Thursday, January 9, 2014

3 Days in Porto, Portugal - An Ideal European Weekend City Break

The namesake port wine, atmospheric architecture and colorful tiles, historic rabelos bobbing on the Douro River and bone-rattling trams; these are just a few of the reasons that Porto, Portugal was high on our travel wish list. We finally took the opportunity to visit in Autumn 2013 and I'm pleased to report that Porto exceeded our expectations as a European weekend city break destination.

Here's the itinerary we created and experienced for a magical weekend away.  We hope you'll benefit from our learnings if you're planning your own trip to Porto.

Day 1 - Morning - Arrival and Orientation

  • Getting There:  Porto is served by the major low cost airlines in Europe including Ryanair and EasyJet.  Here is a link to the full list of airlines servicing Porto.
  • Ground Transportation:  Getting to the city centre from the airport is easy via the Metro do Porto.  Buy an Andante ticket from the kiosks at the station (2.30 € single includes 0.50 € card fee).
  • Accommodation:  We stayed at the charming Casa dos Lóios Boutique Guesthouse (Shiadu) for 198 € for 2 nights)

Day 1 - Afternoon - Lunch, A Stroll on the Douro, and our final 'Port' of Call

  • Menu do Dia: Grab an inexpensive 2 course lunch offered at many places throughout the city. We chose Larica.  We were treated to soup, a plate of pasta or rice with meat, and a glass of wine for less than 7.50 € per person. 
    • Tip: we asked the manager at our hotel for recommendations for places to eat before we set out rather than relying on our guidebook.
  • Enjoy an Afternoon stroll along the Douro River:   Click the image below to see a selection of full-sized photos from our walk.
  • Photo Album - City Break in Porto - A Stroll Along the Douro River
  • Port Tasting: Finish off the afternoon across the Douro with an uphill climb to one of Porto's famed port houses.  We chose Offley and were treated to a tour and generous samples of three ports for just 4 € per person.  Click the image below to see a selection of photos from our port tasting experience.
Photo Album - City Break in Porto - Port Tasting at Offley

Day 1 - Sunset and Dinner on the Douro

  • Enjoy an Amazing Sunset:  Stake out a rooftop table and sip a port cocktail at Espaço Porto Cruz.  Click the image below for more photos of the gorgeous Porto sunset that we witnessed.
Photo Album - City Break in Porto - Sunset over the Douro River
  • Dine along the Douro: Lovely outdoor eateries line the Douro River.  We tried Casa Filha da Mae Preta.  Entries average about 10.00 € and it's worth every penny not only for the food (we loved our octopus dish served with sharp raw onions) but for the people-watching.  

Day 2 - Morning - An Atmospheric Stroll  

  • Steep in the atmosphere of Porto and take a walk to explore the area around Clérigos Church, Church of St. Ildefonso, Cinema Batalha, Rua de Santa Catarina, and Câmara Municipal de Porto.

Day 2 - Afternoon - Lunch and Excursion to Foz

  • Upscale Menu do Dia: Take time out for another Menu do Dia.  This time, we tried the more upscale Club 3C.  We were drawn in by their chalkboard menu outside as we went past.
  • Tram Excursion to Foz:  Hop on historic Linha 1 of the tram system (2.50 € per person each way, buy on board) along the Douro and you'll be transported within 30 minutes to where the river meets the sea.  Take time to walk along the break walls and note the difference between the serenity of the river and the raw power of the Atlantic.  Click on the images below to access additional photos from our excursion to Foz.
Photo Album - City Break in Porto - Tram Ride to Foz

Day 2 - Evening - Port Tasting Reprise and Sunset Cruise

  • Port and Chocolate Tasting: Retrace your route on the tram from Foz back to its origin.  Cross the river and do a reprise of your port tasting experience from Day 1.  This time, we opted to try one of the port tasting rooms along the river, Kopke.  We were led upstairs to a quiet room overlooking the river and were presented with a menu of wine flights to choose from.  We selected an option (22.40 €) that included two wines and three ports (one was 30 years old!).  The tasting was served with a copious supply of chocolate.
  • Sunset Cruise on the Douro:  A number of companies run ~1 hour excursions under the 6 bridges of the Douro in Porto for about 10 € per person.  Time your cruise to coincide with the sunset for extra-special views.  Click the image below to see additional photos from our sunset cruise.Photo Album - City Break in Porto - Sunset River Cruise

Day 3 - Morning - Enjoy Magnificent Vistas While Getting Some Exercise

  • Climb Torre dos Clérigos:  On Sunday, many shops and attractions are closed but you can still climb the iconic tower at Clérigos Church.  Catch your breath while steeping in the amazing views over Porto.Photo Album - City Break in Porto - View from Torre dos Clerigos
We hope you've enjoyed our recommendations for a weekend city break in Porto, Portugal.  Be sure to stop back after your trip and leave a comment with your favorite finds in Porto.  

Here is a link to more in-depth posts and photos on all of the sites and experiences in Porto referenced above.  

Trip Dates: Friday September 20 - Sunday September 22, 2013

Note: All expenses for the trip were incurred by the author.  None of the elements of the trip were sponsored by any of the attractions, hotels, or restaurants referenced.

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