10 Reasons to Visit the European Best Destination 2017

Francesinha at Lado B | 4 postcard perfect images: first impressions of Porto.
Francesinha at Lado B

This post was previously published on The Huffington Post’s contributor platform. It has since been deleted without notice and without a reason. The post was garnering an immense amount of love from the wonderful people of Porto, tourism-related companies in the city, and public institutions (including the City Hall). The last time I checked, it had been shared over five thousand times and had around twenty-one thousand Facebook likes.

I never claimed to work for or speak on behalf of The Huffington Post. I have access to their platform as a blogger, where I’ve written three posts before this one, which I cherish as an opportunity to put my content and the destinations I love in front of as many people as possible. As a freelance writer, who can’t afford agents (yet), I have to constantly be my own PR person.

As far as I know, this one about Porto falls on the same topic (travel inspiration) as the ones before. So I’m baffled to realize it was deleted. Granted, they don’t have to justify to me why they removed it, and for a brief couple of days, Porto was a household name across the world.

I was not paid to write this post. The two festivals mentioned in the post did not ask me to promote them. The photo of the “francesinha” mentions the restaurant where I ate it as a reference, and it was taken two years ago. They didn’t even know I had been there since I didn’t walk in flashing my travel blogger credentials.

One of my posts on The Huffington Post becoming viral isn’t new. It happened with the Azores one and the online platform itself promoted it. In that post, I also mention festivals and events, linking straight to their websites.

Not a single word in this content, as far as I can tell, violates the terms and conditions that regulate my use of The Huffington Post contributing blogger platform.

Below is the original post, in full, now re-published on Tripper. Because Porto and its people do deserve all the attention in the world.

*********

Wondering why Porto just won the award for European Best Destination 2017? Here are 10 reasons to give you a head start.

1. A Decadent Sandwich Called Francesinha

Why am I starting this list with food? Because if a francesinha isn’t the most intriguing comfort food in Porto, I don’t know what is.

Is it a snack? Is it a meal? Well, it’s what you want it to be, as long as you pair it with a nice cold fino (that’s how you call draft beer in Porto).

Let me walk you through the layers of this sandwich: one slice of wheat bread (lightly toasted), beef, one type of sausage (linguíça), mortadella, another type of sausage (salsicha), cheese, and the final slice of toasted bread on top. But we are not done here. Cover all that with slices (yes, plural) of cheese, melted. And – oh boy, here comes the final touch – cover it all with the thick spicy sauce that people say is what makes or breaks the francesinha.

(We interrupt this text to have a Homer Simpson drooling moment)

Francesinha at Lado B | 4 postcard perfect images: first impressions of Porto.

Francesinha at Lado B

2. A Sweet, Dessert-Like Wine Called Port

Port wine goes down as smoothly as chocolate. In fact, its sweetness often makes one forget it’s wine they’re having.

For real? No, actually you’ll still know it’s wine. Strong, full-bodied, with a Northern-style kick wine.

It’s best to pair it with dessert because the wine is really strong. But don’t take my word for it. When in Porto (because after you’ve learned about the francesinha, you’re already searching for flights), walk over the Dom Luis bridge to the city on the other side of the river, Vila Nova de Gaia, and take one of the wine tours at any of the renown wineries.

3. The Bookstore that Inspired JK Rowling

Fans of Harry Potter, raise your hands. You know this piece of trivia, right? Back me up if I forget any detail.

Legend has it that the staircase at the 111-year-old Lello Bookstore was the inspiration for the staircases at Hogwarts. If this isn’t enough to wow you, the small bookstore, filled with books from top to bottom, is a remarkable building, from the Neogothic façade to the amazing stained glass on the ceiling.

4. The Contemporary Casa da Música

A spectacular piece of contemporary architecture, designed by Rem Koolhaas, the Casa da Música (house of music, in English) is the most important concert venue in Porto.

Built in 2001 when Porto was European Capital of Culture, it’s one of the top examples of contemporary architecture in the city that you can visit and learn more in one of their guided tours.

Trabalhos de limpeza nas janelas da Casa da Música. #trabalhoemaltura

A post shared by Casa da Música (@casadamusicaporto) on

5. The Majestic Use of Azulejo in the Most Unusual Places

If azulejo (the blue-and-white glazed tile) is Portugal’s trademark image, Porto is one of its best ambassadors. From the breathtaking hall of the São Bento train station to the façade of churches, finding places with azulejo is not a challenge.

Expect to lose track of time every time you come across one of the tile-covered buildings, because first you’ll have the urge to snap multiple shots, and then you’ll be focusing on all the little details of the murals.

S. Bento train station | 4 postcard perfect images: first impressions of Porto.

S. Bento train station

6. A Film Festival that Taps into the Darkest Corners of Your Imagination

For the fans of fantasy and horror, the Fantasporto is right up your alley (and mine too, dear fellow horror enthusiasts).It’s been going strong for 37 years, thanks to the passion of their founders and the dedication of loyal fans who will not let it die. Although, in the good old tradition of horror films, if it died, it would obviously come back as a growling zombie.

In a nutshell, the festival shows independent short films and feature films from all over the world, mainly in the horror and fantasy genre. It’s also the place where film students get to screen their work and rub elbows with renowned film directors and producers.

The show has awarded film masters like David Lynch (he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s my creative mentor), David Cronenberg (the man responsible for making Jeff Goldblum look sexy even as he slowly becomes a fly…), Peter Jackson (a long time before the epic productions), Dario Argento, Guillermo del Toro, and John Hurt (we miss you, “Kane”…).

Fantasporto 2016, Best Film (Fantasy Section), Best Director (Fantasy Section), and Best Special Effects, "The Lure" (Agnieszka Smoczynska), Poland

“The Lure” (2015), Agnieszka Smoczynska, Poland

7. THE Music Festival You Can’t Miss in the Spring

Looking for a cool music festival in Portugal dedicated to different music genres? Hold that thought.

(fetching results for you)

Here. NOS Primavera Sound, 8 to 10 June 2017. Yes, this festival in Porto has everything you were looking for, starting with a killer line-up in every edition.

The Flaming Lips NOS Primavera Sounds Porto

The Flaming Lips performance | Photo courtesy of NOS Primavera Sounds

8. The Golden Sunsets at Ribeira

The best and most beautiful sunsets are the ones we see at exotic beaches, right? Maybe.

I think the ones at Ribeira do a pretty good job, no? How is this no-filtered Instagram shot as proof?

Let it sink in.

The sun is setting over Porto. Can you feel the magic? It’s hard to fit the wonder in one little square 🙂

A post shared by Sandra (at Tripper) (@tripprblog) on

9. The No BS Personality of the City’s Historic Center

Can cities have a personality? Yes, yes they can. Can we classify that personality as “no BS”? Yep, we most certainly can. In Porto, you should.

You see, once you reach the historic center you’ll be engulfed by the heritage weight of the city. You feel the energy reverberating in your bones, and all this in silent contemplation. Porto happens to you, period. It doesn’t go to great lengths to prove it’s a must-see city. It’s there. It pulls you.

We have been in Porto for only a couple of hours and already are speechless and, I risk saying, in love with the city.

A post shared by Sandra (at Tripper) (@tripprblog) on

10. The Wonderful People of Porto

There’s a reason why most of the people who voted Porto as the European best destination 2017 were foreigners (56.8%).

In my first trip to the city, I felt instantly at home, which is a very good but also strange sensation.

How can an outsider feel at home in a city they’ve never been to? Mainly because people will treat you like a foreigner, but never as an outsider.

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7 Comments

  1. 1

    I’ve been having Portugal for a while on my radar now.
    While I prefer to not visit a place when it wins a title like this, I still want to go. So maybe next year?
    And ps: the food photo made me hungry 🙂

    • 2

      To be honest, Porto stands alone fine without awards but I understand the importance of being recognised 🙂 Definitely visit but wait until the dust settles!

  2. 3
    • 4

      Awesome, Randi! The city is amazing and so is the festival 🙂 A great opportunity to see independent horror and fantasy movies that you’ll probably couldn’t watch elsewhere.

  3. 5

    Sorry to hear about your issues with HuffPost. The moment I looked at your photo I knew where we were. I spent eight days in Porto last winter. Even though it rained every day and was cold as H, I fell in love with the city. I delighted over my Francesinha. What a bite of heaven. Loved the port wine and my wine tour. Loved all of the sites that you’ve mentioned here and would revisit them all in a heartbeat. I will remember these festivals and make an effort to attend when time permits. Thanks for the walk down memory lane 🙂

    • 6

      Oh well, at least I got my content back 🙂 Porto is awesome but it’s still underrated as a tourist destination. That’s one of the things people most complain about.

  4. 7

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