In a matter of days, Oporto (better known as Porto) effortlessly made way into the top 5 list of my favourite cities.
To be honest, I have never thought of rating cities or countries (the only exception being Georgia which I would rate the best in my travels so far, many parameters involved here) but a week in and around Porto made me realise the city had something to cater to every type of traveller.
Recently, someone asked me what kind of holidays would I prefer the most – city, beach or mountain. I didn’t have an answer to that because frankly, I want all of this in a holiday! I like the vibe of a city, yet want the mountains to trek and be amidst nature, and finally a beach – well, who doesn’t love a beach?
Yes, I know greed was never a good thing …
Porto nicely fit into these preferences. A city on the north-eastern coast of Portugal, overlooking the North Atlantic ocean, the coastline across the country is home to some of the best waves for surfing, hence the country has arguably one of the best surfing destinations in the world. While some of the beaches were not necessarily swimmable or kid-friendly for that reason, just being around the water, building sandcastles and letting the waves wash over your feet is another level of joy.
Porto is a hilly city. What may seem just across the road on Google Maps is probably going to take you a lot longer with a few inclines, so tighten those thighs and build up the stamina before you get there. Because the city, like many others, is best explored walking.
This time, we consciously chose to stay in one of the central parts of town. I was a bit tired of being in cheaper, spacious Airbnbs away from the centre and despite tinier rooms, I wanted the hustle-bustle of a centre-ville, cafes and souvenir shops and the activity around them, as well as easy accessibility to public transport (because people watching, among other things). This website gave me a good sense of which areas to stay in and we eventually booked into a cosy hotel at the Se district.
Importantly, the weather was a superstar. We left Amsterdam just as Storm Eunice was heading away after creating enough havoc and leaving behind the most-terrible weather – a superlative is required here. We fortunately got to the airport unscathed and when the flight touched Porto, sunny skies took over and stayed with us for a week that was nothing short of a brilliant weather, at 21 deg C. We did learn much later that that the country was going through a drought and keenly awaiting rains; I’m glad they got it soon after!
I also loved this trip because we went back to our old ‘book of travel’ which was not planning the trip in its entirety. We booked two days in Porto and then let the travel bug take over. This was what our week-long trip eventually looked like:
- Day 1-3: Porto
- Day 4-5: Aveiro/Costa Nova
- Day 6: Guimaraes
Aveiro is a small, friendly town although I felt it was a bit much to be touted as the ‘Venice of Portuga’. At Costa Nova, we had a long strip of beach almost to ourselves! Guimaraes, a cute medieval town with a stunning castle made for a fantastic day trip although, I’d have loved to linger around a little longer. They all deserve a blog post of their own.
When it comes to Porto travel with a kid, do remember it is a hilly city although public transport is convenient enough to get you around different landmarks and parts of the city. As for us, Young is now 6 years and his current goal in life is to be a runner. That worked fabulously well in sprinting up the inclines of Porto and resulted in competition-climbing up some steep stairs. Fingers crossed, let’s see how long this lasts!