Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, but when you turn the corner you never know what is coming: a Baroque or even Romanesque church, wondrous blue tiles, a rotted out building, a coffee and pastry shop, port warehouses and embankments, or a steeply plunging street. If a store displays the sign “Novidades,” that is an indication they don’t have any. Porto is (not) the only European city with six bridges. My conference was held in a very fine Rem Koolhaas venue.
This politically incorrect shop sign would have been taken down a while ago elsewhere in Europe; it is a reflection of the city’s remnant status. The modern parts of town, along the ocean, remind me of California. But the English language section of a used book store will have the titles which were British bestsellers in the 1920s. A 1970s tribute store is called “Spock,” and its sign outlines the Starship Enterprise.
Eat the tripe and white beans at Flor de Congregados, or for fancy try DOP restaurant, worthy of a Michelin star or two but not priced to boot. Peer into the apartments which open out onto the streets of the old town, due to the lack of air conditioning, and check out their crumbling wallpaper and tightly packed collections of icons. Here are ten things to like about Porto.
If you took the brain of Maria Popova, and turned it into a Mediterraneo-Atlantic city, loaded with debt, you would have Porto. Definitely recommended.