I can’t rave enough about Porto. So if you’re thinking about going somewhere in Europe, here are 10 good reasons to make it Porto.
1. The food
Sure, there are more famous culinary cities in Europe, but Porto is highly underrated as a food destination. It’s one of those places where everything is good, and unbeknownst to me before the trip, they have really excellent local fare, like the Francesinha which puts the French croque monsieur to shame. The seafood is fresh and well made. And I could eat three custard tarts a day and not get bored of them.
2. The wine
I’ve never been somewhere with a more extensive and laid back wine region. Unlike the lush vineyards of other famous wine countries, the wineries in Porto are all really close to the city. Their accessibility also removes the pretension that goes along with large exclusive chateaus in the middle of nowhere. You can spend an entire day hopping from one winery to another and getting a taste of anything you like. And just because it’s somewhat casual doesn’t mean they don’t respect the wine. They’ll give you extensive background information on each of the wines you choose and suggest food pairings. And the best part is that it doesn’t have to kill your wallet. You can try glasses ranging anywhere from 3 Euro to 150 Euro.
3. The beach
A lot of beaches in Europe are beautiful, but not many of them face the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the tiny stretches of sand you’ll find on the Greek islands or in Croatia, the entire beachfront coast of Porto stretches out for miles. The sand is not hard and densely packed or mixed with dirt. And during the warm months, the bars and restaurants open up, making it the perfect place for a relaxing and fun beach vacation. You can bet it doesn’t get as packed as more well-known summer destinations like Mykonos or Ibiza.
4. The people
The residents of Porto are the perfect mix of friendly and reserved. I hate cultures that are too forward, because I like to be out and about without having to deal with unsolicited social interactions. On the other hand, like many, I’d prefer to be around people who don’t look like they’d just throw your body in a dumpster and keep walking if they saw you get run over. (Bucharest, looking at you.) But the people of Porto are kind and friendly without being excessive about it. So as a single female traveler you can sit at a counter full of men to enjoy a full dinner and not be made to feel uncomfortable. The people are funny, easy going, and relaxed.
5. The views
Porto is gorgeous in a way that’s almost shocking. Because there is so much variance in elevation from any given point, the city’s most beautiful buildings and rooftops are all prominently on display no matter where you look. The southward views over the river are marked by the iconic signage for all the wineries. The northward view over the river features the sprawling waterfront promenade which is covered in brightly colored buildings. It looks good day or night. That’s especially true from the Dom Luís I Bridge. You can get a unique view of the city from the top or bottom of the bridge. It’s worth walking across at least a couple of times during different times of day to fully appreciate it.
6. The tiled building facades
I don’t want to seem jaded and ungrateful, but I’ve traveled around Europe a lot. All of Europe is beautiful and a lot of it shares the same stunning architecture that’s just the right amount of worn. But I’ve never seen anything like Porto’s unique tile designs that are featured on the side of many churches and other buildings around the city. The blue and white murals of tile give the entire city something of a uniform look even though there is still a lot of color and variety all around.
7. The street art
When you think of great European street art, your mind probably wanders toward places like London or Berlin. And Porto may not be as well-known for street art, but there’s a surprising amount of it and it’s all really good. Some are whole murals featured prominently in large intersections. Others fill tiny cobbled alleyways and stairs, like secret passageways of art. It gives the city even more color and character than it already has.
8. The bridges
I love bridges. I think a good bridge can make or break a city. The bridges in Porto, particularly Dom Luís I Bridge, are not only beautiful but also really functional. Since there is such a difference in elevation, the bridge has two decks; one above which is also used for the train and one below which is used for cars as well as pedestrians. It gives you two ways to enjoy the vista and two convenient ways to get across the river depending on what your destination is.
9. The price
Porto is proof that you can enjoy Old World Europe without ending up broke. I mean, I love France as much as the next person, but spending $25 on 3 ounces of steak sucks. The food in Porto can be as expensive or affordable as you want it to be without sacrificing quality. It’s a good place to go on a budget or to ball out if you have no budget and you’re into picking the fish you want for dinner. And it’s got to be one of the most affordable wine-centric destinations in Europe, if not the world. An entire one-bedroom apartment rental for a weekend costs the same as a one-day winery tour in Bordeaux. (And port wine is better.)
10. The romance
Prior to this trip, I’ve long held that the most romantic travel destinations in the world were Montreal, Santorini, and Venice. After this trip, I’d have to add Porto to the list. There is something about the quiet cobbled streets that just fills you with a warm, loving feeling. The buskers around parts of the city regale you with instrumental covers of romantic songs. And come on, is there anything cozier than having a drink in a dark wine cellar? The city has the right mix of features to make it a great honeymoon spot.
So if you’re on the fence about your next travel destination, you really can’t go wrong with a trip to Porto.