11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

Sailing on the Douro River in Porto!
Sailing on the Douro River in Porto!

So last week I wrote all about why I thought Lisbon would be the next top European place to be!

And why?

Because it’s worth it!

And you know what?

After spending three (3) days in the Algarve, and three (3) days in Lisbon, is it any wonder that we wanted to continue travelling around Portugal?

So we did.

We went to the Northern part of Portugal. To a place called Porto.

Porto – Portoooooooogal!

Do you see what I did there?


Porto - Portugal.
Porto – Portugal.

Porto, otherwise known as Oporto, is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon.

Porto’s combined Celtic-Latin name is known as Portus Cale, and is believed to be the origin of the name “Portugal” meaning “the port”!

Located along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European cities in the world and its historical centre was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996!

Porto’s settlement dates to as far back as when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire, during the Medieval Ages, and to important artifacts found in the 8th century!

Portugal's most internationally famous export - port wine - named after the city of Porto itself!
Portugal’s most internationally famous export – port wine – named after the city of Porto itself!

And of course, one of Portugal’s most internationally famous exports is the port wine, named after the city of Porto itself!

Truth be told, until a year ago, I had never even heard of the city of Porto!

Yes, of course, I’ve had many a glass of port in my time.


But somehow, it didn’t click that the lip-smacking tipple of port, came from an actual place called Porto!

Until last year!

The BBC Travel Show!
The BBC Travel Show!

I was watching the BBC Travel Show when a feature came up on the city of Porto, and on how parts of it had been forgotten, with many of Porto’s oldest houses either abandoned, or at the risk of collapsing.

Porto was once an important global centre of trade and production for many a century, and then just like Bristol, business moved to the capital of the country, and that was that.

The locals moved away into the suburbs of Porto, the city lost it’s populated buzz, business followed suit, and what was left was the emptiness of a harbour, and the quiet husk of a neglected abandoned building.

I was intrigued!

And so, when I planned our Spain & Portugal Spring Break, I decided to add Porto to the core!


And yet. I haven't a clue!
And yet.
I haven’t a clue!
  1. Porto is a lovely city-break destination:

And yet.

Most people have never heard of it! Up until last year, even I had never heard of it!

  1. Porto is an important city steeped in history and river-side glamour:

And yet.

Porto seems to be dying. A little over 220,000 people live in Porto with 1.5 million living in the suburbs! As a result, 18.8% of residential buildings in Porto are empty, with many more abandoned and neglected.  A very untypical story.

Porto is a city of wine!
Porto is a city of wine!
  1. Porto is a city of wine:

And yet.

When most people think of Port, they don’t think of Portugal, but of England, and English companies such as Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman!

  1. Shopping:

Who doesn’t like to buy a souvenir to take home? Portugal has a reputation of high quality, standard goods.

And yet.

Some shops were raking it in, but many shops and buildings were boarded up, becoming quite the eyesore, not only uncomfortable to see, but also with a hint of “is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street?” feel.

"is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street" in Porto?
“is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street” in Porto?
  1. Bookshops:

On almost every street, you’ll find some sort of bookshop.

And yet.

Outside of the pretty historical few, when was the last time you patronised a bookshop? A real bookshop. Of brick and mortar. Come to that, when was the last time that you even purchased, and paid for a book?


  1. Cats:

I love cats. In fact, we have two lovely twin cats at home and we love them dearly.

And yet.

There were cats literally everywhere! Under cars. On roofs. On walls. In doorways. Everywhere. I can’t imagine that they’re all domestic, looking as skinny and scrawny as they did. Certainly not the type of animal that you would think of stroking.

Or touching, come to that.

There were cats literally everywhere, in Porto!
There were cats literally everywhere, in Porto!
  1. Blue and white tiles:

Lovely, pretty mosaic tiles with pictures of historical or religious images, donned the walls of various buildings.

And yet.

You only have to turn around a corner or a side-street, and you would find a building that was derelict, covered with broken red brick, over-grown with weeds, strewn with old newspapers, bottles and rags, or half-built derelict buildings.


The Douro River is famously important, in Porto!
The Douro River is famously important, in Porto!

As always, my number one piece of advice is not to shy away but to visit.

And here’s why!

  1. It’s a river-side city: Porto, like Lisbon, is a city that owes much to the sea. The D’Ouro – meaning gold – is where the river flows into the sea where you can have lunch or dinner on the river side, go fishing or simply sail on a gentle boat or cruise, while taking photographic selfies as you cascade along the rivers and shores of history!
  2. A weekend destination: Porto is a great destination for a short-term stay as most people are young, it’s cheap and with most tourists coming from Spain, from France, Brazil, or Portugal itself, it hasn’t yet attained a reputation of a lager-lout hub!
  3. The architecture: Wow! What amazing colours that you see splashed across the city. Where some cities look dull or have no personality, Porto has a colourful enthusiasm. In spades!
  4. Porto is utterly charming: It has narrow streets and a young, vibrant, cosmopolitan centre.
  5. The wine: Wine fans will want to be in the Douro wine region. We tried to go on a wine cellar tour but we couldn’t find it, and ended up buying a huge amount of port an hour before we had to leave for the airport! Luckily, on every corner and in every shop, a bottle of port can be found in a multitude of forms and sensations such as ruby, tawny, white, rosé, and vintage! Phew!!
  6. Little shops and galleries: A lot of the shops have retained their old style traditional appearance, so that visitors can imagine what things were like in times gone by. In fact, antique dealers and art galleries make a roaring trade!
  7. Antiquarian booksellers: On almost every street, you’ll find some sort of bookshop. The most famous one of all being the Livraria Lello neo-Gothic beauty which was built in 1906, and which many say was the inspiration of the Grand Staircase, or the Hogwarts Stairway in the Harry Potter series, as well as the Flourish and Blotts Diagon Alley bookshop! But be warned, the bookshop has become so over-run with over-excited tourists, that the shop has begun to charge €3.00 for entrance, which you are reimbursed, with purchases made in the bookshop!
  8. Porto is tiny: The city is even smaller than Lisbon with a population of slightly over 220,000 inhabitants, and charmingly walkable, cobbled stones, and hilly steeps!
  9. The train station: Wow! The Estação de São Bento or the São Bento Railway Station looks pretty sexy! Built between 1905-1916, it’s famously known for its tile (azulejo) panels that depict scenes and historical events concerning the History of Portugal. What with its alluring magnificent blue and white tile panels, that reach to up to 20,000, helpful staff, wide-open spaces, and the shell of a Benedictine monastery! It’s no wonder that other train stations just look dull and functional, in comparison!
  10. Historical buildings and artistic monuments: You know how I love a good old building. Well, Porto didn’t disappoint with artistic creations such as the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Stock Exchange Palace, the beautiful Porto Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos, or the Tower of Clerics, leading to a breathtaking view of the city, the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis or the Soares dos Reis National Museum and the Serralves Foundation – a cultural institution – making it Porto’s high point of art-deco architecture, and one of the most relevant museums on the contemporary European art circuit!
  11. Because Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling lived in Porto for a little while and so the influence and inspiration of Harry Potter world is right there. Under your nose! Think Salazar Slytherin – an acronym for the authoritarian Portuguese president – António de Oliveira Salazar! Think the Grand Staircase, or the Hogwarts Stairway  – an acronym for the upstairs cafe of the Livraria Lello Bokshop! Think Flourish and Blotts – which is said to be inspired by the Livraria Lello Bokshop too! Think the Hogwart school uniform gown – an acronym for the gowns related to the Praxe Académica worn by the students of Oporto University, and a tradition stemmed from a century ago. Having said that, we have academic gowns in the UK too, but perhaps no longer on a daily basis….!


 A type of single carriage diesel railcar used by the Portuguese Railways - Comboios de Portugal.
A type of single carriage diesel railcar used by the Portuguese Railways – Comboios de Portugal.

Getting from Lisbon to Porto was enormously smooth.

This time we took the train. Again, I can’t remember the exact details, but the train the company was called Comboios de Portugal and we bought our ticket just 24 hours previously. It pays to do so a little earlier, as the cheaper tickets went pretty quickly! The cost was something like €25.00 for adults and 25% off for “youths!”

The Portuguese train was clean, smooth and efficient. Some trains are also “quiet” carriages, but it shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re planning to party your way along the aisle lol!

The journey from Lisbon to Porto was roughly 3 hours.

If you’re flying from the UK then Ryanair is virtual proof of the pudding. If you’re on the Continent, then Easyjet and any other airline residing in France, in Belgium or Switzerland, is probably your best bet. If you’re coming from the Americas, then you’d probably need to fly to Lisbon or any other European hub, first.


Is it going to be crowded in Porto?
Is it going to be crowded in Porto?


With a population of just 220,000 people, you’ve got the place to yourself!


We were only there for three (3) days but Porto is on the one hand charmingly young, and on the other, historically old!


He doesn't speak Portuguese either! He's a scary water-spout gargoyle in Lisbon!
He doesn’t speak Portuguese either! He’s a scary water-spout gargoyle in Lisbon!

Ho! Ho!

Who does?

English is widely spoken, but there’s nothing wrong with learning a few basic words of Portuguese as a measure of respect!


Well no.

Things haven’t quite come to that!


The trendy art Gallery Hostel!
The trendy art Gallery Hostel!

Just like in Lisbon, we stayed at another rather adorable contemporary styled boutique hostel located in the trendy Art Quarter of Miguel Bombarda.

The Gallery Hostel characterizes the new concept of a luxury hostel, and is based in an impressive 1906 building house, blended with a modern décor, infusing neutral and earthy tones, with unique textures and furnishings.


We chose this hostel not only because it was family-friendly and family-owned, but because it has it’s own art gallery!

An Art Gallery!

I mean.

An. Art. Gallery!


I like the little luxuries in life, just as much as the next girl!
I like the little luxuries in life, just as much as the next girl!

I’m not going to lie.

I like my luxuries, pampering, and exclusive service.

And let me tell you, when I’m in Asia or Eastern Europe, that is exactly what I go for.

And why?

Simply because I can!

Sometimes, I go for Art Design Hotels and sometimes, I go for a Quirky Bed & Breakfast.

And sometimes, I target luxury boutique hostels.

Just like the Gallery Hostel.

See you next week!

Porto in the sunlight!
Porto in the sunlight!

This article is part-sponsored by the lovely boutique Gallery Hostel, but all opinions, and the delightful glasses of port that we sipped whilst on the riverside quay, are my very own!

Next week, I’ll be focusing on food!

From June 2nd – June 3rd, I’ll be at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival.

From June 28th – July 2nd, I’ll be at Berlin Fashion Week.

Save the Date!

June is going to be fabulous!

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & Facebook!

If you’re not in Berlin in June, you’re going to miss out on everything!

Watch this space!

11 reasons why you should visit Porto - the city of wine - and why it matters!
11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

Have you ever been to Porto? What’s your tipple of choice – Wine, Whisky, Sherry or Port?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

34 Comments on “11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

  1. There’s still so much of Portugal I havent seen yet, including Porto. That top photo is incredible!

    • Tell me about it Phil! Honestly, even a tiny little newspaper stand had bottles of port to sell. You seriously, couldn’t go wrong lol!

      • Europe does that to you. Great food! Delicious wine! 24 hour bars! Very reasonable prices, and a guarantee that if you fly, within an hour, you could be in a completely different country, with totally different food! Wine! Bars!

  2. Yep! Definitely on my list. Dreams of touring Sandeman, my favorite port. The food goes without saying of course 🙂 . Looking forward to visiting this lovely country. Glad you had a marvelous time, and the bookstore in Harry Potter is a must visit for me, not because of that, but because it just looks amazing! 🙂

    • Thanks so much KemKem! Hmmm! We’ve got a few bottles of “ordinary” Port, Graham’s 10 year old Tawny Vintage Port, a few Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port. And 10 year old Ferreira White Porto Branco! We looked quite the visitor as our suitcase was carefully stored with encased bottles of port, coupled with buying even more at Duty-Free at the airport lol!
      We did have a lovely time KemKem and the Livraria Lello definately warrants a bit of a browse. They don’t have much literature in English but they do have a “bar,” and that’s good enough for me! 🙂

  3. Ahh, I want to go back to Portugal now!! I’ve only ever been to Lisbon, but on my next trip I definitely want to see more of the country. Porto looks like a really interesting place to visit! I’ll have to keep it in mind. Plus, I guess you can’t really go wrong with the city of wine, eh?!

    • Thanks so much Danny! I want to go back to Portugal toooooo! The country is just so versatile. There’s the cute and lovely Lisbon, the sophisticated Algarve, and now the gritty-but-oh-migod-isn’t-it-fascinating Porto!
      City of wine? Always mine!! 🙂 🙂

  4. It would be pretty hard to visit a pestle and mortar book shop though I’m intrigued by the concept… 😉

  5. I loved Porto when we were staying in Portugal. We walked around the whole main area and stayed only one night. I loved the river cruise and getting a chance to see all the fantastic bridges from the water. I also loved the Port, but that kind of goes without saying I think. LOL

    • Thanks so much Jenny! I’m so pleased that you managed to get to Porto. I hadn’t even heard of it until just last year but I’m so glad that I did! The river. Check. Food & Drink. Check. Sights. Check.
      A great place to visit. 🙂

  6. Oh girl, now you make me wanna visit Porto this summer! I was planning some adventures in Europe with my mom but we decided to pick Vienna and Dubrovnik. As you mentioned, Porto has the best wine and so delicious food – I’ve also heard that from my friends who visited this city couple of times. It’s still on my bucket list. What was the best sightseeing spot in of yours in Porto?

    • Thanks so much Agness! Europe is great for the summer and I’m so looking forward to reading all about the travels with your mum. She’s cool! 🙂
      Porto really does has yummy food and wine which I’ll write about pretty soon! The best sighseeing spots in Porto are from the Porto Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos, or the Tower of Clerics, and from the Dom Luís I (or Luiz I) Bridge which used to be the longest bridge in the world! Any of these sightseeing points would give you gorgous, magnificent views! 🙂

  7. Ugh, I’ve been dying to go here! And this post just made my wanderlust for Portugal that much stronger. It looks and sounds so amazing! Next I will have to read your post on the Algarve… Would love to go there, too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Maddy @ http://www.travelalphas.com

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  11. Hello thebritishberliner,
    Great post, It is always good to hear nice things about our city.
    “Obrigado e até uma próxima visita.”

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