The first choice that won on our “Choose Your Own” cruise on the Braemar, was Leixos — the closest port to Oporto, Portugal. We docked at the closest pier, which was still a 30 minute drive or Metro ride from Oporto — but it was right next to a beach. The local Hop On, Hop Off bus added a stop at the pier — good business for them and easy way to get into the centre of town. And I was able to actually follow a plan for a nice walking tour.
I started my walking tour at the Torre de Clerigos — one of the tallest landmarks in Oporto and from here, all the streets led down to the river.
Next, I headed to the Sao Bento Train Station. It is a beautiful building that has some marvelous azulejos, the blue and white hand-painted tiles that are found all over Portugal. These covered large walls in the station and told the history of Oporto.
Then, I wandered down some of the streets near the train station, including Rua de Flores. This area has a lot of cafes, shops and second-hand stores.
I finally got to the Placa de Henri the Navigator. Next to this plaza is the Palacio de Balsa and the Igreja de Sao Francisco.
I continued making my way towards the Ribera, the area near the Duoro River. It is a really nice walk, lined with cafes and a great place to watch the different types of boats that sail along this stretch of the river. You can also see the Gaia area, which is where many of the port houses are located.
I headed towards the Ponte de Dom Luis I — a two level bridge that allows for cars and pedestrians on the lower level and the metro and pedestrians on the upper level. The views from the upper level is amazing, but may not be for people who are not good with heights. There is a funicular that aids in getting you to the upper deck on the Oporto side and an elevator on the Gaia side.
Once in Gaia, pick your favourite port house — or try them all! Most of tours and tasting rooms. Or, just sit at one of the outdoor cafes and enjoy good food and port. That’s what I did.I stopped at Taberninha do Manel and had a lovely light lunch of small empanadas (one beef and one seafood), a bowl of a Portuguese traditional cabbage and potato soup and a glass of port (tawny 10 year-old) — all for 10 Euors!
I decided it was time to head back to the ship, so I hopped back on the bus, and got to see more of Oporto before returning to my home on the sea.