The streets lined with tiled cafes and ornate churches are pretty enough, but hit the Riberia and you’ll get mesmerised by the Duoro and the scene stealing Bridge. You’ll want to capture every panorama, then start it all again once the light changes or you walk along a few feet.
The main reason for this is the amount of levels the city is split across. When you first arrive you’ll think getting your bearings is easy enough, but the rise and fall of the streets is certain to throw you off. Heading towards the banks of the Riberia, I walked uphill nearly as many times as down (and that was when I was going the right way!). Need to get somewhere urgently? Great, but be prepared for 100 steps and distracting views.
I’m typing this standing outside in a cardigan, considering going down to one layer. And it’s January. Locals are wearing big coats but I suspect it’s purely ornamental, a reaction to the Central European stores featuring the latest winter trends. Porto offers the best distance to weather ratio for mild to sunny weather throughout winter, creating a welcome break from grey, depressing and damp days in the UK.
It’s not something that Portugal is well known for, but everywhere I went the locals spoke perfect English which was a pleasant surprise. While local traditions and flavours are well preserved in Porto, the city feels youthful and cosmopolitan, and more than accommodating to tourists.
On solo trips I always stay at hostels when they’re an option, and after my trip to Lisbon last year I realised just how good the options are for backpackers. Look at the Porto listings on Hostelworld and you’ll see just how ripe the pickings are. In most cities large hostels struggle to maintain ratings above 85%, in Porto and Lisbon there are plenty in the mid to high 90s with beds often under £10 a night. For this trip I stayed in the Garden House Hostel which was grand, clean, comfortable and not too crazy.