• Pedro Caballero

Porto: Rainy Hills and Azulejos

Updated: Dec 1, 2019

When I decided to visit Porto, I had heard that there was more rain here than in Lisbon, but never expected the rain to be a constant, non-stop, thing... With that said, I didn't even care. I had a great waterproof jacket, and got a great umbrella just in case. (I did get some days of sunny skies, but just be prepared for the rain - I am exaggerating to make a point).

I would describe Porto as a small city with a lot of hidden things to do. One night I ended up at a storefront? I think it was a storefront anyway... But it was also a home, where they sold beer for a euro, and you could find a kitchen in the back where someone was making food at 2am for 10 people... If you end in one of these, all I can say is - apparently it's a normal thing for locals? And also hit me up, I'll come over instantaneously.

Besides crazy random parties, Porto also offers a great amount of viewpoints of the city, a lot of places to visit, history all around and many many Azulejos. Please note that the english translation of Azulejos is Tiles... which I find to be very disappointing since it does not define the intrinsic beauty these have.

Places to see:

  • Livraria Lello: Founded over a hundred years ago, this library is one of the most beautiful in the world. It's two floors, and wooden decorations are breathtaking. J.K. Rowling lived in Porto and taught English for a bit. Here, the contagious beauty of the library inspired her for the setting of her famous bestseller but just for clarification - nothing from Harry Potter was ever filmed here. Visit because its beautiful, but be ready to stand in line for around 30 minutes - unless you get there early in the morning. Also take into account that to buy tickets you must enter the building next to the Library, and have them ready at the entrance.

  • Igreja de Santo Ildefonso: If Azulejos are your thing... this Church is your thing. If they're not - they will be after your visit. The blue and white covered walls are pure artistic expression from Jorge Colaço. The Church itself has stood for over 300 years, but the 11,000 Azulejo tiles were a recent addition from the 1930s.

  • Torre Dos Clerigos: A baroque masterpiece, this tower stands as an icon of Porto. Part of the Igreja dos Clérigos it is definitely worth a climb (yes, you gotta climb to see the views). It's not as bad as the climb to the tower in Prague, but still requires some stamina.

  • Dom Luis I Bridge: If you feel like crossing the Duoro River, you will use this bridge. As one of the structures built during the 1800's, it shows the growth of the city at that time and its change from a port city to an industrial center. Fun fact: The Bridge is older than the F.C. Porto.

  • Palacio da Bolsa: The Stock Exchange Palace is a historical structure from the 19th Century (again) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can only be visited with a guided tour. Don't worry, since they offer tours in many many languages.

  • Sao Bento Station: This transportation center, located in the heart of the city has double the number of Azulejos than the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso (20,000) which depict the history of the country: "Its royalty, its wars, and its transportation history." The tiles were placed here by the same artist who did the Azulejos in Santo Ildefonso, and are worth a visit and a few photos.

  • Jardins de Palacio de Cristal: This botanical garden is named after a palace that stood on these grounds before but is no longer here. Each garden has a different theme and you will find great views of the river from here.

Things to do:

  • Take a boat tour: Two main options here. First you could plan ahead and get a Tour of the River and even group it with a Cellar Tour - if you want this option I recommend you look for options at Get Your Guide. If you're more spontaneous, you can do these separately and just walk to the river and get on a boat, they leave every 30 minutes.

  • Go to a Port wine cellar: There are a ton of options. The most obvious ones are the cellars right on the other side of the Duoro River. Since I'm not an expert, here are a few sites I looked into before traveling to Porto: IntroducingPorto & TastePorto.

  • Listen to Fado Music: This is essential, and whether you're in Lisbon or in Porto, you must do it. I recommend reserving a place, just to make sure you get a seat. And take some tissues. Here a small list of options: Adega Rio Douro, Tasquinha D’Ouro 2, Mal cozinhado, A Viela, Taberna Real do Fado.

Where to eat:

  • Casa Guedes: You need to try these Pork & Cheese Sandwiches, and maybe you won't eat for the rest of the day... But that's ok.

  • Gasela: Hot dogs. Maybe not the most Portuguese thing? Who cares. Give them a try.

  • Aduela: A great bar if you want to go for a few drinks with friends.

  • Bao Boa: A chain restaurant that offers Asian food and amazing cocktails in Porto and Lisbon. Can't go wrong with it.

  • Café Santiago: Come here to try the renown Francesinha, a sandwich made with bread, ham, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. It is truly amazing.

And if you're planning to visit Portugal and want a more complete experience, don't forget to check Lisbon out!

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