We seem to have formed a complicated love-hate relationship with Porto after staying for a couple weeks. We love the delicious pastries, good valued wine and colourful tiled buildings for example, but hate loud noises from construction sites throughout the city. Below we will spell out more in details why we love and hate Porto at the same time.
What We Love about Porto
We love pastelarias (pastry shop) with mouth-watering golden pastries displayed either at their large window or below the glass counter. One of our favourite past times is to go check out each display and eventually pick a new pastry item that we haven't tried. People eat pastries throughout the day - as breakfast, morning tea, lunch snack, afternoon tea and dessert for super! Having a pastry with a coffee at a pastelaria is one of the most quintessential Portuguese experiences in our opinion. It's simple, fun and affordable!
Having lunch at a local cafe in Porto is another quintessential Portuguese experience, especially if you go with Prato do dia (plate of the day). We love checking those blackboards for Prato do dia when walking past cafes and restaurants. Prato do dia often comes as a combination of soup, main dish, drink and sometimes also includes coffee and dessert, and the whole lot only costs beween €5 to €10, which a great value for money. The cafes that are busy with a lot of local customers at lunch time are often the safe bets to try! Prato do dia is really the local way of life - after a big lunch, siesta follows!
We love supermarket wines which are of good quality, inexpensive and of great variety. With weekly promotions, you can easily buy a bottle of nice local wine for €2! We especially enjoy Vinho Verde - a type of local wine that comes in white, red and rose and is slightly sparkling.
You can find a good range of port wine in supermarkets as well, including white, ruby, tawny and vintage.
We love walking along Douro River from Porto to the ocean beaches in Foz. Walking on the wide footpath and breathing in fresh sea air is a great way to take a break from the busy city life in Porto. For a longer walk, we continued from Foz to Matosinhos along the sandy and rocky beaches - it makes a relaxing day out and some good exercise as well.
We love appreciating those grand centuries-old buildings and churches as well as houses with colourful tiles. Walking across Dom Luis I bridge and looking back at Porto provides a wonderful mesmerising picture, which we can never get tired of.
Porto has a lot of quirky art and street art throughout the city. We love exploring those art and photographing them. As we see more of the street art, we can recognise some regular artists.
Metro and intercity train networks are wide spread and have reliable services. This provides us opportunities for day trips to nearby cities. Riding those clean and comfortable trains guarantee a pleasant journey for a day out. We visited Guimareas, Braga and Aveiro on those day trips and thoroughly enjoyed them.
We've found local people very friendly. Whether in cafes, pastry shops, supermarkets, most people speak some level of English and are very helpful. Even with face masks on, you can see their smiley faces!
What We Hate about Porto
There must be a construction boom in Porto as you can't pass 50 meters without seeing another construction site, either a residential house or a giant grand building. As a result, constant drilling and banging noises can be heard throughout the city. Dusty air is another annoyance as a consequence. Lunch time and Sundays are the best time to walk around as those are the only times when building work stop.
Ugly graffiti is everywhere, especially in lane ways and on abandoned properties. We've seen government cleaning crew removing graffiti with high power hoses, but they seem to be way behind from those graffiti vandals. It's more like a race between a rabbit and a turtle. Something drastic has to be done in order to give the city a fresh look.
What We Crave For
We really crave for a large enough green space that we can take a decent long walk or run without traffic or construction noise. The only good size park near the center of Porto is Crystal Palace Garden (Jardins do Palácio de Cristal) where we can manage walking a couple of kilometers by zig-zagging around the paths and going up and down the different layered terrace areas. However it has one construction site within the park and another one right outside the park. So it's not really peaceful to walk around there. Plus for the first three weeks of our stay saw large amount of assembling and dissembling work being carried out for a large event held in the park.
For outdoor and nature lovers like us, Porto is not suitable for long stay. For history and food lovers, Porto could be a heaven. For most people who just want to spend a weekend or a few days here, Porto is a great place to visit. For a quiet day out, Sundays are the best!