The wine known as “port” is famous throughout the world. However, the Portuguese city of Porto (“Porto” in Portuguese and English, and the Spanish are still using “Oporto”, which has never been the actual name), is nowhere near as famous as its wine. We, as the human race, have made a huge mistake. (I might as well continue referencing Arrested Development for the Portugal entries.)
Porto is the second-largest city of Portugal after Lisbon with 238,000 people (over a million in the metropolitan area). It is one of the most enchanting cities I have had the opportunity to visit, and I remember the city (although perhaps not the names) as if I were there yesterday and not five years ago. It is a place I want to return to so I can savour it with more time and better weather, as it was raining one of the two days I was there. That didn’t stop me from exploring as much as I could.
I arrived on a Sunday afternoon the week before Easter. Most things were closed, so I had a nice walking tour of the city and entered the churches that were open to look around. The Douro River snakes through the city, separating the main part from the wineries across the river. It’s a hilly city, just like its rival to the south, Lisbon. However, it offers an elegance and charm Lisbon does not.
The Igreja dos Clérigos and its towering Torre dominate the cityscape, and it is the tower itself that offer the best views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
The Ponte do Dom Luis I (Bridge of Sir Louis I) is another famous landmark and the most used bridge of the city.
Of course, the wineries and bodegas where they make port are the most famous tourist attraction. Sunday evening I ate at a restaurant looking at the bodegas just opposite the river.
On Monday morning, I walked around the other side of the river where they are located in the drizzle, trying to decide which one to visit. I felt weird, as I was travelling alone (as I tend to do). In the end, I decided that as I lived in Spain, I should pay homage to Osborne, one of Spain’s most famous wine makers. It wasn’t too expensive, and I got a personalized tour from a knowledgeable and friendly Portuguese tour guide. He seemed very interested in Spain, although he gave the tour in English (I’m sure if I went back today, I’d find a Spanish-speaking guide!) At the end of the tour, of course, was the free samples. I forget which sample I preferred, but I knew I had to find lunch soon as all those free samples could make someone a bit tipsy. (There was cheese with that wine though.)
It was also nice to see Porto from the other bank of the river.
The weather cleared, which meant I had time for another stroll through the town and watch the sunset from the river. Sunsets are always free and are always well worth watching whenever you travel.
I haven’t been back since 2009, but I have been wanting to go back for quite some time. It’s a quiet, charming city full of beauty and friendly people.
Portugal has amazed me, and although I live in its rival neighbour, it’s a place I always will return to. I still have a lot of things to discover there, I know. The Portugal series will conclude with a look at its capital, Lisboa (Lisbon), the San Francisco of Europe.