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Porto
Daniella Shreir

Ten reasons to go to a festival in Porto

Cutting-edge bands, gorgeous streets and €2 wine – NOS Primavera Sound is the perfect opportunity to visit Portugal’s stunning second city

By James Manning
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It feels a bit like an incredible secret: an intimate festival with a spot-on line-up, set in a historic (and frankly bloody stunning) city on the Atlantic coast. The festival is NOS Primavera Sound, a little sister for Primavera Sound in Barcelona, and the city is Porto. Portugal’s second city is a match for Lisbon in character and vibrancy, and its traditional image and strong air of history belie an innovative streak that’s as crucial to Porto’s identity as the spectacular Douro river.

The festival takes place across three days each June, and the music doesn’t start until late afternoon, giving festivalgoers plenty of opportunities to discover the city. Here are ten reasons why NOS Primavera Sound is the perfect excuse for a one-of-a-kind break in one of Europe’s most brilliant corners.

Porto
Porto
Daniella Shreir

6. It may look old, but Porto is young at heart

Don’t shout it too loud, but Porto could be a surprise contender for the coveted title of ‘new Berlin’. It’s got cheap housing, heavily Instagrammable streets, a plethora of quirky shops and bars and a laidback pace, with shabby-chic cafés like Café Vitória (pictured) and Máus Habitos cropping up all over the neighbourhoods of Baixa and Bolhão. Little wonder Porto attracts young, hip visitors from all over Europe.

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Porto
Porto
Daniella Shreir

7. Booze rules

Fortified Porto wine, better known as port, has been made on the Douro for centuries. Porto is so proud of its most famous export that even the rabelo boats that transport barrels downriver to the city have become civic icons. Rightly so, as there’s nothing like drinking port in Porto: it’s like a sunset in a glass. The port cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank of the river are where tourists and connoisseurs gather for tastings, and you can pick up a bottle for next to nothing at historic shops like A Pérola do Bolhão (pictured). There’s even a whole wine bar dedicated to the Douro’s finest on the NOS Primavera Sound site.

NOS Primavera Sound, Porto
NOS Primavera Sound, Porto
Daniella Shreir

8. Music is serious business…

Primavera Barcelona is famous for its dreamy line-ups, but NOS Primavera Sound punches well above its weight. Like Barcelona it’s co-curated by Pitchfork and ATP, and every year a raft of indie icons and up-and-coming acts (plus some judiciously picked local talent) pile into Porto for the weekend. Last year’s line-up included stunning headline sets by PJ Harvey and Sigur Rós, groovy wig-outs by Floating Points, grunge legends Mudhoney and an unforgettable performance of ‘Pet Sounds’ by the abiding genius of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson.

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Porto at night
Porto at night
Flickr/Adriano Afonso

9. …and so is staying up late

If you’re used to city festivals in London, which generally shut down at about 11pm so as not to trouble the neighbours, then you’ll need to up your stamina for NOS Primavera. The Pitchfork stage hosts bands and DJs (The Black Madonna and John Talabot this year) to keep festivalgoers up until 6am every night. And if you catch the shuttle bus back to the centre of town, don’t count on an early one there either: the Portuguese don’t start to hit the bars and clubs of Rua de Cândido dos Reis till well past midnight.

Douro valley
Douro valley
Daniella Shreir

10. You can escape in no time at all

If you’re nursing a hangover after three nights of Porto partying, then there’s no better place to do it than the sublimely verdant Douro valley. Trains leave from central Porto and run right alongside the river: in a couple of hours you’re surrounded by fields, woods and little towns clinging to the meandering river’s cliffs. If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands you can even take a swanky river cruise.

Just one warning: adopting the pace of life here can have serious consequences. Saudade, the defining national characteristic of Portugal, translates as a profound longing for something irretrievably lost. After a budget flight back into Stansted, you might start to understand why.

NOS Primavera Sound runs June 8–10 2017.

All photos by Daniella Shreir except Porto at night via Flickr/Adriano Afonso.

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