Porto is the perfect city for a short break. We travelled with Travel Department in mid-May and it proved to be the perfect time to visit. I was delighted to accept Travel Department’s offer of a press trip. And, of course, GG (Gorgeous Graham) had to come too.
Regular readers know that I have been a huge fan of Travel Department since Graham and I went with them to South Africa many moons ago. We were so impressed with that trip that we have used them whenever possible for both long-haul trips such as India and China and short city breaks too, like Salamanca and Lisbon.
Using a travel specialist/company has much to recommend it.
In today’s uncertain world, I particularly like the security of travelling with a travel company such as Travel Department, because I know that wherever I am, they will look after me and most importantly get me home.
We love the fact that Travel Department does all the hard work too. Our tickets outward and return were emailed to us. All we had to do was arrive at the airport, present our tickets and drop off our bags. At the other end, we were collected at the airport by their local rep Marta and brought to the hotel. We had none of the usual brouhaha with passports at the hotel either, and our keys to our rooms were ready on arrival. Now that also probably depends on the country and the hotel.
Hotel HF Tuela Porto
I seldom devote an entire paragraph to the hotel we stay in when on a city break. A hotel room is just somewhere to rest your head when you come in from a day’s exploring. It needs to be clean, air- conditioned and comfortable. All of us on the trip (14 in total) were impressed with the quality of the rooms and bathrooms. And the reception area was welcoming and modern.
But it was breakfast that took it above the norm. Fresh fruit, yogurts, cold meats and cheeses, the usual continental breakfast, was of excellent quality.
And the self-service cooked breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms etc. – was superior to most.
Breads, croissants, cakes and a plethora of jams and preserves also tempted me to partake of a much larger breakfast than I would normally. By the way, the orange cake was to die for and Graham was very impressed that they had a lovely marmalade for his toast too.
But the Nespresso coffee machine was the icing on the cake! Check out my Instagram and Facebook stories for pics.
The location of the hotel was perfect. We walked everywhere, even though taxi rides were only a few euros. We prefer to explore on foot.
It also helped that there was a rather striking, tall modern building right beside the hotel which was our landmark when we were ready to head back for the night.
Beside the hotel, we had a shopping centre and just beside that is Mercado Bom Sucesso, which was perfect for our meal on the first evening as we arrived in about 7 o’clock. Now this is a food market that is full of locals. The food is freshly prepared and there are many different cuisines to try.
It also helped that a glass of very nice Duora Valley wine is only €2.50. Needless to say, we had more than one. And yes, we returned again. I preferred it to the famous Time Out in Lisbon. The food was exceptionally good and was clearly very popular with locals.
In Porto, you are spoiled for choice. We ate in a local fish restaurant one night (see below) and also in a riverside restaurant. We were not disappointed with either.
Guided City Tour
On our first morning in Porto we were taken on a guided city tour in a spacious coach. Our guide Antonia was informative and entertaining. It is always advisable to get a feel for a city with a bus tour first. And it’s such a timesaver for when you head off on your own. And we certainly saw a lot by bus and on foot. It is helpful when you have a local, completely fluent in English, to answer all your questions. Antonia gave us lots of insider tips on what not to miss too.
She gave us a tour of the Palacio Da Bolsa, known as the Stock Exchange Palace. Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is built on the ruins of the Saint Francis Convent.
Antonia was able to tell us that a reception was being held there the next evening to honour the FC Porto team that had just won the Portuguese National Championships, and we saw the preparations. The interior is stunning. The photo below gives you a taste.
Tour of Caves Ferreira Port Wine Cellar
The morning concluded with a tour of one of the leading local Port Wine cellars which was fascinating.
We learned a lot, the most important being that most of our port at home needed to be binned! Have any of you got opened bottles of port in your drinks cabinet? We also need to check the unopened bottles; they too might be past their sell-by date. Oh dear!
I am not a port lover normally, but maybe I have been drinking the wrong ones. This sampling went down very well indeed.
Best of Porto
We love walking through a city and Porto is perfect for that, because there is something to feast your eyes on around every corner. We gazed in awe at the beautiful buildings with their azulejo tiled walls. Often these tiles tell a story or chronicle major events in history.
A must-see is the Sao Bento Railway station (below) whose interior is covered with over 20,000 tiles.
Cais de Ribera
Such a pretty area and a lovely place to sit and have lunch, as we did. We had a perfect view of the iconic Luis 1 Bridge we had just walked across and we looked across the river to Gaia. There are plenty of tiny streets and stairways to lose yourself in just behind and here you will find locals and tourists alike sipping coffees or ports and hiding from the sun.
Museum of Modern Art
On our last day, we spent a few hours in Serraves, The Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibits on display were certainly different and you can see Graham was very taken with this lady.
But below you can see my favourite!
Seriously though, even if contemporary art is not for you, you do not want to miss the gardens. You can do one without the other. And if you are over 60, you get in for half price. Win win. The house on the grounds (below) looks as if was straight out of ‘Poirot’.
Other Things to See & Do
- Casa da Musica
- Sao Francisco Church – 300 kilos of gold dust was used to decorate this highly ornate church
- Crystal Palace Gardens
- Six Bridges’ Boat Tour
I could write so much more about our trip which we enjoyed from start to finish. And now it is time to give you the good news. Travel Department 2023 holidays are now on sale. Book before 20th of June to get some super savings: https://www.traveldepartment.
And we all know there is only one way prices are going.