If you have been to Portugal but you didn’t visit its capital, there is a high chance you have opted for Porto.
Located in the north of Portugal, this big city is offering as much as Lisbon, but in a different way. There is a divided opinion on the „best Portuguese city“ – whereas some are certain that Lisbon is the one, the others swear by Porto. Also, there is a common opinion that people of Porto don’t like people from Lisbon.
I heard a saying „Porto works, Coimbra learns, Braga prays. And Lisbon gets the money.“
What impressed me in Porto was one bookstore: Livraria Lello & Irmão, one of the oldest bookstores in the world, opened in 1869.
Now, I am a written-word lover and I simple enjoy any place that gives books a special place. But this library is special because it is very old and the interior is beautiful and so atmospheric.
It is interesting to note also that the bookstore was frequented by J.K.Rowling who used it for inspiration for her Harry Potter series.
You pay 4 euros to enter this library, but you can use this money as a discount to buy books – so if you buy them, this amount is deducted from your purchase. I bought a beautiful colouring book 🙂 It has traditional Portuguese designs which you can colour. It is actually an adult colouring book; recently I became a big fan of colouring and have read a lot about colouring as a new way of meditation. It is believed that the process of using colours inside the lines can help reducing stress.
The other thing that appealed to me was nightlife. Central streets such as Galeria do Paris have outdoor places where young people, mostly foreigners – Erasmus students and travelers – gather and drink together. The prices are as low as 0,50 euro for a beer or sangria! There I met a lot of cool people, such as Chinese student obsessed with history of the Balkans and Uruguayan-Croatian girl who told me stories of the big Croatian community in Uruguay (who knew!).
Porto follows specific Portuguese architectural style: colorful tiles, decorated floors and attention to detail. I have so many pictures of the beautiful buildings; here are just a few.
Oh and I tried Francezinha, an original Porto-made sandwich. Think toast-lasagna with 3-4 layers of meat, baked with melted cheese and served with french-fries. It is a huge meal so think about sharing it with someone – I couldn’t finish one by myself! For this meat-extravagance you will have to prepare 6-8 euros. Since I am not a big meat-eater myself I wouldn’t order it again, but I guess it is tasty and since it is Porto’s traditional and not served anywhere else, I’d say go for it 🙂
To summarize, Porto is definitely on the „Portuguese must-visit list“. I still prefer Lisbon because of the warmer weather and more light, but Porto is definitely something special. And take good walking shoes because, as Lisbon, Porto has many, many hills!