We stayed at my parents' house on the Wednesday night, and set off for the airport about 3am (our flight was at 07.40). I think there's something really magical about setting an alarm for the middle of the night and going off on holiday when it's dark! We parked at the long stay car park in Gatwick and got the shuttle to the North Terminal (I'm only putting this detail in because I know a lot of people weigh up coaches, trains and parking for going on holiday, and this turned out to be the cheapest and easiest for us).
As I mentioned - the flight was just under two hours, so by 10am we were touching down in Porto and eager to explore. We only took hand luggage so it was easy to hop in a taxi, go straight to our hotel to drop off our bags, and set right off to soak up the city.
Our hotel was about a 25 minute walk to the Ribeira district, which is the historic, cultural area of Porto. Exploring Porto involved a lot of walking generally, particularly walking uphill, so if I visited again I would definitely get a hotel closer to the main areas.
Walking along the Douro river really was amazing though - you can see across the river to the Vila Nova de Gaia, and the river front is lined with beautiful old buildings (the entire of Porto is, really). Many of the buildings are decorated in beautiful ceramic blue and white azulejo tiles.
Ribeira Square in Porto is the historical square, lined with cafés, markets and restaurants (more on this in a later post). We were eager for some food, so we walked up the hill and visited a restaurant for lunch - opting for a traditional Portuguese dish of Francesinha. Francesinha is a sandwich filled with different meats (pork, sausage, ham and steak), covered with melted cheese and served in a beer sauce. To be honest, ours weren't very nice, but they are supposed to be amazing! We didn't try it again but I have it on good authority that if you have it from a different restaurant it's much better.
We wandered up to this square with the fountains and the Igreja Do Carmo (the beautiful church with those amazing tiles again), and then onto the Leitaria da Quinta do Paco - a little café that is famous for its eclairs. Their eclairs come in myriad flavours, from lemon curd, to coffee, to cinnamon, to mint, to of course, traditional chocolate. I was woo-ed however, by this tempting little treat, the Oreo cheesecake. It was very worth straying away from the eclair menu for, and probably the best thing I've tasted in a long time (we went back to this café twice whilst we were in Porto so you won't have to wait long to see one of their famed eclairs!)
After stuffing ourselves with cake, we decided to head back to the hotel to check in and have a little nap (well, we had been on the go since 3am!) We caught the tram back to the hotel - for €2.50 each it was an easy ride and dropped us off right outside.
After a little siesta, we headed back into town to find some dinner. The walk took us past a viewpoint over the river, as if you need any more evidence of just how breathtaking Porto is.
As we wandered up into town, we came across an outdoor bar with lots of people drinking wine in the sunshine, and a DJ playing jazz. We pitched up and joined in - well, when in Porto!
We then headed for tapas at a restaurant underneath the bar - sort of hidden in an alleyway under a big grass area, very difficult to explain! The restaurant was called Clérigos and served either tapas or a full menu in the restaurant. We opted for tapas and it was amazing, we had patatas bravas, goats cheese, sausage, chicken wings, bread - all sorts (we over-ordered!) For the wine, they have a huge chiller with bottles of wine in, you insert a chip and pin card and you can pour wine directly into your glass. I was very excited by the concept of self-serve wine...
With full bellies we got a taxi back to the hotel for an early night - ready for our food tour the next day! I can't wait to show you what we got up to on the Friday; the food tour was absolutely amazing.
And for a little sneak peek of the weekend - here's my YouTube video if you fancy giving it a watch (I'll probably do the weekend blog post in one so you don't get so sick of Porto you never want to visit!)
Have you ever visited Porto?