Travelling to Porto was a last minute decision and somewhere I wanted to escape the dullness of London’s winter. Porto was the remedy that i desperately needed as it had the perfect combination of colourful buildings, tasty food, cobbled streets, interesting architecture and the most brilliant sunsets. It was the perfect little city to do some soul-searching. So here is what i got up to in my glorious solo winter getaway in Porto.
Day 1: Walking Tour of Porto and That Sunset
After a short walk from the main train station to my accommodation – “Cats Hostel Porto”, i instantly knew that i loved this cute city – just look at those tiles!
After freshening up, I walked back up (one of the many) hills and strolled past the Church of Saint Ildefonso. Admittedly, not the most beautiful of Porto’s azulejo-covered churched but it is centrally located as its near Batalha Square – one of the busiest squares in Porto. The church date back to 1739 and has Porto-baroque architectural detailing.
The first thing i did was go on a Sandeman’s free walking tour to orientate myself and learn a little more about the history of Porto. The first thing i learnt was that the name for the country of Portugal came from the two cities of Porto and Gaia (formerly called Cale). When you combine both words you get the name “Tranquil Porto” which eventually evolved into Portugal.
Camara Municipal – the Town Hall
On my way to the starting point of Sandeman’s free walking tour, as i crossed the main boulevard in Porto, Avenida dos Aliados, I walked past the Camara Municipal, the Town Hall. The beautiful and strangely-symmetrical building dates back to 1957. The inside of the building did not impress me as much but it still looked impressive from the outside!
I wouldn’t usually go to a McDonalds when I travel abroad because lets face it – its pretty much the same anywhere this one so different! It’s the most beautiful restaurant in the world! The interior is definitely worth the visit.
I couldn’t go to Porto without experiencing fine Portuguese roast chicken restaurant. A local told me about Pedro dos Frangos and boy am i glad i went – it was a family-run restaurant with so much history and more importantly, delicious food! I loved how genuine it was and that it was a people place – it didn’t need to faff around with looking fancy as the food speaks for itself. The roast chicken is done “na brasa” – on a skewer and not cut open.
Clérigos Tower and Igreja do Carmelitas
The walking tour started at Clerigos Tower – this was one of the most famous landmarks of Porto.
We then walked from there to Igreja do Carmerlitas – the inside of the church is pretty but the most famous aspect is the azuelejos (blue and white tiles) on the church wall.
We then walked down little alley ways and came to a beautiful viewpoint of Porto and later to the botanical gardens. IT was just perfect timing as the sun was setting!
Just before heading back to the hotel – I wanted to go for a little walk and have coffee at the majestic café. This is located in the Rua de Santa Catarina, one of the busiest streets in the city. It opened in the 1920s but it was called “Elite”. The name changed a year after its grand opening to “majestic” in order to cater for the intended crowd. I was mesmerised by this beautiful café which is one of the most beautiful representations of Art Nouveau in the city of Porto.
Day 2: Across the River
Igreja de Santa Clara
I started off the day by walking to Igreja de Santa Clara which was only a 5 minutes walk from my hostel. This is definitely worth visiting as the interior is entirely made of gold. I somehow got lost in the cobbled streets leading down to the river but boy im glad that I did as I felt like it was very authentic Porto with nanas hanging the clothes outside and others sitting in front of their houses.
When I finally reached the bottom of the stairs, I sat by the river bed and soaked in the atmosphere. This holiday was for me to reflect and to think carefully about a few things so I must have sat there for ages just people watching and contemplating!
I then was looking at the boats that kept going back and fourth and thought it would be quite cool to see Porto in both sides – so I found where the stop was and took a little river tour! I loved it but unfortunately I don’t really remember where I took it from or how much it was.
I then took the stop which was on the other side of the river which was famously known as where the wine cellars and vineyards are kept. I wasn’t really planning in going inside any of them as I don’t drink, but my curiosity got the best of me and so I wondered around and found myself in one…
It was actually a really great experience as I learnt how wine is made and the history behind it. Porto is famously known for its Port wine so they showed the difference between the different types. At the end, you get the chance to try a few sips of wine – I sat down there for a while as I loved the café and just ordered coffee.
On the way back, I stopped off at MiraPorto café and ordered some soup and sandwich. It had the nicest view of Porto as it was on top of a hill. It was a local café and the food tasted home-made which was perfect as I was cravinggg home-made food. I mustve stayed here for 2/3 hours reading my book and people-watching (as I do).
On the way back to the hostel, I stopped by a shopping mall to do some shopping and for some random reason, have some Indian food. It was just the perfect end to an extremelly random but relaxing day.
Day 3: Sao Bento and the Livraria Lello
Sao Bento Train Station
I remember waking up the last day feeling so refreshed and content. Iw as so thankful I took this trip as it was exactly what I needed. I started off my day walking to Sao Bento train station. When reading lists about the world’s most beautiful train stations, Sao Bento in Porto almost always makes the cut. Admittedly, its nothing special from the outside but the entrance hall is so spectacular with its blue and white tiles that makes this train station so beautiful and unique. I believe Sao Bento gets its name from a monastery that was demolished in the 1890s to make way for the railway station for which construction began in 1900. In 1905, Jorge Colacao, one of the most celebrated azuelejo artists of his time began painting his tiled. 11 years and 20k tiles latter, this project was completed.
I was conflicted whether to include this on my Porto itinerary but again, I wanted to go to see what the fuss is all about. The bookstore is absolutely beautiful and it is known that its beauty is what inspired JK Rowling which she was living in Porto. I don’t think I appreciated the beauty quite so much because it was so freaking crowded and is basically a melee of Instagram posers all angling for the shot.
Just around the corner, u stumbled upon the most beautiful hidden square. Of course, as you probably guessed by now – I found a cute spot in a café, got me book out and started reading/people-watching. It was truely fabulous.
Trying an Francesinha Sandwich
Before heading back home, I wanted to try an authentic Francesinha Sandwich from Café Santiago F. A Francesinha sandwich is made with bread, ham/beef, sausage and steak. It is typically covered with melted cheese and an egg on top. Each restaurant makes it with its own touch but Café Santiago is arguably the most famous on. It definitely is a calorie bomb sandwich as you also get an accompanying side of French fries… Just look at that…
To burn off those calories, I definitely needed to walk it off – so I walked across the bridge to the other side of Porto and pouched myself on a rock overlooking Porto. It was the best way to end off a relaxing and chilled weekend solo trip.
Do you have any questions about travelling to Porto that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible