Now, hopefully the title doesn’t come across as patronising to anyone who has either been to Porto or knows it well. My reasoning for the title is that I feel a common misconception is that Lisbon is *the* place to be, and Porto is just a smaller version that isn’t really worth visiting.
I won’t lie – when my boyfriend and I booked flights which incorporated both Porto and Lisbon into the trip it wasn’t because of our all encompassing knowledge about both cities. In fact, I knew an equal amount about both – nothing. In truth, I’m not at all sure what fuelled our decision to book an outbound flight to Lisbon and a return from Porto but I’m incredibly glad we did.
I really enjoyed Lisbon (as this post hopefully shows) but actually, I much preferred Porto. Personally, my favourite ‘feel’ in a city is when I get the sense I could actually live there. I got the same feeling in Copenhagen, Zagreb, New York, Boston, Toronto (where of course I did eventually end up moving to for a while)… All of which I consider my most treasured cities.
Yes Porto is a fair amount smaller than Lisbon but I much preferred that; I have a terrible sense of direction but really felt like I got to know the city in the short time that we spent there. I could imagine myself with a favourite bar, meeting up with friends and wiling away the hours drinking whisky, talking passionately about the local art scene (the version of me that lives in Porto is much cooler than my actual self).
Sidenote: I will never forget starting a new job and my boss telling me how jealous he was that I was starting there fresh. He loved the idea of coming into a new company where no one knew him and becoming a completely different person; wearing the leather jacket he had always dreamed of and pretending as though that was his day to day look. Porto is full of lovely little hideaways and unique hangouts, but it’s up to you who you want to be while you’re there.
Whether or not you want to become a whole new person, there’s something for everyone there: the city contains a vast array of cool little boutique shops (I highly recommend Mercado 48 and Coração Alecrim), great bars, cool restaurants and of course, the prolific Portugese trams and tarts that everyone (myself included) like to Instagram. It’s the perfect place for a chill weekend away or if you have the time, a bit of respite after the busy streets of Lisbon.
Ok, it’s still hilly and full of a fair amount of people (as any city is), making it in a lot of ways quite similar to Lisbon. Nonetheless, it’s very refreshing and also feels like a part of Lisbon I was looking for but never managed to find; it’s much younger, yet also more welcoming. People were relaxed and friendly, a bit like when you go to your favourite local cafe.
Plus, I think a few things helped my incredibly favourable opinion: the weather, the restaurants we chose and the insane apartment we ended up staying in (linked here).
We spent our days wandering the windy streets, jumping on trams, drinking wine, buying art in local shops (O Galleria is fantastic) and browsing markets that we came across. Plus of course, eating in the fancy McDonalds (you just have to). To me, it felt like living my own version of ‘Roman Holiday’ (without the secret princess part obviously).
As a city, there is so much beautiful architecture (we travelled by train and so had a great first impression as the station itself is basically a work of art), you can easily spend a day walking around just taking it all in (with a couple of stops for wine of course).
In addition to what I’ve listed above, there are of course many galleries, tourist attractions and tours you can do in the city. We were just so content there, we didn’t feel the need to do any of them.
In short, if you can make it to Porto – do it. You won’t regret it.