48 hours in Porto.
Portugal’s “capital of the north”.
We drive through narrow streets and past impressive baroque buildings in the colourful and lively old town of one of Europe’s oldest cities: in the “capital of the north” modern design and contemporary architecture fit in with the cityscape of the centuries-old port town – combining a Mediterranean flair and modern city culture. Fine marble is juxtaposed with minimalist concrete, traditional buildings with progressive boutiques. It is first and foremost Porto’s authenticity that gives it its low-key charm.
The noise of life.
Our journey starts in the square in front of one of Porto’s numerous churches, Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, above the imposing double bridge Ponte Dom Luís.
The densely built stone facades of the city centre buildings rise up from the banks of Rio Douro and it is a mixture of ship horns, seagull cries and the hustle and bustle from the winding streets that we hear from below.
Under the spell of a golden era.
We immerse ourselves in the web of narrow streets and drift through the city. We stop at a little café right on the river and order a Francesinha, a sandwich typical of Porto. The bustling flow draws us on towards a green square in the middle of the city, ruled over by the magnificent Palácio da Bolsa, where Porto’s stock exchange and the commercial court were located in the 19th century.
We enter huge halls with golden walls and valuable mosaics and leave the hustle and bustle of the old town behind us for a moment.
The call of the night.
Night falls, the streets empty. But it’s not time for us to wind down yet. Quite the opposite: the city lights pass by as we glide along the Douro towards the Atlantic. Before gathering strength for the next day at Hotel Casa do Conto, we drive towards the coast. A lighthouse sends its light into the surrounding darkness. The breaking of waves on the rocky coast is all that is heard as the sky and the ocean merge to a black entity.
A city with many faces.
The next day greets us with sunshine and we head off from Casa do Conto towards the city centre. White smoke pervades the narrow streets of the old town. On many corners there are stands selling freshly roasted chestnuts.
We spend the whole morning exploring the alleys of the old town. Tired but happy we take a break at Café Majestic, a café with a long tradition that was opened in 1921.
We drive on to the Avenida dos Aliados, Porto’s grand boulevard. A hip district has formed just off it in recent years. Small, funky shops and bars in a modern style string together to form a striking but pleasant contrast to the splendid old town. The ideal place to do some souvenir hunting. We find what we are looking for in the Mezzanine Store, a combination of hairstylist and boutique, and we then continue our journey.
A surreal seaside ending.
In an almost surreal atmosphere with a view of the sun setting behind the sea we bring our journey to an end with an unforgettable dinner at restaurant Boa Nova. It belongs to Portuguese star chef Rui Paula, who spoils us with the finest Portuguese and international dishes.
But after the delicious meal it’s time to get going again. The open top SL is waiting in the car park and we’re sure that this wasn’t our last visit to Porto.