A UNESCO world heritage city and the proud owner of the European Best Destination 2017 award, Portugal’s second largest city is an authentic slice of Portuguese culture.
Pastel de Nata time!
Porto is fast-gaining recognition for its tourist-friendly vibes, beautiful architecture, unique character, and of course it’s always been known for its delicious Port.
Very much a tale of two cities, Porto sits on one side of the Douro River with another city, Vila Nova de Gaia over on the other side of the impressive Dom Luís I Bridge.
A wine on the Douro River under the Dom Luis Bridge?
Separated by a bridge that you can walk or drive over, the two cities share a river that leads to the sea and down to the Douro Valley in the opposite direction. Perfect for wine lovers looking to explore the famous wine region and fans of rugged beaches.
Porto by the sea
How to get to Porto
Porto International Airport lies just six miles outside of the city and the cheapest and easiest way to get there is by Metro.
For the airport you will need to take the violet line (E) which you can pick up at any of the city centre stops. The journey takes around 25 minutes in total. A taxi will take the same amount of time but cost you roughly €25.
Finally, there are lots of bus options and this is the cheapest way to travel and it also covers more area.
Metro Tip: The only time we used the Metro was to and from the airport, the city is very walkable and we recommend taking a bus to get to the beaches or one of the old trams!
Historic Tram to the beach
Accommodation in Porto
We stayed in a local Air BnB wth a lovely couple who had a spare bedroom, really close to the city centre. There’s lots of options, with lovely places on both sides of the river, so we recommend this!
If you’re backpacking or on a tighter budget there are hostel options. Including a branded Sandeman’s Port hostel, a Wine hostel and loads of good quality, central and cosy places, there is plenty to choose from.
Accommodation Tip: It’s an up and coming tourist destination so you’ll get more for your money here and keep it central – then you can walk everywhere!
Porto at night
We opted to do one of the very first free walking tours run by Sandeman’s New Europe who, if you’re a backpacker or regular city break aficianado, you will know them from other European cities.
Porto city centre
The tour is pay-as-you-feel and it starts with the Clérigos Church and its iconic 75.6 meter tower, and passes by Lello bookstore and tells you its connection to Harry Potter, Porto City Hall, the Jewish Quarter, Porto Cathedral, São Bento Station and gives you a great spot for panoramic views over the city that don’t involve climbing, plus lots more.
We found it great first day activity to get acquainted with the city, and well worth doing to get a local’s perspective on places to eat and drink as well!
Viewpoint over Porto
The Douro River has spectacular views on all sides and from the boat you can sail under the Dom Luís I Bridge. There are lots of different companies running boats all day, you can even get a boat taxi over to Vila Nova de Gaia from the vibrant Ribiera area.
Six Bridges Tour on the Douro
We got a six bridges tour which lasted 50 minutes, and on our host’s advice we took a picnic and beers to enjoy the trip with. With astonishing views on both sides, the experience cemented our love for this beautiful city.
The river tour allowed us to go to Cruz, a port museum for a free port tasting at the end of the trip. Cruz is a museum for all things port-related and comes equipped with a free to access rooftop terrace and bar, with views across the river and up to the Dom Luís I Bridge.
Cruz Port Museum
It may come of no surprise that a trip to Porto can’t be without a visit to one of its many port houses to try this delectable dessert wine.
Ramos Port House
To keep it simple here are a few options:
Sandeman’s Port Cellar – the quality one you’ll find in bars back home…
The Classic Tour has a team of tour guides, all dressed as the Don, leading visitors through the Cellars, unravelling the secrets of Porto Wine and its traditional ageing process. The visit culminates in a spacious state-of-the-art tasting room, where Sandeman Ruby and Tawny Porto Wines can be enjoyed.
Cost – 12€
Taylor’s Port Cellar – the most commonly found port in bars, but for good reason….
There is no tour schedule here, it’s very much straight in with the tour once you arrive. You’ll taste two of Taylor’s iconic Port wines, Chip Dry – Extra Dry White and Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), invented by Taylor’s in the 1930’s and 1970’s respectively.
Cost – 15€
Ferreira – one of the best places to try port in the city…
These guys have always remained in Portuguese hands, and became especially prominant under the leadership of Dona Antónia who made it a global success. The Classic Tour takes you through the cellars, including a visit to the “Dona Antónia Belongings Room” and the Museum, ending with a tasting of two Porto Wines.
Cost – 12€
Port Houses Tip: You can spend the day in Vila Nova de Gaia, walking around the port houses. They are all sat next to each other on the waterfront, so very easy to access.
Port boats on the Douro
Alternative Things To Do
Aside from getting sloshed on the waterfront, which is always an enjoyable experience, there are places that are worth your attention.
First stop is the Livraria Lello which is a very famous bookshop/library because of the wooden spiral staircase inside, which inspired JK Rowling in her Harry Potter books. It costs money to get inside but if you buy a book, you will have that cost refunded.
A walk along São Filipe de Nery will bring you to Clérigos Church, a baroque building that towers over the city, with fantastic views and 250 years of history. For those who love to delve into the history of a place then the Palácio da Bolsa is splendour at its best. This Neoclassical building was built to honour Porto’s past and present money merchants, it even has a room with gold walls!
For a casual jaunt then the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal are perfect to take in some views across the Douro, in the company of some wonderful fountains. If you make you’re way down to the river then stop by The Ribiera, tiled buildings, vibrant colours and chic bars to sip on some port and tonic – trust us it’s delicious!
Of course what’s more Portuguese than some top knotch tiling which is why Porto has the most beautiful train station you will ever see – São Bento Station. It’s blue and white tiles tell the story of Portugal’s past and it will blow your mind.
Azulejo tiles in Porto come in different colors, but most commonly, they are in white and blue. You’ll see tiled buidlings all over the city, the most best places to see them are at Sé (Porto Cathedral), São Bento Train Station, Igreja do Carmo church, Capela das Almas chapel, and the Santo Ildefonso church, the latter is not as well known but worth the visit.
Azulejo tiles in Porto
Please don’t forget a trip to the beach, even if it’s not summer time and a bit blustery, take an old fashioned tram and sit in one the beachside bars and watch the waves crash against the rocky coastline.
Palm Trees in Porto
Porto by the sea!
Food and Drink
We are still thinking about the breakfast at The Traveller Cafe, it was just phenomenal. The juice was freshly pressed, the breakfast was enormous, healthy, well cooked and presented beautifully. You won’t need another meal until evening!
Coffee and Pastel de Natas
One of the world’s most exquisite cafe’s is Cafe Majestic with its famed Belle Époque atmosphere. It’s more pricey, but worth a visit to take in the grandeur of the place.
The best place to make a pastel de nata stop is on Rua das Flores, which is teeming with cafés and decorated with street art courtesy of Porto’s Hazul.
Hazul Street Art on Rua de Flores
Pastel de Nata and Port Tea
Foodie Stops in Porto
You cannot do a trip to Porto and not try the ultimate hangover food, a Francesinha (French girl).
The Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguica, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak and covered in melted cheese then a hot tomato sauce or BEER sauce. An egg on top is optional.
Francesinha in Porto
You can find veggie options too but not sure that it’s so vegan friendly. You will never have to eat again, trust us! Check out Lado B in downtown Porto for one of the best.
Another foodie favourite to check out is Bolhão Market. It’s in the city centre and has all the best produce in Porto to offer. Locals and tourists alike mix here & you can nab a cheap meal in one of its restaurants.
From the riverside, to hilly walks around the historic city’s twisty backstreets, we fell in love with Porto and we know you will too.