Welcome to Porto!
First destination: Porto, Portugal! What can I say about it? Beautiful, historical and lively.
We spent just one day and a half in this marvelous city, it was a short and impressive visit. But let’s start with the bad parts, because (and I am sad to say it) there were some.
Our plane landed at the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport around 8 a.m., we got our bags (all five of them) and the first thing we did was buy a SIM card (that is tip number one for you, and trust me, buy one that allows you to make phone calls, because along side this tip comes our mistake number one… but we’ll get to that in a few). Anyhow, as we stepped out of the airport we couldn’t believe: the first day and it’s already raining and quite cold… But we didn’t let it stop us from having a big smile on our faces.
We got a cab with this very friendly driver, as he was driving he started telling us a little bit more about the city, the places we should visit and the food we should try (codfish and all its varieties, ‘francesinha’, ‘tripas à moda do Porto’). As we got in the hotel’s street the driver left us on the corner, because of the thigh street and there we were, dragging our bags through this, how can I say this without being rude… this parallelepiped awful, hideous, direful street and all we saw were a note:
‘To do the check-in and/or drop off your bags please go to the address: XXXX XXXX.
We are open from 10 a.m. to 17 p.m.
In case you arrive early you can call the numbers: XXXXXXX’’
(You see, now would be an excellent time to have a phone that made phone calls)
And there we went again, somehow managing to drag our bags through those streets until we got to the reception, and yes, they were close (keep it in mind that it was 8:30 and they would only open at 10 a.m.). We waited at this little cafeteria and luckily, John and I went for a walk and we saw that the hotel people had opened early. We dropped off the bags there and went our way to start exploring this yet mysterious town.
Unfortunately, we didn’t do everything we had plan, mostly because we got lost too many times and our phones were dead after 24 hours traveling. But we kept going and, at each mistake we made, we found something new that we didn’t plan to see, so it was worth it!
- Ribeira: It is one of the oldest places in Porto, it is located alongside the Douro River and it is part of the historic center of the city. Currently, is filled with bars and restaurants.
- Sao Bento train station: one of the main city monuments, the station is well known for its tile panels which cover something around 550 square meters. It shows past scenes from the North of Portugal, among them are D. Joao I and D. Filipa de Lencastre arriving at Porto, the conquest of Ceuta, the traditional country life, the history of transport dedicated to the evolution of transport in Porto and many others. The tiles present a typical Art Nouveau style with lots of pastel colors. Another beautiful thing that I have to mention is the building’s facade with its strong French influence.
- Lello Library: located in the center of Porto, Lello was considered by many as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Since 1906 it has been the house of art and literature and nowadays receives tons of visitors from all around the world. Rumor has it that its staircases were the inspiration behind the library in Harry Potter’s movies (since J.K. Rowling lived in the city for some time). Entrance tickets cost 5 euros, and you should keep in mind that it is one of the main attractions for tourists in Porto, so you will probably have to face a line (the tip here, is to either buy the ticket online or go right when the place is opening).
- Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace): built in 1842 by the city’s Commercial Association, Palácio da Bolsa is a historical neoclassic building. Currently receives many diverse cultural, social and political events from the town.
Porto is filled with different historical treasures, here I just named a few. But, like I said, we only spent one day and a half there, so we did not have the time to know even 10% of the town (that is why we are definitely going back!).