10 Reasons There's Just No Portugal Without Port(o)
It is no secret that I am in love with Lisbon but my goodness, I did not know what else I was missing until I headed to northern Portugal. Lisbon, while one of my favorite cities in the world, is teeming with tourists and oftentimes feels like it’s losing its authenticity. This is where Porto had an opportunity to swoop in and steal my affection. It has its fair share of tourists, don’t get me wrong, but there is something I can’t quite put my finger on that sets it apart from Lisbon. Maybe it’s the slower pace, the friendlier people, the port wineries, or the old world vibes. If you stand on the other side of the river and look at the city, it’s not hard to imagine what it looked like hundreds of years ago, because it probably hasn't changed all that much. It only took a day or two before I realized Lisbon had some serious competition, and 10 places in particular had a hand in my newfound love affair. So without further ado:
1. Blue Sock Hostel
Blue Sock Hostel Porto is hands down the best hostel I've ever stayed in. I'd be pressed to find a single thing I didn't like about it. I was so impressed by this place that it’s going to sound like they’ve paid me to give a rave review, but I assure you, they have not. Blue Sock was recommended to me by friends, and clearly with good reason. It ticked every box and catered to its guests so well that I could have just hunkered down for a week and had everything I needed without leaving the premises. The interior is stunning. I typically hate dorms and I absolutely loved theirs. We’re talking black out curtains, lamps, outlets, comfy mattresses (and XL options!) set in high-ceilinged rooms with beautiful stonework and wooden beams. The WiFi? Super fast. Common areas? Tons of them, and they’re all amazing. Location? Great, right near the river and bridge. Staff? Super nice, and even learned my name (I mean, I did stay for a week to be fair). There's even a bar downstairs (also doubles as the breakfast area) that serves bomb pizza (amongst other things) and cheap drinks. It's social, it's stylish, and I'd point anyone visiting Porto in its direction.
2. Livraria Lello
In case you haven’t heard, Livraria Lello is the famous library that many people believe to have inspired JK Rowling’s vision for Flourish and Blotts in Harry Potter. The most important thing I’m going to tell you about Livraria Lello is this: GO AT THE END OF THE DAY! This place gets absolutely packed and it’s because it is STUNNING. If you are anything like me and you want to get some gorgeous pictures, it is in your best interest to show up right before closing time (which was 7:30 PM on this particular day, so I showed up around 6:30 PM.)
3. Cafe Progresso
THIS PLACE. Set aside a solid chunk of time to explore Serralves because this spot is a modern art museum/abandoned Barbie mansion/garden of FUN. I'd seen the photos of the "villa" (aka Barbie mansion) online and that was my immediate draw, but I was in for quite the surprise. I'm going to let the photos do the talking on this one. (Hope you like pink.)
5. Zenith Cafe
Ate at Zenith Cafe three times in a week. You're gonna wait in line, it's gonna go fast, and it's gonna be worth it. I can vouch for the eggs benedict, nutella AND berry pancakes (yep, I tried both), and the açai bowl. Absolutely delightful. That is all.
6. Majestic Cafe
Pretty sure Majestic is rated one of the most beautiful cafes in Europe and I'm inclined to agree. I popped in for a tea one afternoon and enjoyed the golden embellishments that surrounded me. It's overpriced but worth splurging on a drink for the ambiance. More JK Rowling rumors surround this place, claiming she may have done some of her writing here.
7. Jardins do Palacio de Cristal
Visited the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal twice in one week because the grounds and the views are so beautiful. Take a walk around and you'll find the resident peacocks displaying their gorgeous feathers, a garden maze, a botanical garden of flowers, a lake, and much more.
8. Sao Bento Railway Station
Visiting Porto by train is super easy, and gets your sightseeing started as soon as arrive at the platform. Sao Bento railway station is a photo opportunity just waiting to happen, with it's main entrance hall boasting the blue and white tiles that you see pictured. It's a stop on most tours, and typically filled with tourists and passengers alike. Be patient and wait long enough for a break in the people traffic and you might snap a shot like this one!
9. Dom Luís I Bridge Sunsets
If you're walking along the river, and it's on your right, as you approach the Dom Luis I bridge you'll see some steps on the left. Climb them until you get to the very top. The views are spectacular any time of the day, but the sunsets are particularly breathtaking. Sadly, I didn't bring my camera with me and only have this underwhelming iPhone pano to show for it. Trust me, it's worth it!
10. Local Charm
From the residents airing their clean laundry, to live music along the river, to the architecture, cafes, and restaurants- Porto made me feel right at home. Get lost, pop into hole in the wall shops and places to eat, drink allll the Port wine, and then see if the city hasn't completely stolen your heart (and sobriety).