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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Porto | Hilly Views with Art & Port to Drink

On our first night in Porto, we also received a special visitor - my mom flew in from the states and will be with us until we get to Lisbon. It was great to have Grandma along for exploring! We spent our first couple of days exploring the Old Town of Porto - so there was lots of walking up and down hills. Luckily, our Airbnb host had provided us somewhat of a good walking tour outline to avoid having to go up and down hills multiple times with the stroller and carrying a baby. However, when we did come across them it provided a good workout.

Alternatives to Climbing Hills

There were three ways to get to the upper levels of the Old Town without having to climb the hills, either cross over the very top of the Luis bridge (along with the city tram), take the Funicular from the base level or the gondola (on the Gaia side). We did them all. The views from the top level of the bridge were quite spectacular, but it's not for the weary or those scared of heights. There was also great view of the city to be seen when taking the gondola from the upper to the lower levels of Gaia. The gondola and funicular were reasonably priced as well - only 6 Euro for a one way (or 9 Euro for round trip) on the gondola and then 3.50 Euro for 1-way on the Funicular.

Crossing the Top Level of Luis Bridge:



Churches: Sao Francisco Church & Cathedral Se

We visited the Sao Francisco Church, which had insides all covered in gold and the famous Portuguese blue and white tiles on the outside.

There were also a couple of different churches we visited including the Cathedral Se and the small chapel within the Clerigo Tower. It was interesting to see how each church was decorated differently, but one thing we did notice, that I haven’t seen any other cathedrals/churches before, is that they all had one side altar that depicted Jesus after he died and was laid in the tomb with all his cuts/holes/blood and bruises.

Clerigo Tower

We also climbed to the top of the Clerigo tower. It provided some good views of the city with a different perspective. However, at the top of the tower the stairwell was narrow and it got quite crowded with all the other visitors up top. Once at the 1st level, the openings on the bottom were pretty wide (at least for a small child); therefore, we had to make sure that we had hands on our daughter at all times. She is pretty small for her age so if she had really tried she could have likely fit through the slots - so it was a bit a stressful visit for me!

On the top level the slots did have a covering on them. I did realize that I had to keep an eye out for things like that in various places, as slots did seem to be a bit wide - such as here at the tower, the fence at the top of the Luis bridge and along the river where the river embankment walls didn't have fence along the edge of the pier.

However, the Clerigo Tower is located next to some very colorful houses that made a great backdrop.

Mercado de Bolhao, Capela das Almas & Sao Bento Train Station

We walked the pedestrian shopping street and saw sites like the Mercado do Bolhao (a large open air market that feels like a train station) and the Capela das Almas that had beautiful blue tiles on the outside of it. At the market they had a variety of vendors like fruit, vegetables, fish, bakeries and then some souvenir ones as well. When we were walking by Capela das Almas we actually saw a professional model photo shoot happening with it as its background.

The Sao Bento Train Station was another place that had great tile art - the whole entry way was covered in tiles and our daughter loved seeing the trains.

Ice Cream 'Art'

Our 1st afternoon out exploring we stopped for ice cream at this one gelato shop that was very artistic. When they were done scooping your ice cream, it looked like a flower! Although it was 1.50 Euro more expensive than most gelato places, Clara loved that it was pink and a flower!

Livraria Lello

One of the more unique places we visited in our city tour was the Livraria Lello, which was an old bookstore the JK Rowling used as an idea for the library at Hogwarts in her Harry Potter books. There was an admission fee of 4 Euro, which I found interesting, but when I went to purchase a book at the end of our visit I realized that you got the 4 Euro credit to go towards your book purchase. It had very unique architecture with a staircase that had multiple divisions as it went up to the top. Our daughter loved to sit in the chair and read a couple of books - I think it was a nice little downtime for her in our busy day of exploring. One of the other places suggested to visit was the Majestic Cafe, where several notables such as JK Rowling hung out. However, I was under the impression it was a coffee shop, but when we walked by we got the sense that it was a little more upscale than that, so with the kiddos we opted not to go in.

Beer & Wine

One advantage of having my mom along with us, was it allowed Alex and I some opportunities to go out and explore the town at night after the kids go to bed. Our first night out we went to the university district for some drinks. The beer was very affordable - only 3 Euro for a liter. Then we decided to go down to the river and get a drink at a café there. We discovered quickly you paid for the view there, as the same size of beer there was 6 Euro. The Sangria I got (quite large!) was 3.50 Euro. However, wine is super cheap both in Portugal and Spain. If you go to the grocery store there is a good selection of wine for around 2-3.50 Euro for a BOTTLE! Almost cheaper than water and food! Plus it’s all good quality wine! You’re hard pressed to a more expensive bottle of wine in the grocery stores.

Port Tour at Taylor's

Speaking of wine, while in Porto, my mom and I went to one of the Port Cellar tours just down by the river in Gaia. We got a little bit of a late start so the original place we stopped to see if we could get a tour at was sold out for the day. So we went up Taylor’s, which had a self guided tour you could do with the audio guide. There was a lot information provided on the audio guide tour - so it was very informative; but I personally think I would have preferred a in-person guide.

We learned that Port wine is grown in higher regions of the Douro Valley as it needs hotter temperatures to get sweeter. The grapes are all still picked by hand and some of the Taylor ports are still stomped by people to get the juices out. However, what makes a port a port is the fermentation process. To do this they add in ‘white spirit’ which is a tasteless white wine alcohol. However, Port got its name from where it was shipped from Oporto. The wine and port is produced up in the Douro Valley. Historically, they would bring the wine in the casks down the river in special boats called barco rabelo; then it would be kept in the caves/cellars in Porto until they were shipped out. So it was called Vinho de Oporto, which translated into English is Port Wine.

We listened to most of the exhibits and it took us over an hour to get through the audio guide. At the end we got a sample of their red and white ports in the taste room, which also had a nice garden attached to it. We even saw a mother peacock with her chicks there! I have had a red port in Australia before, but never a white port. The red port was definitely my favourite still.

After the tour we met up with Alex and the kids for dinner. We ate dinner at Sancho Panza, which I don’t give negative reviews very often, but I would definitely not recommend it. The food wasn’t very good....we have had a lot better to say the least.

Clara's favorite moments are still the parks and chasing pigeons....


So far Portugal has been really nice. Neither of us had any exposure to Portuguese before, so we tried to learn a few new phrases. There are several similarities to Spanish, but often a syllable is dropped. Take ‘hello’ for instance. Instead of 'Hola' in Spanish it is pronounced similar without the H sound, so Ola. The numbers are somewhat similar as well. However, Thank You in Portuguese is Obrigado, which our host shared with us that depending on whether you are a male or female you pronounce it differently. For a male it is Obrigado (with the long o sound at the end) whereas for a female it is Obrigada (with a short a sound at the end). So....Obrigada for reading my blog!

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