My bus to Porto was scheduled to leave in the afternoon, which meant that I had plenty of time to grab a final yummy breakfast at Lisboa Central and get my stuff together before running out to head off to the next stop on my trip!
There are frequent and inexpensive bus connections between Lisbon and Porto. Trains, rideshares, and even flights are all additional options, but a Rede Expressos bus is only a few hours long and less than €20, so that’s what I went with.
Since Porto was the lost stop on my trip, I had almost nothing concrete planned. [A running theme with me when it comes to making itineraries: I lose concentration and kind of just jot down vague notes on things to do towards the end instead of scheduling out my day by the hour.] As a result of this, it took me way too long to navigate to the hostel I’d booked.
⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️
Unfortunately, even after that long, sweaty, exhausting trek through Porto’s hilly landscape, I ended up losing the room I’d booked to a system error. It was fine because they very kindly sent me over to another hostel for the same price [and even gave me a guide so I wouldn’t get LOST] but yep. If that isn’t representative of my life as a whole, I don’t know what is. Anyway, I ended up staying at Porto Spot Hostel, which turned out to be spacious, clean, and sort of like a super fancy mansion on the inside, somehow?
After checking in, I ran out to get some food. On the walk, I got my first glimpse of Porto, starting with Praça da Liberdade, in the Baixa area. Baixa is Porto’s downtown, and one of the biggest tourist districts, excluding the Ribeira waterfront area, of course.
One of the most recognizable buildings in Baixa is Clérigos Church/Tower. You can climb the tower to see Porto from above for €3, although I abstained this time around. Still, the exterior’s stunning Baroque design certainly makes it stick out, and is visually interesting enough to be worth a couple of snaps on the ol’ camera.
While Ribeira has more distinct ‘quirky beach town’ vibes, Baixa feels closer to Lisbon, as in, urban, with plenty of tight streets and beautiful azulejo artwork on pretty much every building.
Eventually, I remembered that I was actually hungry and hopped into one of the many little shops in the area for a bite to eat. The bifana, or pork sandwich, I ended up chowing down on for about €2 wasn’t amazing, but it gave me the energy to keep going. [Pro-tip: if you end up indulging in one of these, put some mustard on it.]
One of the biggest tourist traps in Baixa is Livraria Lello. This was actually one of the few major tourist hotspots of Porto that I knew of and planned to visit; the bookstore whose curving staircase and lavish interior apparently inspired JK Rowling back when she was teaching English in Porto. Although I have opinions about JK Rowling herself, I was keen on visiting one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, because that’s the kind of thing I’m into. Because I’m a nerd. I ended up visiting the next day, as it closes its doors at 6 PM, so more on Lello later.
As I was walking, I sniffed out another bakery with pastéis de nata on display and immediately bought it to munch on as I walked around and snapped some more pictures. This is the life, guys. [This particularly photogenic one was from Pastelaria Bela Torre, which is right next to Livraria Lello.]
Anyway, I got hungry again and decided to find something substantial. Here’s where I made the worst decision of my life, probably. I’d read about Porto’s francesinha online, but nothing could have prepared me for the reality. It’s a sandwich generally made with bread and layers of ham, sausage, meat, and more meat. All of that is then slathered in cheese and sauce and served to humans for consumption, which I still argue should not be legal. It’s too much; too rich, no human can survive this ordeal.
There it is. It doesn’t look very appetizing, I know. Still, I’m a red-blooded American, and in my country, we have televised competitions to see who can eat the most meat without passing out. I could take this on. I even got the puff pastry version to avoid egg consumption, because eggs are disgusting and I knew it would hinder my efforts to conquer this Horrifying Meat Sandwich. It was €10. [And the little glass of port wine was about €2, so that was nice.]
I failed. I didn’t even get halfway through the damn thing. I essentially never leave food behind in restaurants, but it was with despair in my heart that I finally threw in the towel and let the waiter cart away my still-full plate before trudging over to pay the bill.
Anyway, yeah, it was delicious and flavorful, but I’m never eating it again. Maybe. The verdict’s still out on that. [My ideal partner is now anyone who is willing to share one of these with me.] The rest of my evening continued as normal, with just a bit more strolling before I headed back to my hostel for a nice night’s sleep.
What’s your favorite thing to do, see, or eat in Porto?