Don’t miss beautiful Porto, Portugal, home of old-world beauty with many really fun things to do!
I recommend staying in the old central area of the city. Always traveling on a modest budget, I enjoyed Tattva Design Hostel, which is very close to the central train station, cathedral, and the Maria Pia Bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (as was the Eiffel tower in Paris). Everything else is walkable in the main city center within 5-10 minutes. At Tattva I had an all women’s room with 8-bunk beds (more pleasant than most bunk beds, with sheets, personal reading light and device charging station, locking locker space, and a double set of bathrooms). I was fortunate: I had 1-3 women roommates each night, not full. It was a very pleasant place to stay for 20€/night, including a big breakfast.
Tattva Design Hostel is the middle skinny building. I stayed on the fourth floor. A French woman in her 40’s traveling alone, Karen, also stayed in my room and we decided to join up for the first day’s activities. We had such a great time that we spent the second day touring together, too. I hope to inspire women my age to have the courage to explore if they have this unfulfilled desire, to move outside one’s typical boundaries. As a “single woman traveler” I seem to find many lovely people whom I can share traveling experiences and have some company if I wish it. Or not….sometimes I just enjoy going entirely at my own pace and being very fluid about my day.
Portugal is known for the decorative tiles on the inside and outside of the buildings. Blue and white tiles are the most common, but they come also in many other variations. They create a colorful eye-candy city! Karen and I walked around the old city, seeing the churches, the tiles on many beautiful buildings, getting lost on skinny side streets, and finding the grand avenues. McDonald’s in the big park promenade occupying one of Porto’s oldest and classic buildings. We had to go look inside this gem!
Said to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world, Lello & Irmão was where J.K. Rawling wrote one of the Harry Potter books, using the grand staircase as an inspiration for the moving stairs in the story. Taking good quality photos is difficult in the tiny bookstore filled with tourists, but you should get the idea from the photo!
We took the electric trolly car, like those in San Francisco, USA, from Porto along the river to the sea. Porto sits on extremely steep hillsides on the Duoro River, with five, very high, beautiful bridges. The trolly car that follows the river is a whole lot of fun, and we put the window down, letting the wind blow across our faces. At the end of the tram line, we walked another 15 minutes to the jetty that protects the mouth of the river from the sea. Fun to see the sea again! Walking again on the north side of the river for about a half hour one can then catch a passenger ferry across to the fishing village of São Pedro da Afurada on the south side, where a few tiny street-restaurants prepare fresh-caught fish on outside grills. Sardines are a specialty, so we sat for a lovely lunch of grilled sardines, onions, potatoes, and green peppers. This makes for a great rest and lunch stop on the way back to Porto if you enjoy walking and experiencing the scenery slowly in this way, as I do. (I noticed others were also getting around by bicycle. Ask around for where to rent bikes; there are several shops in the main city.) (Sardines grilling outside.)
Walking again, we follow the south side of the Duoro River. The walkway is so beautiful and easy waking in this section!
In this photo we approach the port warehouses, for which Porto is famous. We explored the steep, tiny, walled streets, ending at a famous port manufacturer, Ferreria. This company was established in 1751 by a woman in her 30’s who would do philanthropic good with some of the profits. We enjoyed a tour through the port warehouses: educational, historical, and just plain fun, ending in small tastings of their red and white port. What an interesting history of Port making for this well-situated city on the Duoro River! We walked back to the hostel, found a grocery store for some food supplies, and later prepared dinner at the nice hostel kitchen and dining room: it was time to take some not-moving relax time.
There are many ways to experience Porto, but I loved this approach that gave me time with the city buildings and history, as well as getting away from the tourists and out of the city to enjoy nature and a bigger picture. Read my next post for additional fun ideas to experience Porto as I explored another fantastic day in the environs.
I walked the Camino de Santiago from 30 August to 10 October 2017, as a fundraiser to build a new Ananda Temple of Light. Having walked over 500 miles (800km) and 1,250,000 steps in this effort, I very much welcome your generous gift to help with the Temple construction. We hope to open the doors in July 2019, Ananda’s 50th birthday. All donations are tax-deductible, no amount is too small. Just like my walk of the Camino one step and one day at a time, each gift to the Temple represents additional blessings and energy added to the whole. Many blessings! I love hearing from you! Comments below.