My top 10 things to do and see Porto in 3 days: 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.
1. Our first port of call was the dreamy Casa Serravles villa. This is a super unique example of Art Deco architecture, built in the 1930s and originally belonging to Count Carlos Alberto Cabral. The villa is every inch the fairy tale and a really tranquil place to visit, a far cry from the bustling art museums of London.
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 taking in the beautiful riverbanks of Porto on the Duoro River via a Rabelo Boat. 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.
6. 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 regionand the Côa Archaeological Park.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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. It’s definitely worth taking an afternoon to explore the winding streets, I often don’t feel like I have truly visited a city until I have explored the streets and architecture.
10. I can’t go to Portugal without eating as many pastel de natas as I can squeeze in and drinking my weight in Port wine. My favourite place to enjoy the famous pastéis de nata is the Majestic Café. First opened in 1921 under the name ‘elite’ (since having to change it’s name as it carried a hint of monarchy that did not go well with the republican, bourgeois and chic atmosphere of Porto at the time). The Majestic Café was built by architect João Queiroz and accompanied by Art Nouveau decoration, a style that was popular in the early-1900s and unchanged since. And what better accompaniment to your pastéis de nata than a delicious Port dessert wine? The best place I had Port was O Fado restaurant (read my O Fado restaurant review here) but if you want more of a tasting experience with history then you could try Ferreira Cellars. They have been producing Port for over 200 years and you can take a tour through their wine cellars.
Porto you have stolen my heart.