Sensing Porto

There is always so much to do and see when visiting a new place. I had the pleasure of getting to know the city recently, and felt inspired to share my story. Now, let me take you on a sensory tour of Porto…


The first sense we generally acknowledge is sight, and the iconic, colourful, geometric pattern of the city is an unmissable view visible from many miradouro in Porto. Terracotta-tiled roofs top and accentuate each building, contrasting from the pastel coloured walls. Windows are perfectly framed with blue and white tiles, while bohemian balconies with ornate railings are platforms for potted plants with long vines cascading down the buildings. The unobscured morning sun beaming down throws everything into sharp relief making the city look like an intricate illustration.

© Emily D’Silva

Porto is bustling and when you take a minute to listen, you will be immersed in the symphony of the city. At the cathedral above the rooftops of the city, a single sound rings out: the sound of a trumpet. One lone troubadour standing in the shadow of the cathedral plays a minor melody as the impact of the brass instrument ricochets against the walls of the cathedral creating a surround-sound effect. It feels like a scene from a Woody Allen movie, hearing the poignant trumpets tune while looking out over the city.

© Emily D’Silva

Later walking into the maze of narrow streets in the downtown area, the sound of modern latin dance music can be heard, with voices shouting over the top of it. I turn a corner and at the bottom of one of the streets is a group of middle-aged local folk (I only mention the age as it is the type of noise one would expect to hear from youth) congregated in the middle of the road with a radio, smoking and hanging out. A woman leans out of her window on the top floor of the building behind them, beating a carpet hanging over the balcony in rhythm while participating in a call-and-answer chant with the people below. Next thing I know, she’s brought lids from the kitchen pans out and is bashing them together along with the radio. It’s only 11am!


There are a plethora of culinary delights to be tasted in Porto, of course port wine is one obvious example. After walking around the city all morning, I am incredibly hungry. With a huge appetite and the desire for something authentically Portuguese, I finally decide on a restaurant on the river promenade. If you haven’t already heard, there are 1001 ways to cook bacalhau (codfish) in Portugal, and I have currently only tried about 10 of those dishes. It is time to try another one, so after recommendation from the waiter I order bacalhau confitado em azeite (cod confit in olive oil). The delicate flavour of fish is complimented by the deliciously aromatic olive oil and paired off perfectly with a vinho branco to match. The meal is so exquisite I don’t want it to end, and I savour every bite.

© Emily D’Silva

Rich in culture and bursting with hospitable, friendly people, you will be touched by their charisma. I am lost walking down one of the streets when an artist catches my attention. His original drawings of Porto’s architectural landscape are pasted onto a brick wall, hanging above a box containing copies of the original pieces. The artist, who is sketching nearby, looks up when he notices me pause in front of his work. “You have beautiful drawings” I remark, and his instant reply is to ask if I am an artist. Surprised, I chuckle and say yes, silently questioning how he knows from the offset. He continues to say he can always recognise a fellow artist or architect as they always appreciate and look at his art in a different way. We continue talking and the man surprises me again by divulging that he is a physicist, and because completing his doctorate in engineering takes so many years, he took to the streets to sell his art in the meantime. He also tells me how it is definitely possible to live from one’s art.

His advice to me is:

1) Firstly, you must be good at what you do.

2) Secondly, don’t ever sell your original artwork for less than it is worth.

The artist also tells me how his international name is growing. For example, a Dutch couple visiting Porto happened to see his work and liked it so much that they invited him to exhibit at their gallery in the Netherlands. The artist’s story and work are both touching and inspiring, and I continue my day with a cheerful heart and motivated mind.


There are many inviting smells one comes across in Porto such as the smell of coffee and freshly baked bread as you walk past the pastelerias in the morning or grilled shrimp wafting from one of the houses by the river in the afternoon. Venturing across the river to the Porto district of Gaia, the first iconic aroma in the air is the smell of wood. Spread out along the river banks are workers repairing and building boats. As they measure, chop, smooth down and varnish planks of wood, an earthy fragrance is uniquely distinct.

Descending down into the dark depth of the wine caves later in the afternoon, you will again, inhale the strong aroma of dark oak wood, this time mixed with a heavy dose of sweet wine. Huge barrels of port wine are stacked up on top of each other, with ginormous gauges measuring thousands of litres held in each barrel. The history of the process of making the wine – cultivating grapes, harvesting, crushing, fermenting and aging – accumulates to create the rich aroma in the air, so intense you would think that a few deep breaths would intoxicate you.

© Emily D’Silva

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