Slightly more laid-back than Lisbon, Porto is the perfect introduction to Portugal.
One of the more vibrant cities I’ve been to recently, Porto is the perfect way to ease yourself into Portugal. Slightly smaller and more laid-back than Lisbon, even if you’ve only got a day or two to spare, it’s worth adding to your Europe itinerary.
So what should you do once you’re there? With so much unspoiled culture and charm, it would be hard not to have an enjoyable time in Porto but here are 10 of my top suggestions to make the most of your stay.
1. Walk through the neighbourhoods
The one way I always get the most out of my travels is by walking everywhere. Not only is it great exercise (adeus holiday weight gain), it also gives you a great grasp of different areas, helps to orientate you and provides a rare, and otherwise often missed, insight into local life. An added bonus is all the quirky and cool photo opportunities along the way.
2. Eat an egg tart (or ten)
Fairly self-explanatory. I took it upon myself to test as many different versions as possible (for research purposes obviously). Something of an expert of the subject of egg tarts by the time we left, the best I had was at Cafetaria Marbella.
3. Walk over the Ponte Luis I
Just to clarify, the above is a famous bridge and not some old Portuguese man called Lewis. Spanning the Douro River, it connects the cities of Porto and Via Nova de Gaia in Portugal. The perfect spot to snap an award winning shot of Porto, bonus points if you get there for sunrise or sunset.
4. Enjoy a riverside restaurant
Perhaps to fortify yourself for the bridge walk, as a reward afterwards, or as a separate activity altogether, one of the highlights of my time in Porto was enjoying the local Portuguese cuisine next to the river. I can recommend Casinha Sao Joao for well priced local delicacies, washed down with Sangria and, if you’re lucky, all the while soaking up some sun.
5. King of the tower
Sitting high above the city, Clerigos Church is a fine specimen of Baroque architecture and is famous for its tall bell tower. Standing at almost 76 metres high, you can climb the 240 steps to reach the top of its six floors. If the trek to the top doesn’t leave you out of breath, the views sure will.
6. Become a bookworm
A short stroll around the corner is Livraria Lello & Irmão. Not only one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, it’s also considered as one of the most beautiful in the world. If that isn’t tempting enough, rumour has it it’s where J.K. Rowling’s inspiration to write Harry Potter began, and you can sit and drink a cup of coffee as she used to on the second floor. Due to popularity, a small entry fee is now charged, however, this is redeemable on any book you choose to purchase.
7. Go to jail
No, I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to get locked up but rather visit the old Porto prison that now houses the Centro Portugues de Fotografia. With thought-provoking exhibits, the third floor holds cabinets full with every camera imaginable. Speaking of which, if you’ve got yours handy, the view of Porto from the back windows of this floor is definitely worth capturing.
8. Have a laugh in the park
Directly across from the Centro Portugues de Fotografia is the Jardim de Joao Chagas. Well worth a wander, keep an eye out for the quirky sculptures of men lounging on tiered benches. Clearly having a good time and it’s true what they say, laughing is infectious.
9. Try some port
When in Porto – home of port wine – it would be downright rude not to soak up the local culture, literally, with a port tasting. Vinologia is great place to do so with over 200 ports on offer, accompanied by moreish cheeses on toasts.
10. To market, to market
If you’re lucky enough to be in Porto when the market, or Mercado Bolhao, is open (not Sunday), make sure you don’t miss this opportunity to see how the locals live. And yes, this includes taste testing!
Have you been to Porto? What was the highlight of your trip?
A regular travel contributor to YLC, SJ’s dream is an endless summer where bikinis are work appropriate attire.
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