more port tastings, and testing of local food.

The Portuguese tart (pasteis de nata), with morning coffees from the market, was always a perfect start to the day.

Porto is charming, accessible, pretty, clean, and hassle-free. Given any chance, I would return.

Story & images contributed by jandjo

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