Continuing with my 'Postcard from...' series based on my summer travels in Portugal, comes this third instalment all about Porto, the perfect weekend getaway. So far in our trip we've taken in the 'Venice' of Portugal, the stunning Art Nouveau city of Aveiro, before taking the world's most scenic route through the Douro River valley to explore the vast wine terraces.
Colourful facades of the city of Porto
The third part of our trip saw us tracking the river back to the coastline, arriving in the vibrant city of Porto, which we found to be more than just the home of port wine and majestic bridges. Despite the wet weather, I absolutely loved my time spent here, so read on for my tips and recommendations for things to see and do in Porto.
CITY OF PORTO
A wet June in Porto - one of the rare opportunities I got to wear my Una stripy bodysuit!
Back in June 2018, it's fair to say Portugal was experiencing some very unseasonable weather. Daily downpours and localised flooding made a mockery of my perfectly planned summer wardrobe which didn't mix at all that well with sandals, cami bodysuits and loose, flowing trousers. A pair of water-logged trainers and a t-shirt borrowed from my boyfriend had to suffice for exploring the city as the summer temperatures struggled to find their way into the mid teens.
Colourful views of Porto
Though I paint such a damp picture from the outset, come rain or shine, Porto is just gorgeous. The colourful tiles across nearly every facade in the old town had my camera snapping busily away, with echoes of my favourite Art Nouveau architecture cropping up around every corner. Credit to Porto for bridging the old and new, there's also a buzzing street art scene with lots of impressive artworks scattered throughout the city.
Dom Luís bridge, Porto
Crossing the famous steely-blue Dom Luís bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, you get a real appreciation for the colour and beauty of the city, even in overcast conditions. We snuck away from the crowds through some barriers beneath the convent for a unique perspective looking back on the city which clings to the sharp hillsides, emphasised by the funicular railway on the opposite bank that ferries you down to the Douro river flowing calmly below.
I'm not usually one who likes to shop when I'm abroad, mostly because the usual high street fare leaves me feeling pretty uninspired. Yet with the weather being so grim it didn't make for great exploring or photo opportunities, so we were left with little other option than to shop. Happily Porto has so much to offer on the side of unique, independent shopping.
We found a lot of the places just while wandering but I also picked up a map from one of the shops that highlighted some of the most cutting edge places in the city, district by district - very useful! We visited lots of interesting shops featuring both vintage and contemporary design, however these were some of the places that stood out to me:
MON PERE VINTAGE
Mon Père vintage shop, Porto
Porto is a great place for vintage clothes shopping and I was so happy to stumble across this little gem tucked away in an unremarkable shopping alley. Aside from the variety and quality of pieces on offer, the Mon Père shop itself is something to behold, featuring an impressive traditional painted tile wall in the entrance and a full-on granny living room style changing area complete with big mirrors for mixing and matching your accessories.
PATCH LIFESTYLE CONCEPT STORE
Patch Lifestyle Concept Store, Porto
Mooching along the trendy Rua do Rosário you'll find lots of independent designers, shops and galleries well worth checking out. I particularly loved the Patch concept store, a unique blend of vintage clothing and accessories, homeware trinkets and garden pottery. I was eyeing up many of the vintage handbags on offer, but settled for a hand-painted vintage shawl with tassels that felt very Portuguese.
Handpainted shawl from Patch Lifestyle Concept Store
Coração Alecrim shop, Porto - c/o João Saramago
For an ethical shopping hit, I loved browsing the indie store Coração Alecrim for a combination of all things handmade, vintage, upcycled, sustainable and local. They had some beautifully made clothing lines sitting alongside homewares and unique vintage finds.
A VIDA PORTUGUESA
A Vida Portuguesa, Porto
Touristy, yes, but worth it nonetheless. Stop by A Vida Portuguesa in the old Fernandes Mattos fabric store for unique souvenirs of Portuguese origin. Housing everything from postcards and posters to soaps, local produce and pottery and of course tiles, it's a great showcase of traditional Portuguese design and craftsmanship. Everything is displayed beautifully across many levels in wood-panelled, high-ceilinged rooms, the decor of which has stayed true to its century old heritage.
FOOD & DRINK
You are really spoiled for choice for places to eat and drink in Porto as there are decent places on almost every corner with the city coming to life at night with bars, music and entertainment all around.
Aduela wine & gin bar, Porto - c/o Tim Dames
On our first night we arrived as the sun was setting, so headed out to wine & gin bar we'd heard was popular with the locals - so popular in fact, the place was sprawling out into the street. Aduela taberna and bar, although bustling, had a friendly, cosy atmosphere with a huge choice of gins and local wines by the glass, with tapas-style fresh meat and cheese platters and bruschetti to satisfy your hunger.
With the incessant rain the following day, we holed ourselves up for a short while in another popular spot, Café Candelabro. A very artsy style place with film and literary references dotted about makes this an interesting, laid-back place to while away a rainy afternoon with a choice of wines by the glass.
Spicy bifana sandwich at Conga
'Hotly' tipped as the national sandwich of Portugal, we tried the hot and spicy bifanas for ourselves at the reknowned Conga restaurant, said to be the original and best in Porto. Not the most elegant of dishes, it's boiled pork slathered in a sauce of spices in a simple crusty roll, of which the result is lip-smackingly delicious - especially washed down with a beer for a speedy lunch or snack.
Maus Hábitos, Porto - c/o João Saramango
However, a trip to Porto wouldn't be complete without checking out Maus Hábitos, a trendy spot for wine and cocktails as well as being a destination for gigs, art and nightlife. As with most hip joints these days, you'll find this one atop an old Art Deco car park which can be reached by curvy concrete staircase. A nice atmosphere, with a friendly, buzzy crowd, we filled up on delicious Italian style pizza and local wine.
PORT TASTING - VILA NOVA DE GAIA
Across from the old town of Porto is Vila Nova de Gaia, where you'll find the cellars of big names in the wine industry, open to the public for wine tasting. It's scenic and peaceful but also quite touristy, with lots of vendors vying for your attention for boat tours and wine tours which can be a little distracting.
Graham's port lodge, Porto
We pre-booked a tour to the Graham's port lodge which is nestled high up on the hill above the competition, offering great views of Porto and the bridge. The tour was probably one of the most informative and interesting I've been on so far, rewarded with your choice of port tastings at the end. We lapped up the samples of 10, 20 and 40 year-old tawny ports with their rich, dried-fruit flavours, each one getting more intense with age.
Port tasting at Graham's, Porto
In summary, a few days in Porto comes highly recommended, with lots to see, do, eat and shop. I definitely think Porto will be a city I'll come back to again and again, especially as it's so close to the new places in Aveiro and the Douro that I've encountered.
My epic Portugal trip doesn't end here however; my next postcard comes from our final destination in the Algarve, a week of sun (almost!) and relaxation awaits with beautiful scenery and historic towns to visit. Look out for the final edition coming soon! In the meantime you can catch up with my previous posts in the series, first Aveiro, and then the beautiful Douro valley. Or you can find more travel and style inspiration in my travel blog.