Let’s just say it: Porto is not exactly a beautiful city.
At least, not as a whole.
Yes, the riverside area known as Ribeira is nice and touristy and there are pockets of beauty around the city, but much of the city is a collection of aging buildings with worn facades and collapsed roofs.
And yet, though this may seem strange statement to some, there is beauty to be seen even in fray and decay.
Don’t get me wrong. I really liked Porto. It’s a vibrant city with a nightlife that is off the charts. At night, it seems the entire city becomes one big fest of food, drinks and music. In Porto, you will find hundreds of people standing outside bars, standing and sitting on the street, drinking. It’s a wondrous sight. And the drinks are generally cheap, as the nightlife caters largely to university students.
Go across the river to Gaia and indulge in some wine tasting. The city is the birthplace of port wine and there are many wine tasting spots. I stopped in at Ramos-Pinto, and for 7.50 euros, I got to sample five different port wines in a nice ambiance. There are also tours of the cellars.
In addition to Porto and Gaia, I visited some surrounding towns and villages, including Cucujães. Love these small Portuguese towns, with their narrow, cobblestone streets and picturesque views.
My one complaint about Porto is that because it’s so overrun by tourists, some restaurants charge tourists prices and will even try to take advantage. For example, the meal you see at right is a francesinha, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat and
covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. I did not order the fries. I assumed they come with the francesinha. But they do not. It’s a separate charge.
When I got the bill and questioned it I was told even if I didn’t order them, I ate them, so I had to pay for it. Tricky business. So beware. I found this sort of thing in South America – they put bread or olives or something else on the table and never tell you that it’s not included until you get smacked with the bill. Only in Portugal did I encounter this, so my guard was down. Now I know to ask.