While one of my oldest and best friends was visiting me, we got a text asking for advice about Porto, Portugal. Because said friend and I met in Santiago de Compostela, just north of Porto, this region of Portugal holds a special place in our heart and it took everything not to start salivating as we rattled off food and drink recommendations. In between drinking wine and eating seafood, we also thought of a few other suggestions:

  1. Day trips:
    • Douro Valley for larger wineries and lush countryside just inland of Porto.
    • Peneda-Gerês National Park to potentially hike in the rain, drive along winding roads under waterfalls, and see European ruins near the border of Spain.
    • Guimarães, Portugal’s first city, which is now no more than a small town but still has a quaint town square, good seafood, and an abandoned cathedral.
    • Galicia, Spain’s nearest and most beautiful cities. Including, but not limited to:
      • Santiago de Compostela, a medieval city and destination for El Camino
      • Vigo, a southern beachside city
      • Islas de Cies, stunning islands off the coast of Vigo by ferry that are rightfully named after the heavens
  2. Wine tastings: walk along the Douro River in the center of town, particularly near the Ponte Luís and old town region, and stop to enjoy free tastings that will lure you into wineries with sweet port wine.
  3. Food:
    • Any bakery near the Sao Bento train station will do, but there is one in particular that serves French macaroons if you can find it. The others that serve delicious Portuguese pastries are along the pedestrian only, busy cobblestone road.
    • The tiny, family-owned, restaurant with a yellow wall in front down an alley called “Escadas do Barredo” (near the river) will hands down be the best fish and beer you have in Porto. The older lady who owns the place doesn’t speak a word of English, throws the fish on in front of you, and serves up a home-cooked meal on picnic tables in a room as large as your own dining room.
  4. Sights:
    • Livraria Lello is an infamously beautiful book store with a staircase that is a photographer’s dream.
    • Ingreja de Sao Francisco is a beautiful little church with terrifying, but important, catacombs below.
    • Sao Bento is the main train station that also showcases one of Porto’s best collections of azulejo, or blue Portuguese tilework.

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