Once upon a time (approx 6 months ago to be exact) I spent 3 days in Porto, and as usual, I tried to squeeze in as much design, history, food and culture as possible. Here are my top 10 things to do and see in Porto if you are pushed for time.
It was wonderful to see the decorative rigor and the use of quality materials throughout the Villa and its evident that it benefited from the intervention of leading figures of the time, such as Marques da Silva, Charles Siclis, Jacques Émile Ruhlmann, René Lalique and Edgar Brandt.
2. The villa is situated next to the Serralves Art Museum. The art museum was built by architecht Álvaro Sizart and the plans were first drawn up in 1991. The museums architecture is very in keeping with its surroundings and displays a range of Portuguese and international contemporary art. The museum itself is just as beautiful as the villa and usually has some interesting exhibitions on. We saw the Joan Miro exhibition who just so happens to be one of my favourite abstract artists.
3. We walked from the centre where we were staying via the Casa Seravvles to Piscina Das Mares and stayed until sunset.
Piscina Das Mares is a structure on the Leça da Palmeira beach consisting of two natural pools filled with fresh sea water, designed and built between 1959 and 1973 by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. To the architect the structure was an attempt at integrating the artificial world with the natural landscape, as if the artificial was normal to nature.
4. Our second day was spent exploring the city of Porto. These are the famous traditional boats of Porto - the Rabelo boats. A Rabelo is a traditional Portuguese cargo boat originally used to transport the barrels of Porto wine from the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia to Porto. Nowadays, the boats are used as sightseeing cruises that sail down the Douro River and you will find them all along the river.
5. This is Dom Luís I Bridge or Luís I Bridge. It is a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal. At its construction, its 172 metres span was the longest of its type in the world. The bridge was designed by engineer Théophile Seyrig (known for building bridges), a disciple of Gustave Eiffel.
The photo of the bridge above was taken from the Serra do pilar hill. The Serra do Pilar is a jagged hill over the Douro river on the Gaia side. At the top of the hill, there is a 13th-century monastery, where we learnt about World Heritage sites in Portugal’s Northern region: the historic centres of Porto and Guimarães, the Douro wine region and the Côa Archaeological Park.
6. It is almost impossible to visit Porto and ignore the spectacular cathedral in its centre. It is one of the city's oldest monuments and one of the most important local Romanesque monuments. I could go on about the architecture or when it was built ect. but I have to admit, I get a bit bored with cathedrals so I'll leave it there.
7. This exquisite risotto was from Terra Nova, a restaurant inspired by Portuguese traditions and cod fishing. This lovely little tourist trap just next to the Dom Luís I Bridge could have easily charged an arm and a leg given the quality of food and the location, but it was very reasonable. We ate our weight in oysters and Pastéis de Bacalhau (these are essentially cod croquettes and a traditional Portuguese dish) and paid around £40 each inc drinks.
8. Whilst we were in Porto we also ate in O Fado, an authentic traditional Portuguese restaurant recommended to us by a local. The mixture of the stone walls, careful decoration and live music (love songs strummed on a Portuguese guitar), sent us back to the beginning of the century. The food was simple, delicious and unique.
9. We wanted to try a traditional Portuguese restaurant as well as a modern Portuguese eatery, so on our final evening, we tried the trendy Flow restaurant. Although it had a completely different vibe to O Fado, and the food did have more of an edge, it was the same principle and I still got served crisps with my fish (must be a Portuguese thing?!)
10. On our third and final day, we went to the NH Collection Spa. This is the city’s old post office turned into a swanky hotel & spa. Once you know this little detail about the bright red building’s past, the stamp printed carpet, postcards in the corridors and rubber stamp wall features all make sense. Taking in the 18th-century history of the building whilst relaxing in their 5* spa is just what we needed after two days running around the city.
You know you have stumbled on a great city when after 3 days exploring, you have barely scraped the surface. One of my favourite things about the Porto has to be the beautiful cobbled streets dotted with stunning tiled houses.
I'm currently writing this blog whilst having serious pastel de natas withdrawals and am planning my next trip.
Porto you have stolen my heart.