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There are two kinds of travelers returning from Portugal: those who will advise you to visit Lisbon and those who will promote Porto. Apparently irreconcilable, they are actually making you a present: offering you the excuse to go and check both cities in person.
So, eight years after my trip to Lisbon, I went to Porto.
Pasteis de nata and fish should be the only foods in your diet in Portugal. Better start early, then: head to the Majestic Cafe in rua de Santa Caterina. It opened in 1921 and boasts some marvelous Belle Époque interiors where intellectuals and businessmen used to meet.
You may find people queuing but do not let it get you down: the queue flows quickly and you could meet some friends from overseas as I did. Pasteis are a must, but the Majestic is known above all for its version of the French toast, deliciously soaked in eggnog. Take some fresh orange juice to feel healthy, and simply be happy.
Now that you are in the upper part of the city, take the opportunity to be mezmerized by how Portugal manages to be exotic and European at the same time.
In Porto, the azulejos are stunning and cover railway stations, such as São Bento, as well as entire churches - the most famous is the Church of Carmo, but for example the Capela das Almas is right down the street from Cafè Majestic.
Everyone will tell you that you have to see the Lello Bookstore. It is actually very beautiful, but unless you are willing to get pushed by tourists (it is true, you are one of them too), it is not so necessary to go there.
I suggest you enjoy Porto en plein air, wandering through its lanes and wide streets, popular neighborhoods and impressive buildings.
Time to go down to the Riberira, the riverside district. In rua de Tomás Gonzaga you can find the Intrigo restaurant. Intimate, cozy and with a terrace overlooking the Douro, the Porto river. This is where you can enjoy some real Portuguese cuisine and a good bottle of Vinho verde.
Two bridges designed by Eiffel (yes, him!) and Seyrig join the river banks: you can walk down one of them, the Dom Luis. So you'll reach Vila Nova de Gaia, where you can enjoy a view of Porto from two different perspectives: from the river side and from the Teleferico de Gaia, which will take you to the upper part of the city.
It's time to choose. You can stay on the riverside and discover a variety of wine cellars - we did a tour in Spanish although we do not know a single word, and I won't easily forget the enthusiasm of the guide, the advanced age of the fellow tourists and the magic atmosphere of Porto tawny.
You can also take the Teleferico and reach the Jardim do Moro, have a snack at one of the food trucks that line the park, lie down on the sloping lawn and enjoy the Portuguese sun. In any case, do not miss the chance to wander in the inner alleys of Vila Nova de Gaia.
The sunset on the Douro is beautiful, especially if enjoyed from a particular spot: I'm talking about the Passeio de Virtudes, where you can sit on the grass with a glass of beer and enjoy lupins, olives and peanuts.
The golden light will do the rest, while you will get more and more hungry.
Baccalà, octopus, croquettes and above all a lot of garlic. And green wine, of course: your evening in Porto must be a celebration of good traditional food.
If you want to enjoy a Portuguese dinner you should definitely book your table. On the riverside I recommend the Ribeiras, on the upper part the Restaurante Maria Rita, and the Adega Mercearia Bebe Se Mal if you find yourself halfway.
You have to spend your after dinner under the stars in the gardens of Praça de Lisboa, among the olive trees, admiring the profile of the Torre dos Clérigos which is perceived in the night.
You want a verdict? Porto is not as beautiful as Lisbon, but it will win you over anyway.
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