Porto is an ancient magical city on the shores of the Atlantic. It is the second biggest city in Portugal and, according to the locals, the best one. Whether you’re coming to Porto for a day or for a few days there are some things that you just cannot miss. Porto is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited and had the pleasure to live in. Here are a few places I’d recommend you to visit and a few things to do during your time in Porto.
1. Ponte Dom Luis Bridge The iconic landmark of Porto is, of course, its magnificent two storey bridge. The Dom Luis bridge was built in the 19’th century. You can walk across the top part of the bridge and gaze at the beautiful view of the city and all of its hills. On the bottom deck of the bridge, you can find local teenage boys willing to jump from the bridge for a euro.
2. Ribeira Ribeira gives you a gorgeous view and a wide selection of cafés and restaurants where you can sit outside in the sun, sip sangria, watch the boats pass by and listen to some live street music, all on the shores of the river Douro. The prices are generally a bit more expensive in Ribeira than in the rest of the city but the view and the atmosphere makes it worth it. Ribeira is particularly beautiful at night when all the lights come out.
3. Rua das Flores Undoubtedly, one of the prettiest streets in Porto, Rua das Flores takes you from the famous blue-tiled São Bento train station down to Ribeira. It is also a jewel of its own, particularly in the evening. The streets are lined up with musicians, restaurants and cafés as well as cute shops where you can buy some souvenirs.
4. Foz and Matosinhos Ah, the seaside. A trip to Porto is not complete without visiting the ocean. The best part about it is that you can get to Foz from the centre by using one of the famous old retro trams. They depart from in front of the Church of St.Francis near the river. Foz is an upscale area of Porto that has a beautiful promenade and numerous beachside cafés and restaurants where you can try local seafood. The beach in Foz is a little rocky, so it’s better for strolls along the sea. However, if you keep walking further up the promenade then you will arrive at Matosinhos, where you can most definitely go for a swim in the ocean. I’ve got to warn you though, the water is freezing.
5. The Wine Cellars Porto is also famous for Port wine. Port wine was made in Porto by using the boats to deliver grapes from the vineyards in the Douro valley. The same boats were then used for importing the wines to Britain and other parts of the world. Currently, there are over ten port wine cellars in Porto, each of them offering a tour of the history of Port wine and how it is made, as well as complimentary wine tasting. You can join any of the ongoing hourly tours in several languages or, if you are coming with a bigger group, book your own tour. Some of the best ones to visit include Sandeman and Calém.
6. The Nightlife The nightlife in Porto is something to experience, and it is super affordable. You can even buy a beer for a euro. As with many southern European countries, the night starts later and usually people will only really head to the bars around midnight. Since the climate is warm then it’s not uncommon for people to spend the entire night hanging out outside in front of the bars, just talking, smoking and sipping their drink. In Porto, the busiest streets for bars are definitely the two Galeria streets. They look like normal streets during the day but at night they are completely packed.
7. Try a Francesinha If you’re in Porto, you’ve got to try true Portuguese food. Each region in Portugal has their own specialities and one of the specialities of Porto is the Francesinha. It is a delicious albeit calorie rich sandwich of all different types of meats with cheese and a fried egg on top.
8. Wander Through the Small Streets of Sé If you want to go a little off the beaten path and experience some true local life, complete with the smell of sardines grilling and the sounds of traditional music, then you should wander off from the top of Sé cathedral and make your way down through the well-trodden alleyways and backstreets of Ribeira. Getting lost will even make the experience all the more fun.
9. Lello Bookstore For all you Harry Potter fans out there, this one’s for you. J.K Rowling lived in Porto for several years and it is rumoured that she got her inspiration for the moving staircases in Hogwarts from this little bookshop. Even, if you’re not a Potter fan, Lello is a truly magical bookstore to visit. You do have to buy a ticket to get in there but if you purchase a book from the store, then your ticket will be refunded.
10. The Churches Porto is home to beautiful and unique churches. Many of them are ordained by blue tiles (azulejos) from the outside and lavish gold on the inside. They are truly different than the churches in any other part of Europe and worth popping in to.
11. A Walking Tour and a Pub Crawl One of the best ways to find out more about the city is by signing up for a walking tour and a pub crawl. It’ll also be a great way to meet fellow travellers as well as locals, all while learning more about the city.
12.Palacio Cristal The crystal palace of Porto is home to a beautiful park, complete with peacocks and magnificent views onto the river. They also host a variety of festivals on these grounds, such as the Porto beer festival. It’s a great place to sit on the grass and unwind after a long day of sightseeing and exploring the city. I hope that some of these suggestions were helpful to you that you’ll fall in love with Porto as I have. If you have any places that you think should have made it to this list, let me know in the comments below.