February 17–21, 2017 | We used a four-day weekend this month to hop over to northern Portugal, where we enjoyed some warm weather and hostel-cooked meals.
Despite having lived in Spain before, neither Jenni nor I had stepped foot in Portugal, and for this reason it had been high on our list ever since moving back to the Iberian peninsula in 2016. While southern Portugal might be more well-known for its warm climate and sandy beaches, on this trip we headed to the largest city in the northern half of the country: Porto.
We arrived at the airport in Porto late on a Thursday night and caught what had to be the last train from the airport to the city center. (The train sat in the airport station for a solid 30 minutes without any signs of moving, so we were happy when it finally departed!) Our hostel was located within walking distance of a metro stop, and that first walk was made livelier because we had to navigate through one of the most bar-dense streets with our luggage. There were hundreds of people crammed into a tiny alleyway, so it took us several minutes to weave our way through. We were glad to pass by without being spilled on!
On our past few trips we had stayed at private apartments through Airbnb, but on this trip Jenni found a really cool-looking hostel, called Gallery Hostel, in the art district. As is normally the case in hostels, we met interesting people from around the globe during the hostel’s free walking tour and the (not free, but very affordable) dinners each evening, so we were pleased with our decision.
Regarding the city of Porto itself, it’s a nice mixture of waterfront views, tiled buildings, outdoor cafés, and friendly people. Some of our favorite spots were were the Don Luis bridge, the waterfront district, and the coastal neighborhood called Foz.
Spending 2-3 days in Porto gave us enough time to see most of its hot spots without feeling rushed or bored, and we even squeezed in a day trip to a smaller town called Guimarães, which was Portugal’s capital around 1,000 years ago. There we enjoyed climbing around a small castle, sampling the local pastries, and sitting in the town square to people-watch, but the highlight was certainly our lunch at a restaurant called Doña María. Jenni and I ordered the same plate, called Alheira: meat with an egg on top served on a bed of spinach, and potato crisps. A great decision!
All in all, we had a great weekend in Porto and look forward to returning to Portugal to see its southern cities.