72hrs in Oporto
Oporto is located along the lengthy Douro river estuary in the northern breadth of Portugal. The old town centre was recognised and registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO before the start of the new millennium. Portugal's second most important city has been prized and awarded for being the Best European Destination for 2014, which is reason enough to explore. The city has stuck to their true roots and traditions as well as having gone out of their way to achieving global city status. Expect to find traditional cafés, friendly personalities, addictive food and marvellous architecture blending with the buzzy city life.
Oporto is quite varied architecturally, with medieval as well as modern living door to door. The city's location is hard on the feet, but pleasant to the eye. With the extreme hilly landscape, many of the buildings are clinging to the edge of the cliffs facing the river. The old stone steps are linked vertically on the hills, rewarding you with stunning views as you walk. Across the river from the city centre, in the suburb of Gaia, you can see the more than 50 warehouses of notable companies dealing with Port Wine, such as Fonseca, Sandemans, Kopke, among many more.
We would actually shed light on the fact that Oporto is a design, trending and architectural city. The Oporto Art District which is the new touristic attraction in the city, is actually what differs itself from the rest of Portugal. Unique projects are being invested in this side of town, taking a step forward in appreciating and cultivating the values of art in a creative but historic city. The district is still pretty much a novelty, bridging together the traditional habits with new, modern twists. Such is the example of the Centro Comercial Bombarda. It is a shopping centre with alternative commercial shops displaying artistic local products. Ecological goods like biological cosmetics, natural hair products, hand-made toys, vintage products etc. can be easily found here. An additional touché to the centre is that artists are able to share their crafts and galleries. We enjoyed seeing some examples of contemporary art and sculptures in the passages leading up to some of the shops. Do visit lifestyle shops Coração de Alecrim and A Vide Portuguesa to get a feel of the scenery.
For food recommendations, we ate at several places. Cantina 32 are known for their typical dish 'Bacalhau à Braz', they always nail it! At Cantinho do Avillez we tried the crispy game sausage with egg, smoked tomato and rapini rice as well as the marinated scallops with avocado cream and bread crumbs! For more genuine local cuisine, take the boat across the river and have some fresh fish for lunch at the Taberna de São Pedro in Afurada. If you have a sweet tooth we recommend having a hearty breakfast at Café Majestic. A lot of cafés are well worth your time spending sitting and eating an apple tart or pasteis de nata, but Café Majestic takes the biscuit. Also, if you want something on the go, Bakery Ribeiro in several locations has good pastries to take on the go.
For first-timers to Oporto, our top three recommended places to visit are the Livraria Lello bookstore, the Bolhao Market and the Sao Bento Train Station as it is blessed with beautiful tiles of historical significance. Who would ever have thought a train station to be so incredibly decorated!? The blue and white tile panels depict the history of transportation as well as historic battles and artistic renderings of 14th-century King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster by the city’s cathedral.
If you need a bit of tranquillity in the city, Foz do Douro has a seaside town feel to it. The neighbourhood is great for sun lounging, enjoying the beaches and sip a cocktail at beach club Praia da Luz.
We stayed at two of the city's best boutique stays: Flattered to be in Porto and Design Oporto Flats. Our amazing pad in Design Oporto Flats was 15 minutes from the city's main sites and had all of the perks needed to feel at home whilst blending in with the locals. Flattered to be in Porto is located in the sophisticated district of Foz do Douro, with a multitude of ocean-front bars, cafés, clubs and restaurants. We enjoyed our walks by the waterfront and staying on the quieter side of town towards the end of our trip.