So apparently I learned nothing from my last trip to Portugal (Lisbon). Or should I say, now I know for sure that the Portuguese are rip off artists that wear smiles.
I’d been traveling through Portugal and just ended my stay in Porto. What can I say…an extraordinary, breathtaking city. But that’s a story for another post.
Today I bring you a list of to-dos if you wantto be ripped-off in Porto.
Like every well respected Harry Potter fan (that’s me!) I literally ran there on my very first day in Porto.
The mythical Hogwarts from JK Rowling’s books is a copy of the Livraria Lello.
Rowling was working at the Porto University just before she became famous. It is said she would visit the majestic library many times every week, or she would sip a cup of coffee in a local cafeteria just in front of the library while writing the very first lines of the book and drawing the magical design of the Hogwarts – School of Witchcraft And Wizardry.
Now, the place is a tiny two floor, 200 years old charming & cozy library. And remains an excellent spot for a book warm. Be aware of 5 € entry. That is correct!! You will be charged 5 euros for standing 20 minutes in a line on the street and for a 2-minute sneak peek inside the library (which by the way, will be stuffed with tourists).
Is the price worth it? Well, the place looks just like a tiny Hogwarts with thousands of crazy Japanese and American Harry Potter fans.
My recommendation: go inside only if you are a wealthy (and crazy) Harry Potter fan. Or if you fancy buying one of their unique books (they will give you a 5 € discount).
Pastel de Bacalhau & Vinho Porto at Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau
This is on every must-do list. Have a glass of white Porto wine with the typical “pastel do bacalhau” (which is basically a small breadcrumbed fried roll).
A well-experienced tourist like me would think there is no a better place to have Porto wine with “pastel do bacalhau” than the Square of “La Torre do Los Clerigos” with a view of the tallest tower of the city, the Cordoaria Park just in front and the University of Porto next to the right (and not to mention, the famous Tram 22 crossing the street every now and then).
Sounds lovely right?
Let me tell you, there is a small Sendellman take-out shop looking very welcom-y in Square of Clerigos. Their terrace looks even better; comfortable chairs, great view, sun shining until 8.00pm.
When I glanced at their pastel de bacalhau, it was literally calling “eat me eat me EAT ME”. I couldn’t resist and ordered the typical local Porto white wine with pastel do bacalhau. I could really feel like a “local” for a few seconds.
With excitement, I asked, “how much-inho” (how much) trying to sound like a Portuguese. And I was “replied-hno”: 5 € for less than 50 ml of the wine and 4 for the “pastel”. My jaw fell to the floor. What was worse, the guy to whom I handled my credit card with tears is my eyes, was laughing his ass off inside…
I took my overpriced tiny snack and marched to the terrace to enjoy the free view. And be noted, I took no #foodporn selfie…
Worth it? Hell no! After having spent 9 € I learned that I actually hate the taste of sweet white Porto wine. Too strong and too sweet. I could barely finish my order.
My recommendation: avoid the area of Sendeman at Clerigos Square. Exclamation point.
Not free “free food samples”
One thing you need to know about me, I am a sucker for food and farmer’s markets. I could spend days or months visiting food markets across the globe. And what I even love more, are the free samples one can get there. I just LOVE trying new tastes, local food, typical cuisine in tiny portions.
Because of this, the Bolhao local market seemed to be the perfect place for me to spent a whole afternoon. I couldn’t wait to get there, on my very first day.
With red cheeks, I ran there to see what Porto cuisine can offer me.
Now, imagine my surprise when I could barely find a single sample of the hypothetically great local food… That is correct. Nothing, zero, not a single sample. I must tell you, I look pretty “foreign/touristy” with my pale skin and German eyes (German great-grandmother, thank you!). They should have taken advantage on my foreignness and handed me anything that I could devour with pleasure!
After having crossed the market many many times, I was offered a 3 cm slice of cheese and a 5ml (or less) or “vinho verde”. I agreed to accept the very first “free sample” I was offered, and….I was handed a 2 € receipt.
My recommendation: free samples do not exist in Porto. If you wanna try new dishes and explore tastes of Portuguese cuisine, go to a local grocery store and buy some “made in Portugal” local products.
My intention was to enter the oldest and as I read, historical, amazing & posh Cafe Majestic located at Rua Santa Catarina (the busiest street in Porto). Why? I wanted to feel like a rich XIX British lady sipping her extremely expensive cup of tea. Oh well, and also to shoot some selfies in the stunning and elegant Art Nouveau interior of Café Majestic.
By the time I got there, there were already 20-30 people in a line. And it was only noon!
So I made use of my brain (even though I was on vacation mode). It was a tough decision but in the end, I ran away from the spot before I would change my mind…
I actually felt proud of me not entering the Majestic Café after having read the Tripadvisor’s comments. According to the semi-positive feedback, it looks as if I took the right decision.
My recommendation: get into the Majestic Café only if you are disgustingly rich, and if you fancy an extremely expensive cup of English (ordinary) tea or coffee while sharing the table with selfie sticks of other tourists.
Porto’s cellars (in Vila Nova da Gaia)
Even though the red sweet Porto wine is pretty nice as a 6 o’clock appetizer, I am still including the (as I learned afterward) touristic wine tours in my guide.
To be honest with you, I have no clue about the history of Porto wine, its production process, whatsoever.
That was the main reason why I took the 12 € guided tour in La Ferreira cellar…to learn some facts about the process of elaboration and history of the most famous wine of Porto.
During the tour, I was offered a less than 30 min sneak peek into few parts of the old La Ferreira cellar and very brief, and quite robotic explanation by a French guide.
It’s a pity the tour lasted only for 30 min (wine tasting included). I really would have loved to learn more about the process and the Porto wine history.
If I had only read the Wikipedia “Porto wine” site before visiting the cellar, I would have known the same facts.
My recommendation: buy a nice bottle of Tawny Porto red wine (a fancy one, but not crazy expensive) and read the Wikipedia site regarding Porto wine.
The only thing you might miss is a sneak peek into a real 200-year-old cellar. But don’t worry about that, here are the photos!
Actually, there is one thing you cannot experience through the pics, the sweet winy smell of the red Porto wine while we were wandering through the basement of the cellar. However, a sniff of a glass of Tawny might be the exact same thing!
Vila Nova do Gaia
The Internet told me it would be an extraordinary experience that would blow my mind…visiting a super-duper old Portuguese wine port and having a glass of Porto wine just 5 meters from the Douro River with a view of the famous Luis I Bridge (which looks like a younger sister of the Eiffel Tower). Wow!!
Sounds lovely and relaxing, right?
Well, it wasn’t! There was wine. A very expensive wine! And there were cellars. Very touristic cellars…. And what I have not predicted, there were thousands of tourists in Vila Nova do Gaia. How much of them? Enough to stop me in my tracks while I tried to stroll through the neighborhood.
A curious fact: there is not a single grocery store in Vila Nova do Gaia that sells a bottle of water. So you are literally forced to have your water in a restaurant for 2.5 €/glass.
My recommendation: the village is an excellent viewpoint of the old town of Porto. Go there early in the morning or late in the afternoon for a photo shoot. And that would be all for Vila Nova do Gaia’s to-dos.
So, if you hate touristic places just like I do, follow my lead and rent a bike for few euros, and bike across the coast to São Pedro da Afurada. It is a traditional Portuguese fishing village located between Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean which is still untouched by tourists.
The best part of the 1 km square village? The humble people of Afurada know how to prepare the best grilled sardines you have ever tried (with a salad and a wine for less than 5 €).
Let me tell you, that it is quite common to see large grills on the street of Afurada where all kinds of fish are grilled in broad daylight.
And the fishy grilled salty taste will make your mouth watering while wandering through the small streets of the village. Nobody speaks English or Spanish there
And still, the local people will treat you like a part of the family. You will love the experience, I promise that!
P.S: if you visit Porto, try not to get ripped off!