Porto | Day one | Eating and exploring

Before I dive right in to our first day in Porto last week, perhaps I should explain why we chose it as a destination for a little getaway.  We decided to visit Porto on my birthday last month when we were on a spa day – we were discussing going on a city break to get some sun and some relaxing in, and no sooner had we decided that this was well needed, I opened up my copy of Simple Things magazine I’d brought to read by the pool, and there was a feature on Porto {read the article on the Viver O Porto blog here}.  To be honest, Portugal had never really been on my radar, and I knew nothing about the city of Porto; but reading about the sea air, amazing restaurants, historic buildings and rooftop bars – I instantly knew it was my kind of city.

We looked on Expedia and booked a deal for £300 each with flights from Gatwick and four nights at Hotel Vincci.  We used most of our annual leave when we went to Bali on honeymoon, so it was great to go from Thursday – Monday, have four nights in Porto and only use three days’ leave.  The perfect thing about Porto is that the flight was only 1h 55m from London, and the time zone is the same so it’s easy to get there, and jetlag free!

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.

Old buildings | Porto

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.

Fountains | Porto

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!)

Oreo cheesecake | Porto

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.

The tram | Porto
Getting the tram | Porto

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.

View across the river | Porto

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!

Me and Tom | 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.

Old buildings | Porto

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!)

I’m trying to film more YouTube videos so please excuse what an amatuer I am – ha!

Have you ever visited Porto?