TRAVEL TO PORTO ; A COMPLETE GUIDE
Situated in northwest of Portugal, famous for its Medieval Reberia , cobbled streets, wine production, cafes and golden rooftops, this coastal town will take any visitors breath away. There are plenty of things to do in Porto. Tourism has been rapidly growing in the past few years making it one of the most visited destination in western Europe, but fortunately this city still maintains its rustic charm. If I have to describe porto in two words, I would say; Traditional & Mystical.
Traditional because you can feel Portuguese essence in everything, from how people live, what they eat or how they behave. Its so authentic and probably the reason why some visitors prefer Porto over Lisbon. Personally, though I absolutely loved my time in here, I still prefer Lisbon, mainly because its a capital, has more things to do and I think its more lively than Porto.
Mystical because of plethora of hidden gems. NO SERIOUSLY, no matter where you are, you will find something unexpected. I remember walking in downtown Porto where I encountered a store dedicated completely to yarns and knitting accessories. How cool is that? (the store is called Ovelha Negra if you are wondering). Another interesting thing was Vandoma Flea Market. Its a market for second hand goods. Whatever you could possibly imagine, you will find it here. If you are a sucker for cheap buys (but good quality) like me lol you must visit Vandoma. But it opens only on Saturdays and luckily I was there for a weekend. So plan your trip accordingly😉
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Alright lets understand few basics before you actually start exploring Porto ;
How to reach Porto ?
FLY ; There is one international airport located 11kms from the city centre. From the airport you could either take a taxi (should cost around €23) or Uber which off-course is much cheaper. There are also buses & a metro which will only cost €2.60 to the centre.
COMING FROM LISBON; You can either take a train which takes around 2.5 hours to reach Porto or a bus which takes little longer but is relatively cheaper. Both operates frequently throughout the day so you can book them a day in advance or the same day.
Get Insured Before Traveling To Porto
I never ever travel abroad without a travel insurance. Really ! In case something goes wrong , you must have a travel insurance. Frankly speaking, it will be stupid to head off to a new destination without one.
I will recommend World Nomads. Simply because they are backed by reputable insurers, 24-hour assistance providers and offer travel insurance to travellers from over 140 countries.
Even if you don’t get one from World Nomads, make sure to get your travel insurance sorted before you actually start traveling.
Where to stay in Porto?
Porto is a small town, most of the major attractions are located in downtown (city centre) making it very much walkable. I will suggest staying in Aliados, Trindade or Bolhão (where I stayed), mainly because they are less touristy compared to Riberia and Rua Das Flores, which off-course are prettier due to riverfront but still these areas have tons of shops, restaurants and relatively cheaper. They are very well connected by public transport (metros) or you could just walk to the city centre which is roughly 20 minutes away.
PS- If you are looking to stay at airbnb, use my code and get upto €38 off .
I will avoid Heroísmo and Fontainhas as historically they are little problematic neighbourhoods. Although things have changed in recent past but if you are traveling by yourself in a new country, you don’t want to take any chances right?
Getting around in Porto
There are few ways you can get around this city. Metro connection is excellent and is quite cheap. A single ticket will cost €1.2 but you can get a whole day pass for €4.15 . The same card will give you unlimited access to buses. Other option is trams. One way ticket is €3 or 48 hours ticket for €10.
My preferable way is on foot. As I mentioned earlier, its a small town and once you are in the city centre, all the attractions are 10-15 minutes walk away. Also this city is filled with hidden spots like random river-views, tiny hole in the wall arts, shops and so much more which could only be explored while walking. (Tip; its small geographically but town is hilly which could be little exhausting at times. Take things at your own pace)
What to eat in Porto ? ( Specially for my Vegetarian/Vegan readers)
Northern Portugal cuisine is dominated with meat and Porto is no different. You can find wide range of options with some good quality seafood, quite reasonably priced. Having said that, there are some good eats for vegetarians/vegans (not so much in local cuisine though). I assure you, you won’t have to starve in Porto haha😋. Here are few of my favorites;
- Black Mamba – Burgers & Records A local friend suggested this place and I absolutely loved it (I have a thing for juicy burgers 😆). I went there twice in 2 days( guilty as charged ). Its entirely vegan and have gluten free deserts. Also don’t forget to try there fries, probably one of the best I had in Porto.
- Em Carne Viva This one is little high end but they offer vegetarian versions of local Portuguese dishes. If that itself is not enticing enough go for the location. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- A Loja dos Pasteis de Chaves Just like Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, this is a classic you can not miss in Porto. Most of them have meat filling but you can try the chocolate ones. DELICIOUS !!!
- There are plenty of other Indian and asian restaurants too for you to explore.
Best time to visit Porto
I will suggest going late spring (May/June) or early autumn (September) as weather is still warm and nice plus less tourist.
How many days do you need to visit Porto?
Ideally I would suggest two full days and one night but if you are short of time, you could still cover most of the tourist attractions in one day. But again you will not be able to soak in the real charm of this city. Because Porto is laid back and has plenty to do apart from usual touristy stuff, I will highly recommend spending 2-3 days in Porto.
Now let’s dive into the fun part ….
“THINGS TO DO IN PORTO” ?
- CITY HALL ( Avenida dos Aliados )
Located at the city centre (known as avenidas dos aliados) is a Porto’s city hall. Its flamboyant architecture flourishing through unique façades and roofs is hard not to be impressed by. Regardless of your itinerary you will most likely cross this as it lies right above the busy square of Praça da Liberdade in avenidas. Don’t miss the famous ‘old cafe imperial (another stunning building in the centre) which now has a small mcdonald’s inside.
- LIVRARIA LELLO
For all you harry porter’s fan, this place for sure should be on your bucket list, as apparently J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for the series from the neo-gothic and art nouveau interiors of Livraria Lello, during her stay in Porto. This is touted to be one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and I do agree but flocks of tourists, waiting to get a perfect picture could be little annoying. If you are going in off seasons you should be fine.
Admission fee is €3 but you don’t have to pay if you buy a book✌️
- MONUMENT OF CHURCH OF ST. FRANCIS
Also known as Igreja de São Francisco, this church is one of the most prominent monument of Porto. The entrance fee is €3 and architecture is stunning. Although I didn’t go inside the church but its premise offers a breathtaking view of the city. Its definitely worth visiting even if you don’t want to go inside the church.
- CHURCH OF SAINT LLDEFONSO
Another church, I know, well this city is full of them and each is unique in its architecture. This one is built in proto-baroque style with azulejo tiles on the façade, making it a perfect spot for your instagram pictures. (try going early in the morning when there are less tourists so you can get some great shots)
- Chapel of Souls
When you google Porto, the image which usually pop up is of a person standing infront of beautiful azulejo tiles wall. Well this is that spot for you. Built in 18th century, this chapel has exterior of blue & white tiles painted with scenes from the lives of saints, making it a must visit if you ask me (or at least for some memorable travel photos😋😎 ).
- SAO BENTO TRAIN STATION;
While there are two main train station in Porto, São Bento and Campanhã, the former is a standout. Inaugurated in 1916, sao bento features views of Portuguese history, landscapes and people, making a remarkable interior ambience.
Even if you don’t plan on using a metro, go for the interior architecture, get some amazing pictures. Its worth the hype.
- Luís I Bridge
River Douro flows through the city, dividing Porto on one side and vila nova de gaia on the other (where most of porto wineries are located but we will get into that later). There are 6 bridges connecting both the sides, the most standout is Luís I Bridge. Top deck is reserved for pedestrians and city’s metro lines while lower deck is for regular traffic and has narrow walkaways for those on foot.
Take a stroll through the bridge, the view of old town and the douro river is stunning😍.
Across the bridge towards vila nova de gaia is Santa mainha, best spot for enjoying sunset in my opinion (and I will tell you later why..)
In my opinion this is the soul and essence of Porto. Its an oldest district often symbolized by slender colorful houses descending to the banks of river douro. The waterfront has long strip of cafes, restaurants, shops overlooking the river and villa nova de gaia on the other side. Its has something for every type of travelers. If you fancy a high end meal with the best views, you can choose any restaurants on the riverfront. Want a quick bite on budget? don’t worry, just walk around this picturesque neighborhood filled with bustling bars, restaurants, small shops where both locals and tourist come to eat.
Even better, do what locals do and what I did lol 😋get a gelato/beer, walk around, listen to street music, window shop and enjoy the scenery ( trust me nothing could have been better)
- MIRADOURO DA SERRA DO PILAR
Looking for the best place to watch sunset in Porto? Well there are quite a few but this is my favorite and here is why; Magnificent view of ribeira and luís I bridge, second for the atmosphere. As you cross Louis bridge towards vila nova de gaia, you will reach santa marina district. There is a small park on the hill where usually locals come to watch the sunset. You can buy a chill cocktail, find a good spot, listen to street musicians and might just fall in love with Porto 💙💚
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN PORTO
- PORTO WINES;
All the wine cellars are located across the bridge from old town in vila nova de gaia area. There are dozens to choose from and could be overwhelming.The biggest one is Caves Ferreira and Caves Cálem. You can also visit multiple port wine production on a 3-hour walking tour with tasting.
Usually most of the boat cruise last for an hour or so and will take you across all the six bridges. For the best experience I will suggest taking it later in the evening for the sunset. You can book one here.
More Fun Things To Do In Porto…..
- Enjoy live Fado performance. Details here
- Explore Porto on a 2-Hour Night Segway Tour. Details here
Popular Day Trips From Porto….
- Braga ( ancient and the third largest city of Portugal ) & Guimarães ( city where the first king of Portugal and a nation were born ). Details here.
- Explore the landscapes of Duoro Valley. Details here.
SO NOW YOU ARE ALL SET TO GO AND FALL IN LOVE WITH PORTO💚💚 HAVE AN AMAZING TRIP !!!
Read Next : Ultimate Travel Guide To Lisbon
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