Top 6 Things To Do In Porto - A European Treasure (OPO)
Looking to visit somewhere not on the beaten path?
How about Porto, Portugal?
It's not on the radar map for most tourists – especially those from North America. I can’t understand why! This has to be one of the most beautiful and breathtaking cities on the European continent.
And on top of that ... Porto is the global epicenter of Port - fortified wine – yes, that deliciously-intoxicating elixir.... But you won't have time to get tipsy in Porto, because you'll be too busy admiring all the beauty. So much beauty that UNESCO classified Porto as a World Heritage Site!
What are you waiting for? Do you need any more excuses to book?
And once you're there, here are my top six things not to miss:
Number 6: Visit Livraria Lello - (Lello & Brother Bookstore)
If you're a Harry Potter fan – you must pop into the Livraria Lello.
J.K. Rowling’s lived in Porto for a number of years – and frequented this bookstore. Many believe that she modeled the library in Hogwarts after Lello – and it’s clear why.
You may need to line-up to get in – but it’s well worth the wait if you are a fan. Even if you aren't – this place is really unique – and you may spot a wizard or two!
Number 5: Take a Cable Car & Walk the River
Cable cars are always a thrilling way to explore a vista! And the ones in Porto are no exception. The Teleférico de Gaia offers stunning views of the city, red tiled rooftops and Port Houses.
The cars glide from the upper deck of the Dom Luis I Bridge down to the south side of Porto, at the Douro River Promenade (and visa versa). (And don't forget "the river walk" with its non-stop, sensational scenery. You'll want to update your Instagram with an image from this stroll.)
Number 4: Explore the Port Houses
While you ramble down the river walk - you must visit (at least!) one of the city's famous port houses.
As I mentioned, Porto is the center of worldwide trade in fortified wine. The grapes grow in the Douro Valley – but all of the bottling happens in Porto.
Thankfully, most of the major port brands offer tours – both informative and fun. I went to Sandeman and loved the experience and the atmospheric aging rooms in this landmark establishment.
But let's be honest - best part of any wine tour is sampling the product. I left Sandeman in a "good mood" - and with a whole new appreciation of this libation!
Number 3: Discover Blue Tiles
As you wander through Porto, one thing you'll notice right away is the number of public buildings and churches adorned in decorative blue tiles - Azulejo, as it is formally known.
It becomes a sport to "spot Azulejos" and ALL the different designs. Wow! Just wow...
The central train station has mind-blowing Azulejos. Wherever you go... and around every corner, be prepared to be enchanted and whisked away into a intense narratives – from Alfonso VII of Léon of Toledo (12th century) offering his life during the siege of Guimarães – to King John I and Philippa of Lancaster on horseback celebrating their outlandish wedding.
Number 2: Cross the Dom Luís I Bridge
Dom Luis I iron bridge is a focal point for the whole city. Its double-decker design SOARS over the city, connecting both banks.
Views from the pedestrian walkway are spectacular... and at times chilling, due to the extreme heights. (Even though I held the railings tightly, I still let out a few gasps.)
You won't find too many views like this on the planet. Not to be missed!!!
Number 1: The Franceshina
Your reward for all that walking -->indulging in all the local food, especially The Francesinha. The Franceshina is everything you're not supposed to eat: thick, buttered bread; a fried egg; two slices of cheese; ham; and steak, bathed in (wait for it...) a piri piri beer-infused sauce... accompanied by (no substitutions, please) a side of Portuguese-style fries! (Muah! – masterpiece.)
You don't believe the #1 thing to do in Porto is The Franceshina? Just look at the photo below: It was impossible not to devour as soon as it arrived. I'd sliced into it before snapping a shot:
Francesinha Sandwich! (Delicioso!)
Porto needs to get on everyone’s “Must See” cities in Europe. Immediately!
Magical! And a treat for the eyes and pallet.
Carve out some time on your next visit to the continent to explore this gem!
And tell me whether The Francesinha sandwich changed your life... or at least your worldview of sandwiches?