20 Feb 2020 1789
Sandra Nobre Storyteller
#culture #tips

Porto : what to do in 5 days ? come and discover !!

Like the Port wine that has made it famous, Invicta the ‘Unvanquished City’ requires time to savour it. Set aside five days and be guided by your senses.

Day 1

The simplest things in Porto require a special dictionary; it’s not just about swapping a "v” sound for a "b”. The Porto Slang Dictionary (João Carlos Brito, Lugar da Palavra) may turn out to be a survival manual to better understand the regional variations in speech.

Point of departure and arrival, São Bento Station is a mandatory stop. Classified as a Property of Public Interest since 1997, it boasts a unique collection of tiles, more than 20,000, produced at the historic Sacavém Factory. Closed umbrellas or other props are waved to gather the tourist groups together and share a bit of history. The Jorge Colaço panels represent historical scenes, and are often reproduced in photographs and videos on social networks.

Let’s take the arts as the guiding thread, without measuring distances; after all, nothing is that far away. Start at the  Soares dos Reis National Museum, the first public museum in the country, founded in 1833. Located inside the Palácio das Carrancas, it offers a collection of painting, sculpture and decorative art. 

Then, pause for breath under the plane and linden trees and visit the Crystal Palace Gardens, before moving on to Rua Miguel Bombarda, in the Art District, where many of the city’s galleries are to be found, well known for arranging joint openings. The Galeria Fernando Santos pioneered this 25 years ago. There are also bookshops, tea houses, restaurants and the Miguel Bombarda Cultural Centre to explore. Visit the shop at the Plaster Museum, which has breathed new life into this centuries-old city, with its decorative exhibits. 

Next stop: the Fundação de Serralves. The Museum, designed by Siza Vieira, has been the home of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present day. Don't miss the permanent exhibition dedicated to Manoel de Oliveira, the biggest name in Portuguese cinema. Take a look around the museum shop for an original gift. If you can fit it in, go on to the Serralves Park, and try the Treetop Walk, to experience the park’s biodiversity. 

Bom Sucesso Market is a great place for snacks. Check out the programme at the Casa da Música in advance. The building was designed by Rem Koolhaas and has impressive acoustics. If you’re a football fan and it’s match day, soak up the atmosphere in the stands at the iconic Estádio do Dragão. Don't forget your team shirt or scarf, so that you are properly dressed for the occasion.

Photos: I Stock; Shutterstock e Visit Porto and North

Day 2

At any destination, you should always keep a few days back for a treat. Follow your nose, in no particular order. Sample chocolates at Arcádia (Rua do Almada, 63), one of the oldest chocolate stores in Portugal. For a genuine gourmet experience shop at A Favorita do Bolhão (Rua Fernandes Tomás, 783), a classic grocer’s with the aroma of coffee and biscuits where the packages have a vintage look; or the Casa Januário (Rua do Bonjardim, 348) brimming with traditional goods. For meals, put yourself in the hands of Michelin star chefs. There are several options: Pedro Lemos, in Foz; Antiqvvm, run by Vitor Costa, in Massarelos; outside the city, Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, run by Rui Paula, in Leça; or the Yeatman, run by Ricardo Costa, in Vila Nova de Gaia. Or stick to the classics, pork loin sandwiches at Casa Guedes (Praça dos Poveiros, 30), the francesinha at Brasão Cervejaria, on the Avenida dos Aliados, or Porto style tripe, at O Rápido, next to São Bento station.

If your eyes are bigger than your stomach, some places that will delight include: the view from the Clérigos Tower, the blue and white tiled façade of the Capela das Almas, the bookcases, spiralling staircase and Art Déco interior of the Livraria Lello, which inspired the Harry Potter adventures, or the Arabian Room in the Stock Exchange Palace. If all that glistens is gold, visit Elements – Contemporary Jewellery, on Rua das Flores, a fine example of a restored historic building and Portuguese expertise in jewellery. To end the day in style, at the Claus Porto, you can buy hand-wrapped artisanal soaps, fragrances extracted from Portuguese flowers (in traveller’s size) or indulge yourself with a beard trim. 

Leave time to wander the streets, go down to the Riverfront to sit at a pavement café and enjoy the city’s buzz. At times like these you can truly experience the soul of a place.

Photos: I Stock; Visit Porto and North

Day 3

One day is not very long to explore the Alto Douro Wine Region, classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2001, but it is enough to satisfy your curiosity. Go on a river trip to admire the terraced landscape that challenges the winemakers’ expertise. See the noble houses and estates where the nectar is produced and hear stories along the way of those who made the region’s history, such as the Casa Ferreirinha. You can go by boat between Porto and Régua or Pinhão in one direction, and go back by train, another experience not to be missed. Take a tourist cruise or make an exclusive journey by luxury yacht. 

Day 4

Going to Porto and not crossing the river to visit the port wine cellars in Gaia is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope. It’s a must and a pleasure. Walk across the D. Luís I Bridge and appreciate the view or soar over the wine cellars’ tiled roofs with the Gaia Cable Car

Immerse yourself in the history of the first demarcated wine region in the world, the Douro, created in 1756, the same year that the Real Companhia Velha was founded. It now has the modern 17.56 - Museum and Enoteca, as well as the wine cellars, one of the popular spots to visit on the left bank of the River Douro.

At all of them, a visit is combined with a tasting of the wine whose reputation has taken the city's name around the world. There are a number of cellars to visit: Cálem, Kopke, Quinta do Noval, Sandeman, Gran Cruz, Croft, Taylor’s, Down’s, Offley, Cockburn’s, Ramos Pinto, Poças, Ferreira... Many of them have a cafeteria and/or restaurant for you to catch your breath between visits.

Graham’s, owned by the Symington family, winemakers since the 19th century, should be kept back for the end if you want to celebrate a special occasion. Try a glass of Ne Oublie, a Port which dates back to the arrival of Andrew James Symington in Portugal in 1882, and is kept today in three barrels that encapsulate the heritage of ancestral expertise. One of the remaining barrels has been used to make 656 bottles of port, which you can try for €600 a glass. A bottle costs around €7000. Not something you would ever forget.

Photos: Visit Porto and North

Day 5

How about lingering awhile to recharge your batteries before you set off once more? The PortoBay Flores, a mixture of 16th century palace and 21st century hotel, with its pastel tones and full of light, provides a welcome rest. Bring the book you are reading to the inner courtyard, next to the 18th century baroque chapel, and relax to the sounds of the fountain. The poetry of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen is a good match for Invicta.

Whether you’re looking for a light meal or a drink in relaxed surroundings at Os Maias bar, or lunch or dinner at the Bistrô Flores, in what was formerly the main hall, you will always feel at home. The Asian-inspired Mandalay spa is a whole other trip. You wouldn’t see me set foot in a gym . .. 

For the more adventurous of spirit, the PortoBay Teatro, which opened originally in 1859 as the Teatro Baquet, is known for its bold colours and welcoming atmosphere. The Palco restaurant serves good comfort food. The dense novels of Agustina Bessa-Luís, another name that Porto does not forget, may also make for good company.
Both hotels are in downtown Porto, and as you walk around, you may well hear locals saying: andor violeta! Which can be translated as: get going! But do come back, there is still so much more to see. 
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