Lovers of good wine, breathtaking sceneries or simply life enthusiasts, did you know that Porto is one of the most romantic destinations on earth? The famous wine named after it is nothing compared to the beauty of the city itself, but know that the wine isn’t actually produced in Porto. Everything starts in Douro Valley, where vines grow spectacularly. Here are our thoughts on this destination that blew us away.
Porto, the city
The charming Portuguese city was built around the Douro River. Formerly a wine exchange checkpoint, it has now grown into a tourists’ favorite. Its colorful streets, renowned restaurants and the city’s constant frenzy makes it incredibly exciting to get lost in.
Where to stay:
Hôtel da Musica: This charming hotel is located in the center of Porto, close to the Casa da Musica and close to many shopping checkpoints. Its relatively low prices and modern look make it an excellent place to spend the night. We loved that the decorations were inspired by music and that it was located close to a metro.
Where to eat:
Cantinho do Avillez: Chef José Avillez, the same mastermind behind the MiniBar in Lisbon, is the one who owns this refined and modest restaurant. The chef has all the rights to boast about being the best chef in Portugal right now! His menu involves traditional and reinvented cod, bacon risotto and mushrooms, avocado scallops and grilled squid, without forgetting about the well-loved burger. This restaurant is a must if you’re staying in the city or in Lisbon, where the second restaurant is located.
ODE Porto Wine House: This little romantic restaurant is a favorite of many. Its varied menu lets us try a bit of everything and plunges us into the sophistication of Portuguese cuisine. The signature dishes -squid, cod, lamb and fish soup- are offered with an excellent wine list. The impeccable service was well worth the price of a good Porto restaurant. To discover.
Tapabento : A nice and chic find. The restaurant serves tapas to share, simple and tasty dishes using fresh ingredients varying from seafood to seasonal vegetables. It is a signature restaurant and serves late at night. The perfect place for a filling meal any time of the day!
What to see, what to do:
The best way to discover Porto is by going to a few coffee shops here and there and getting losts in the streets of this beautiful city. Some stops that you cannot miss are the Cathedral (Se Cathedral), the Rua Santa Catarina for a shopping spree, and the Lello & Irmao book store, known as one of the prettiest in the world. Don’t forget to travel to the other side of te river to admire the gorgeous streets of Villa Nova de Gaia, where you will find the biggest cellars in Porto (Dow’s, Taylor, Calem and more), all waiting to impress you with the best drinks they have.
Douro, the city of wine
Imagine not being able to see the end of a vine field in an immense valley. The Douro is certainly one of the prettiest places in the world, yet not many travellers know of its existence. The pastoral character of the place attracts porto enthusiast tourists or simply travellers who like breathtaking views. Even more? The Douro is filled with hidden villages, where Portuguese citizens will warmly welcome you. The country’s best kept secret, isn’t it.
Where to sleep and eat:
Morgadio da Calçada : This place built in the 17th century has preserved its heritage, even with the modernized bedrooms. In total, 8 different rooms welcome guests, some offering a breathtaking bathroom, others offering a view of the interior garden. Located on top of a hill, in the Provesende borough, the little residence offers breakfasts, homemade wines and even a pool hidden beind a wall of stones. You can also take advantage of your stay there to get to know the other residents of the hotel over a nice homemade supper. The perfect place if you want to disconnect from the world.
Quinta Nova : A dream. Quinta Nova is one of the most luxurious places in the Douro Valley. The 11 rooms offer a view of the terrace, or even, a splendid view of the Douro, all the while respecting the history of the area. The property has over 250 years of history, and was a wine production checkpoint before being turned into the perfect getaway hotel for tourists. Their restaurant, Conceitus, is a whole other story. An amazing, high-end experience awaits you, followed by a wine-tasting event and impeccable service. You can also visit the wine bar to get familiar with Quinta Nova’s special drinks, while admiring the magnificent terrace with a view of the majestic river. This place is completely magical, and is worth the detour, even if it’s only for a short stay.
Casa da Calçada, Amarante: Between Oporto and Douro, you will find a charming city called Amarante. One of the only Relais et Châteaux of the region, the Casa Da Calçada, is located in the lovely city. The Casa Da Calçada is a castle built in the 16th century, that welcomes couples, whether it’s for a short stay or a longer escapade. This little haven has preserved its historical remains and offers cozy bedrooms and an excellent restaurant. Definitely keep this address on your to-visit list.
What to see, what to do:
On top of the luxurious restaurants we’ve mentioned, the area is filled with other more rustic restaurants, for people who want to try out more traditional cuisine. These restaurants are the best way to get to know Northern Portugal’s culture. You can rent a car or you can take the train that will bring you directly to Douro Valley. There are many quintas to visit, and good wines to taste. Cheers!