When I decided to choose University of Porto for my master’s study, I didn’t do any research about the city itself. Few months after, oddly enough, who would have known that Porto got me hooked. and I would like to share the pleasure and happiness of Porto’s own way of sexiness, romanticism, vintage-ism, and many other things that quite difficult to describe.
Yes I said, Now. Now, now, now, go go go hurry book your flight to Porto and pack your stuffs. Be awestruck and inspired by this second biggest city in Portugal. Let’s take a look on why you should pack your stuffs and go to the 2014’s best European destination, O Porto!
0. FYI, Porto is not a nickname of Portugal
For an introduction, Porto is the name of a city located in Northern Portugal. Although Portugal’s name was derived from Portus Cale, a settlement area in the Douro River. The Douro River beautifies and separates Porto and Gaia with six bridges. So, if you heard a question, “Which city has the same bridges as Porto?”, you definitely know the answer. Check all of those six bridges here.
1. You never think Porto will be this beautiful
When my mom knew I chose Portugal over Sweden and Finland for my Master’s study, she was like, “WHAT?!!!!” My mom heard the news about Portugal as one of the EU countries who are in economic crisis so she concerned about the country’s safety and security. Especially, for her small daughter. I came without any expectation of Porto but after coming here, I was glad enough to tell my mom, “Mom, PORTO IS ASTONISHINGLY BEAUTIFUL! Mommy mommy, I am so happy.”
When I stepped my feet on the downtown, I saw São Bento Station for the first time. For a first-timer leaving Indonesia like me, I couldn’t believe what was in front of me. The station is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world and I should agree with that. It was designed by a great Portuguese architect namely José Marques da Silva under the influence of French Beaux-Arts architecture. You can find similar architecture on Grand Central Station in NYC.
2. You don’t have to hardly look for a classic beauty of a European city once you walk
I always think of European countries as countries who offer me classic and vintage building since I love them. Porto (and Lisbon) always make me think that I entered a time machine and jumped into hundred-year time differences. YES! You don’t have to spend any effort to feel the classic beauty of European city in Porto. Its vibrant and mysterious atmosphere will guide you to explore and walk uphill-downhill within the city itself.
3. You’ll find getting lost in small alleys to be very enjoyable
Once I entered a random alley, I couldn’t stop my feet. I kept walking. I kept looking for other random alleys. I didn’t know where my intuition and feet will take me to. Sh*t happened two times: I stepped on a dog poop. But it didn’t interrupt my curiosity. Small Portuguese typical houses with hanging clothes on the balcony were everywhere. They stayed there wanted me to take pictures of them.
4. No need to feel in a rush: keep calm and enjoy the sun
One thing that I feel in Porto is that the city is very calm compare to Lisbon. Portuguese loves to talk and enjoy the sun at its best. Unfortunately, the weather in Porto is quite moody. Like most of European cities, Sunday is not a good day to shop because most of the shops are closed. Have a picnic instead! Wrap snacks, foods, beers, juices, or you name it and go to the park. Park is usually full during sunny days. My other favourite thing to do in the city is having a chit-chat with friends outside a cafe (not inside a cafe, please. We have to enjoy Mr. Sun, right?:p). I know I am tanned enough, but who could resist Mr. Sun after the awful winter?
Check the complete story of what happen when the sun comes to Porto here.
5. The Atlantic Ocean’s water is very cold. But it is hard to leave the beach
Now I know why most people are craving to live nearby the beach. Beach is my favourite place to have a jog in summer. Usually the beach is full of people during the weekend. There is a (mega huge) city park nearby, a cool place to have a picnic. Unfortunately, buses schedule is not very often on Sunday. Portugal is located on the coast facing the Atlantic ocean. Many friends take surfing classes and more people go to the gym before summer comes to have THE beach body. How about the ocean’s water? Brrr…for me, it is sooo cold! Different from the sea water’s temperature in Indonesia.
6. Are you a Harry Potter fan?
There are many talks saying that JK Rowling got the inspiration for her infamous Harry Potter series from Portugal. She used to teach English in Portugal before writing Harry Potter. If you come to Porto during the first month of a new semester, you will find many students dressed in black. The best time is during the students’ celebration (Queima das Fitas –the burn of the ribbon) in the beginning of May. Black suits with black coat similar to Hogwart’s. It is called traje. Some students bring a spoon-like stick with a colored ribbon (each faculty has its own color. For example, a dark maroon for the faculty of engineering, uPorto). Some students bring black clutch. They are walking around the city and even you can find them singing Portuguese songs. Find more information about the trajé here.
a) Salazar — famously known for the name of Salazar Slytherin in Harry Potter — is literally the name of a Portuguese dictator. Read about him here.
b) Do you remember the stairs in Hogwarts? There is a talk saying that the stairs was inspired from the stairs at Livraria Lello e Irmão, an old bookstore in Porto. Too bad I dont have any picture of it because it is forbidden to take pictures inside the bookstore.
..until you read these tips and tricks on how to take (zillion) pictures inside the acclaimed to be third world’s most beautiful bookstore. Read the tips and tricks here.
7. Everything is…affordable!
Porto is on the list of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Sexiest Affordable Destinations (complete list here). YES! Porto is sexy and luckily affordable!!! A good destination for student-budget traveller. Even drinks and foods at the world’s most beautiful cafe is not that expensive compare to other cafes on the list.
8. A happy tummy is a happy life
I was quite surprised that Portuguese cuisines are annoyingly delicious and addictive. From a full-calorie one like Francesinha until the fresh Mediteranian salad with grilled seafood. From the typical original Portuguese dishes until fusion Portuguese dishes or any other that you can name it.
You are a pastry lover? No place for your worry. Keep a full power to taste every pastry in the city (my favourite diet cheat is Nata do Céu which translated as cream from heaven). As mentioned previously, everything is affordable! Grab many bites then be happy to stroll around the city afterwards. A happy tummy is indeed a happy life, isn’t it?
Don’t forget: Nata, the Portuguese egg tart, is a must!
9. What do they say about Porto?
Enough hearing my impression about Porto, let’s hear what these friends say about Porto.
“Porto was my first big journey abroad, i have never been so far from home, but it has become my biggest adventure which i will never forget.” – Witold Zgrabka, Poland.
“Porto is very calm. Wine. Historical places. Harry Potter. Interesting nightlife. Unique students’ culture. Surfing. Comfortable to stroll around. I love it!” – Rangga Alroy, Indonesia.
“Porto is like my second home. It was my first overseas experiences. I spend 10 months there. The last month before coming to Turkey, I almost cry. I promise to go there as soon as possible. I love Porto and Portuguese people Now I miss there so much. I’m looking forward to get a chance in order to see Porto again. I never forget what I lived there.” – Melek Bilgili, Turkey.
“Enchanting city, great–and cheap food, great people. Unforgettable experience for sure!” – Finda Dwi Putri, Indonesia.
“I really enjoyed my Erasmus. Obviously when I got there in September with a low Portuguese level I was nervous and I felt homesick for a week but little by little I started to know more and more people and take Portuguese classes was a good decision to improve my language skills and find out more about Portuguese culture. To be honest one of the best memories I have was how slowly the first days there passed. Everyday different things happen to me because every day was different. However once I was used to the city days start to pass more and more quickly.
Porto is a great city, my favorite place is the river but there are lots of good places there: the downtown, the seaside (Matosinhos), Parque da Cidade etc. I really liked to take a walk through Aliados, Santa Catarina… Definitely it’s a city with lot of options to do. I’m going to miss its buildings. Porto has quite a few old buildings but they’re different to Spanish buildings, that environment it’s for significantly different to every European city so for me it is the best think Porto has.
Related to the university I reckon this institution is pretty similar to my home university so I had no problems to deal with my Portuguese tutor and my classmates. Maybe the most important problem I had was my level of English; there I realized that my level of English is not good enough. I really want to improve it and in fact I’m going to UK in two months time to acquire a better level.
I come back to Spain three weeks ago and it’s taken me ages to get used to live at home again. The Erasmus life is really different than living at home, I feel so bad ;( anyhow my Erasmus is maybe the best experience in my whole life and I really recommend do and enjoy this experience.” – Jordi Perepérez, Spain.
Nine is just too short to explain why Porto should be put into your bucket list. I think I should put “visiting myself” as one of the reasons :p I would be HAPPY to guide you around the city in September 2014. Why September 2014? Because I need to focus on my thesis within July and I won’t be in Portugal during August, 2014. Feel free to drop me a message if you come to town, oki 😉 More photos about Porto (Portugal and the EU in general) can be found on my Instagram.
For you who have visited Porto, I know you have more reasons to be added on this list. Tell me, tell me. Why more travelers should pack their stuffs and go to Porto?
PS. All postcard-ception’s postcards are available to swap. If you are interested in exchanging one with me, please write on the comment below and mention the postcard-ception number 😉