Porto and the Douro river

Finding perfection (and a possible future home) in Porto

Despite having just booked one-way tickets to Colombia, Andrew and I have been talking a lot lately about finding a future base in Europe. As much as we love our freedom, we know that after our South American adventures we’ll need to find a base in Europe where we can hang up our backpacks, work and save for the years ahead, but where could that base possibly be? Well, I think we found our answer when we rocked up in Porto.
The Riva, Porto, Portugal

Falling for Porto

I’ve never been to a city like Porto. Picture a valley with a river snaking along its bottom, bisected periodically by huge iron bridges. Imagine a riverfront lined with colourful, red-roofed houses that stretch up the hill, dotted with church spires and cathedral domes. In Porto, you can spend hours wandering steep narrow streets full of old townhouses, exploring squares featuring tiled churches and clock towers, or sipping port in a riverside bar.

Church of Saint Ildefonso, Porto, Portugal

Porto's Monumento a Dom Pedro IV in front of the town hall

It was while watching the sunset from across the vertigo-inducing Dom Luis I bridge that we really fell in love with Porto. We’d just spent a lovely afternoon with our friends Patti and Abi weaving through the city. After lunch at their temporary apartment, they’d taken us to the ramshackle market where locals sell fish and sardine-themed souvenirs. We’d popped into ornate churches and drunk tea in a café while students wearing their signature black cloaks busked in the street below.

Porto Cathedral or Sé do Porto

Porto University students busking on Santa Catarina

It had been a perfect afternoon, and as the fading sunlight cast a golden light over the city, seagulls cawed and boats made snail-trails along the water, Andrew and I turned to each other and remarked that Porto was a city we could definitely live in.

Porto and the Douro river

A month in Porto

Our feelings only strengthened during the month we spent in a village just outside of Porto. Day-to-day life was quiet and peaceful, full of work and walks along the nearby boardwalk in Espinho. Although our trips into Porto itself were infrequent, we never tired of soaking in the city’s laid-back charm, of climbing the steep streets and strolling along the riverfront.




Porto's Santa Catarina Shopping Street

One of the things I loved about Porto was that there weren’t a lot of ‘sights’ to see. Unlike our visit to Lisbon, we didn’t cram our days with museum visit and tours of historic buildings. It was enough to simply wander around Porto and absorb daily life.

The Douro River in Porto and Dom Luis I Bridge at night

We did, however, take a boat trip along the river, past old warehouses that were once used to store port. We also visited ‘The World’s Most Beautiful (and probably most touristy) Bookshop’, which has a distinctive spiral staircase that is said to have inspired JK Rowling when she was dreaming up visions of Hogwarts. We also climbed the Clerigos Tower, one of the city’s most famous buildings, to marvel at night-time views over the city. We even discovered a delicious vegan restaurant.

The Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

The Riva, Porto, Portugal

While we can’t guarantee what the years ahead of us hold, when our travels in South America come to a close, we’re hopeful that Porto could become our European base. Brexit depending, of course, there are schools for Andrew to teach in, cheap apartments to rent and endless blue skies and sunshine. What’s not to love?

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Have you been to Porto? What’s your dream European base?

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11 Comments
  • Rhonda
    Posted at 20:17h, 04 January Reply

    We have not yet been but I have added it to my bucket list. It sounds like a lovely place to call home base. Happy New Year to you both! Looking forward to stories from South America.

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:48h, 08 January Reply

      It’s a great city Rhonda, I’m sure you’d love it. Happy New Year to you guys as well; we’re so excited about SA now, just a few days until we fly!

  • Melanie
    Posted at 07:00h, 05 January Reply

    That’s such good news for you both, I’m so glad you found somewhere that feels like home. I hope it all works out (Brexit depending) – it looks beautiful and is now on our visit list for some stage in the future. xx

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:49h, 08 January Reply

      Hi Melanie and Happy New Year! We were so happy to find a European city that we loved and was also affordable. The sunshine is a huge bonus too! Hope you make it there for a visit, it’s a beautiful destination.

  • Rich
    Posted at 09:38h, 08 January Reply

    Did you make it up to Vigo in Spain? I lived and worked there for a few months. Another beautiful city closeby. Never made it to Porto but a few colleagues did and loved it. Thanks for sharing. Must visit myself sometime soon!

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:51h, 08 January Reply

      Hi Rich, thanks for reading and commenting. No, we didn’t make it to Vigo in Spain, but we did drive around that area and of the country and it looked lovely, glad you enjoyed. We’ll have to check it out when we return. Hope you make it to Porto too and Happy New Year!

  • Patti
    Posted at 05:41h, 10 January Reply

    There is something about Porto that just takes hold of you and won’t let go, right? Our 3 months living in Porto was an experience we will always hold close to our hearts. The city isn’t perfect, there are definite challenges, but what city is? No such thing as perfection but Porto comes pretty darn close. The city itself, the culture, the people, the food, the history, the blue tiles, the cathedrals, the cobblestone streets… and the sunsets over the river. It’s magical.

    How great is it that we were all in Porto at the same time?

    Safe travels to South America, I’m so looking forward to reading about your adventures!

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:12h, 12 January Reply

      It definitely does come pretty close, we were so happy to find a European city (and country) that was sunny, affordable and close enough to the UK where we can set up camp in the future. Now we just need to hope that Brexit doesn’t mess things up for us! It was great that our visit coincided with your time in Porto; we were really inspired by your gorgeous apartment too!

  • Louisa Klimentos
    Posted at 08:54h, 12 January Reply

    Your photos look amazing and I am glad that you found a European city that you love with plenty of sunshine that you enjoy I hope 2018 brings you both good luck and great adventures , love Louisa

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:12h, 12 January Reply

      Thanks Louisa, I hope 2018 brings you the same 🙂

  • Pingback:Driving the Douro Valley - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 19:33h, 16 May Reply

    […] people explore the Douro wine region from Porto, a city we fell in love with during a month-long stay in nearby Espinho back in 2017. After a five-hour drive we arrived to cloudless skies and golden sunshine that […]

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