I Was Underwhelmed With Porto

Porto, Portugal has long been on my list of places I wanted to go to. To be honest, it’s the only somewhat major city in Europe that I hadn’t been to before. Plus I love port and have heard nothing but good things about the little city with a major European soccer team to its credit, FC Porto. Unfortunately, it’s summer break so there were no games to attend but I did enjoy my three days in Porto; although I wouldn’t classify it as one of my favorite European cities. In fact, I was underwhelmed with Porto.
Porto, sunset, Ribeira, Portugal
I went to Porto with my buddy Dennis, who I’ve known for 32 years-literally he’s like my brother. It was our first trip out of North America together and we had a great time!
Lee Abbamonte, Dennis O'Connell, Porto, Portugal
We stayed at the Sheraton Porto; which is a fairly standard Sheraton with a decent breakfast buffet but it’s not in the center of town. It’s out in Boavista right next to Estadio do Bessa where Boavista FC plays. So I thought it was cool that I could see the stadium from my room but otherwise it was a relative nuisance to get into town or about a 12 euro taxi ride each time. I’d recommend staying at the Intercontinental if you want a big luxury hotel or one of the little boutique spots down in Ribeira.
Estadio do Bessa, Porto, Portugal, Boavista FC
Ribeira is the place to be in Porto and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s right on the Douro River and overlooks the famous Dom Luis Bridge that connects each side of the river. There are plenty of places to eat and drink on either side and it’s the best views in town.
Ribeira, Douro River, Porto, Portugal
Ribeira is pretty for sure and so is most of Porto for that matter. The bars and restaurants in Ribeira are nicely lined up on each side of the river and do give great views but what they have in scenery, they lack in substance in my opinion.
Ribeira, Porto, Portugal, restaurants
In 3 days in Porto, we ate and drank at several different places on each side of the Douro River and with the exception of great port wine; which you’d expect, the food was more or less bad. Not to mention the service, pretty much anywhere in Porto, was terrible and that’s not a word I use lightly.
Ribeira, Porto, Portugal, boats
I hate to generalize but let’s be honest, we all do it. Dennis or I had to physically go up and grab the waiter to get attention if we wanted to order, have another drink, ask for the check because everything took forever or we had to ask like 6 different people-that get’s annoying after a while.
Porto, Portugal, cheers, port wine
Originally we thought we just chose bad places but it was a theme in literally every bar, café or restaurant we went to. It kind of marred the experience a bit for me.
graffiti, street art, Porto, Portugal
Another issue I had, as I mentioned was the food. When I released my 30 best countries for food post a few months ago I was slammed for not including Portugal in the list. After my visit to Porto, it will certainly not be added. We didn’t have one thing to eat, not one thing that was even very good. Everything was OK at best and we ate out every meal-with the exception of the hotel breakfast buffet; which actually was good albeit standard international fare.
Porto, church, Portugal
What I determined is that Porto, while a nice city-it really is nice; is a city that you really need to enlist the help of someone who knows what they’re talking about. A local food and restaurant guide would have been great.
sunset, Douro River, Porto, Portugal
I freely admit that I didn’t do as much homework as I normally do on a new city I visit. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’m always so busy; which is true. But I think it’s more so, I figured it would just flow easier as a city. Porto is a small city but fairly complex in terms of eating.
Porto, city center, Portugal
In terms of drinking it’s no problem. You can get great wine just about anywhere and Porto’s nightlife scene is pretty good on weekends albeit nonexistent during the week. We were there Friday to Monday and Sunday night everything was dead. I know that’s typical in most places around the world but being from New York, I like options every day!
Porto, Portugal, view, Torre dos Clerigos
The best nightlife is over by the tower; which has the best views of Porto from the city center. The rest of Porto’s sights are pretty standard as far as European cities go. There’s some museums, a big square, a bunch of cool old buildings and a fancy looking train station but nothing that really grabs you in terms of must see things.
Porto, Portugal, train station, bento
I feel as if Porto is a city best done simply strolling around and is likely best done with a significant other. I can see how people consider it a very romantic city-that’s obvious. But it’s not really a city where two grown men go to hang out essentially for a few days.
Lee Abbamonte, Dennis O'Connell, Porto, Portugal
It should also be noted that there are several day trips that we could’ve done within an hours drive or so but we opted not to. Mainly because we slept late because of jet lag and perhaps a bit of a port hangover!
Porto Train STation
I was underwhelmed with Porto and I really wish I wasn’t. I wanted to love Porto and be blown away but I just wasn’t. I think I committed my biggest faux pas; I had too many expectations and had built Porto up in my head because I’d wanted to go for so many years. Maybe it was me, maybe it was the city but either way, I had a great time but I was underwhelmed with Porto and was happy to take the fast train to Lisbon.

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  1. It’s definitely not a bro city LOL!

  2. I went to Portugal with low expectations (don’t remember why), but remember really enjoying Porto, especially the food. Lisboa was the city that REALLY impressed me. Awesome city and the beach towns on the outskirts were incredible. Praia do Guincho was a surf paradise.

  3. Medelyn Marquez says

    Hi Lee, I’m lovin’ your Instagram account as well as this website. A great travel shares that I can use in the future. I’ll surely come back to this site over again to see your updates.

  4. Thank you for story about Porto. I have been to Lisbon this June and as Patrick already says this city also impressed me too much. Probably for me this was one of the best cities in Europe. But then I meet one couple and they told me they liked Porto much more than Lisbon. Now I am dreaming about visit this city.

  5. Well i got to your blog totally randomly and was curious what you wrote about Porto and i have to say I am really surprised.I have lived in many places like Slovakia.England,Austria and now i live for 3 years in Porto and i really love this city.You have a plenty of places to visit , you just have to know where, the same as about restaurants.You have so many good restaurants and bars , the food is really delicious! 🙂 But you have too many restaurants in Porto and obviously not all of them will be good.It also depends on prices people wish to spend for their meals.About waving to a waitress – its normal in Portugal because the manner here is to stand up and ask for the bill.And about Sunday , almost all places in Europe are closed and dead on Sunday,we use this time for family&friends time only.For example i lived in Vienna,huge capitol so well known,but once is Sunday , as tourist there is nothing interesting you can do. Well , every country and every nation has different manners and habits.Took me a while to understand all of the portuguese ones , but in my opinion its a great city where you will never be bored 🙂

  6. Hi Lee,

    Pity you were underwhelmed with Porto.
    Next time I´ll take you to the right places and with the right people.
    You have excelente places to stay right in the center of Porto.You didn´t even stay at the best hotel we have on top of the Douro River. You didn´t go up the river, or did you?
    We have excelent restaurants, not just the ones by the side of the river, for the turists. 🙂
    Anyway, just to say I loved your pictures and would love to use one for a frame 🙂

  7. Jenn Winters says

    I didn’t care for Porto either.

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