Porto and Douro Valley - Misty alleys, strong wines and winding hips

Part 3 of Portugal in 10 days: A "Tour de Portugal" from Lisbon to Porto!

On the last leg of the Portugal trip we’ll visit some the highlights of the northern corner of the country; Porto and the Douro Valley. Again collaborating with us on this post is the superb kizomba teacher Kirsi VanSol. Scroll to the end of the post to see her dance tips! But first, let's do a bit of sightseeing and wine tasting!

If you missed the first two parts, find them here:

 

Oporto, Porto, the Port

At both the north and south end of Portugal there's a classic must-see city. In the south it’s Faro - in the north it’s Oporto, or Porto, meaning “Port”.

This ancient city - dating back to the Roman times - looks like straight out of an old sailor’s mysterious tale. Walk down to the harbour-side old center and you're walking into the past. The old town is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If you're arriving to Porto by car from south it's also quite thrilling to see the city and the river Douro open up in front of you, while crossing one the many bridges high above the water. But if you're by car, I recommend packing a good navigator and lots of patience, you'll need it trying to find your way through the criss-crossing one-way streets.

Downtown Porto

Downtown Porto

It was an early evening when we arrived to Porto and soon headed to the famous riverside for dinner. The sunshine vanished and a veil of mist swallowed to whole Porto, giving the city an even more medieval, dark feel. The temperature dropped about 10 C and we covered ourselves for an evening stroll. From the riverbank we took one of the funiculars to get back up to the city centre.

 

Pinhão and the Douro Valley

Next morning we woke to the same cold mist and we decided to skip a day in Porto head straight to the Douro valley for some wine tasting. I had done a bit of reading on this and our destination would be Pinhão.

There are tons of organised tours you can get from Porto, and of course you can always drive to the riverside vineyards - but don’t drink and drive. We picked the local train and I was quite happy with our choice. The train is an easy way to get there, whilst enjoying the views along the ride. The trip is only about 20€ for a return ticket and takes 2,5 hours each way. For comparison, package tours cost 60-100 per person and take 10-12 hours from start to finish. The train has many stops along the way - look up the most interesting vineyards for you! Here is the latest train schedule via CP.

The views of the river and the vineyards along the way from Porto to Pinhão were beautiful!

The views of the river and the vineyards along the way from Porto to Pinhão were beautiful!

We left Porto early in the morning and once we got to the village of Pinhão it was a scorching 35 C with absolutely no wind. I heard this is quite typical for the summer time on in Douro valley - and in the winter the temperature can drop below 0 C there.

Pinhão from the hill across the Douro river

Pinhão from the hill across the Douro river

It was a Sunday, and quite not the optimal day to make visits to the vineyards but we managed to get a visit to one we liked, to Sandemans, Quinta do Seixo. This is a rather large vineyard across the river from Pinhão. Sandemans also offered daily English language tours. We got a spot on the 2 pm tour with a group that had arrived there by bus. The tour was quite informative and included a tasting in the end. We bought a couple nice bottles from the shop and went out to enjoy the stunning views.

At the tour at Sandemans

At the tour at Sandemans

The tour and the tasting ended up being free as they felt it was too much of a trouble to charge us two anything for it, but a simple tour normally costs 5-15 €. If you arrive by yourself to Pinhão you can grab a local taxi to get to Sandemans for about 10 €. There are several vineyards in that area and it’s always better to find out before heading there which ones are open when and what kind of tours and tastings they offer. There are also plenty of nice places to stay in Pinhão if you're looking to do several tours!

Douro river, Pinhão on the right.

Douro river, Pinhão on the right.

 

Vila Nova de Gaia

After the tour in Pinhão we went to have lunch by the river Douro and left back to Porto on the next train. We got back to Porto before the sunset and headed cross the river Vila Nova de Gaia for dinner and some more porto wine tasting.

Walk up the hill in Vila Nova de Gaia to see the view to Porto's old town!

Walk up the hill in Vila Nova de Gaia to see the view to Porto's old town!

Vila Nova de Gaia is on the opposite side of the river from the Porto city centre and it’s known for the wine lodges, armazéns, and is where much of the famous port wines’ maturation take place before the wines are shipped all around the world. More about what to do in Vila Nova de Gaia below!


Dancing in Porto

RAdiant on and off the dance floor is Kirsi VanSol, dancing here with Dino da Cruz

RAdiant on and off the dance floor is Kirsi VanSol, dancing here with Dino da Cruz

When in need of kizomba advice I always turn to Kirsi Val Sol. (Thank you Kirsi!) Below are her expert tips for dancing kizomba in Porto.

Click here to read the first part of Kirsi's kizomba tips for Lisbon and more about kizomba in Portugal

 

Kiz Tips by Kirsi VanSol:
Visit Porto. Really, you should

While in Portugal, do not miss Porto! With its old-world picturesque charm it will etch a lasting image into your mind. The dance scene is smaller than in Lisbon, of course, but equally high-class. If you know anything about kizomba, you know Ricardo and Paula, the lead couple of AfroLatin Connection (ALC for short). Some of the most popular teachers over many years now, they also have a side business in running Porto’s best dance venue. Muxima Bar is a must-visit! It is also a good place to ask about lessons, if you want to polish your skills while in Porto.

Muxima Bar is located in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the south side of the river Douro (Rua Maurício Lourenço de Oliveira 206). The club has two dance floors. On Tuesdays it runs an African night, which means a mix of kizomba, semba, tarraxinha, kuduro and afro house music. Dress up in bright colors and enjoy! Weeknight parties end at 4 am. On Friday and Saturday nights, the mix is Afro-Latin – so bring your salsa swagg with you. They also have thematic parties for example on eves of holidays, so check their website to see what goes on during your visit.

There is always a party somewhere in town, so asking a local dancer is the best way to get the best tips for each night. So start at Muxima Bar and talk to the dancers! They will be happy to tell you about the parties during that week.

One good thing to know about Porto club culture: they start LATE. The clubs may open at 11 pm, but people typically go out around 2 am.. so you can take a good, long nap after dinner before going to party. In the weekends the parties go on until morning, so you will still get your dancing hours – and then some! Also, if you made a local friend, s/he can tell you about the after party, that gives you extra hours long into the next day – if you still have feet to dance on!

On this note, I leave you to plan your trip and pack those dancing shoes. Enjoy your visit!