By College Tourist - Author Carson Sharp of Georgia Southern University.
Fall in Love with Oporto, Portugal in Just Two Days
Situated in the North on the West Coast of Portugal, Oporto is a city rich in history, culture, sights, eats, and drinks which makes for an excellent weekend getaway. Wander down old stone paved streets lined with curvy faced churches, marvel at the bright colors of homes and the rich smells pouring out of restaurants bordering the river in Ribera, and admire the tiled surfaces of classic buildings mixed with modern designs throughout the city center. Of course two days is not enough time to see all that the city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in '96 has to offer, but lucky for any college tourist, it is just enough time to get a taste of tradition and modern Portuguese life. With the help of this adaptable guide you can discover the best districts and most popular sights to make the most of your weekend in the magnificent Oporto.
Your first day in Oporto begins along Avenida dos Aliados, then carries you down to one of the cities keystone districts, the Ribiera, where after you can see Vila Nova de Gaia as well as the world renowned Port Wine Cellars.
Why dip your toe when you can jump right in? Start the day at the always bustling Avenida dos Aliados. On top of being one of the busiest points in the city, it is also the home of the Camara Municipal building along with the cities central square. Let your eyes wander and you will certainly be mesmerized by the intricate design of Café Majestic. Take a look inside to further admire the buildings stained glass windows, an added feature for all muggles and wizards alike, it is said in the biography of J.K. Rowling that she spent quite a bit of time in this spot working on the first book of the Harry Potter series.
Next, make your way down to the river where you will find one of Oporto's keystone features, Ribiera. Lining the River Duoro, this district has an assortment of eye catching terraces which make excellent spots to grab a tea or coffee to relax and people watch, or if you'd rather continue to mosey there are a variety of unique shops to peer into, as well as magnificent restaurants to stop in for a bite.
The Ribiera is sure to be a jaw dropper architecturally thanks to the Dom Luis I Bridge, drawing attention to its two layers, one meant for pedestrians and the other meant for cars. Enjoy a scenic walk across it to get a surreal panoramic of the colorfully lined river, and continue on to the other side to visit Vila Nova de Gaia, also known as Gaia, where you can finally dip into the Port Wine Cellars for a tour of the northern Portuguese region's most famous beverage. While it may be needless to say that you have to taste the port wines... YOU HAVE TO TASTE THE PORT WINES. This sweet fortified wine is often enjoyed as a dessert, and comes in a variety of styles (including red, white, rosé and an aged style called Tawny Port) and flavors (raspberry, blackberry, caramel, cinnamon and even chocolate sauce) but what makes it unique is that real port wine can only be made in Portugal with a unique blend of grapes indigenous to Portugal.
After you sip your way through the cellars take some time to really take in the view of the city riverside.
Enjoy the last glimpses of the sunset while chowing down on some of the local cuisine, maybe even Francesinha, Oportos original take on a sandwich that you cannot leave the city without trying!
Now either rest up for a day jam packed with more breathtaking views. Or, if you are up to experience some night life, head to the amazing Hard Club that has re-purposed a former market place for a sort of classic-meets modern vibe. By day it is a relatively relaxed bar and café scheme, but by night it serves a huge club including lots of room to dance to frequent live music and events.
Day two is booked for enjoying the picturesque Crystal Palace Garden as well as Baixa do Porto. Start your day in the west of the city taking in the Crystal Palace Gardens. In addition to the garden vibrant colors and beautiful flora, it is located at the highest point of the city, allowing for a perfect vantage point to see the Arrabida Bridge and River Duroro in a new light.
While in the Baixa do Porto district, you have to check out the Igrejas do Carmo, one of the loveliest churches in the city. You are sure to be captivated by the blue tiles on the churches façade, and can enjoy similarly decorated buildings throughout the city.
Another excellent place, also lined with a faint touch of Harry Potter magic is a site that inspired many ideas for J.K. Rowling in regards to Hogwarts itself, the Livraria Lello which was founded in 1906. This bookstores neo-gothic style results in a grandiose staircase and ceiling that is sure to send you away with inspiration and unforgettable memories. Your next stop should be at one of Oportos tallest buildings, the Torre dos Clerigos. Should you master the stairs, at the tip you will certainly be rewarded with a mesmerizing panorama of the city just in time for sunset. Lastly, if you have the time, be sure to visit the Palacio da Bolsa or Se Cathedral, each are definitely sites worthy of a visit.
As almost any two-day guide comes to an end, you may be feeling as many do, that you could not get enough. Don't worry, wanting to discover more is always a reason to visit again! For now, pack your bags and head off on your next adventure, with memories of the bewitching Oporto to carry with you!
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