Bright red rooftops and sweet Port wine… these were the only two things I knew about Porto before setting foot in it today.
To be honest, I had no clue what to expect when I was dropped off in the middle of Porto’s downtown core. I was fresh off a two-hour flight from Paris, and had a few hours of free time to explore before boarding the MS Vasco de Gama. Stepping off the bus, I was completely taken by surprise. It just seemed so normal. There were no hordes of tourists roaming the streets, no giant monuments to stare at… I was actually confused. It seemed too quiet to be the Porto I had seen on travel blogs and Pinterest. Was I in the right place?
As I soon discovered, Porto is a very beautiful city, but in a different way than most other destinations I’ve visited. Rather than holding a conventional beauty like Paris or Vienna, it boasts a gritty and fascinating appeal, one best discovered by wandering its hilly streets while soaking in its chaotic ambiance. As I walked around the city centre, my senses were absolutely overwhelmed by the bustle of life happening around me. Everything seemed to move at a quick pace – from the locals shouting angrily over a game of chess, to the speeding cars paying little attention to any streetlights. Truly, Porto is a city of infinite contrast and contradictions. Next to beautiful blue and white azulejo facades, you’ll find rough brick walls covered in graffiti. On the same street as touristy souvenir shops, you’ll find bustling bakeries crammed with locals enjoying their afternoon coffee. Porto may be the 2nd largest city in the country, but it seemed to me that much of it remained untouched by tourism. That’s what I liked about it so much – it felt authentic, almost like I had come across a secret gem that belonged only to me.
During my few hours around the city, I brought myself to many of Porto’s main sights, including the City Hall, the Dom Luis I Bridge and the Lello Bookshop (known as a big source of inspiration for the Harry Potter series). After a nice evening on board, we then enjoyed a bus tour of Porto by Night. Tomorrow, these explorations continue with a guided excursion to some of Porto’s main sights. I really can’t wait to unravel this mysterious city further… Stay tuned for updates, but until then, here are some photos from today’s wanderings:
Talk to you all soon!