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Linda Bibb, aTravel Blogger from the United States, has submitted the following post to participate in the GWC - International Guest Blogger Contest:
10 Reasons to Like Porto
Portugal lies in a tiny corner of the huge continent of Europe. It's the quiet little brother to loud, boisterous countries like England and Germany. But here's the rub: those countries and their oft-mentioned capitals are mega expensive. If you want to get the most bang for your travel buck, you will need to look further afield to smaller, lesser-known places like Portugal, and lesser-visited cities like Porto.
When we heard that a conference we wanted to attend would be held in Portugal we were so excited; we'd been wanting to see Lisbon for ages. We'd never heard of Porto, though, and we had to google it on a map. There it lay, a few hours by train north of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast, ready to ship its namesake port to the rest of the world.
Our conference was partially sponsored by Visit Portugal, and they wisely started off by taking everyone on a tour of the city. I confess that I'd half-expected a smaller clone of Lisbon-like trams, tiled houses and a slew of run-down port warehouses along a dirty river, but I was so wrong.
First of all, those (well-kept!) warehouses lie across the pretty Douro River in the town of Gaia. Secondly, its vibe is different than Lisbon's, though also has its share of narrow, historical streets, steep slopes and picturesque buildings. Later, when Dan and I explored the town on our own, we agreed that Porto is thoroughly enjoyable. Frankly, there's enough to do and see to keep anyone busy for quite a while.
10 Likeable Things about Porto
1. The easy transportation.
Porto was the 2001 European Cultural Capital and has a modern public transportation system. Skip the subway and bus and go take a tram. Much more fun. Or cross the river in a gondola; they have one of those, too.
2. The low prices.
Portugal's one of the cheapest vacation spots in Europe and Porto's one of the cheapest places in Portugal.
3. The museums and galleries.
From a tram museum to world-class contemporary art, Porto has many museums and galleries.
The Museu da Imprensa is one of many Porto museums.
4. The Douro River.
A cruise up the river is not to be missed, and you'll see Porto in a new way. We were fortunate to be invited on a cruise to a beautiful pousada upriver and watch night descend over Porto as its lights came on.
Porto is a beautiful city on the pretty Douro.
5. The delicious port.
Seriously, how can you go to Porto and not have the port? Or here's an even better idea: Visit a port wine cellar for a tasting. Many are free ... hey, make a day of it!
6. The fabulous wines.
Because of its unique soil the Douro Valley is renowned worldwide for its wines. Look for an opportunity to take a tour and sample northern Portugal's exquisite wines. Be sure to try Vinho Verde (green wine); it's produced nowhere else in the world.
7. The good eats.
If you enjoy discovering new cuisines and eat pork, you might try Porto's specialty, the Francesinha sandwich ... or instead, do what we did and wander the side streets until your nose pulls you into a small, local restaurant to try something new and unfamiliar. We even succumbed to one of the tempting pastry shops we walked past, right after stuffing ourselves at lunch. It just smelled too good to pass up.
8. The wonderful buildings.
Who wouldn't be charmed by tiled homes and buildings? Heck, even Porto's railway station and churches are tiled. And there's a new shopping mall being built near that bookstore, there are plenty of cafés and more than enough shops to poke around in ...
9. Lello Bookstore.
If you're a J.K. Rowling fan, this is the bookstore for you; they say it was an inspiration for her Harry Potter books. If you're not, it's just one of the prettiest, quaintest book shops you'll ever see. Ever. But don't just go in to look, they don't appreciate the gawkers and insist you don't take any photos. Buy a coffee or a book (they have both) and pity them as they endlessly repeat, "no pictures, please."
10. It's pedestrian friendly.
Porto is so walkable that you won't realize how far you've gone until you finally decide to head home. Its sidewalks are wide, traffic is easy, and there are plenty of parks and shopping areas just begging for a stroll. And then there are the narrow, tiled pedestrian walkways that practically call you to come and explore....
Dan and I agreed that our time in Porto was too short; there is so much more to see. Not to mention it's a wonderful jumping-off point for touring northern Portugal's unique wine region, which, by the way, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dan got some amazing photos of the city. and even more of places we visited in the wine region. We're both so glad we went, so let me take this opportunity to thank Visit Portugal for agreeing to host the Travel Bloggers Unite conference there. Had it not been for that we may never have discovered the beauty of northern Portugal.
Submitted by Linda Bibb (http://aswesawit.com)
Photo credits: Daniel Bibb