A few months ago, I had the chance to visit one of the most iconic and picturesque in my opinion cities of Portugal and that’s of course Porto. Having a friend studying & living there, I decided to seize the opportunity and stroll through the city with her as an “almost local guide” and enjoy the city’s incredible beauty and hospitality.
Porto is one of Europe’s most popular “vacation-break” destinations, thanks to its low costs, its cool mild climate, its seaside location and important factor its many English-speaking locals! In general, I gotta admit that Porto is a city with an ambience that is surprisingly both friendly and sophisticated.
If you’re planning to visit Porto, get ready to keep some notes since I’ve a few suggestions that you’ll probably find interesting.
The double-decker Dom Luis bridge is an icon of the city of Porto. It spans the River Douro linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the bustling downtown Ribeira district of Porto. It’s an idyllic place for pictures where you can additionally enjoy incredible views.
Down by the river, narrow streets open out onto a plaza framed by austerely grand, tiled townhouses overlooking a picturesque stretch of the Rio Douro. From here you have fine views of the port-wine lodges across the river as well as the monumental, double-decker Ponte de Dom Luís I.
At the beginning you’ll probably think that it's just a park. However, trust me, it’s more than that! Do not miss the chance to watch the peacocks, to walk through the rose gardens and to admire different varieties of vegetation and fountains… In addition, breathtaking views over Porto, Gaia and the Douro will most likely steal your heart!
Designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas , the building was built to coincide with the year of Porto as the European Capital City of Culture (in 2001). Today it is one of the icons of the city of Porto, both nationally and internationally.
Probably the most iconic and characteristic portuguese architecture church. It’s said to have built between 1709 and 1739. Its facade is lined with tiles by Jorge Colaço, depicting scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso and allegories of the Eucharist. In the interior one can see a retable in baroque carving estimated to have been completed by the first half of century XVIII.
Not surprisingly, the São Bento Train Station is considered to be one of the 14 most beautiful train stations in the world (by Travel + Leisure magazine). It is simply imposing on the outside and impressively beautiful inside. Besides the beautiful stone façade and mansard roofs - inspired by the Parisian architecture of the nineteenth century - the inner walls of the station display a true work of art that covers an area of approximately 551 square meters.
24 hours may not be enough to discover Porto to full potential. However, on a brief visit to Porto, those places are not to be missed. In the words of many visitors, this city has something mystical that is difficult to describe and which varies according to the place, time of day and light.
If you still have more time and you’re willing to explore the city further, here are some extra recommendations for you that will probably guarantee you an unforgettable Portuguese experience!
Do not miss the chance to try Porto's local delicacy, the Francesinha! it’s a toasted bread layered with pork, smoked sausage, bacon, beefsteak and topped with a fried egg and cheese. Yes, all of those together. At the same time it is served with fries and a local spicy sauce usually made of tomato, beer and spices. Can you think of a better way to face an awful hangover while in Porto? I can't!
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