This guest post was written by Victoria Brewood.
Offering plenty of history and culture, and located in close proximity to Portugal's best wine region, Porto is a city you simply can't afford to miss. Its laid-back, small-town vibe means you don’t really feel like you’re walking around a city at all.
I’ve been drawn back to Porto on numerous occasions and every time I fall in love with it a little bit more. Not only is it incredibly picturesque with that iconic bridge spanning the Douro River, it’s also incredibly affordable, with lots of boutique hostels and small guesthouses, plus restaurants that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
From port wineries to beaches and local restaurants, here are some of the best hidden gems in Porto.
Sample Porto’s finest port
Home to Portugal’s signature wine, Porto is the ideal place to sample some port. Though the tasting lodges are technically not within the city limits, they are right across the river from this historic city. Some of the port wineries, like Quevedo, have free tastings, while others charge a euro or two per glass.
My favourite winery is Taylor’s because they have a very pretty little garden where you can sip port in the sunshine. There’s also a patio with a restaurant too, so you can have lunch and admire the spectacular views over the city. Pay for your port wines by the glass, or take part in their winery tour for €7, which takes you on an informative journey through their cellars, and includes a taste of three wines - Chip Dry, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) and Tawny 10 year old.
If you’re feeling a little tipsy after all that port wine, head on over to Sweet Douro, which is located on the same side of the river as the wine cellars. This tiny little family-style restaurant serves lots of tapas-size plates, including a very delicious flaming chorizo dish!
Make sightseeing easy using Porto’s tram system
The city center of Porto has many sites that are worth seeing. However, it can be easy to wear yourself out quickly, as there are many steep hills to climb. An easy way to take everything in quickly without getting fatigued is to take advantage of Porto's tram system.
An attraction in itself due to its heritage status, the historic tram allows to reach attractions like Jardim do Passeio Alegre and The Porto Cathedral relatively easily, making it the best option for seeing the sights in Porto.
Do some reading in the world's most beautiful bookstore
Want to catch up on your reading in the same bookstore where JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series got the inspiration for those books? If so, then head straight for Lello & Irmão Bookstore. Even if you’re not much of a reader, the beautiful interior of this well-loved bookstore will blow you away (it definitely did for me!)
The walls, staircases, and the bookcases that hold innumerable texts of all kinds are all made from varnished wood, but the highest floor holds the biggest surprise of all: a spectacular stained glass skylight.
While away a summer day on Porto's most fabulous beaches
While many places in Europe practically burn up in the summertime, Porto's summers are delightful by comparison, due to a constant sea breeze from the Atlantic Ocean. Despite this, summer temperatures can get to be a bit on the warm side in July and August.
If you are feeling a little bit toasty at that time, there are many beaches near Porto that serve as excellent places to cool yourself off in style. Praia da Luz Beach is easily accessible by bus and a great option if you want to stay close to the city centre, with a beachside restaurant offering beautiful views - the perfect place for port tonic sundowners as the sun sets over the ocean.
Hungry? Dine in this city's best restaurants
Porto's excellence isn't limited to its wine. Portuguese cuisine is one of my favourites - very simple, but very fresh and full of flavour, with big portions! My personal favourite is a restaurant called Adega Sao Nicolau, which is located on a tiny little side street just off the main riverfront area. Serving dishes such as fresh fish and octopus rice, this restaurant is definitely one of the best places to try good quality, local food.
Not very Portuguese, but also worth a visit, is a Moroccan shisha bar called Sahara, where you can sit on cushions and drink mint tea as you watch people stroll by along the waterfront.
A city to remember
Whether you want to spend the day sampling port wine and cheese, indulge in a wine-based spa treatment at The Yeatman hotel or simply lay on the beach, Porto is a truly beautiful, relaxing place to visit and definitely one of Europe’s best kept secrets. With historic buildings and laundry hanging up in the streets, it almost feels like you’ve gone back in time to a different area. And with mesmerising views from the top of its steep hills etched in your mind, Porto will leave you wanting to go back time and time again.
Showaround: Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your local experience in Porto.