Lets Be Real Porto
Port’s popularity has been slowing on the rise but it still seems to sit in the shadow of the flashier, faster paced Lisbon. I love Lisbon but skipping Porto would be a mistake so even if you just squeeze a couple of days in, it’s a must.
Beautiful Porto, with an international airport or an easy 2-3 hour train ride from Lisbon, boasts a waterfront that is easily one of the loveliest in Portugal. Lined with the colourful, tiled homes of the medieval Ribeira on the north side of the Duoro River and the caves of all of the major Port producers facing it from the south the river is peppered with a host of beautiful bridges connecting the two sides.
Feel like seeing the beach? Take the 500 bus to either Foz at the mouth of the Duoro or head a bit more north to Matosinhos beach and a visit to the Fort of São Francisco do Queijo, the cheese castle.
The architecturally significant Casa de Musica always boasts interesting programming if you want to try to catch a performance after an afternoon spent climbing the Clerigos Tower and enjoying an overpriced coffee at the stunning Magestic Cafe.
All of this and you haven’t even crossed to the Gaia side to visit a couple of Port Lodges for tastings and, perhaps, a tour. Day or night, the most beautiful views of porto are from the Gaia side, reached by a number of bridges. Spring for a €6 euro cable car ride for even better views.
As always, Airbnb is a great bargain in Porto, with prices a little lower than what you would pay in Lisbon so you can really get a lot of bang for your buck.
If are only there for a couple days and you want to stay in a hotel The Hotel Teatro is quite fetching and not ridiculously expensive
A nice alternative that sits between Airbnb and a hotel is My Home In Porto Built in the 30’s with a gorgeous garden, there are three bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, a dining room, and a kitchen off the garden. €135 for 2 with a 2 night minimum (prices go down the longer you stay)
Almeja ch ef João Cura features the best of Portuguese produce in his brand new restaurant – this a great choice for a bit of a fancy pants dinner while in Porto
Pedro Limao with a tasting menu at just €37, you will enjoy a wonderful meal that would cost at least €20 more in Lisbon. Small, intimate and delightful
Casa Guedes Like the bifana at O Trevo in Lisbon, this old school place is the Mecca for their roast pork sandwich and wine from that owner brings from his own farm. I dream of this sandwich and so does the rest of Porto so be prepared to line up with them
Quay Wine Bar for good food, wine and amazing view of Porto in the evening
You can also just wander the windy streets of Ribeira or grab a seat at some of the waterfront restaurants and you won’t be disappointed.
Touriga Vinhos de Portugal is a fabulous wine shop that features an endless array of hard to fine Portuguese wines. They ship wine to your home unless you live in Canada.
Loja das Conservas yup, more canned fish but trust me, these products are off the hook and the packaging is prettier than anything you have ever seen slapped on a can of spicy octopus
Almada 13 is like a small department store that features 5 shops selling 5 distinct product lines that are designed and produced in Portugal
The Livraria Lello is the book store, dating back to 1906 , that served as the inspiration for Hogwarts and it is a revelation to behold. Sadly, due to the crush of tourists, they now charge a €5 euro entrance fee in the form of a voucher but if you buy a book, that goes towards your purchase.
founded by the Celts in 300BC, is known for it’s abundance of churches around every corner with the majority proudly displaying their baroque influence. It’s home to one of the largest universities in Portugal so despite being such an ancient city, it’s still full of of life.
Called the Venice of Portugal – canals, brightly coloured buildings and gondolas less than an hour away by train
Pinhao Duoro Valley
You can take an organized tour, you can grab a long, leisurely cruise or you can just buy a train ticket and make the 2.5 hour scenic trek on your own to Pinhao. There is plenty to do and see to fill an afternoon with lots of wineries that are within walking distance from town. You can book a one hour boat cruise on the river once you get there, grab lunch at a winery or in town and then take the train back to Porto before the sunsets. I would rather get there on my own steam and save my money to spend on food, wine and other activities but that is up to you.
The best way to quickly acclimatize to a city like Porto is with a tour and I highly recommend one of the food tours from Taste Porto. For €65-70 your guide will take you on a 3.5 hour tour which covers about 3km and six stops where you will get to try a variety of traditional foods and wines with a final port tasting. The best part is that they also provide you with a list of other places to try so that you could actually just use that list to fill out the rest of your visit as far as restaurants go.
Read a more in-depth review of the Vintage Food Tour from Taste Porto here.