Mentioning to the average Brit that you spent a semester living abroad in Portugal usually triggers questions relating to the Algarve and its reputation for beaches, booze and bronzed skin. However, in recent years the rest of the country has gained popularity thanks to the renaissance undergone by its capital, Lisbon. With more and more UK travellers discovering the country’s potential as a city-break mecca, it seems that Porto, its second largest city and my home between February and July of this year, has ridden the wave of Lisbon’s success. Want to get in on the action? Check out how to make the most of this lesser-known gem in 48 hours:
Discover Port wine
Think Port is just something your grandma drinks before promptly falling asleep in her armchair? Think again. Porto is home to this complex and tasty beverage that helped the city become a bustling global centre for the wine industry. I especially enjoyed visiting Taylor’s winery, which offers a comprehensive cellar tour and the opportunity to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine in their beautiful garden which boasts gorgeous views over the Douro river. Afterwards, a walk around the city’s old town – known as the Baixa – is an ideal way to admire the old warehouses and traditional boats that used to transport the wine.
Stroll around the gardens of the Pálacio de Cristal
Still need to walk off the effects of the wine tasting? Look no further than across the river, where you’ll find the delightful terraced gardens perched on the side of the cliffs that meet the water. Perfect for a sunny afternoon with friends or even a romantic date, this spot is also known to be a great way to enjoy the evening views of the sun sinking into the Atlantic, framed by one of the city’s six bridges. If you fancy a drink and a snack, Miradouro Ignez treats you to a unique vista and fantastic ambiance.
Party in Galerias
The area known as Galerias is a series of roads in the centre of the city and the focal point for late-night antics, any day of the week. Start the night off in one of the many bars that litter the streets, sampling more of Portugal’s wonderful wine, or have a couple of finos – what Porto’s inhabitants call the local draft beer. Usually this would be Super Bock, a light and easy-drinking lager that’s perfect to enjoy chilled during warm summer evenings. If you’re a cocktail lover, grab a couple of drinks under the lights of the chic but relaxed Base; located next to the stunning eighteenth-century Clérigos tower, a visit here will give your night a more refined flavour. For a student-focused experience, Adega Leanor is the place to mingle with Erasmus students from all over the world. As the night continues, head to Plano B and get your boogie on in the different rooms playing, pop, reggaeton and electronica – perfect if your group has an eclectic music taste!
Escape to the beach
Having just over 1,00 miles of Atlantic coastline, you’re never too far away from a beach in Portugal, and Porto is no exception. A 30-minute journey on the city’s modern and efficient metro will take you to Matosinhos, which has a wide sandy beach and tidal swimming pool, as well as a small fortress waiting for you to explore. If you’re after a more rural setting, travelling south from São Bento station to Miramar is well worth it, with the beautiful Senhor da Pedra chapel lending even more beauty to the stunning landscape that will certainly stay with you, and perhaps even tempt you to return one day!
– James Landymore