When in Porto…
Porto is without doubt one of the most lively, vibrant cities that I’ve ever been to. It’s not just architecturally beautiful, but is also a university city with amazing nightlife and very interesting traditions!
I was there at the start of the academic year, and I was amazed by the way the university students, dressed in the university’s customary black capes, gather in the main square and listen to the “tuna” (university band) singing Fado to the lovely sound of the Portuguese guitar – a wonderful local tradition, that helped me realise that my time in Porto was going to be something special!
Another amazing place that I soon discovered in Porto was the “Ribeira”, located in the old part of city. There are traditional restaurants, cafés and nightclubs, all with amazing views over the river Douro. It’s a part of the city that never sleeps! I often went there in the evening, with other students from the school.
You can also relax in one of the many cafés during the day, enjoying the view of the city of Gaia, located across the river; and see the old “Barcos Rabelos” (wooden boats that were used to transport wine from several regions along the river). Across the river, on Gaia, some friends and I decided to visit the internationally-known Port Wine cellars, highly frequented by tourists and a must for every wine lover. It really is something to see, if you come to Porto.
Soon after my arrival In Porto, I and some of my friends on the course decided to explore the city. If you decide to do a Portuguese course in Porto, the school is perfectly located, near to both the river and the main square, and it’s a great starting base for exploring the city. The historic centre with its narrow and cobbled streets – “Calçada Portuguesa” as they call it – gives the city a cosy and medieval look. Most paths finished on great cathedrals from where you can admire the ornate architecture and orange-tiled rooftops.
There are plenty of museums, theatres and art galleries, but what particularly impressed me was the “Casa da Música” (Music House). It was built in 2001 when Porto was the European Capital of Culture and designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. If you think the exterior is weird you should check out the interior!
Everything seems really eccentric but somehow it was acoustically designed to enhance the many fascinating sounds and melodies that are created there. In fact, the symphonic orchestra of Porto practices and plays there. In our tour visit we were allowed to take a peek into one of their rehearsals – which you must do if you are interested in music! The school organizes lots of excursions and visits, which really help you get to know Porto.
One really important piece of advice if you’re thinking of coming to Porto is, as the old saying goes “when in Rome, do as the Romans” so when in Porto, eat the delicious food! Dishes like “Tripas à Moda do Porto” (Tripes Porto style), Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (codfish dish born in Porto), and my favourite de “Francesinha” (literally Frenchy) is the most famous popular native snack food in Porto. It is a kind of sandwich with several meats covered with cheese and a special sauce made with beer and other ingredients. Of course always accompanied with the finest Port Wine – If you like good food and drink, you’ll LOVE Porto!!
Living and studying in Porto was such a great experience that I’ll never forget – I can’t wait to go back!