Ports of call: Porto
The pretty coastal city has it all, with great food, history and cultural delights, writes Sam Ballard
With its brightly coloured townhouses perched alongside the deep blue of the Douro River, it’s little wonder that interest in Porto has rocketed for cruise passengers.
According to statistics released by Clia earlier in the year, UK passenger numbers grew by 15 per cent on Douro cruises in 2018 alone, bolstered by a number of new ship launches.
To those who know the city, it will come as no surprise. Porto, which sits at the mouth of the Portuguese river, is a city of cobbled streets, pretty churches and tiled facades. It’s a place where you can eat very well for not very much money – try the pastéis de nata (custard tarts) or bifana (traditional pork sandwich), which can be picked up at little hole in the wall type joints. Wash it down with a glass of the city’s most famous export, port, in one of Porto’s many atmospheric wine cellars.
Fans of interiors should take a pilgrimage to the Church of St Ildefonso which shows off the talents of the city’s tilemakers. Although the city’s train station, São Bento, is arguably more impressive – with a vast wall of about 20,000 tiles really highlighting the incredible craftsmanship.
Clients who want Instagram worthy photos won’t miss out either. Send them to Livraria Lello – a bookshop that is said to have inspired JK Rowling, who lived in the city in the 90s. Although popular with tourists, it really does feel like you’ve stepped into Hogwarts.
Fans of engineering should check out the magnificent Dom Luís Bridge, which has a shared history with the Eiffel Tower, which is clearly evident in its design.
AmaWaterways, A-Rosa, Viking, Uniworld, CroisiEurope, APT, Emerald Waterways, Riviera Travel, Saga and Scenic all offer Douro cruises – typically week-long round trips from Porto that can go as far inland as the Spanish city of Salamanca. For clients who have done the Danube and Rhine, it could be the perfect next step.
With direct flights operating from London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, Porto offers incredible connectivity and virtually guaranteed sunshine. What’s not to love?