7 Tips about O Porto
The Portuguese call their city “O Porto” and when foreigners heard them name it, they thought the article was part of the name and so all together call the capital of northern Portugal “Oporto” but to be honest in Portugal, you will never find it written so! But now that I have pointed out this curiosity that is on everyone’s head, here are the other 7 tips that I would like to share with you about Porto.
Beyond the river…is not Porto
Vila Nova de Gaia
When you will be in Ribeira and you will see, on the other side of the Douro river, the signs of the cellars in which you will then go for a taste of the most famous city product, you have to know that the town on the other side of the river is not Porto, but a another city called Vila Nova de Gaia. Unless you decide to take a walk on the beautiful Praia das Rocas, you will hardly visit anything else of this city, in addition to the cellars. Do not be sad about it.
Nationalism is a must
A Vida Portuguesa
The Portuguese are extremely nationalistic. You will notice it, for example, by the quantity of flags displayed or the obsession with buying only national products. In the wake of this obsession, which in reality is an act of love and trust towards one’s own country, constantly on the edge of the economic chasm, various stores have been created to sell only these national products. The most famous is A Vida Portuguesa that you will find at 20 of Rua Galeria de Paris, on the first floor of an old charming building. Take a walk and maybe buy something as a souvenir there, you will help the local economy instead of the Chinese one.
Harry Potter hasn’t never been in Porto
Neither Harry Potter nor her creator have in any way inspired, or have had contact with the Livraria Lello, the historic Portuense bookstore…but visit it anyway because it’s worth it.
Who are the tripeiros?
Tripas à moda do Porto
The locals are called “tripeiros”, or tripe eaters. In 1415, the inhabitants of the city donated all the meat they possessed to the expedition for the conquest of Ceuta, keeping only the innards for themselves. If you want to try the “tripas à moda do Porto”, or other amenities like the pig’s ear, or the moelas (part of birds’ digestive system) go without doubt to the Esacadinhas Do Barredo an old tavern where two nice ladies will guide you in the magical world of entrails. You can definitely enjoy this tasting experience by also ordering “papas de sarrabulho” a delicious bloody pork-based soup! Enjoy your meal.
Keep enough space for the Francesinha
The Francesinha is the typical portuguese toast. You will find it only here, it does not exist in other places in the country. The name “francesinha” could be misleading you, there is nothing light, nibble, nor refined, nor distantly French in this sandwich. But it’s good and must be tried! (pay attention: it should not cost less than 8/10 Euros, otherwise it will be done with a basic würstel instead of with the “linguiça” a special Portuguese sausage, and it will be served in a soup made with wines of low quality instead of with excellent port wines).
Paint the town red!
If you have had dinner with the francesinha, perhaps you will end up in bed immediately to try to digest it; otherwise, if it is Friday or Saturday night, after midnight, because before there is nothing, do not miss to join the lots of people that crowds rua Galeria de Paris and rua Candido dos Reis and enter in the bar that you prefer, or turn more than one. The Portuense night is of superior quality at more than affordable prices. Order “um fino”, a draft beer, which you will pay at most 1.50 Euros and enjoy it! On Sundays, however, you will find a calm bar settings.
Do not miss out: Casa da Música
Casa da Música, an incredible building of the Dutch architectural genius Rem Koolhaas, is a complex of theaters and concert halls that are said to have the best acoustics in the world. The building also represents the effort and cultural investment of a small city, a vision of its role in the future and its international importance. Chapeau! You can take a guided tour, or attend a concert, or, even better, a night of “clubbing” inside the building that takes place once a month.
Where to Stay
The Torel Avantgarde establishes a new level of hospitality in Porto and its name fully represents its philosophy. The concept of Avantgarde originates originally from the building, which comes from the Estado-Novo period of the 1940s. But like the avant-garde artists themselves, the owners wanted to create something completely new: a place where art is not just an addition, but the protagonist of the place. Everything in Torel Avantgarde is done strictly by hand in Portugal, from the beautiful stools that line the cozy breakfast area, to the incredibly comfortable beds that embellish every bedroom. This is a place where quality prevails, and the result is Portuguese opulence. Although art plays a leading role in this structure, it is only when you enter in the rooms that you have the real impact with the Avantgarde philosophy, thanks to the original paintings and details that line the stairwell and the door of each suite inscribed with the name of an influential artist. In fact each of the hotel’s 47 rooms has its own unique identity which is named after famous artists and decorated accordingly.
All are celebrations of particular creative and experimental spirits (from different periods), including Portuguese icons such as José de Almada Negreiros and Fernando Pessoa and international luminaries such as Coco Chanel, Marcel Duchamp and Janis Joplin. For all the hungry guests the Torel Avantgarde has its own private restaurant, which offers spectacular views of the Douro River and the beautiful town of Vila Nova de Gaia along its banks. The Digby restaurant offers a range of tasty dishes in a relaxed yet sophisticated setting, with ambient lighting creating an intimate atmosphere, perfect for couples wishing to enjoy a peaceful evening together, as well as for larger groups. Here, the focus is on Portuguese gastronomy with a contemporary twist, blending local and national quality ingredients with unique flavors, all to create a unique menu.
The Balsame Spa is a quiet place where therapists are available to meet your every need. When the weather is not on your side in Porto, what could be better than spending the afternoon with a relaxing massage? With a Turkish bath and sauna, you can extend your Zen experience for as long as you like. However, Torel Avantgarde offers a rectangular outdoor pool with its comfortable sunbeds, an ideal place if it is sunny outside.