Next up on my travel diaries series of Portugal is Porto! We found that Porto was a little bit wetter of a city (maybe it was just the days that we were there for), but the weather was a little chillier as well. Nonetheless we found some beautiful places and had so much fun while there. Keep reading if you’re planning a trip to Porto soon or want to see what we got up to while we were there!
PS. If your an architect buff and love to AirBnB whenever you travel, I would highly recommend booking this listing as it is absolutely stunning. And our host was a dream to work with as well!
For coffee drinkers like me, I’m always on the search for a cute cafe. Latte art doesn’t necessarily seem like a particular trend in Portugal compared to to Toronto, so I had a hard time finding cafes that checked off the various requirements such as cute decor, delicious coffee, and amazing latte art. Cafe Majestic was one of the few that checked off those requirements for me -minus the latte art. But that’s okay because the coffee was great. We actually turned down this cafe a few times before finally deciding to go in due to the sheer volume of people waiting in line. But what you don’t see is how fast the wait staff turn over the tables, so even though it appears as if you’ll be standing around waiting for a long time, in reality it won’t be much longer than 5-10 minutes.
Fans of Harry Potter definitely won’t want to miss this bookstore. I literally grew up on the series, so as soon as I learned that J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for the series from this bookstore, I knew that it would be a pit stop on our adventure across Porto. Be prepared for long lineups though because many others will have the same requirement as me. Although the line may appear to be daunting, it moves fairly quickly.
Tip: Our recommendation is to have one person wait in line, while another goes and purchases tickets. You’ll need to purchase tickets to enter from a gift shop around the corner and that too in itself sometimes has quite the lineup. To prevent lining up twice, split up to diversify your efforts and save time!
You’ll have to enter through Clérigos Church in order to access the actual tower. And while you’re at it, you might as well explore the church too! This beautiful Baroque style building is an architectural wonder. Take the time to explore the back hallways and up the staircases to get a glimpse out of the top of the alter. Afterwards head over to the other end of the church to climb your way up the tower. The views from the top are definitely worth the cramped and claustrophobic trek up. You’ll get a beautiful glimpse of the city from a high-vantage point (though the area isn’t photography conducive) and take in the fresh air!
After visiting both the library and tower, you’re probably going to need to eat at some point. We happened to stumble upon this cafe on a side road right around the corner from the library and fell in love with what it had to offer.
Site note: This cafe wasn’t designed for tourists, so it was a little difficult for us to understand what was in each dish. But with the help of some other locals in the area that spoke English, we were able to identify what we were eating.
If you’re the type of person who loves the full experience of traveling by trying out the local food, this cafe will definitely not disappoint. With a quirky atmosphere and very affordable prices, I would go back for sure. Just remember to bring cash as they don’t take cards!
The best time to take a stroll through this UNESCO heritage site is right before dinner and after as well. The square is situated right on the bank of the river and offers a stunning view of the sunset right around dinner time. With plentiful outdoor seating, one of my favourite things to do while in Porto was to indulge in all of the seafood that I could consume while relaxing to the beautiful sounds of local musicians playing in the square. If you’re in Porto on a romantic getaway, I would highly recommend spending a lot of time in the square.
One of our favourite restaurants that we dined at was the Ribeira Square Restaurante. I literally had my filling of Nero Penne – which seems to be quite the popular dish in Portugal. I’ve never had fresher prawns in my life than while we were in Portugal. Also side note, someone really needs to make nero a trend in Toronto because I can’t get enough of it and keep craving for more! The wait staff here are also insanely welcoming and will give you all of the recommendations that you desire for the best places to visit/dine in the city.
Luís I Bridge Ponte Luís I
The Ribiera Square isn’t exactly massive, so walking from one end to the other won’t necessarily be sufficient for an entire evening’s plans if you don’t hope to enjoy a dinner there. I would also highly recommend a walk across the bridge to the other side of the river. Not only is the view of Porto’s water and skyline phenomenal, but the vantage point to take in the city makes it pretty postcard perfect.
Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
Continuing with the monastery obsession, once you’re across the bridge, make a pit stop into the the one directly across from it. The interior is as beautiful as the exterior!
Jardim do Morro
Situated right next to the monastery, this beautiful garden/hill is where we finished up the majority of our days in Porto. It’s known as the most popular place for young couples to visit on their first date, or just to admire the beautiful sunset (which is exactly what we did). We also snagged mind blowing views for our drone up top of this hill. Compared to Canada, Portugal is extremely drone friendly. But seriously, grab a bottle of port wine after you’ve crossed the bridge, and pick a spot on the hill to relax.
History buffs need to make a pit stop into this beautiful palace. It may not be large, but it definitely is impressive. No longer used by royals, this palace right in the middle of the city is now a museum/event space/heritage site. In order to explore it, you’ll need to partake in a group tour, but there are opportunities to break off from the group to take your own photos. The palace is essentially any Instagrammer’s dream and I would definitely pack a second outfit to shoot if you plan on taking lots of photos – opportunities are abound inside the palace.