When a sense of celebration is left in the past, outside the window the subzero temperature established itself for sure, but you still are eager of miracles, I offer to succumb to emotions and to escape into the summer, as I did, booking the ticket to sunny Portugal.
Porto, Porto, Porto … How many people are aware of Lisbon and how little attention is paid to the most incredible city of sunny Portugal. Very often local Portuguese tours offer to visit Porto in the form of a one-day tour, however, I do not advise you to do this — this city is so multifaceted and interesting that it should be devoted at least four days.
How to get there:
Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Moscow to Porto, but there are organized connected ones via “Aeroflot”, Turkish Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Brussels Airlines, British Airways, KLM. The fastest and cheapest flights are those of Lufthansa with a transfer in Frankfurt on the Main, or of “Tap Portugal” with a transfer in Lisbon.
Life hack: if you buy a ticket via the airline “Ryanair” and fly from Milan, you will be surprised by the pleasant ticket price of 20 EUR for the direct flight Milan — Porto.
In addition, you can purchase direct flights from Moscow to Lisbon, offered by “S7” or “Tap Portugal”, and from there to get to Porto by bus or train.
Long-distance trains arrive at Campanha Train Station, located 2 km away from the center of Porto. Regional and suburban trains arrive at Sao Bento Station. It is the most convenient to get from Lisbon by railway: tickets are from 25 EUR, duration of the trip – 3 hours and 25 minutes, the headway – 30-50 minutes. Train schedule can be viewed on the website of the Portuguese railways.
Getting to the center:
You can get from the airport to the city center by metro, a bus or a taxi. Metro Station is located directly at the airport, the ticket for the 4th zone (Z4) is purchased in a special machine. The center can be reached by buses No. 601, 602 or 604. Tickets for the bus and the subway are of the same price: 1,85 EUR. A taxi ride will cost 20-25 EUR.
The first emotion you feel is that Porto is fascinating from the first glance! Spread on the hills near the Douro river, Porto is an amazing combination of the old fisherman’s quarters, luxurious churches and winding narrow streets, leading to all attractions of the city. This city smells with not fish and the sea, but with freshness, and it is rather reasonable.
A Portuguese proverb says:
Lisbon is the square of weapons, Coimbra of the students, Porto of the merchants, Vila Real of the lovers.
And it turned out really so: the inhabitants of Porto dispel the myth about idle pastime. Though everyone here follows the measured way of life, the work is paid much attention. This can be seen with the naked eye: coffee shops start working from the early morning, shop owners are proud to wash pavements near their trade shops, elegant Portuguese hurry to the office …
I have thought for a long time, how to describe Porto in one word, and the most appropriate word is, perhaps, “atmospheric” – the city is incredibly beautiful! Bright, sunny day, the city really glows with joy and gladness. Walking through the maze of narrow streets, between the houses, built in the Art Nouveau and Baroque Styles, you will be able to enjoy the splendor and color of this ancient city. Weather in Port sets the warm Atlantic Gulf Stream: thanks to it, the winter in the city is very warm and soft, with a minimum temperature of +10 degrees. Locals say that summer is also very comfortable, with a maximum temperature of + 25 ° C.
In 1996, Porto received the status of the UNESCO World Heritage site. In the architectural sense, the city is very diverse: you can meet both medieval monuments and modern buildings. All this is very interesting, although it is quite difficult to examine on foot due to the extremely hilly terrain and numerous stairs.
However, these are hills that give the city some special mood, and bright and rich colors of the houses fit perfectly to a relaxed and positive atmosphere of the city.
The most panoramic place of the city is Clérigos church bell tower. The church itself was built in the middle of the XVIII century, after two decades of hard work. Baroque look of the building is full of architectural details, and sometimes it seems that there are too much of them. Also one remembers a freestanding bell tower that looks like a lighthouse in the stormy sea of people; the main facade of the church is turned to the other side, and it seems that the tower stands on its own. The huge structure, going far above the mark of 75 meters, two and a half centuries held the title of the most high-rise building in Portugal. Gradually, modern builders have exceeded their ancient congeners, but Clérigos tower still has the status of the symbol of Porto.
The tower is a beautiful viewing platform, but you have to pay a fee to enter it. There is no elevator, therefore, to go up, you will have to overcome quite a large number of steps on foot. But the view is really fantastic!
Relatively flat places are occupied with squares, the most important of which is Freedom Square
I would pay special attention to the construction of houses, looking like “Chinese Wall” — the houses are so much attached to each other, that often even the numbering of houses has the lag of a few numbers.
The peculiarity of Porto is, of course, its paints. Houses with colorful frames, azulejo on the outside wall of buildings, motley doors and even the clothes that the locals hang out of the window, is of different variegated colors. It seems that all the Portuguese know a lot about how to make life more positive.
Along with winding narrow streets and houses built in the Art Nouveau and Baroque Styles, it is azulejo that gives that very Portuguese picturesque to the city. Azulejo is just tiles, but in Portugal, it turned from a simple finishing material into a piece of art. And the first thing you notice, entering the country – is, of course, azulejo on the facades and in the interiors of churches, palaces, ordinary houses and even railway stations and subways. Here on glazed tiles house numbers and street names are written, window and doors signs and tiled frames are made of them. It has long been known that the most beautiful tiles are found in Porto: Carmelite Church, Se Cathedral, São Bento train station, thanks to which the Portuguese ornaments gained popularity all over the world, and they are almost on every second building!
Walking through the streets, be sure to go closer to the Douro river as Porto`s promenade is, indeed, the soul of the city!
And rising on chiseled and Luis`s most famous bridge opens an incredible view to the river and the city!
Where to eat:
Of course, long walks are exhausting and sound your appetite, so you will want to eat. Here are my tips:
Breakfast: no doubt, you must taste Portuguese coffee! Especially I liked Café pingado – this Espresso with a few drops of milk is presented in a coffee cup. A traditional “snack” to coffee is Pasteis de nata cake (the most popular Portuguese dessert), which becomes even tastier if you sprinkle it a bit with cinnamon. Here I would say that in almost all Porto cafes the cakes are served being the freshest and still warm, so listen to what your intuition tells you and follow towards the incredible aroma of freshly prepared pastries.
Lunch: I advise to try the Portuguese dish called gentle francesinha – “a little French”. It is a kind of sandwich, invented in the sixties of the last century by a Portuguese immigrant who had returned from France. He was inspired by the French sandwich called “croque-monsieur” with ham and melted cheese, giving Portuguese “character” to it. Between the two slices of bread, thinly sliced linguica are placed, fresh sausage, ham and slices of meat, usually beef. All this is covered with melted cheese and served with a spicy and very tasty sauce and French fries. The best francesinha in the city is served in Santiago café – this restaurant is a frequent winner of the annual competition for the best francesinha. To find this place is not difficult – a queue of curious tourists and hungry locals is formed early in the morning, but believe me, it’s worth it.
Dinner: Visiting Porto would be meaningless without a dinner at the seafood restaurant. Ze bota restaurant is one of the best. The place is located in a dead end alley, which is not easy to find the first time. Modest, but quite comfortable interior. But the most important thing is that everything was amazingly delicious: fish just melted in the mouth.
Throughout the entire trip I felt that everything in the city seemed so familiar to me! These red tiled roofs and worn by centuries buildings, gulls scream mixed with the sounds of bossa nova, the aroma of freshly baked Pasteis and strong coffee – Porto suddenly seemed so close that I wanted just to dissolve into the sunshine and stay in its arms forever … And I am sure that we will meet with it soon, just to look at each other and infinitely confess each other in love.
P.S. Here are some music which has accompanied me during that trip 🙂 Beijo!