Culture, food, and Harry Potter: Porto has a lot more to offer than just port

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Amelia Shoebridge talks magic and mystery in Portugal's food-loving coastal city.

The seamless layering and merging of traditionally tiled buildings against modern architecture commands your attention as you wander around Porto. Blue Azulejo tiles dress the city’s walls, a proud display of the country’s rich cultural and artistic history, whilst art breaths a new life into the city. Every way you turn a delicately graffitied mural will present itself to you offering both beauty and politics.

Although Porto is known for its port, on our first evening we drank (and then kept on drinking), ‘Verde’ wine. Green in colour, glorious in taste and slightly more sparkling than white wine. This we drank more frequently than port which we found too heavy and thick for our palettes.

For dinner on Saturday we went to ‘Folias De Baco’ where for 10€ each we got a sharing set of 5 different cheeses, salad, vegetable pie and bruschetta amongst other little bits. All the ingredients they used were organic and local, creating what I call a ‘slap-up’ meal; oozing fine taste without the heavy price tag. That is what is so brilliant about Porto: you do not need a full wallet to have a meal that tastes homemade and delicious, it is seen as a natural right here that food that is served is food to be proud of.

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The view from Dom Luís I Bridge
(Epigram / Chantelle Tang)

Sundays are a quieter affair as religion still influences daily life here as locals head to church and close up shop, making our search for something to do slightly more inventive. When you think of Porto, Hogwarts and wizardry do not immediately spring to mind but through a little google searching we found that there was a bookshop, ‘Livraria Lello’, near us that J.K Rowling had found inspiration from for the Harry Potter series. As expected (any excuse to accumulate profit) we had to pay to enter, but, although we had refused to pay the 5€ to go up a tower to get a birds eye view of Porto due to ‘lack of funds’, we somehow quite quickly found enough change jingling in our pockets to pay the 4 euro to enter the bookshop. We are not one to miss out on this ‘experience of a lifetime’ in our wizarding, heart shaped eyes. It was like stepping into the pages of the magical book, it was dusty with deep reds and golds glimmering everywhere, an imposing winding staircase was the main feature, where books lined every inch of the walls standing upon creaking shelves and drooped lamps cast light above you.

Monday came and we still had not been to a market yet, our most adored feature of European culture, so we set out for ‘Bolhao’ market. Unfortunately, the goods on sale were the typical tourist souvenirs, but right in the centre were tables squeezed together next to an unassuming restaurant. Sitting on plastic outdoor chairs with linin tablecloths we feasted on salmon so delicate it fell apart as soon as the fork touched it, vegetable soup so simple but rich in flavour and the softest most buttery potatoes that melted away in your mouth. Each meal was a homecooked delight, a hidden gem of a restaurant immersed into the hustle and bustle of the market.

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(Epigram / Chantelle Tang)

Needing to tick ‘historical monument’ off our list we lolloped down to the adeptly named Porto Cathedral built in the 12th century situated in the historic centre. Entering through the heavy doors as gothic gargoyle-like figures peer down at you, you are confronted by three broad thick pillars interspersing the pews. The little natural light that comes in through the high slit windows allows you to see intricate bronze carvings fester in all corners. It gave me a snapshot of how this church reflected the power and domination that religion used to hold.

On Tuesday we caught our flight back to Bristol and I was sad to leave the calm atmosphere of Porto with its unparalleled selection of ‘Verde’ wines. If you’re sensible, do as I did, buy three bottles so to continue your holiday that little bit longer.

Featured image: Epigram / Chantelle Tang


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Epigram Travel

The travel section for the University of Bristol's independent newspaper, Epigram. Edited by Nick Bloom, Evy Tang and Ellie Caulfield.

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