Porto or Oporto, Portugal’s second largest city is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Located in Northern Portugal, along the Douro River, it is easy to fly to Porto from major European cities. It’s only an hour flight from Madrid and a two-hour flight from London.
You need to be quite fit to walk the sloping cobbled streets of Porto’s old town. However, Porto offers more than just cobbled streets and medieval architecture. Home to buildings with outstanding tiled façade, Portugal’s designer shoes, port wine cellars, Porto offers something for everyone. Here are five ways to enjoy Porto:
1. Drink port in the port houses
Porto is the birthplace of port wine. Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley, about an hour and a half away from Porto. When in Porto, you must visit the port houses. These port houses are situated in Vila Nova de Gaia, a town on the southern bank of Douro River. Boats (5-minute ride) are available to take visitors from Ribeira in Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. Or you can cross the Douro River by walking a short distance on the Dom Luis I Bridge.
Here are 5 port houses you may want to visit. For your safety and comfort, we recommend no more than two port houses per visit:
- Ramos Pinto
Check out the late bottled vintage, vintage port, white port, ruby port, tawny pot and colheita.
If you want to know the history of port wine, we suggest watching this short video by Taylor’s.
2. Eat well in Porto
Restaurants along the Douro River in Cais da Ribeira offer the best views of the city. You won’t necessarily find the best food there. If your goal is to enjoy the river view, then choose one of the bars or cafes by the river.
To drink and eat well in Porto, choose the following restaurants:
- Taberna Santo Antonio
- Adega Mercearia Bebe Se Mal
- Casa Braganca
- Tasca Caseira
Most of the good restaurants in Porto are tiny and it is best to make a reservation. Francesinha is one dish you must eat before leaving Porto. It is a sandwich loaded with ham, steak and sausage that originated from Porto.
3. Walk on the upper deck of Dom Luis I Bridge
Take a walk on the upper deck of the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge and enjoy the pastel colored buildings and terracotta rooftops on both sides of the Douro River. The bridge is a double decked metal arch bridge that connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. For the best views, walk on the upper deck.
4. Shop like a tourist
Porto is a walkable city lined with fashion houses, artisan shops, book shops, old food markets and Portuguese handmade shoe stores.
Book lovers and history enthusiasts would love Livraria Lello, the oldest bookstore in Porto. Dating back to 1906 and featuring a blend of art nouveau and neo-Gothic architecture, Livraria Lello is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts. There’s an entrance fee of 4 Euro but you get your money back if you buy a book.
One popular item to bring home is Claus Porto hand-crafted soap which are available in most souvenir shops. If you’re interested in vintage shops, go to Rua Miguel Bombarda.
Note: Most shops are closed on Sundays.
5. Check out nightlife in Porto
When the sun is down and you’re still full of energy, check out these fun night spots in Porto:
- Rua Galerias de Paris (a street with many bars)
- Maus Habitos
- Tendinha dos Clerigos
- Pitch Club
- Plano B
Porto is 196 miles north of Lisbon. It’s best to combine your vacation visiting Lisbon and Porto. Do read 5 Best Places for Pastel de Nata in Lisbon.