Porto, Douro valley, Coimbra and back to Lisbon

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Northern Portugal July 2018
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About Porto
Porto is the 2nd largest city in Portugal, and has been inhabited since 300BC, by Celtics, Romans, Moors, Crusaders & French under Napoleon. Porto region of Douro valley became well known for the production of quality wines and port wine in the 18th century and has remained that way.

After resting up from our drive from Lisbon to Porto, we drove into the older part of Porto and walked around a lot to check out this place. Breakfast was Pasteis de Nata and coffee. Pasteis de Nata is an ancient recipe passed on from Monks who used egg whited to starch their clothes, and the egg yolks to make these delicious pastries. With the expulsion/closing of many of these religious orders, the recipes emerged out of the monasteries and became available widely. They are quite delicious, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Porto Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Nata

We walked all over the old town to the waterfront, and below are some scenes from Porto

Porto Fully tiled church
Fully tiled church
Porto Main City Hall
Main City Hall
Porto Original train station of Porto, still in use; with beautiful tiled images
Original train station of Porto, still in use; with beautiful tiled images
Porto Old buildings outside the railway station, with roads leading to the waterfront
Old buildings outside the railway station, with roads leading to the waterfront

There are many historical and old buildings all around the old town; so it was good to walk around and admire the sights and buildings. There were a lot of tourists here, as this part of Portugal is a popular tourist destination.

We walked downhill to the port area, passing multiple historical buildings like the market (now gentrified into an art gallery), the Wine Museum where we got a short tour showing us where the wines of Douro valley are chemically analyzed and wine tasters taste and characterize the wines .

The Port area of Porto was quite lively, below are some images from the Port area and from Villa Nova de Gaia, the town across the Douro river from Porto.

Porto Port area of Porto
Port area of Porto
Porto Lovely old buildings lining the old port area
Lovely old buildings lining the old port area
Porto The area across the Duoro river in Porto is called Villa Nova de Gaia; where all the Port wines cellars are located
The area across the Douro river in Porto is called Villa Nova de Gaia; where many of the Port wines cellars are located

We took the river taxi across to Gaia, for 3 euro’s each, to check out the views

Porto River Taxi on the Duoro river
River Taxi on the Douro river
Porto Feels great once the laundry is done
Feels great once the laundry is done
Porto Magnificent views of Porto from Gaia
Magnificent views of Porto from Gaia
Porto Magnificent views of Porto from Gaia
Magnificent views of Porto from Gaia

After this short stop in Gaia, we walked back to the Porto side by crossing the large suspension bridge

Porto Suspension bridge for both cars, people and trains
Suspension bridge for both cars, people and trains
Porto Back at the Porto side
Back at the Porto side
Porto People watching on the Porto side
People watching on the Porto side

We walked back to where our car was parked, and on the way, stopped for lunch and wine at Pedro Dos Frangos, for Peri-Peri chicken.

After lunch, we decide to drive to the Douro valley region, where all the good wineries are located; and we took what we thought was the Romantic route through the wine growing district, but in fact ended up on the Rota do Romanico along the N222 and N108 roads, which is the Romesque architectural region of this area.

Porto Rota do Romanico
Rota do Romanico

The area was quite scenic, and a pleasant drive though nice small towns along the Douro river

Porto Wine growing region of Duoro river valley
Wine growing region of Douro river valley

We stopped and asked for directions to local wineries for wine tasting, but very few people spoke English and even fewer that understood what we were looking for. No winery for us today :(. We ended up in a nice small town called Castelo De Paiva, where we stopped for a refreshing coffee and snacks at the Tropicalia Padaria

Porto Coffee stop at Tropicalia Padaria
Coffee stop at Tropicalia Padaria

By now, it was getting to 5PM, and we were not likely to find any open wineries, even if we were able to locate a winery. So we decided to drive over the seaside beach town of Matosinhos, just north of Porto, check out the beach and find a good restaurant to have some fresh fish dinner. After a short drive, we arrived in Matosinhos; some scenes below

Porto Old Moor fortification in Mastosinhos
Old Moor fortification in Matosinhos
Interesting structure
Interesting structure

After a nice fish dinner, we headed back to Porto.

Next day, we started early, driving back to Lisbon. We stopped at Coimbra for breakfast at a local café in the old town. The old town of Coimbra is very well preserved, and still has the narrow cobble stone gulley’s. The University of Coimbra, reputed to be the 2nd oldest University in the world, occupies the old town, and has multiple roman era buildings in use.

Porto Beautiful old buildings of the University of Coimbra
Beautiful old buildings of the University of Coimbra
Porto Beautiful old buildings of the University of Coimbra
Beautiful old buildings of the University of Coimbra
Porto Breakfast in old town Coimbra
Breakfast in old town Coimbra

We did not have much time to spare in Coimbra, but it is definitely worth checking Coimbra out more thoroughly as it seems like a nice lively university town, with lots of old world character.

We then got back onto the E1 Tollroad, and drove back to Lisbon, returned the car at the airport, bought weekly metro/bus/tram unlimited use-passes at the airport metro station for 30 euro’s each, and headed off to our AirBNB apartment which was located a 3 minute walk from the Cais Do Sodre metro station.

Lisbon, City of 7 hills next

Porto Full Portugal trip map
Full Portugal trip map