Vinho Do Porto
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
I visited Porto, Portugal in June 2019 and I fell in love with the city. My friends and I organized a surprise bachelorette party for a dear friend that got married last weekend. We picked Porto as a destination, partly because of its sunny and appealing location, partly because it was the cheapest European destination travelling from the East coast of Canada. I'm sure those on a budget feel me!
Flying to Europe
Flying to Europe from North America is expensive, but realistically, flying anywhere in North America is expensive. I paid almost the same price flying to Porto as I did flying to St. John’s, Newfoundland. I’d suggest my fellow travelers to check Air Transat’s offers. The airline is clearly on the cheaper end of the spectrum, but I was able to enjoy direct flights without experiencing any delay. As a comparison, I used Icelandair to fly back to Belgium and it was clearly not as nice - Air Transat's food might be gross, but at least it's free!
Taxis and Ubers are cheap and easy to find. We paid around 14€ to get to the city centre from the airport. We relied on them as well to come back to our AirBnb late at night. Porto is a pretty hilly city and we could never muster the courage to walk back up. We never paid more than 10€ for a trip. If you travel as a group, it will be cheaper than taking public transport.
The city is big, but not so much that you wouldn’t be able to walk around downtown. Still, comfortable shoes are in order to discover the city on foot. The beach is further away from the city centre, so renting bikes or moppets can be a great alternative to discover areas around the busy, touristy downtown.
For decadent, delicious Italian cuisine, I’d recommend A Despensa. It is ideally located one street down the ‘bar & nightlife’ area of Porto. My friends and I shared one of the best burrata I’ve ever had, and gorged ourselves on pasta and delicious wine.
We enjoyed local Portuguese cuisine at Tapas n’ Friends. It was ideal for a big group like ourselves because we could share small plates. We also got to try Porto’s specialty, francesinha - for my French readers, it looks and tastes like a heavier, saucier croque monsieur. Unfortunately, the service was very slow - we made the mistake of ordering another round of food and it took forever to arrive. Be patient and understand that you might spend several hours there.
Two great addresses for brunch are the Zenith - Brunch & Cocktails Bar and the Negra Café. There was a queue for the Zenith as they don’t take reservations, but it was fairly quick, particularly considering we were a table of 10.
Porto also boasts multiple markets where you can grab a bit for a reasonable price. We went to the Mercado Bom Sucesso. We were also told that the Mercado do Bolhão was well worth a visit, but it was unfortunately undergoing renovation.
Do yourself a favour and try a Pastei de Nata at one of the Fábrica de Pasteis de Nata locations. You don’t know life before you’ve eaten one directly from the oven.
Finally, I’d recommend Bacalhau to enjoy breathtaking views of the Douro river with delicious, sophisticated fish dishes.
The bachelorette was spread out over two days and we tried to pack as much as possible. I’d advise anyone to include at least half a day to discover the city centre on foot. There are countless historic buildings and churches covered with bright blue tiles, several viewpoints to enjoy a sea of endless red-tiled roofs and a breathtaking riverside. Don’t forget to check out the Lello Bookstore, which inspired J.K. Rowling’s writing. Other must-see are the Dom Luis Bridge that was built by Gustave Eiffel, the Clérigos Church, and Porto Cathedral. We were also told that the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal were worth a visit, although we couldn’t find the time.
We rented bikes, which was in my opinion one of the best ways to enjoy the riverside and reach the seaside. However, most of the city centre is not necessarily easily accessible by bike due to the high volume of tourists walking around. In addition, the city is perched on hills, which can make cycling quite a challenge. A good alternative is to rent a moppet - we paid 25€ for a full day.
Late afternoon, we crossed the Dom Luis Bridge and made the climb to Graham's Port Lodge, one of the many port cellars in Porto. You will need to make an appointment to enjoy a private tour of their cellar and a tasting of their wine, but I’d argue it’s an obligatory activity when visiting Porto. The view from the terrace is also a non-negligeable plus.
The Museu Serralves had a few very interesting pieces, particularly a room that played songs of political nature from all over the world. You can also get access to the garden and visit Serralves’s art deco house.
Anecdotes and Last Tips
I saw many groups of friends celebrating bachelor and bachelorette parties. Most of them were eerily similar, dressed with flowers and matching tee-shirts. The bride- or groom-to-be were often wearing ridiculous outfits. We decided to shake off tradition a bit and had all of us wearing very bright, ridiculous hats. It certainly added a little something on our group pictures!
What did we do the rest of the time? We drank wine on one of Porto’s numerous terraces - including the famous Sandeman Porto - and we gorged ourselves on delicious food. I hadn’t seen my friends in months and it was the perfect getaway for us to catch up and spend some quality time together.