we spent 7 days in Porto and our Airbnb was a stone's throw from the Duoro River in the Ribeira.
Porto was incredible. there was a happy energy radiating from the city, and both of us mentioned this several times during our stay. the weather was a breezy high 60s and low 70s and the skies appeared to be a clearer blue. this is very likely not just our imagination, since the heavily polluted air from our months in Asia were still fresh in our minds.
we seem to coincidentally time our trips with holidays and Porto was no exception. the São João Festival was our favorite holiday so far in 2019 and we suggest you synchronize your next trip to Porto around this holiday if possible. more on the festival up next.
Porto is everything San Francisco wants to be: scenic, colorful buildings, flowing water, but no homeless problem or feces or syringes littering the streets.
if you're out of shape, Porto is not for you. going anywhere requires walking straight up or down a huge hill. essentially the city is on a mountain, with just a few strategic demolitions for tunnels and flat-ish public parks.
Festa de São João do Porto
the holiday is celebrated by an all-day and all-night party in Porto on June 23rd, although some revelry starts on the night of the 22nd.
the entire city follows a schedule on this day:
- in the afternoon, people start drinking and running around lightly hitting strangers on the heads with plastic hammers (a tribute to ancient pagan courtship rituals)
- in the evening, people eat dinner along the Duoro River. there are plenty of cookouts, street food, and games to pass the time. people also light paper lanterns and drift them into the sky. it was difficult to capture the view properly with our iPhones but the sky was dotted with paper lanterns as far as the eye could see
- at midnight on the dot, a beautiful display of fireworks start on the Duoro River. people are standing shoulder to shoulder and you cannot see a stretch of empty land anywhere along the River near the Ribeira
- after the fireworks, everyone walks back up toward the city center for outdoor music, dancing and more drinking
- in the early morning, there is supposedly a trek back towards the river to watch the sunrise and some jump into the river for a swim
we didn't make it to sunrise, but the night was one we'll be remembering for decades.
the festive energy during the day was contagious.
people were lighting sky lanterns all over the place. crowds of onlookers would cheer every time a lantern was dispatched to the sky.
15 Quirks About Porto, Portugal
- the Festa de São João do Porto holiday consists of lightly hitting plastic hammers on strangers’ heads
- very loud seagulls that sound like children screaming. it was actually concerning until we learned what the sound was
- people generally speak English
- many wine bars with tastings (especially port!)
- no railing or guards on the walkway along the Duoro River. there's a steep drop to the rocks below so it's important to be careful at night
- Euronet ATMs are everywhere but they have unfavorable exchange rates with US bank cards. We lost >13% of each transaction compared to market FX rates
- very hilly. some streets are comparable to the steepest streets in San Francisco
- cobblestone brick streets make for a bumpy car ride or bike ride
- fantastic service despite being a no tipping country. service fee is sometimes included at the nicer restaurants
- lots of al fresco dining at restaurants
- one large trash receptacle per neighborhood
- small supermarkets, more like large bodegas. you can buy fresh produce at the farmers' markets though
- many vegan restaurants
- very clean. streets were spotless the morning after the citywide festival. we also saw garbage collectors, street sweepers, and power washers every night
- we did not see any high-rises. many buildings were heavily refurbished
our Airbnb in Porto was $117 per night (+ $26 in fees per night). meals were $30 /each on average.
here's a comparison of our New York City vs Porto lifestyle.
a reminder here that we extrapolate our trip's expenses to a month long stay. so the comparison here is one month in Porto on a major holiday + summer-peak-tourist-season + short-term rent premium versus one month in New York with a year-long lease.
we hear Porto is very affordable in comparison to other European cities. it's a less well-known travel spot, but we've seen enough travel blogs raving about Porto that we think prices will rise exponentially over the next couple decades.
we visited during a major holiday and peak tourist season (summer) so prices were the highest they could possibly be for Porto.
we stayed in a loft apartment of a recently renovated building. while the space was indeed beautifully decorated, the designers valued form over function.
the ladder leading to the bed was made of very thin wood and creaked loudly under our weight. it was also a very steep climb and climbing down to the bathroom in the dark was not easy. the dining room chairs were tiny and uncomfortable. the hanging hammock chair was never used in fear that the single wooden beam would not be able to hold our weight. and the shower 'door' was designed poorly so that water got everywhere.
we still loved how sunny and clean the apartment was. we may sound overly critical -- but we're simply taking advantage of our sprint through Airbnbs across the world to form our interior design tastes for the house we'll eventually furnish ourselves.
Ryan's carnivore diet continues in Porto.
the food in Porto was possibly the best on our year+ journey worldwide so far. we don't know if we just happened to hit all the right restaurants or if Porto is a hidden culinary gem.
the chefs at each restaurant seemed to put so much care into each dish and the service was phenomenal. it's great to see people who enjoy what they do, and the waiters at our restaurants fit that mold.
our favorite spots were Muu (for steak and service), Wine Quay Bar (wine tasting overlooking the River), daTerra (vegan for Hideko), Reitoria (for steak and veal ribs), and 7groaster (for coffee).
Rickshaw followers are accountability partners. here's what we achieved in 7 days in Porto.
Ryan built basic ad tech tools for Built with Shopify and closed our first "sponsor" for the website.
Hideko mostly pushed code for our invoice app tool.
no challenges. despite being a small and less-travelled city in Europe, Porto had all the creature comforts of the largest Westernized cities.
we were able to get cold brew, high-speed Internet, large cafes with outlets and workable spaces, several coworking options, delicious and diverse food options that rivaled New York's best restaurants, friendly people, and great weather.
hard to imagine another European city we'd rather return to (we're not ready to compare the Asian cities yet).
a few weeks ago i asked Twitter followers for their ideas and promised to build a few of them (free) on a live stream.
this week i did the first stream in a series of 5-10, building a review app that lets happy customers leave audio voicemail testimonials that can be embedded on a merchant's website.
i had issues with deployment during the last ~90 minutes, but otherwise it went smoothly and we built a fully functional app with paid subscriptions, customization options, etc in just 10.5 hours.
to do this properly i needed fast internet, so i rented an office for just €12, all day. Hideko brought me some food, i packed a large water bottle full of iced coffee, and got it done.
it's been several months without a visit to my happy place (Whole Foods), but Porto was a suitable substitute. there's a quality about the city that is difficult to describe. the combination of clean air, blue skies, cool breeze, and happy people did wonders for my mood everyday.
i've never thought hard about where i'd like to retire, but if it had to be a city abroad...
Porto earned a
91 / 100 score according to our Rubric.
obrigado for reading. we will be back.