Climb the Torre dos Cliergos
One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city is to climb the tallest height and survey the city below. This leads to some of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen. Porto was no different. The Torre dos Cliergos is a bell tower attached to the church for the “Igreja dos Clérigos” or “Church of the Clergymen.” The tower was finished some 13 years after the completion of the church itself, but both are nearly three hundred years old today. The climb wasn’t nearly as strenuous to me as that of the bell tower in Florence, Italy, so either I’m in better shape than last January, or it’s smaller (likely the latter). Either way, the tower is still high enough to offer some stunning views of the surrounding city. Following advice of a friend who went last year, we went to the tower on the first day. For us, there was no line and we walked up basically alone, only encountering a handful of people coming down. But according to my friend, it can be an astronomically long line, so plan accordingly because the views are definitely worth the wait.
Eat Delicious Food
For me, one of the best parts of a vacation is all the different foods you get to eat. This is especially true when you travel to different countries and you get to try their local cuisine. I didn’t know much about Portuguese food before this trip, but oh my goodness. It’s delicious. I would caveat though, after talking to the concierge at our hotel, that not everywhere will have vegetarian options as Portugal is a meat heavy country (their famous sandwich, the francesinha, has four types of meat on it). I wouldn’t let this dissuade you from going to Portugal, I’d just go with eyes open.
I’ve added all the delicious restaurants we ate at to the Fernweh Foodie page, so go check them out there. My favorite meal was probably our first night at the restaurant LSD (nothing to do with the drug…it stands for Largo São Domingos). I had sausage crusted chicken with mushrooms, potatoes and spinach doused in an amazing mustard sauce. It was delightful.
See the beautiful Azulejo tiles
This won’t be hard to do. Buildings throughout the city are covered in colored tiles, especially the most popular blue and white azulejos. Originally for the alters and fronts of churches int he 15th century, these tiles have become so popular that they now grace everything from churches and public buildings to personal homes, restaurants and even train stations. In fact, some of the most beautiful ones you’ll see are inside the main train station, São Bento.
If you come to love these tiles as I did, there are plenty for sale in gift shops all over the city. I brought home one as a trivet and one as a decorative art piece.
See a Fado
Raised by a musician, seeing a musical show wherever I travel is a great joy to me. The fado was no exception. I couldn’t understand a word she sung, but it was moving nonetheless. Started in Lisbon, this musical tradition is popular in Porto as well. The fado is a type of melancholy music that can be about anything but has to follow a traditional set of musical rules.
The fado we attended was beautiful, but I wouldn’t suggest seeing a fado after tasting eight different types of Port wine. As wonderful as the singer was, I struggled to stay awake.
There are several throughout the city. If you’re on top of things, book one at Calem in conjunction with a wine cave tour and tasting. We tried to get in here but didn’t make it. We did take the cave tour and wine taste here though, and it was wonderful.
Go Port Tasting
And that brings me to my favorite part of the weekend! Port tasting! I wasn’t sure I was going to even like port wine as I don’t really drink much red (unless it’s Gluewein), but port is so different. Its sweetness was like dessert in a glass!
Technically, the port lodges are across the river, not in Porto, but in Gaia. It doesn’t feel much like a different city though. And you can still see Porto from most of the port lodges on the river.
After a walk across the beautiful Luis I bridge (another beautiful high place view), we started off tasting at Quinta Da Noval. I enjoyed all the ruby ports here but wasn’t a high fan of the tawnys, which are the ones that are aged a bit more. We moved on to Calem where we had a lovely tour of their wine caves and tried three more ports, a white, a ruby and a tawny. Here I still wasn’t as much of a fan of the tawny, but I did enjoy the other two.
The next day Kaitlin made us reservations at Graham’s and I’m so glad she did. This was like the pièce de résistance of our port tasting trip. After a tour with a very knowledgeable guide, we tried ten different wines, five rubys and five tawnys. And here at Grahams I learned that I do enjoy a good tawny port if it’s done correctly. Every single one of their wines was amazing. So, if you’re not sure you’ll like port, or if you only want to wine taste once, please take my advice and book a tasting here. It’s well worth it.
While you’re at it, if you’re in a splurge worthy mood, book a lunch at Vinum at Graham’s for after your tasting. The food was phenomenal.
And there you have it. My top five ways to spend a weekend in Porto. I absolutely adored the city and can’t wait to return. Until then, I’ll be here in dreary England, sipping my port and dreaming of the colorful city that won my heart.