I have been an emigrant for seven and a half years, more than I thought possible when I first moved. I love the UK and now feel at home here; I belong to that group of lucky few who have two homes, both real and in the heart. I have always been made to feel welcome in the UK and have good friends who share their Britishness with me. I would like to return the favour by writing about my hometown of Porto – Best European Destination 2014 – if you’re moving there or visiting, this is a sneak peek at what’s not to miss.
In my country, I am a woman of the mighty North. Much like in the UK, Portuguese northerners are open, friendly and blunt. We may come across as a bit harsh, but we’re ever so warm and lovely, really! We will help you in any way we can and will speak to you as slowly and loudly as you address us; in the end, we’ll all get somewhere!
What do I miss most about Porto? The sea and the food. And what would I recommend to people visiting or moving here? A good viewpoint of the city and a trip to the Port cellars. Let’s get down to details.
Porto is blessed with a scenic coastline bathed by the cold and imposing Atlantic Ocean. Walking by the sea at posh Foz is one of my favourite things to do when I’m there. In any weather. It’s beautiful and relaxing and inspiring and all those things ever written about the sea. And then some!
If you’re in the mood for a stroll (or very long walk, to be honest), walk from Foz along Passeio Alegre to the charming Ribeira, by the Douro river. It’s worth pausing for a coffee or Super Bock and roasted chorizo in one of the many cafés and bars there. Go for a wander in the charming narrow streets and search for the views to the river; it’s a truly lovely sight.
Porto is best seen from across the river, in Gaia. The nicest route to Gaia is by Ponte D. Luís I – itself a landmark of the city and the river Douro – at one end of Ribeira. Once there, the best way is up! At the very top, Serra do Pilar enjoys a spectacularly breath-taking view over Porto and is a source of inspiration to photographers and musicians alike. On this scarped hill sits the Monastery of Serra do Pilar, World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO since 1996.
If you fancy a coffee or cocktail with your view, Yeatman is the place for it. This luxury hotel has a lovely bar with a gorgeous balcony, open to all.
Port wine is Porto's most famous export. Made from grapes grown in the beautiful Douro valley, Port is a fortified wine produced exclusively in this region. The wine is brought to Porto from where it is exported worldwide by a number of Port houses.
Taylor’s is my favourite Port house to visit. Established over three centuries ago in 1692, it’s one of the oldest of the founding Port houses and one of the last privately-owned English wine companies. It's up the hill, has a cute terrace and is a stone’s throw away from Yeatman. The visit includes a guided tour and a tasting… Gotta love it!
Gastronomically, Porto is incredibly rich and proud of all it has to offer. Tripas à Moda do Porto is the city’s most traditional dish, a slowly simmered casserole of tripe, pigs' feet, smoky sausages, white butter beans, and a good dose of cumin and black pepper. The ever so delicious Francesinha is also a staple of Porto’s cuisine – our version of fast food, it’s a warm sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, and steak; it’s then covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. Try both, preferably not on the same day.
For tripas, I would recommend O Rogério do Redondo (Rua Joaquim Antonio de Aguiar, nr 19, 4000 – 311Porto), they're the absolute best!
For francesinhas, my ultimate favourite is a restaurant really off the beaten track, Cunha 2 (Rua Outeiro de Ramalde 8, Ramalde, 4000 Porto). Watch out because their francesinhas are on the enormous side! Ask for chips on the side and a Super Bock (our most popular beer)!
I hope you have a great time when you visit Porto! You are visiting, right? 🙂
If you would like to add to this list, please share in the comments below.
If you’re visiting Porto and would like any other tips, feel free to email me; I’d love to hear from you!
For a visual tour of my Porto, visit my Flickr set Porto :: a city portrait.
This post is part of giffgaff's International campaign – The top things to know about your hometown. All opinions are my own.