Por­tu­gal’s sec­ond city of­fers scenic beauty, au­then­tic his­tory and cul­ture, plus plenty of great eat­ing, drink­ing and shop­ping – all wrapped up in a charm­ingly laid-back at­mos­phere

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents - TEXT ROBYN ALEXAN­DER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY ROBYN ALEXAN­DER, SUP­PLIED

Heed Porto’s call and plan a visit to Por­tu­gal’s scenic sec­ond city soon with our de­tailed guide to the finest ex­pe­ri­ences, eat­ing and shop­ping

All around the old, his­tor­i­cal city of Porto, seag­ulls wheel and cry in the skies above – Porto is sit­u­ated along the es­tu­ary of the Douro River, where it meets the At­lantic Ocean. The city is one of Europe’s old­est, and it isn’t very large (fewer than 250 000 peo­ple live in the cen­tral metropoli­tan area). And, of course, it’s the home of the Port wine ‘lodges’, where for hun­dreds of years, the renowned for­ti­fied wines cre­ated up­river have been aged and stored be­fore be­ing ex­ported around the world.

With the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Por­tu­gal in gen­eral as a tourist des­ti­na­tion, it was per­haps only a mat­ter of time be­fore ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion turned north­wards to­wards Por­tu­gal’s sec­ond city. But Porto is much more than a mere al­ter­na­tive to the coun­try’s bustling, in­no­va­tion-driven cap­i­tal. It has a tran­quil at­mos­phere and is quite re­mark­ably beau­ti­ful. Here are our sug­ges­tions for where to eat, drink, shop and ex­pe­ri­ence some of the best of this spe­cial city.

Sights to be­hold

Al­though Porto’s Old City and Novo de Gaia (on the op­po­site bank of the Douro) aren’t hugely spread out, it’s a good idea to take one of the reg­u­lar tourist buses. The com­pre­hen­sive cir­cuits through the wind­ing streets will ori­en­tate you and re­veal the fact that, al­though hilly, the city is com­pact enough to be best ex­pe­ri­enced on foot. Plus you’ll get a sense of ex­actly which of the many his­tor­i­cal at­trac­tions you want to make time to visit – whether that is the im­pos­ing bulk of Sé do Porto (Porto Cathe­dral), the baroque Cléri­gos Church and Tower or the vi­brant (if touristy) river­front area, Cais da Ribeira.

It’s cer­tainly fun to rat­tle slowly along the Cais da Ribeira to­wards up­mar­ket Foz do Douro – the area named for the ac­tual river mouth – in one of the old wooden trams that first pro­vided pub­lic trans­port to Porto’s ci­ti­zens in the 1870s. Be pre­pared to queue for Line 1 from In­fante, the first stop, to­wards Foz. Then walk on from the end of the line to­wards the At­lantic coast­line. The views across the river mouth are lovely and the beaches in this area are the place to go for a re­fresh­ing swim or re­lax­ing stroll on the prom­e­nade.

Novo de Gaia is home to the Port lodges. These beau­ti­ful old stone build­ings now sport so­phis­ti­cated tast­ing op­tions, and the Fer­reira, Porto Cruz and Calém lodges are great for ex­plor­ing and tast­ing. If you’d rather ex­pe­ri­ence mul­ti­ple cel­lars and styles in one sit­ting, visit bou­tique wine store Por­tolo­gia, which boasts a large va­ri­ety of wines and tast­ings, ac­com­pa­nied by ex­cel­lent tapas-style food.

If you’re not for­tu­nate enough to ar­rive in Porto via São Bento sta­tion, be sure to pop in to ad­mire the gor­geous tiled pan­els that line its com­pact main con­course. Tra­di­tional in style, the mu­rals in­cor­po­rate about 20 000 glazed tiles and were cre­ated for the build­ing’s of­fi­cial in­au­gu­ra­tion in 1916. Also a must-see for azulejo (tile) lovers is the Igreja do Carmo, a baroque church with a glo­ri­ous blue-and-white tiled ex­te­rior wall – a per­fect spot for In­sta­gram­mers of both the selfie and scenic per­sua­sions.

Ar­chi­tec­ture lovers who pre­fer their at­trac­tions a touch more mod­ern in style should nat­u­rally snap a shot of the fa­mous Dom Lúis I bridge, one of no fewer than seven bridges that con­nect the city across the Douro, but the only one to be de­signed by a dis­ci­ple of leg­endary French en­gi­neer Gus­tave Eif­fel ( you can tell).

Also un­miss­able is the Art Deco villa lo­cated in the ex­ten­sive park­like grounds of the con­tem­po­rary art mu­seum, the Museu de Ser­ralves. The ar­ray of mod­ern sculp­tures dot­ted through­out the ver­dant gar­dens is in­spir­ing, too – it’s re­ally well worth set­ting aside at least half a day for ex­plor­ing here.

Last but very much not least is Rem Kool­haas’ Casa da Música, com­pleted in 2005 and hous­ing mul­ti­ple spa­ces for mu­si­cal per­for­mances. Take a guided tour of this bril­liant build­ing if you’re even re­motely in­ter­ested in con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture (the best value is to buy a well-dis­counted com­bined en­try for this tour and the Ser­ralves).

Talk­ing shop

Porto’s cen­tral fresh pro­duce mar­ket, Mer­cado do Bol­hão, is closed for ma­jor ren­o­va­tions at present, but the block or so around it is still good for brows­ing spe­cial­ity food stores if that’s your favourite thing to do in a for­eign city. For an es­pe­cially well-cu­rated dis­play of Por­tuguese del­i­ca­cies such as canned seafood, ar­ti­sanal salts, olive oils and vine­gars, head to Mercearia das Flo­res, which is just one pos­si­ble shop­ping stop on the Rua das Flo­res, a charm­ing pedes­tri­anised street in the Old City.

There is lots to choose from on Rua das Flo­res, but don’t miss the flag­ship store of in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Por­tuguese soap and fra­grance brand Claus Porto. This is the place to pick up a bot­tle of clas­sic old-fash­ioned cologne, or one of the mod­ern ver­sions that were re­cently ex­clu­sively cre­ated for the brand by Bri­tish per­fumer Lyn Har­ris. Claus Porto soaps are also ex­cep­tion­ally good, and ev­ery­thing bears beau­ti­ful Art Nou­veau- and Art Deco-in­spired pack­ag­ing.

Around the cor­ner is Lobo Taste, which sells Por­tuguese-de­signed and made home­wares, ac­ces­sories and more. Also of­fer­ing a range of lo­cally crafted and pro­duced items – such as con­tem­po­rary ceram­ics and lovely leather bags – is lo­cal de­sign em­po­rium Al­mada 13. For an up­mar­ket but very cool se­lec­tion of cloth­ing for women and men by a range of Por­tuguese and in­ter­na­tional fash­ion la­bels, as well as some se­ri­ously covetable shoes, stop by The Feet­ing Room. And if you need to, take a well-earned rest from re­tail ther­apy (or sim­ply pon­der what to pur­chase) at the Combi Cof­fee out­let up­stairs.

Porto also has loads of book­stores, in­clud­ing the world-fa­mous Livraria Lello. Be pre­pared to queue and pay to get in, though, as its Art Nou­veau in­te­rior served as in­spi­ra­tion for the world of JK Rowl­ing’s Harry Pot­ter nov­els. If you’re a bit spooked by the idea of pay­ing to en­ter a book­shop and ac­tu­ally want to stock up on your po­etry col­lec­tion, go around the cor­ner to the tiny but equally lovely Livraria Poe­tria in­stead.

Palat­able plea­sures

Again, there are loads of op­tions for eat­ing and drink­ing in Porto and, as in the rest of Por­tu­gal, the seafood of all kinds is sub­limely good. At Aba­dia do Porto, which spe­cialises in tra­di­tional Por­tuguese cui­sine, sam­ple the Ba­cal­hau à Gomes de Sá (casse­role of ba­cal­hau [salt cod] with po­ta­toes, eggs, olives, olive oil and onion). At

the op­po­site end of the foodie (and pric­ing) scale is Miche­lin-starred Pe­dro Lemos Res­tau­rante, where you can ex­pect su­perla­tive fine din­ing in the form of a mul­ti­course tast­ing menu that up­dates and gives cur­rent twists to Por­tuguese clas­sics.

The Ma­jes­tic Café is a won­der­fully old-school Art Nou­veau restau­rant that serves a mixed crowd of el­e­gantly at­tired lo­cals and gaw­ping tourists all day long. Break here for a mid-morn­ing cof­fee – not in­ex­pen­sive, but def­i­nitely worth it for the peo­ple­watch­ing and beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors.

Next-gen­er­a­tion bars with out­door seat­ing are also big in Porto – and why not, when the weather is gen­er­ally so lovely? Our favourites serve sim­ple food as well: at Adu­ela, you can en­joy su­perb cheese and char­cu­terie, or sar­dines and to­ma­toes on toast ( highly rec­om­mended!), and a lo­cal beer or a Porto Ton­icó – dry white Port with tonic wa­ter and a cit­rus twist or sprig of mint – re­fresh­ing on a warm af­ter­noon. Café Can­de­labro serves drinks and cof­fee as well as sec­ond­hand books, and it’s a good idea to chat to the friendly, knowl­edge­able young staff if you’re keen to find out more about some un­usual and up-to-the-minute Por­tuguese wines (I be­came an in­stant fan of Soal­heiro Min­eral Rosé).

Au­then­tic ge­lato is pop­u­lar in Porto at the mo­ment – we got our fix at Ge­la­te­ria Sincelo – and

you can get a truly de­li­cious burger (with­out any frills what­so­ever) at Real Ham­burg­e­ria. For some­thing unique that also in­cludes plenty of vege­tar­ian and ve­gan op­tions, visit Nam­ban Oporto Kitchen Café.

Fi­nally, the bars and restau­rants that line the cen­trally sit­u­ated Rua Pi­caria are all gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent. From craft beer at A Fábrica da Pi­caria to pan-Asian food at Boa-Bao and just about ev­ery­thing in be­tween, sim­ply make your way over here and win­dow-shop the menus un­til you find some­thing you fancy.

Sleep­ing beau­ties

Lo­cated in a quiet yet up-and-com­ing part of the Old City that places you in the heart of all things his­tor­i­cal Porto is the in­ti­mate, beau­ti­fully re­stored Porto Vin­tage Guest­house, where the rooms are spa­cious, and sat­is­fy­ingly good break­fasts will set you up for a day of ex­plor­ing. The Rua do Al­mada, in which it’s po­si­tioned, is a charm­ing mix of vin­tage fur­ni­ture stores and old-school shops that have clearly been do­ing busi­ness in the area for many years.

If you’re a wine afi­cionado, on the other hand, and want to stay close to the var­i­ous Port lodges on the Novo de Gaia side of the Douro River, try The Yeat­man for a real five-star ex­pe­ri­ence; there’s even a lux­u­ri­ous vinother­apy spa on the premises. Also in Vila Novo de Gaia is The House of San­de­man Hos­tel & Suites, which of­fers both con­tem­po­rary hos­tel­style ac­com­mo­da­tion (very bud­get-friendly) as well as a range of con­ven­tional ho­tel rooms. It ʼ s on the premises of the in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned San­de­man Port lodge, and is also an ideal spot for those aim­ing to spend as much time as pos­si­ble tast­ing Port.

Back in the Old City – right on the shop­ping street of Rua da Flo­res – is the stylish and cen­tral Myo De­sign House. The build­ing in which it’s based dates back to 1605, and has been taste­fully re­stored and up­dated. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is in var­i­ous ‘Mas­ter Suites’, which are like small apart­ments, com­plete with kitch­enettes and all the com­forts of a real home from home – in­clud­ing a babysit­ter, should you need one.

On the move

While the Metro train sys­tem doesn’t take you every­where, it’s a plea­sure to use, and the buses are good as well, as well as pretty easy to work out with a bit of as­sis­tance from Google Maps. Get your­self a lo­cal SIM card on ar­rival so you have ac­cess to mo­bile data that isn’t pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive.

Uber rides are easy to come by and ex­tremely rea­son­ably priced, al­though sim­i­lar is­sues with hos­til­ity from con­ven­tional taxi drivers ap­ply here as they do in many parts of SA. Over­all, though, walk­ing is likely to be your best op­tion, in spite of the fact that Porto is al­most as hilly as Lis­bon – after all, walk­ing helps you jus­tify all the flavour­ful food and drink you’ll be con­sum­ing, too.

T HIS SPR EA D, CLOCK­WISE F ROM A BOVE A view of the Douro River along­side Por­toʼs Old City; veg­e­tar­i­ans and ve­g­ans will be right at home at Nam­ban Oporto Kitchen Café; Miche­lin-starred Pe­dro Lemos Res­tau­rante of­fers con­tem­po­rary twists on clas­sic Por­tuguese dishes ( pe­drole­; dis­cover un­usual lo­cal wines at Café Can­de­labro; Livraria Lello in­spired the mag­i­cal world in the Harry Pot­ter se­ries ( livrar­i­; ris­ing above man­i­cured gar­dens is the im­pres­sive Art Deco villa at the Ser­ralves; Mercearia das Flo­res deli dis­plays a well-cu­rated se­lec­tion of Por­tuguese del­i­ca­cies; The Feet­ing Room will pro­vide your fash­ion fix ( the­feet­

PR EVIOUS PAGE Blue-and-white azulejo- clad walls at the In­sta­gram-friendly baroque church, Igreja do Carmo; a former fish­ing port, the af­flu­ent sub­urb of Foz do Douro is the ideal lo­ca­tion for a re­laxed visit to Porto.

THIS SPREAD, CLOCK­WISE FROM A BOVE The Rem Kool­haas-de­signed Casa da Música houses mul­ti­ple spa­ces for mu­si­cal per­for­mances; an el­e­vated vista of sun-bathed rooftops in the Novo de Gaia neigh­bour­hood, with the Douro and Old City in the back­ground; bud­get-con­scious trav­ellers will ap­pre­ci­ate the de­signer dorms at House of San­de­man Hos­tel & Suites ( the­house­of­sande­; first cre­ated by artist Rafael Bordalo Pin­heiro in 1891, an­dor­in­has – iconic Por­tuguese ce­ramic swal­lows – are a main fea­ture in many lo­cal homes and cafes, as they are in Pe­dro Lemos Res­tau­rante; São Bento sta­tion boasts a ma­jes­tic mu­ral com­pris­ing 20 000 tiles; the serene Porto Vin­tage Guest­house ( por­tov­in­tageguest­; pool with a view at The Yeat­man; Ge­la­te­ria Sincelo serves up au­then­tic ge­lato.

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