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Northern Portugal / Portugal

Porto - When it's not love at first sight

Porto is Portugal's second largest city and also a so-called "secondary city" - a city outside the capital that has economic and social growth that is important for the country's well-being and economy. In Sweden, we have two "secondary cities" - Malmö and Gothenburg. Porto is Portugal's only "secondary city". Maybe that's why I expected something different. My sister was in Porto a few years ago and described Porto as a tired city with blown out houses and renovations everywhere. That's roughly how I would describe Porto today. Sure, even a beauty has its blemishes – but how many?

Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal

We spent the days on foot. The largest part in Porto's old quarter Riverside, with the famous houses that seem to flow down the hills. We also spent a lot of time in Foz do Douros slightly more luxurious residential area where the Douro River meets the Atlantic coast and i Fontainhas untouched blocks between the bridges. Although the various areas are completely different, there is one thing in common. It is incredibly worn.

Porto - Portugal

Many houses had no roofs. The house next to our hotel had fixed its entire roof with silver tape. I wonder if there was even any roof tile left under all this tape. Other houses had been blown out for renovation for so long that three generations of pigeons lived here. Some houses were held up by sturdy scaffolding to prevent them from collapsing, but people still lived in the houses. We walk in an alley between two streets, it smells strongly of urine and there is a syringe on the ground. I wouldn't have felt comfortable here if I walked in the dark.

One of the few places in Porto that doesn't need a longer presentation (or renovation) is the double-decker bridge Dom Luis I. It is quite easy to recognize the architect behind the 130-year-old architectural masterpiece. Gustave Eiffel. Push the bridge together at both ends in your imagination, and you've almost created a new Eiffel Tower.

Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal

We walked over the bridge on the lower road and looked out over the city. The postage looked almost a little fragile. Like the houses were almost standing on top of each other up the steep slopes. Those who live in Porto must really have strong knees to be able to walk up and down these slopes all the time. I can still remember the old aunt in knee socks almost marching past us up one of the hills. I blame it on us stopping and taking photos on the way, otherwise she probably wouldn't have caught up with us.

Porto - Portugal

Riverside is the heart of the city with some of the city's oldest houses. The colorful tiled houses are located right on the edge of the Douro River and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Despite the number of restaurants that line the streets and the number of tourists, it doesn't feel like the area has lost its soul. Freshly washed clothes hang out of the windows, the satellite dishes are aimed at the sky and the football flags cover the windows against the sun.

Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal

Ribera is as charming as a muddy puppy in the spring sun. You can't help but smile, but you want nothing more than to shower off that dirty surface. The area is a dream for anyone who likes photography, without a doubt. But beautiful? I really do not know.

Porto - Portugal

We pass a demolished house completely covered in ivy and a blooming purple climbing plant. The plants are like a carnivorous amoeba all over the block. How has this whole house in the middle of the center been allowed to fall into disrepair like this for so long?

Porto - Portugal

One of the buildings in Porto that I appreciated the most was undoubtedly the Central Station São Bento. It's not that often that I usually recommend a train station as an attraction, but this is an exception. The blue and white paintings on the tiles at the entrance are magnificent. It is said that there are over 20 tiles with paintings here at the central station. The over a hundred-year-old paintings show everything from war scenes, boats, to kings and agriculture.

Porto - Portugal

Another building that has amazing tiles in blue and white is Porto Cathedral Porto Cathedral and its monastery. The cathedral began to be built in the 12th century, but today is a mix of styles from all centuries. All renovations have given a new style. The most beautiful part is the monastery from the 14th century.

Porto - Portugal

The monastery in Porto Cathedral gives me everything I expected from Porto. History, architecture and the blue-white tile. Beautiful, quiet and filled with well-preserved medieval times. We were almost alone in the monastery. Most of the tourists seemed to make a quick visit inside the cathedral and skipped the visit to the monastery. Maybe it's because of the entry, maybe it's out of ignorance. I feel bad for those who miss this. The monastery is undoubtedly Porto's gem.

Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal

We took a taxi back to the hotel to change for the evening's fine dining in Foz do Douro. Oddly enough, taking a taxi is cheaper than taking the subway.

It may happen that in the taxi I finally started to soften a little for Porto. Not so that the heart started beating faster with love, but more like a feeling of a long friendship. Porto has its charm. All the colors, all the narrow little houses that individually lean more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, all the decay. No matter how shabby Porto is, is this honestly what I want to experience when I travel? The feeling that nothing is arranged. Everything is really like this. For real. This is no fancy Disneyland. This is life in Portugal's second largest city. Life.

Porto – you didn't have me at hello – but I think you had me at good bye

Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal
Porto - Portugal

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About the blogger

Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

15 Comments

  • FREEDOMtravel
    30 January, 2019 at 21: 23

    Interesting! And amazing pictures! Now, when I have slightly different expectations, maybe I could still like Porto 🙂

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      30 January, 2019 at 21: 28

      Thank you! ❤️ I would probably appreciate Porto more if I were to go back now, the city probably just needed some time to mature with me. With the right expectations and the right attitude, Porto can be guaranteed to be fantastic!

  • Daniel | Discovering The Planet
    30 January, 2019 at 21: 51

    An honest post with pictures that attract the photographer in me. I liked Havana. I wonder if I won't like Porto too :).

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      30 January, 2019 at 22: 00

      If I see Havana in front of me (where I haven't been), I still have the image and the expectation that it will be a bit shabby. With Porto, the first impression was just so wrong. All the other cities in Portugal that we had been to before had been absolutely wonderful and cozy, so that was what I thought I would encounter in Porto as well. Yes yes, now it can't be anything but amazing if we were to go back 🙂 And it's a perfect city for anyone who likes to photograph cool environments, so definitely something for you 🙂

  • Ann-Louise
    30 January, 2019 at 22: 32

    Your pictures are incredibly beautiful. I've been dying to go to Porto because I loved Lisbon when I was there. Very good with posts like this so that you can tone down your expectations a little. Strange though that they let buildings fall into disrepair like that and imagine living in that house with the scaffolding, I wouldn't be able to sleep well at night and just lie there waiting for the whole house to collapse.

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      31 January, 2019 at 7: 33

      Thank you very much please! Lisbon is more "Stockholm", if you know what I mean. If you're prepared for the decay and don't think Porto is like Cinque Terre, it's a really cool city! And the food – what restaurants! But that will come in a separate post 🙂

  • Cathinka - On the fly!
    31 January, 2019 at 0: 16

    Simply must go to Porto after this description and amazing pictures!

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      31 January, 2019 at 7: 36

      Thank you very much please! You have so many cool places to discover around you, so jealous! 🙂 Before we left Porto, the city had "won me over", especially with its absolutely incredible restaurants. If you go to Porto, you should definitely pre-book one of all the Michelin restaurants - both incredibly affordable and memorable!

  • Christine - 29°
    31 January, 2019 at 9: 37

    Interesting read and such nice pictures! But fixing a roof with silver tape... hmm... it's certainly a really good tape, but fixing a roof with it I've probably never heard or seen before. Crikey! 🙂

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      3 February, 2019 at 14: 07

      Thank you Christine! ❤️ I would probably have expected the silver tape more in a city in Asia than in Europe. But it seems to have served its purpose! ???

  • The Whole Map
    3 February, 2019 at 14: 02

    Interesting how different views you can have on things. I've been wanting to visit Porto but the worn and shabby made me want to EVEN more. Exactly the kind of cities that I think are the most beautiful. Very beautiful pictures too!

    /Gustav from The Whole Map

    Reply
    • Eve on rucksack.see
      3 February, 2019 at 14: 06

      I actually love the worn me with it, but it wasn't what I expected with Porto! Took two days before I melted, but now today I would love to go back again. Despite the silver tape :)

  • Reiselinda
    3 February, 2019 at 14: 15

    Regardless of what you thought of Porto, you've taken fantastic photos that entice me to go there!

    Reply
    • Eva Gyllenberg
      13 October, 2019 at 19: 25

      Thanks Linda! Perhaps Porto can be a future travel destination with the motorhome? 🙂

  • [...] writes Eva on the travel blog Rucksack about his first impression of Porto, in the post "Porto, when it's not love at first sight", and of course the dilapidated houses stand out when you're not used to them being part of […]

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