Destinations Europe Portugal

Europe’s Most Underrated Cities

Tired of the usual European destinations?  Well, you might like this.  GQ lists some of the most underrated cities in Europe and gives precious tips on how to avoid the usual tourist traps. From Portugal to Croatia, the list is a delightful mix of the not-so trodden, but nonetheless exciting, destinations. Read on!

Praça da Ribeira in Porto, Portugal. Photo by Francisco Oliveira

Porto, Portugal

It didn’t look like much. A murky little café across from an underground parking garage. A few stools. Four scrawny-necked barflies standing watch by the door, nursing short beers and ancient grievances. But I’d come straight from the airport, walked myself to exhaustion up and down the steep slopes of the old town, and there was still an hour before hotel check-in time.

Stepping in from the sunlight, I ordered a fino—a little glass of draft beer—and let my eyes adjust. I’d been prematurely unkind. There was a homey warmth about the murk. And there was a gargantuan leg of roasted pork sitting in a glass case on the bar, shrouded by a dainty piece of lace like some holy artifact.

In the old days, you went to Porto simply for the famous fortified wine, that sweet, dark, and engaging shot of history and culture in a glass. Now the city itself is the draw: resurgent neighborhoods, packed and port-soaked bars, blocks of galleries and multifangled arts/retail spaces. I wanted to lose myself for a few days in the anti-grid of crazy hills, winding vertical lanes paved in black and white tiles, architecture layered in various stages of glory and decrepitude.

Behind the bar, an exact twin of Eugene Levy attended to the pork with ritual care, making conversation with the dapper gentleman on the stool next to mine.

“He wants to know how you found this place,” my neighbor said of the owner carving the roast leg.

I admitted I was lost but that the pork had me thinking about lunch. Soon a plate of soft cheese from the nearby mountains was in front of me. A bottle of house-label vinho verde was uncorked. The wine was cloudy, slightly fizzy, cheap, refreshing, and entirely delicious.

The next day, I returned to A Casa Guedes, as I’d come to learn my little bar was called. Portuguese Eugene Levy shook my hand. A bottle of the vinho verde arrived without my asking. I wasn’t headed home for a few days, but I felt like I’d already arrived.—A.S.

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