We spent a long weekend away in Porto in early February on a girls trip to celebrate our dear friend Nadine’s birthday. Whilst some of us had been to Portugal before, none of the six of us had ever been to Porto – Portugal’s second largest city. What we found was a charming, hilly, beautifully-tiled city unlike anywhere we’ve been to before. The Portuguese were incredibly welcoming; from the glasses of Port wine on our arrival at our hotel (Flores Village Hotel & Spa), to our enthusiastic Uber drivers who doubled as our tour guides and quizzed us on the latest BREXIT news. In our short visit to Porto, we found more than enough to keep us busy and it did not disappoint us in the slightest!
Eat at the Vogue Café
While not the most traditional eatery in the city, Porto’s Vogue Café definitely pays homage to its location through the wine list and menu – port-poached pears, anyone? The modern cafe has a limited but delicious food menu, attentive and knowledgeable wait staff and strikingly Instagram-worthy interior design. As expected, the price matched the setting but it is still fairly affordable for a bourgeoisie meal out.
While we were there, Nadine mentioned in passing to our waitress that we were visiting Porto to celebrate her birthday. Our waitress promptly took the opportunity to arrange a surprise candle-lit cake to be brought out in her honour, and along with an ensemble of other wait staff joined us in serenading her a happy birthday. Cute!
The food was tasty and moreish, which was torture considering the gastric-band portion sizes. However, if you want to go somewhere classy in Porto while still being kind to your pocket, we would recommend taking your girls and popping in here for a cocktail (or two), or for dessert and a coffee.
Other places to eat: Espaco Porto Cruz (360° Terrace Lounge). What can we say? We love a rooftop! After a couple of drinks and a meal here with views of the Dom Luis I Bridge (a major point of interest in Porto) by the Douro River, no one can say you haven’t seen Porto!
See the chapel on Miramar Beach
It’s a curious sight; the Chapel of Senhor da Pedra (Capela do sr. da Pedra) stands on its foundation of rocks at the very edge of the Miramar beach. Built in the 17th century, apparently it used to be a site for pagan worshippers before being consecrated for use as a chapel. The day we visited was a day of extremely strong wind and rough seas, but Nadine and Lulu couldn’t resist running down the beach to get a closer look (and a photo opportunity). As it was only a 20 minute Uber ride away from the Dom Luis I Bridge area, it was well worth making the journey out to see it.
Other things to see: Sao Bento train station; you don’t even have to take the train anywhere! Just pop in and marvel at the beautifully tiled walls typical of the city. Our Uber driver told us that until we see it, we haven’t really been to Porto at all! Fortunately it was in walking distance from our accommodation.
Do a Porto GoCar Tour
As we landed in Porto on Friday afternoon, and returned to London on Sunday evening we had only a few hours to make the most of our visit to Porto. We decided to use the Saturday to tour the city, get our bearings and learn a bit more about where we had travelled to. Porto, like any other popular city, wasn’t short on the tour options available – we probably could have battled the hills and found a free walking tour, or done a regular hop-on/hop-off bus tour but we actually decided in advance we would do something a little different; we decided it would be fun to drive ourselves around with the GoCar tour.
What an adventure! Each car has a SatNav loaded with a route to follow depending on the tour you buy – ours was a 1 hour tour of the historical area of the city. As you follow the route, the SatNav tells you facts about the key points of interest you pass. You have the freedom to park up and explore the sights on foot, too, so long as you stick to your allotted time. What we didn’t bank on as we were riding around in our convoy of three GoCars was 1) being separated, and 2) being led down extremely narrow roads which didn’t look suitable for GoCars, let alone regular cars!
It took a bit of getting used to, but overall we had so much fun that we would definitely recommend this experience if you head to Porto as part of a friendship group. To see how we managed with driving on the cobbled Porto streets, make sure you subscribe to our channel to be notified of our Porto Vlog when it’s published!
Other things to do: wine cellar tour in Vila Nova de Gaia – we learned so much on our tour of the Burmester cellars, such as the reason all the cellars are in Vila Nova de Gaia and not in Porto (they are on opposing sides of the Douro River). Its because the sun shines on Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia stays in the shade meaning the temperatures are optimum in this area. It made sense to do a wine cellar tour considering Port fortified wine is produced and takes its name from Porto. Our favourite part of the tour was definitely the wine tasting at the end!
Have you been to Porto? Is it on your list? Let us know!