I enjoyed my Porto city break last January so much, that I knew I just had to go back and see more of this wonderful city. So when I saw this great deal to Porto, I just knew that I had to book it straight away.
On my previous city break in Porto my airline choice was limited to a daily EasyJet service from Gatwick, however since then British Airways has also launched a daily service from Gatwick. So for this trip I found a great flight and hotel package deal with British Airways.
Somewhere to stay on Porto City Break
For this year’s Porto city break I had originally I had chosen to stay at the Vitoria Village, however I was contacted by British Airways holidays some months after booking the trip as there had been an overbooking at the original hotel, and they asked me to choose another. They originally sent me details of a few alternative hotels, but none of them was suitable, mainly due to their non city-centre location. I then suggested a few hotels in the city centre that I felt would be suitable, and British Airways Holidays quickly confirmed one of these for me, the Hotel Teatro.
Hotel Teatro is located in the theatre district of Porto, and the whole hotel was theatre themed. I was allocated only a standard room for my stay, but I did contact the hotel prior to my stay regarding upgrades. However, the hotel was fully booked so this was not possible, but it’s always worth a try. My room was, however, more than adequate, and was spacious with a decent size wardrobe, tea and coffee making facilities, a huge walk in shower and a large, comfortable bed. My only gripes with the room were not having a good view from the window, apart from the roof of the restaurant, and no bath! I do enjoying a relaxing bath or two when I’m away.
The hotel had a very large stylish bar area, next to an equally stylish and spacious restaurant. Both were theatre themed along with the reception, hallways and rooms. The hotel also had a fitness centre, but I did not use this during my stay. The breakfast was included in the room rate and there was an extensive spread including fully cooked options to cold meats, cheeses, pastries, breads, fruit, yoghurt and much more. There was a Nespresso machine, tea, juice and even champagne.
Things to do on a Porto City Break
After my wonderful Porto city break last year, I had planned so much for my return visit. My plans included a day trip to Braga, a river cruise to the Douro wine region and also a visit to Livraria Lello. Mainly due to the rain, which lasted for the majority of my stay, I decided against the two trips. I did head to Livraria Lello one morning after breakfast, but after seeing the queue that stretched the length of the road, and along much of another nearby road, I decided that I didn’t want to spend probably most of the morning queuing in the pouring rain. I would just have to leave all of this for another trip!
With all the rain there was only on thing I could do apart from sampling some great food and drinks in Porto’s many bars, cafes and restaurants – you guessed it! Head over the river to Gaia and try some port!
I sampled a lot of port on my last visit, but with Porto being the home of Port wine, there were so many more Port cellars that I hadn’t visited (and even now after 4 days of rain I still haven’t tried them all!). During my Porto city break I visited three different port cellars, Calem and Burmester, which are both quite large scale, and by accident I stumbled upon a small place called Augusto’s.
Calem is one of the bigger port cellars in Gaia, located a few minutes walk from Ponte de D. Luis I bridge and facing out toward the river Douro. Calem runs guided tours every half an hour or so, in English, Portuguese and many other European languages. The tour cost just 6€ and lasted half an hour. The tour also included two tastings, which I enjoyed at the end of the tour.
The tour lasted half an hour and was full of information, including many multimedia tools. The guide was very helpful and encouraged us to ask lots of questions, in fact I remember the guide from my visit the previous year when he worked in Taylor’s. The tour concluded in the tasting room, where we were told about the 2 glasses of Port that we were about to taste, and then we were left to our own devices. You could request more tastings at the bar, however there was no staff around when we were there so we just sampled the two that we’d been given and left.
Burmester is located right at the end of the Ponte de D. Luis I bridge, between the bridge and the cliff edge. If you are walking across the bridge you may miss it, but if you are heading back to the bridge from Gaia then it will be right in front of you. The tour here was 6€ and also lasted about half an hour, and again included two samples at the end of tour.
The tour guide at Burmester was very helpful and explained the port making processes in a lot of detail. The tour included a video in English on the company’s history and also the workings of their vineyard in the Douro region, before heading to their tasting rooms for two samples. I ended up buying a couple of bottles of each port that I had tasted, a dry white and a tawny, both of them were extremely good. We were also told that we could go to the bar and try a few others. I did try a few more, but decided to buy just the original two.
As I mentioned earlier, I found this place by accident as I was walking briskly down an alley in Gaia. I was heading for the taxi rank by the river to escape the rain that was progressing over the course of the afternoon. I stopped briefly in a doorway to catch my breath and noticed it was a doorway to a port cellar, something about the industrial plywood entranceway looked very appealing so I though I would pop in.
I was greeted upon arrival and asked if I would like to take part in their tour, and if so the English tour was starting in a few minutes. Interestingly enough the tour fee was charged after the tour, and I was advised that if I purchased any Port after the tour then the tour would be free of charge. I was given a glass of port to drink while I waited. Fantastic!
Augusto’s was a very small cellar, and one of the main things that stood out from the rest was the fact that unlike all the main port cellars, that produce up to 10 million bottles of port a year, Augusto’s produces only 100,000. I knew I was on to some thing good as soon as I heard this. The tour lasted only about 20 minutes, however it was extremely in depth. I heard all about the history of this family-run business, and also about all the varieties of Port that they produce.
After the tour we were all invited to try a glass of their white and tawny port, during which we were told about each of the ports. Afterwards we were invited to try any of their other ports, and were handed a menu of their very extensive range. I tried their 10 and 20 year old tawnys as well as the normal Douro table wine that they also produce. Each glass I tried was absolutely fantastic.
Without a doubt this was by far the best Port tasting and tour I have taken part on in Porto to date, not only for the superb taste and quality of the wines, but also the for in-depth information given to me during the tour, and also afterwards during the tasting. It goes without saying that I just had to buy some of my favourites to take home with me. I can’t recommend this place enough, and I can assure you I will be returning on my next trip to Porto.
Great Dining on a Porto City Break
RIB – Beef and Wine
Located in the Pestana hotel on Praca da Ribeira, RIB – Beef and Wine is a modern steak restaurant and bar. After looking around the quay for somewhere to eat, I came across RIB, which was located in the arches below the above hotel buildings. I might be wrong, but I’m sure it was not there on my first visit to Porto as I do not remember seeing it, but it did look quite inviting and I quite fancied a steak for dinner, so I headed in.
The modern decoration in the ancient building worked very well, much like decor in the hotel I stayed at on my first Porto city break, the Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira. I was told upon arrival there were no tables currently available, but was asked if I would like to have a drink at the bar while I was waiting. I was advised it would only be about 15 minutes, so I agreed. I found a seat near the bar and asked for a gin and tonic, and I was asked which gin? Expecting just a few to choose from I was handed a menu, and found that they had over 30 different varieties of gin available. I chose my favourite, Tanqueray 10.
After finishing my gin I realised I had been sat there for almost 45 minutes, so I asked the front of house staff if the table was ready and I was told no, not quite yet. Another 10 minutes or so had passed and nothing, so I decided to go to the bar and pay for my Gin and Tonic, and at that point I was advised that my table was now ready. When I was taken through to the restaurant I counted 14 free tables so I was confused as to why my table was only just ready. By this point I was in two minds whether to stay and eat, or find somewhere else. I decided to stay as it was getting quite late now, and I was worried that I would not find anywhere else at this time that was still serving food.
I chose the their rib eye, and enjoyed it with a side of truffle mash and a bottle of Douro. The food was absolutely stunning, and comes highly recommended, but I was in two minds whether or not it was worth the ridiculously long wait. When I asked for the bill it became apparent why the wait was so long. With very reasonably priced food and wine, I noticed that my gin and tonic was almost as much as the entire bottle of wine! I guess the plan was to get me to stay in the bar for longer so I would have a maybe a few more drinks first! Despite the plans by the front of house staff, I would recommend a visit to RIB, but if offered a drink while you wait for a table, call their bluff and say no and go to leave, a table might then become free for you!
On the first night it was raining quite hard so I decided to try the hotel’s own restaurant, Restaurante Palco. They had a 3 and 5 course taster menu, or you could pick your own dishes separately from the menu. I opted for the three course menu, with wines paired to the dishes, which was just under 50€ pp.
The food was absolutely stunning in the restaurant, from scallop carpaccio to fillet of beef. I couldn’t fault any of the food, and with the hotel being theatre themed, even the waiters were very theatrical about serving dinner, which really did add to the experience. The meal started with two courses of amuse-bouche, served with a glass of champagne. Then I enjoyed the 3-course meal with paired wines, and I ended the meal with coffee and a selection of chocolates.
After I had finished my meal, all 6 courses in the end, I was glad I opted for the 3-course menu and not the 5. Even with so many courses, the meal was not at all rushed. The food was without a doubt absolutely stunning, and a meal here is highly recommended while on a Porto city break. Also, as I was a guest at the hotel I received a 10% discount on the bill.
Arte de Baixa
The last night of my Porto city break fell on Easter Sunday, so I was a bit worried about finding anywhere open for dinner. Earlier in the day I passed a restaurant near the hotel called Arte de Baixa, and they had a sign in the window saying they were open for dinner that evening. Perfect.
I arrived at Arte de Baixa just after 8pm and there were only a few people there, yet half an hour later the whole restaurant was absolutely full. From the price on the menu, I wasn’t expecting much, but when the food served I was pleasantly surprised. The food was delicious and beautifully presented, and was probably the cheapest meal I had during my Porto City break. To start I choose the cod cake and poached egg salad, followed by fillet of veal with Bolinhos de Arroz.
The meal was absolutely fantastic, and I would definitely recommend a meal here. Arte de Baixa is located on R. de Mouzinho da Silveira, less than 100 yards from Estació de São Bento, the main train station.
Would I visit Porto for a Third Time?
Not being able to do either of my planned trips, or being able to visit the Livraria Lello did slightly disappoint me, but they would have been ruined by the bad weather. I decided to save them for another time, giving me more reasons for another Porto city break. So my answer is definitely a yes, I will be visiting Porto again, as it has become one of my favourite European destinations. Hopefully I will get to visit again next year!