Known as the cidade Invicta (Unbeaten city), named after the bravey displayed by the local people during the battles of the 19th century, Porto is the second biggest and most important city in Portugal. Some of the most recognized names from the ancient and contemporaneous history have their origins there, in areas like music, art, sports, architecture, literature, etc. F.C. Porto, the main football team, and the Porto wine are probably the city’s most popular symbols.
Here the Douro river pushes into the cold Atlantic and the city sits on one steep riverbank, with its thrusting towers and opulent city hall, its people defiant of austerity. The past defines much of Porto’s look, but their people have found a way to get on and look forward with hope.
Stunning blue-tiled 14th century churches and 19th century palaces are everywhere. There are bridges designed by Gustave Eiffel. Grand art deco theatres sail like pale liners over the city’s cobbled hills and great modern buildings rise. There are green parks and shady silent squares, seaside and riverbanks – and all in a walkable city.
The Baixa district is the typical Porto’s postcard- all pitched terracotta roofs and stucco painted in shades of mustard. At night it glows everywhere. Across the river it’s Vila Nova de Gaia, where 1950s signs on port lodges proclaim old English names – Cockburn’s, Graham’s, and Croft.
Porto’s life and soul it’s on its hilly streets, in the many hipster bars and smoky cafes, in portions of tasty food and drinks that are huge and cheap.
The city was the European Capital of Culture in the year of 2001 and in the past decade it has progressively become a big touristic destination. Among the several reasons for such growth, the visitors point the beauty and its cultural patrimony, the friendly people and the cheap / easy flight connections. In fact, this increasing discovery by foreign travellers was responsible for its nomination for the Best European Destination award in 2012 and 2014, as well as the Most Romantic Destiny in 2013, titles given by different travelling agencies and specialized magazines.
What to see
The Casa da Música concert hall (auditorium and backstage visits from €6, performance tickets around €15) is perhaps the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ best building.
The 15th century Santa Clara Church, on Largo 1 de Dezembro and the São Francisco Church, on Rua Infante Dom Henrique, are impressively ornate. And after visiting it, you can simply chill out on Jardim das Virtudes (Virtudes Garden), where the sights will probably tear you apart.
Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art it’s Portugal’s most important modern art museum. The building, filled with light and shade, was designed by the local architecture god Siza Vieira. As well as exhibitions, there’s a cinema, a performance space and a huge and amazing park.
Centro Comercial Stop has been appropriated by Porto’s rock and jazz musicians: each shop is now a rehearsal studio or a tiny concert space.
Livraria Lello (Rua das Carmelitas 144) is a bookshop in an incredible art nouveau building and it was part of J.K Rolling’s inspiration for the Harry Potter novels. Its interior is usually rammed with visitors snapping the amazing surroundings, so it now charges €3 to get in (redeemable against a purchase).
Get a feel for the real Porto on a half-day walking tour from The Worst Tours (“free”, donations welcome).They’re run by three brilliantly and provocative activist architects.
There’s great eating and drinking all over the city. Typical local dishes are simple and sturdy: the francesinha (Porto’s massive sandwich, layered with a pork, smoked sausage, bacon and a medium rare steak, topped with an egg and a thick overcoat of cheese) and the Tripas à Moda do Porto are probably the best examples.
Porto and Surfing- best combination ever
Porto is also the perfect destination for those who wish to combine the discovery of a wonderful city with surfing, as you can find excellent surf spots within a few km’s distance, like Espinho and Esmoriz. As a matter of fact, in the last couple of years there was a significant increasing in surf-related tourism in the region. The quality of the waves, the crowd (small, especially when compared to the most well-known surf spots in Portugal), the beautiful beaches, the short distance to Porto and the affordable flight connections are the main reasons that can explain that growth.
How to get to…
Currently, there are several low-cost companies flying to Oporto – Francisco Sá Carneiro airport (OPO).
The easier way to get from the airport to the city is by metro. To do so, you should buy the Andante (metro and train card) and charge it with a ticket, which you can do in the local metro station. Then you only have to catch a metro heading to Porto and enjoy a 30 minutes ride approximately.
If you pretend to go straight to one of our surf houses – Espinho or Esmoriz, you should leave the metro in Campanhã station (Porto) and go the train station, which is right over there.
I had a really amazing time at Watermark Surfhouse this autumn. It’s a great cozy place to stay and discover the endless opportunity of potential waves. The hosts and trainers Rui and Ricardo are really great guys. Friendly, warmhearted and competent. Since I’m an intermediate surfer those guys did a really good job in helping me to enhance my surfing…
Best surfcamp I’ve ever been to!
I’ve been to many surfcamps before, but this is by far the best camp so far!!! Ricardo and Rui are two passionate surfers and teachers who really enjoy hoating their guests.
Great surf holidays.
Went surfing with friends for a week, had an amazing stay! Very cozy and cute surf house featuring a great backyard for yoga and BBQs.
Sleep, surf, relax, repeat.
A friend and I just spent a week at the house and we had a really good time. We booked the accomodation & surf package and Ricardo made sure we had everything we needed.