Why are we overlooking Lisbon's little Portuguese sister?
Travel blogger Nadia El Ferdaoussi (@Nadia_DailySelf) is an expert on the most Insta-perfect destinations around the world. This month, she’s taking us along to Porto in northern Portugal.
The world and their mother have been to Lisbon over the last year or two, but why are we overlooking its little Portuguese sister, only a couple of hours away by train?
Less than half the size in area and population of the capital, you can also fly direct from Dublin to charming Porto situated on the Duoro river in northern Portugal.
You know all those stunning tiles you’ve seen on Instagram? They’re there in Porto, lining wine bars and boutiques on cobbledstone streets. Stay close to Ribeira, which is nice and central; within walking distance to the river, restaurants, cafés, shopping and nightlife.
There are plenty of reasonably priced Airbnb apartments around and you can stock the fridge with €3 bottles of Vinho Verde, the slightly sparkling, extremely refreshing Portuguese “green wine”.
Porto is quite hilly, so bring your walking shoes. Uber is cheap and there’s lots of public transport in the way of trams, but take to the streets by foot to get your bearings.
Take an hour long sightseeing cruise along the Duoro which will handily drop you off on the other side of the river in Gaia, where you’ll find the famous Port houses.
You can buy tickets in any of the tourist shops or from the stands at the river and they cost around €15, some come with free port tastings, so ask for deals. They can also be bought as part of a combo with a hop-on hop-off bus tour, if you have more time to take in the city.
Book ahead or walk in for a quick tasting while in Gaia. Porto Cruz have a lovely roof terrace or try a white porto tónico cocktail, if the namesake fortified wine is too sweet for your taste. Hop on the cable car up to the Dom Luis bridge and walk back across to Porto for gorgeous sunset views.
You’ll be hungry after all that walking and I must insist you try a local Francesinha, a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto. Served on thick white bread, traditionally filled with steak, ham and spicy sausage like chorizo, it’s covered in melted cheese and usually comes with a fried egg on top. Then, it’s drowned in a “secret sauce” which tastes a bit like a hot tomato soup, infused with Port, of course. You are encouraged to order chips on the side, then chuck them into the sauce. It’s the absolute king of hangover cures, but would also be great at the end of the night.
Rua Cândido dos Reis is the street to go for drinks in the evening and where you’ll find a lot of Porto’s popular nightlife. Try Plan B for some late night dancing. There’s also a market here once a month, where you can find crafts, antiques, food and live music.
Even if you don’t need to take the train while in Porto, pop into São Bento station for a look at the beautiful ornate blue and white tiles. This is one of the stations you can depart from if you’re heading on to Lisbon which is about two and a half hours by train.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, don’t forget to visit Livraria Lello, which is the bookstore that is said to have been the inspiration for the Harry Potter one which JK Rowling wrote part of while in Porto. There’s a redeemable €3 entry fee, but expect queues to get in the door!
Anyone looking for a city break. If you’ve already been to and loved Lisbon, then Porto should be next on your list
Two bedroom apartments from around €110 per night
Uber from the airport to Ribeira area approx €13
Cable car in Gaia €6
Train to Lisbon about €30
Sandeman Cellars Port tours from €12
Ryanair run direct flights from Dublin to Porto starting at as little as €11.02 one way at the time of going to press. See ryanair.ie
Visit infoporto.pt for dates and prices of events around the city