From Stuttgart, there are cheap direct flights, with one caveat, the only return option leaves at 7 a.m.
I arranged a car to and from the airport from Shuttle Direct it was about 60 dollars total for the two of us roundtrip. Worth it since our flight was so early, even though the driver was 10 minutes late when we arrived which was a bit of a disappointing start to the trip. Nevertheless, I would book through them again for the convenience of getting to that early flight. A taxi may also do next time too. The hotel was fantastic. La Pestana Vintage Porto was right on the water, quiet, and included breakfast. They even had a surprise made of chocolate and peanut butter with bubbly waiting in the room when we arrived since it was a birthday trip.
We wandered around the first day heading immediately to lunch first of course. We did not do the free walking tour this time. There was so much to see on our own to start. Mercearia das Flores was our first stop since we read about good beer and food. The menu was small – bread, meat, cheese and salads. The salads were great though and it ended up being a good stop. They had a good selection of local alphabet beers made in Porto.
The train station was just up the street and the famous Cafe Majestic and the Harry Potter Library were our next stops on the list.
On the way, we stopped at the Chocolataria Equador chocolate shop and bought some “snacks” – it has been a month and we still haven’t finished it all 🙂 Chocolate bars are filled with things like Port wine, mint and caramel in a dark chocolate. Do it.
We were not impressed with the “must do” Cafe Majestic, it was cool but not really worth the cost. We even sent back my creme brulee because it was soooo much like scrambled egg instead of cream. The coffee was great though. The history of the place is cool, but otherwise not impressed.
The famous Harry Potter inspired, Livrarialello bookstore is ticketed to enter which is lame, but the ticket cost goes towards book purchases made there. The books were also pricey. Buy the tickets at the shop on the corner just past the library. There is as sign and also someone at the door of the Library to direct you. It was crowded, but we checked the block and we enjoyed stopping in there more than the cafe for sure.
The São Bento Train Station was gorgeous, but way way smaller than we thought it would be. The blue tile and the painted details are worth a stop. The next most beautiful blue tiled building is actually the exterior of a church: The Chapel of Souls. The inside, while pretty too, doesn’t match the outside.
The best stop aside from the chocolate was happy hour at the tiny Linha22. The 30 year port there was outstanding and at buy one get one, it’s worth the small splurge. Up the hill from there is another church with a view, Torre dos Clérigos. It is less decorated but hard to miss. You can go in the church for free, but pay for the tower and mini-museum part.
To get across the bridge Ponte de Dom Luis I there are two ways to go, one is up the hill with lots of steps and the other is just a walk up the Ribeira along the water to the lower level of the bridge. We had big plans to take the cable car up to the castle from the other side, then cross back and take a boat trip on the canal, but none of that happened. We were too busy walking around port tasting as we went.
We had to try the vintage wooden trolley car to get to the beach area of Matosinhos sul but we must have gotten off too soon because we ended up at the edge where there is a lighthouse on a super long fishing point. We walked from there to the beach, but according to google, the Matosinhos sul was still further down by 2k. We did find a fantastic restaurant for lunch that was not planned called Treze % that we still dream about. the local fish dishes, bread, wine… plus we sat outside on the picnic table in the back because there was an event happening inside. The staff was so nice. We took the 500 bus back to the city center after. Easy ride.
Best dinner of the trip was Camefeu. Literally in an apartment, hard to find not for any other reason than you expect to look for a restaurant, not an apartment building looking door to enter. It has about 10 tables. Best and most affordable meal of the trip. Loved it plus easy reservations from Facebook in advance. Cost: about 80 total.
The restaurant we really wanted to love but fell short solely because of the length of time the meal took was called ODE Porto. Plus you must call to make a reservation vs. online or email. It was just too much after walking around all day we were exhausted falling asleep at the table. We did the dinner and wine pairing but we were there from 8:30 pm to after midnight and only did the smaller 5 course tasting option. The waiter must have thought we were drunk – totally sober. It is definitely a great experience, we should have kicked off our trip there instead. We couldn’t imagine the larger 7 course option, we would have had to sleep there. Note: They only take cash, but it was only about 150 euro for both of us.
Tip: Bring snacks. While snacks and water are sometimes available, other than crackers, most places only have Port.
Our favorite place of all, including the tour was Croft. It’s a hike up the hill to get there but it did not take long. There are a few places along the way to stop too like the huge Sandeman building, but the one we tried to detour to was unfortunately closed for renovation…it was called Cockburns. Once we found Croft around the bend of the stone wall, the tour was by far our favorite, and the there are a variety of tasting options before while you wait and after. They also sold olive oil.
The next favorite was small batch Augustos which also included a short tour. They were personable and credit from what’s purchased at the tasting in addition to the tour is applied if you make purchases of bottles. Here we bought a nice aged white port, and a sampler to send home.
The third place we made a purchase the entire trip was Quinta do Noval.
We made a reservation for the free tour at Ramos Pintos in advance by stopping in first because we liked the building. This tour was different because it takes you through the office and advertising of the company before moving down to the cellar. The ads are those iconic women sipping cocktails you never knew was port. Pretty cool. We did not purchase anything though after the tasting of two of their ports which were just OK.
For a place that has a flight and chocolate tasting together try Kopke. It was good but the tasting is big so start there, don’t end there. They have wine too. All was ok, nothing too spectacular. The chocolate was delicious and the bottles are cool looking for gifts.
Another place just over the bridge that has an ok tour and decent port is Burmester. It’s a big place and because it is right over the bridge it has an influx of people. We were lucky and wandered in at a lull period. When we walked by earlier that same day, it was filled with organized Asian tours. Tip – Go to the ladies bathroom – there is a glass part in the floor over a running well.
We attempted to stop into Cálem Port House, but they were remodeling or painting or something and it reeked of paint thinner and stain so we moved on. We will try again next trip because the place looked really cool inside, old and huge.