Porto, Portugal  |  October 26 to 28, 2017

When most people think of a sunny holiday in Europe, I'd hazard a guess and say that Portugal isn't always at the top of the list. As Spain's eccentric neighbor, Portugal is a bright and colorful country that has a lot of character. I flew into Porto from Frankfurt, and was so happy to be at a place where it was over 70°F (21°C) and continuously sunny!

As Portugal's second largest city, Porto sits on the Duoro River and offers a cornucopia of wine bars, rooftop seafood restaurants, and long, but casual strolls around the old town. So I decided to start with a pleasant stroll. Porto is genuinely a feel-good place. As I got out of the Trindade Metro Station and walked to my Airbnb, I knew it was going to be a good trip when directly outside is a beautiful monument and square called Praça de Carlos Alberto.

After settling in, I was off to see the sights! First on my list was to get to the river where the landmark Luís I Bridge (Ponte Luís I) is. From below, from above, from east or west, it is a marvelous arched bridge any way you look at it.

Once you cross the bridge to the south side, you can walk along the river over to cable car known as Teleférico de Gaia - Estação Cais de Gaia, where people can get to the scenic area above the bridge. Once up there, I made my way to Miradouro da Serra do Pilar—a place I previously marked off on Google Maps to see—and got the quintessential Porto picture. I hung out up there, enjoyed a little of that famous Duoro Valley wine, and soaked up the sun. If you take the time to notice, you'll see roughly a dozen local kittens roaming around. It's pretty damn cute (even for dog lovers).

Also at the top of the bridge, I found it worth it to take a gander at Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a 16th-century monastery that has a remarkable history. Since monasteries are known to provide refuge for travelers, vagabonds, and merchants, it must've seen a lot throughout the years!

I then made my way to two more places with incredible views. The first is a uniquely named church, known as Church of St. Lawrence / "Crickets" (Igreja de São Lourenço / "Grilos"). I still don't get what the crickets part is. Next was Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto). At both locations, you could get a stunning, yet different view of Porto. These views were just another reason why Porto is so beautiful and fosters nothing but good, happy vibes.

As a book lover, I was thrilled to hear that Porto had one of the most beautiful bookstores in the region. That bookstore is Livraria Lello. While it is unfortunate that you have to pay around €7 ($8.30) for a "voucher" to get inside, if you end up buying a book, you can use that voucher towards the book's cost. But if you just want to see the inside of the bookstore, you're out €7. I would say it's worth it if you're an avid book lover like myself.

After casual browsing at the bookstore, I decided to get active and take a stroll. One thing you'll come across if you visit Porto is the Monumento a Garrett at the Praça do Município. It's smack dab in the middle of the city and is another beautiful historical building. It's not far from the water and many other landmarks.

One of the last things on my to-do list was to see Monument Church Of St Francis (Igreja Monumento de São Francisco). This church is nearly 700 years old and has the most remarkable interior I have ever seen in a church. By now you're saying, "Ryan, every church you go to you say is beautiful." "But avid reader," says I, "this is the most beautiful!" Everywhere there is gold and baroque altarpieces, giltwood and marvelous statues. It is indeed a fantastic piece of history. Now you aren't technically allowed to take pictures inside, but I saw other people do it and decided to be a bit of a rule breaker.

Sadly, my time in Porto was about out. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that you need to consider adding Porto to your next European destination. It has something for everybody. Whether you're young or old, a foodie or a wine-o, an experienced or novice traveler, Porto is one of Europe's best-kept secrets.

Quick Tips:

  • Enjoy all the cheap, high-quality, and great tasting seafood you can while you're in Porto. It is very, very fresh and tasty.
  • Spend some time people watching near Barrio La Ribeira.

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