Porto is one of those popular “digital nomad destinations” due to its European culture, nice weather, low cost of living. So I decided I’d go there for a bit. I’m actually staying in Vila Nova de Gaia, the city right across the Duoro River from Porto. It’s the side with all the wine on it, where I belong.
One struggle with living in a small Portuguese neighborhood is that I do not speak Portuguese. So I decided to learn it! It’s been a little more than a month and I know the words for bread, avocado, bag, and thank you. Pretty solid language learning if you ask me. It’s been more an exercise in trying not to slowly descend into madness in this apartment with weird dolls, drinking 2€ bottles of wine and playing “two truths and a lie” with the pretty, stray cats next door.
It’s a quaint suburb, and I’m about a 10 minute walk from the beach. So I run there some mornings, and I’ll wander down for the occasional sunset as well.
The houses that people live in here are extremely well kept. People love tiles and gardens here. And they all have white, stucco houses (occasionally with the tiled exteriors) and reddish roofs. They don’t care so much about the actual neighborhoods though – not exactly clean between the nice houses, and there are a number of available properties that are rather run-down. But it’s mostly pretty, with vine-covered archways and well-kept gardens galore.
When I’m not walking back and forth from the grocery store or working in the apartment, I’ll take the 40 minute bus ride into Porto to change things up. I’ll work from a coffee shop for a bit or just wander around, as it’s a nice little city.
It has a bookstore that frequently ranks among the “most beautiful in the world” so I figured I’d give it a go. It was actually quite small and a little underwhelming, but it is beautiful I guess. It’s crazy busy for what it is, and they make you pay 4€ to get in, which you can put towards books, but everything is incredibly over-priced so I didn’t even buy anything. The good news is they had these locker rentals for 1€, and a lot of tourists don’t realize you get your euro returned when you unlock the door, so I checked all the locker coin returns when I left and made 3€ back. Stupid tourists.
Anyways, it’s called Livaria Lello, and here’s a terrible picture of the inside of it.
The Duoro River separates Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia, so I crossed it a lot. The bridge is Ponte Luis I. It’s better to sit on the Gaia side and look at Porto, plus that’s where the wine is. And an incongruously placed Pizza Hut. Here are some pictures.
Like much of the rest of Europe, Porto has these narrow city streets that look especially nice when adorned with basket gardens.
I also walked around the Jardim Botânico do Porto – the botanical gardens. Probably not as lush as they are in the summer, but still pretty good. And some random peacocks; what’s not to like?
I really didn’t go into Porto much, but when I did, I essentially frequented two different cafes. There weren’t exactly an abundance of worker-friendly coffee shops in the main part of the city that I found, but I didn’t work terribly hard at it (I’m sure there are a couple more). But the ones I’d recommend:
Moustache – Two floors, nice little desks to work, and no table service (which I prefer so I’m not bothered). Not far from the main area, and the coffee was pretty good too.
Costa Coffee – Say what you will about chains, but they had a big store in a nice location. Easy to hang out here for a while and work, so I did it often.
daTerra – Not a WiFi cafe recommendation, but a vegetarian one. They have a nice vegetarian buffet lunch with a lot of variety and takes on local cuisine (which generally isn’t very vegetarian friendly).
I also did a couple day trips outside Porto, although not as much as I would have liked. The first one was to Guimarães, which has a pretty old town area and a castle. I’ll go just about anywhere with a castle. It’s another one of those good “wander the streets” places.
And while the castle does look cool, it’s definitely no Scotland. The walls are nice, but the inside just takes a minute to walk around. It was 2 euros, which was about all it was worth.
It’s a UNESCO Heritage Site for being a “well-preserved medieval town” or something like that. Or “too lazy to modernize” so it has become a novelty. You pick.
And here is the cathedral in the old town center. It was closed due to a wedding, but I still snagged a cool picture of the gardens inside.
I guess I took this from a bad angle, or I’m just not good at it, or the light was wrong, but if you search for the town name you get a better picture of this. Or maybe just blow it up. Anyways, it’s gardens and stuff surrounded by streets leading to a tall, cool-looking thing.
The other place I went was Braga. Lots of cool buildings here. It’s pretty close to the same area, and is one of the oldest settlements in Portugal. It has a similar old town area, and then a rather lengthy walk to the cathedral (most people take a bus, I guess).
Anyways, here is the Arco da Porta Nova that is the entrance of the old town area.
This is a church, or a hospital, or a nunnery. There’s no way of knowing. But it looks nice, and they have an able gardener.
This is Raio Palace. I don’t know what it’s for, but it looks kind of purple, which is cool.
And then I made the long trek to Bom Jesus do Monte. And once I got there, I made the long trek up. It’s a winding path, almost a hike, through some green areas, and then up a lot of steps to get to the actual cathedral.
Like many of these “I’m building a church on a mountain” situations, at every turn there is a small building depicting the series of events leading to, spoiler alert, the crucifixion. This was my favorite one, because Jesus looks like a teenager who is just, like, so over whatever they’re saying.
And then once you’re done with all those stairs, there are more stairs. These are prettier though, and there are lots of pictures of them, so I decided to also take a couple pictures of them.
The cathedral at the top was pretty cool, and also it was a lot of walking, so I decided to take a couple pictures of the things inside it.