Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, located on the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean in the northern part of the country. As a port town known for producing their famous port wine, the Douro River runs through Porto, complementing the magical hillside views. The entire city is adorned with cobblestone roads and vibrant tiled buildings, a true Portuguese stamp, and numerous church steeples decorate the horizon.
My husband and I visited Porto in the spring of 2017 to attend a concert, and were completely taken aback by the perfect combination of paradise beaches, mountainous terrain, and historic old-town city life.
Since we were coming out of the winter season we were itching to go to a beach. Before exploring the city of Porto, we drove our rental car north for a little over an hour to Camarido Beach. The scenery on the drive was stunning.
After parking on the side of the road, we noticed a boardwalk hugging the edge of the channel. We walked the path and found a smaller beach but, with a little exploring, we ended up stumbling upon a hidden beach.
Instead of following this boardwalk, we walked on the road and was greeted by a forest. We continued on the path…
…until we found the beach!
This was my favorite beach because we literally had the entire thing to ourselves! Also, see that hill across the water? That’s Spain! I was tickled to death that we were on a beach in Portugal yet staring at Spain!
There was one option for food at Camarido Beach but it was closed. We drove about 10 minutes north, on the road that hugs the channel, and stopped in Caminha to eat.
This little town had so much Portuguese charm. We ate at Sandes & Baguetes restaurant for a quick lunch. I ordered the Tuna Baguette and my husband the Turkey. It was a perfect light lunch that we took back with us to the beach.
The City of Porto
After leaving this area, we decided to drive back to Porto to check in to our hotel. If you’re driving a car in the city of Porto, expect many delays as the one-way streets are narrow and difficult to navigate through. Trying to go a certain way, we sometimes had to take a detour around the block to finally reach our destination. To travel about a mile within the city, it took us about 30 minutes. Nonetheless, the Porto charm while waiting in traffic is captivating and makes time go quick.
We stayed at the Hotel Premium Porto Downtown hotel and were completely happy with it! The rooms were comfortable and clean; parking is available across the street in a private garage; the breakfast was scrumptious and can be purchased for a small fee; and the hotel had a bar/restaurant with a rooftop deck to enjoy some cocktails and get some amazing views of surrounding Porto.
Now, it was time to explore Porto. The first thing we stumbled upon was Muralha Fernandina. This beautiful cliffside castle began construction in 1336 and is still a monstrosity on the cliffside of Porto, overlooking the Douro River.
We began to walk on the left side of the castle, trying to get to the bottom of the hill. Taking this walkway led us to a dead end so we followed the road between the buildings and found steps to go down.
Coming to a walkway that crossed the river, we captured some remarkable views of surrounding Porto.
The bridge in the picture is the famous Dom Luís I Bridge, which crosses over the Douro River, connecting Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia.
We then went to check out the Porto Cathedral, which was built in the early 1700s. The views of surrounding Porto definitely don’t disappoint from here either.
By this time, we were hungry for dinner so, from the Cathedral, we walked north towards the center of Porto.
There are plenty of restaurants around the center of Porto, on the edge of the Douro, and near the Oporto Coliseum, where we were attending our concert. One of my favorite restaurants we went to was Republica Dos Cachorros. They had THE BEST Sangria, made from red Porto wine.
My favorite part of the city of Porto was at the bottom of the hill on the boardwalk next to the Douro River. Standing by the Cathedral, there are some restaurants and cafes that are nestled next to stairs heading down.
At the bottom, there are numerous places to stop for food or drinks.
Crossing the bridge is narrow with the busyness of traffic, but was so worth it to get some stunning views of the cliffside of Porto.
About a 20 minute drive to the south of Porto was my favorite part of our Portuguese vacation. Miramar Beach is large and sandy, and has an iconic feature: Capela do Senhor da Pedra, or Chapel of the Lord of the Stone. It’s also known as the Chapel on the Sea.
We spent our whole day at Miramar since it was so quiet and peaceful. We were two of maybe 10 people on the entire beach for the day.
I truly adored Portugal; it was a place I had been wanting to go for such a long time and I was surprised by the beauty of the landscape and the amount of beaches located around Porto. The old-town itself holds so much charm and is the epitome of the Portuguese style.
Have you ever been to Porto? How would you rate it on your destination list?