A weekend in Porto
When one of my best friends from college invited us to her wedding in Portugal this summer, we decided to make it an opportunity to visit Porto and Lisbon.
We started with Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. We know the Algarve quite well; we have been going pretty much every summer for the past five years. We absolutely love it down there: the beaches are beautiful and never too crowded, the Portuguese people are welcoming, friendly and helpful, the weather is always fabulous and last but not least, you can get some delicious food and drinks at very affordable rates.
Everything we like about the Algarve can be said about Porto – minus the beach. The city, however, boasts a beautiful riverside. It is small enough that you can discover it over a weekend. It is very lively yet feels quite peaceful and relaxed. You guessed it, we loved it.
Where to stay
We first stayed in an AirBnB appartment on Vitoria street, close to a prison which has been turned into a photography museum. It was a great central location, a few minutes walk from Ribeira, the buzzing riverside area, and also close to the city centre. We later stayed in a hotel in Trindade, a bit more North from the centre yet still close to everything. Any location between Ribeira and Trindade would be handy as you can walk everywhere, provided you don't mind hilly streets. When you get lazy, Uber is very cheap in Portugal and comes in handy.
Where to eat
It might not be the most traditional Portuguese meal but we had some fantastic sushi the day we arrived in Porto. A friend recommended Domo, in Trindade, and it was probably the best value sushi I have ever had and arguably some of the tastiest.
The 10 euros lunch menu included a small entree (miso soup, salad or rolls), a plate of sushi and a glass of wine. Fish overall is absolutely superb in Portugal, whether it is in sushi, cooked or simply grilled.
The first night, we went to Flow, which was undeniably the most "high-end" meal we had while in Portugal. The restaurant is set in an exotic decor and serves Mediterranean cuisine with a Portuguese undertone.
I got the seabass fillet with asparagus risotto and champagne and saffron sauce, which for 22 euros makes it the most expensive dish I had in Portugal - yet an average price for a main in Dublin.
The fish was perfectly cooked and the zesty sauce complimented it perfectly. The risotto was a bit heavy as a side but it tasted great. Damien got the duck leg with sweet potato gratin and sauteed vegetables which was a great success.
For dessert, we ordered a brownie and a pumpkin coulant, a delicious molten cake with a delicious soft centre. Both were a nice sweet touch to finish the meal.
One evening, we ended up in Taberna de Lago on Rua da Flores, a popular walking street. We sat outside and got a cheese and charcuterie platter, with a fabulous tomato salad and a few glasses of wine. Wine is so cheap in Portugal we usually got glasses so we could try different kinds, and they were usually between 2 and 5 euros. The waiter was the friendliest and we definitely recommend the place for a delicious casual dinner.
Porto was also the place where we discovered the famous 'pasteis de nata', which became a daily indulgence by the end of our stay in Lisbon... We developed quite an addiction for these mini custard tarts that combine an extra crispy crust and a sweet gooey custard. Just writing about them makes me want to book a flight...
What to do
The Centro Português de Fotografia (museum of photography) is free and definitely worth a trip. A visit to a port factory seems quite mandatory since the alcoholic beverage is such a huge part of the culture of Porto. We went to Graham's and after an interesting guided tour, we got to try some; unfortunately, I still don't like it.
Going to Grahams, located on the South bank, was the occasion to walk the Ponte Luís, a gigantic bridge over the Douro that is also a great spot to take photos of the city.
The Ribeira area is a great to have a few drinks at day or at night and didn't feel too crowded with tourists. We were lucky enough with the weather which was sunny yet not too hot and allowed us to walk around a lot to discover the city.
One of our favourite places in Porto was Base, an outdoor bar right in front of the famous Clérigos tower. We enjoyed the sunset sitting on wooden crates and sipping on cheap beer and lovely white port and tonic.
With its relaxed atmosphere, great food and cheap drinks, Porto is a great place for a weekend away.