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Porto panoramaPanorama of  Porto and Douro River from Vila Nova de Gaia

Porto and its counterpart Villa Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank of the Douro River are cities I always thought I would enjoy, and I was right.  Our first visit was a three day break, this last just a day in passing and there is still much to see as many others are discovering.  The growth in tourism was quite noticeable this time (in a good way) aided, no doubt, by the increasing number of flights into nearby Francisco Sá Carneiro airport which is impressively airy and clean and only a 20 minute ride away from the center of Porto.  You’ll gather I’m a fan.

So what is it I like about these places?  Well to start the geography; flying in the first time we banked steeply over Porto and got a wonderful snapshot of the Douro River squeezed by hills and spanned by impossibly high bridges, with Porto a daub of terracotta, white and yellow cascading down to the water’s edge.  It’s easy to imagine Porto as a rumbustious, tight knit port and I like it that the character still exists.  It’s lively, a repository of grand and elegant if a little faded, buildings in many styles. Renovation, though, is in the air and on my next visit I’d like to see architect Álvaro Siza Vieir’s, Museum of Modern Art.   Then there’s the food, lots of splendid fish and salt cod dishes, of course.  Tripe is a speciality of Porto – apparently the sailors took all the best cuts of meat to sea with them – I’m still building myself up to try the local delicacy.  And the people, as elsewhere in Portugal, so friendly and courteous, quick to help too. Trying to work out the metro system, first time round a gentleman from Gaia sorted us out and gave us the low down on getting around and this time we’d hardly started the process of remembering when a member of staff offered to explain the system. It’s not at all difficult, by the way.

Aerial Sightseeing over Porto

There was a new addition to the skyline over Villa Nova de Gaia on our last visit to Porto.  The Telerférico de Gaia, a swish cable car system has just opened and now a steady stream of gondolas run from the upper level of the Dom Luis l bridge down to the quayside in Gaia where the barcos rabelos boats of the port lodges bob on the Douro River. It’s a nice gentle ride, you just step into a gondola as they move slowly through the station, the doors close and…

Teatro Hotel Porto Portugal

On the site where the Baquet Theatre once stood at the heart of Porto culture a new theatrical experience awaits visitors to this historic Portuguese city. We stepped through the doors for a night at the Teatro Hotel.