Dusting off and updating an older post about Porto, Portugal’s charming second-largest city
Plus, try your hand at Leite’s Culinaria delicious-sounding Portuguese Orange Olive Oil Cake. Here’s the link to the recipe. I’ll give it a whirl tomorrow.
We love Lisbon but Portugal’s second-largest city is our favorite for its more manageable size, laid-back atmosphere, and the fact that it is often not as overrun with tourists as the capital. We also find that Porto is easier to photograph and, in some ways, more versatile.
Porto is a World Heritage Site
Porto is located along the Douro River estuary in northern Portugal and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is rich in history, beauty, charm, quirky graffiti, and public art. In 1996, UNESCO recognized Porto as a World Heritage Site.
Porto feels young and lively which is reflected in the overall atmosphere, modern architecture, and contemporary stimulating art and cuisine. At the same time Porto, also called Oporto, is steeped in tradition and reconstituted codfish which leads me to:
The Cuisine of Porto — What to Savour and What to Avoid
I don’t know if you ever had a chance to taste reconstituted dried salted codfish known as Bacalao, a staple of traditional Portuguese cuisine. There are over 300 ways of dubious deliciousness to prepare it. It’s a traditional dish but these days the fish is not caught locally but imported from Norway. Walking into a grocery store and seeing (and more importantly smelling) slabs of dried fish right next to crates of strawberries is an acquired taste for sure. The local delicacies of Tripas à Moda do Porto (Tripes Porto style) and Francesinha sandwiches with several types of meat smothered with cheese and a super-rich sauce fall in the same category (acquired or possibly “un-acquirable” taste).
A lot more to our taste are the wonderfully flaky custard-filled little tarts called Natas. Porto has a beautiful Nata bakery where you can watch production and devour Natas fresh from the oven.
Plus you’ll find restaurants with creative contemporary cuisine and delicious wines, often from small wineries that don’t export internationally as their production is too small. Makes savoring these wines locally even more special.
Harry Potter Was not Conceived Here (sorry!)
There’s a prevailing myth that J. K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of her first Harry Potter book on paper napkins at the beautiful Café Majestic. Many faithful Potter fan tourists have visited Porto in search of Harry’s origins over the years. However, we were told that even though Rowling lived in Porto for a couple of years, everything else is imagined. We can confirm that the elegant bell époque Café Majestic would scoff at the mere idea of paper napkins. For the proud price they charge for your coffee and Natas, you are being treated to elegant linen napkins.
Gaia, Home of the Port Wine Cellars
Just south of the city of Porto and across the river Douro that divides the 2 municipalities is Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia. Here you can visit some of the famous Porto wine cellars like Sandeman and Taylor in the Ribeira district of Vila Nova de Gaia, take a self-guided tour, photograph the old wooden wine barrels stacked up all the way to the ceiling, and enjoy a port wine tasting.
Click here to learn more about the intricate process involved in creating this unique fortified dessert wine.
In the past, small boats called Rabelos used to transport the wine in wooden barrels from the terraced vineyards in the Douro Valley to the Gaia port cellars — a very treacherous journey due to the dangerous rapids on the mighty Douro.
Photographing the Stock Exchange Palace
The charm of Porto is on full display inside one of its most beautiful historic buildings, the Stock Exchange Palace, which was constructed in the 19th century in Neoclassical style.
Porto also claims the second-largest Portuguese educational institution, the state-managed University of Porto (Universidade do Porto) which definitely gives the city a youthful atmosphere.
A City of Bridges
Porto is known as the City of Bridges and one of these bridges crossing the Douro river, the Dom Luís I Bridge, makes a great subject matter for Blue Hour photography.
The Luís I Bridge is a metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Designed by Gustave Eiffel who also engineered the Eiffel Tower in Paris, its 564 ft span was the longest of its type in the world when it was constructed in 1881–85.
Sé do Porto Catedral
The Porto Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church located in the historical center of the city of Porto. It is one of the city’s oldest historic Romanesque monuments. We love photographing the beautiful cloister.
Our Secret Spot
In a small hotel in Porto, we found an amazing staircase that is illuminated with lights that continuously change colors. We got great shots but had to brush off a lot of dust after lying down on the job. ;-)
The Magic of the Chapel on the Rocks at Miramar
As part of our photo tour, we also visit this magical place close to Porto. A chapel where miracles and weddings happen and photographers can try their hand at light painting during the blue hour.
If you feel like visiting these photo locations in Porto during our 2023 Portugal Photo Tour (May 21 to May 30, 2023), don’t hesitate to call 425.672.9760 or email us with questions. We always love talking about any of our tours. You’ll also find lots of information on the tour page by clicking here. »