A Travel Guide for a Quick Trip to Porto, Portugal
If you have read some of my diary posts about Porto, you already know how much I love this city. I'm going to say it again but this city caught me by surprise and I was blown away at how amazing my 3 days here was. The weather was amazing, everything was cheap, the city is beautiful, and the people are great. Here is a list of the top things to do, see and taste in Porto, Portugal, especially if you are limited on time.
Most cities only have one walking tour to cover the entire city but not here, there are two. They each cover different parts of the city and I think if you are up for a total of 6 hours of walking, then it is a must. I read reviews for different companies and they had the best ones and I also did another tour with them. Every tour guide is very friendly and knowledgeable! * I know this is basically your entire day but I think both tours give you a great sense of the city and from there you can decide what you want to visit again. Book it with Porto Walkers.
Tour A: History
10:45am | Praça da Liberdade | 3 hrs
You will learn a ton about the history of this city and discover the charm of the old town. You will get to free chocolate at the end (so how can you even say no?)
Tour B: Culture
3:10pm | Praça da Liberdade | 3 hrs
You will discover the parts of the city that was developed within recent years such as the night life, about J.K. Rowling, and see alternative sites that don't get covered in the morning tour.
Port Wine Tour
4 hours | 20 Euros | 3pm | Porto Walkers (Book in Advanced)
You can't come to Porto and not try port wine. Although I'm not a huge fan of it, it was a must on my list. I booked a port wine tour with Porto Walkers because I enjoyed the walking tour so much and it was a pretty good deal. You will visit 3 cellars and try 7 different types of port wines. Each cellar was very different ranging from very old ones to modern ones. They told us the history of port wine and about the different types. At the last location, they held a wine tasting workshop and then ended our tour on the rooftop to watch the sunset and see the beautiful city of Porto from the other side of the river. This was definitely one of the main highlights of my trip!
Port wine is actually produced in Gaia, the city across the river, and the grapes are grown in the north of Portugal, in Douro Valley. Back in the day, Porto was a huge shipping city so wines being exported had Porto stamped on the barrels so that's how they go the name "Port."
Lello & Irmão Bookstore
One of the World's Most Beautiful Bookstore (Inspiration for Harry Potter)
10am - 7:30pm | 3 Euros | R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161
The store has an excellent neo-gothic façade and was inaugurated on January 13th, 1906. As you walk through, you will notice a marvelous staircase, amazing woodwork, and beautiful stained glass ceiling. Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling’s inspiration to write Harry Potter began at this library. In the early 1990s, she used to drink a cup of coffee at the second floor of Lello’s bookstore and you might notice some similarities between Lello’s bookstore staircase and the one described in Hogwarts.
Although it costs 3 euros to enter, you will get 3 euros discounted on anything you buy in the store. I would suggest going at around lunch time or a few hours before closing because that's when there are the least amount of people. Do NOT go right when it opens because there will be a huge line and you can't take decent pictures or enjoy your time if people bumping into you left and right.
World's Most Beautiful McDonald's
8am - 2am | Praça da Liberdade 126
This used to be the Imperial Cafe, where all the wealthy would come for coffee and tea. When McDonald's took over, they promised to keep everything as is so the outside and inside do not resemble any of the McDonald's near you. Even if you are not planning to buy anything, just have a quick stop here to take a view pictures and brag to you friends that you've been to the most beautiful McDonald's in the world.
Sao Bento Train Station
Praça Almeida Garret
This train station is covered in about 20,000 tiles. You can take trips out of Porto here to Lisbon and other cities. It's a quick stop to take a few pictures and take in the beautiful work of artist Jorge Colaço. You don't have to spend more than 5-10 minutes here.
Traditional | Rua de Santa Catarina 220
This is Porto's center market but don't assume that it is like many of the ones you've been to in other cities. It is quite small and run-down. However there are a ton of fresh fruits, seafood, and meat sold here. It's a great place to buy food for cheap during your stay in Porto. If you have time to swing by then check it out but it isn't a must.
Mercado do Bom Sucesso
Renovated | Praça do Bom Sucesso 132 | Gourmet Market Hours: 10am to 11pm | Fresh Market Hours: 9am to 8pm
Have some spare time and hungry in Porto? Go to Mercado Bom Sucesso for a large assortment of food products, prepared cuisines, cooking workshops, and a glass of Portuguese wine. You can enjoy your meal in a beautifully renovated mid-century modern building with vaulted ceiling and lots of natural light from an array of windows. The building was closed down for many years and didn't get reopened until 2011. The fresh market offers fruits, seafood, meat, flowers, and an abundance of other things for a very reasonable price.
9am - 7am | 3 Euros | R. de São Filipe de Nery
You can get a great view of the city from the top, but you have to climb about 240 stairs. Brace yourself! The tower itself is not that significant since and the steps is quite small and crowded. However, the view at the top will be worth it!
Cais da Ribeira / Explore the Douro River
On a nice sunny day, nothing will make you happier than taking a stroll along this beautiful river and looking across to Gaia. Cais da Ribeira is a beautiful atmospheric, colorful World Heritage riverfront medieval district. It is a maze of narrow alleyways, cobbled streets, and brightly colored houses that cascade down towards the river. The restaurants are a lot more expensive than the rest of the city, for obviously reasons, but if it's a nice day, take a set at any of the bars or restaurants lined up along the river bank and enjoy the view of the boats bobbing in the water and the beautiful jumble of houses adorning the hills.
Gaia is the city just on the other side river so you can walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge to easily get to the city. This is where all of the wineries are where you can get the best view of Porto. Visit both during the day and at night to get different views of the city. There are also restaurants and stands along the river but they are a bit cheaper than Porto. Spend a few hours there to really take in the beauty of Porto from the other side.
Espaco Porto Cruz Rooftop - Watch the Sunset
If you do the Port Wine Tour, you will end here to enjoy your last glass of wine and a beautiful sunset. However, if you don't but are able to make your way to Gaia, you should time it perfectly to have a drink or more (no judgement) on the rooftop of Espaco Porto Cruz to watch the sunset and take in the beauty that is Portugal. Trust me, you will not regret it! It is absolutely breathtaking.
Walk Around Porto
I know this is not specific but within the last 10 years, Porto has become a bustling city. They are trying really hard to turn the place around, from an abandoned one to what it is today. Buildings has been renovated with beautiful colors and tiles and they keep improving. Dedicate time to take in the city. Bring good walking shoes because the city is very hilly. This city was a photographer's dream!
Rus das Flores
Since only 2 years ago, this street was reclassified and brought back to life. Recently most of the buildings were renovated, keeping the typical Porto’s facade, but the new colours and tiles have given the street a second life. This street is very charming and quaint because of its uniqueness in small details, such as every electricity box is painted a different design. No chain stores are allowed here and there are usually musicians all along the street playing some lively tune. It's a great place to stroll through on a nice day and/or have a coffee while people watching and enjoying live music
Rua Galeria de Paris & Rua Cândido dos Reis
At night everyone gravitates towards Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Cândido dos Reis, two parallel streets downtown. They are right by the Lello & Irmão Bookstore. Most place do not open until around midnight so start your night at a bar near by and then head here for some dancing and music. The area has a much younger group, mostly in their 20s, but it shouldn't stop you if you are in the mood for a good time. There's a place everyone, whether you're interested in Rock or House music. Just walk through the streets and go in when you see and hear a place you like.
This Portuguese sandwich is originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. So this is in no way a healthy dish - more like a heart attack on a plate. Most Portuguese people have a "1 a month" rule when it comes to this hearty meal and you can probably guess why (it is about 2000 calories...). I know it seems a bit intimidating, but if you are in Porto, it's a must try. Maybe split it with a friend so you won't feel as guilty but then again, you are on vacation (again, no judgement).
Pastel de Nata
This egg tart is very popular in Portugal and you will find it in almost every shop. It resembles a Chinese egg tart but the middle is less egg-y and more creamy. They are normally very cheap about 1 euro for one so after you climb the hills of Porto, you can reward yourself to a yummy snack.
Seafood in Matosinhos
I really lucked out on my trip and met two guys who took me to this city next to Porto for amazingly delicious seafood. I wouldn't have known about it without them so that's why I'm telling you. It is about a 15 to 20 minute car ride here but definitely worth it! The seafood are grilled right in front of the restaurants so as you walk by, you will be immediately drawn in. Pair the seafood with some white wine and your stomach will never be happier. We went to Tito II: R. Heróis de França 321, 4450-718 Matosinhos, Portugal.
I will definitely be returning to Porto sometime in the future and head up north to see where the real magic happens, in the Douro Valley, where the vineyards are. You can see first hand how they grow, harvest, and turn the grapes into wine. There are many tour guides that will take you here but I heard it's a must!