Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the northern part of the country. The city is best known for their production of Port wine, which has been produced since the 17th century. The Douro River conveniently flows through Porto, allowing the wine to be exported easily and complementing the magical hillside views of the city. Porto is adorned with cobblestone roads, vibrant tiled buildings–a true Portuguese stamp–and a horizon decorated with numerous church steeples.
Here’s my guide to Porto:
Where to Stay
$$ Under 100
Hotel Premium Porto Downtown – We stayed here and had a wonderful experience. Keep reading below to hear more about this hotel.
Another option that’s always available when traveling is AirBnb. You have the freedom to choose whether you want a shared room or a private home, with prices ranging from $20 to the thousands.
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Where to Eat
Seara Sweet Pastry Bakery Café
Café Java, Lda.
Café Oásis Da Sé
ODE Porto Wine House
What to Do
Visit Muralha Fernandina
This beautiful medieval castle began construction in 1336 and still stands as a monstrosity on the cliffside of Porto, overlooking the Douro River.
Walk Across the Dom Luís I Bridge
Walking southeast from the castle walls, you’ll find yourself at the top of the Dom Luís I Bridge. One of the most recognizable structures of Porto, the bridge crosses over the Douro River, connecting Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. The views of surrounding Porto from here are stunning.
View Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia
Once you cross over the Dom Luís I Bridge, you’ll find yourself in Vila Nova de Gaia, the main hub for the Port wine industry. The views of Porto from here are stunning as you can see the colorful buildings that line the Douro River, along with the massive walls of Muralha Fernandina outlining the top of the hillside.
Eat Lunch Along the Douro River
The views really don’t get much better than this for a lunch/dinner spot. Feel free to spend all of your time down on the base of the Douro where you’ll keep busy tasting Port, boat-watching and shopping at boutiques and vendor stands.
Admire the Beauty of the Porto Cathedral
The Porto Cathedral, located a few blocks northwest of the castle, was built in the early 1700s. It displays beautiful Romanesque architecture and fortress-like interiors.
Take a Tour through a Museum
If you love sports, check out the FC Porto Museum. If you’re into art, visit the Museu da Misericordia do Porto. History buff? Take a walk through Casa do Infante, or House of the Prince. You’ll learn about the history of Porto and minting coins. The best part? It’s free.
Indulge in Plenty of Port Wine
The Douro wine region in Porto is the third oldest protected region in the world. Wine has been produced in this area since the early 1700s and you won’t find a restaurant in Porto that doesn’t offer it. I found the best Port Sangria at a restaurant called Republica Dos Cachorros.
Wine Tasting at the Caves Ferreira
Speaking of wine, a trip to Porto isn’t complete without a cellar tour. I mean, Port wine is one of the oldest produced wines in the world so it’s only fitting to see how it’s made! The tour will take you into the wine cellars, introducing you to the vast history of Portuguese wine and will have you sip a glass of Port in its 19th century tasting room, the Old Bar.
Walk Through the Gardens of Palácio de Cristal
The romantic botanical gardens nestled at the top of a bluff will give you the perfect escape from the city, even though you’re in the center of it. Multiple pathways intertwine around the lawns decorated with lush flowers, trees, sculptures and fountains.
Visit the Small Coastal Towns
While this may require you to leave Porto for a day, you won’t regret it. One of my favorite towns is Caminha, about an hour north of Porto at the tip of Portugal. You can sip on Port wine at an outdoor cafe while staring across the Minho river at Spain.
Sun-Bathe at Camarido Beach
Located about an hour from Porto and about 10 minutes south of Caminha is a beautiful hidden beach where the Minho River and the Atlantic Ocean meet. See the land beyond the water? That’s Spain!
A Beach Day at The Chapel on the Sea
Senhor da Pedra, or Lord of the Rock, is a chapel that sits right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on Miramar Beach. It was built in 1686 and restored in the late 1990s. The Chapel is open for visitors year-round and is the feature of an annual festival.
We visited Porto in the spring, originally to attend a Dave Matthews concert at the Oporto Coliseum. I knew very little about Portugal before visiting and was completely taken aback by the beauty of it.
Flying with Ryan Air from Frankfurt-Hahn to Porto Airport only cost us $150 roundtrip. We rented a car through Hertz and, as always, were happy we did so we could explore outside the city.
Booking with the Hotel Premium Porto Downtown, we were very happy with our stay. The rooms were comfortable and clean; parking is available across the street in a secured garage; the breakfast, purchased for a small fee, was on point; and the hotel had a bar/restaurant with a rooftop deck to enjoy some cocktails while overlooking surrounding Porto.
For breakfast, as mentioned, we visited the rooftop of the hotel at Portobello for a buffet-style meal. I’m never too impressed with European breakfasts since I’m so used to the American dippy eggs, buttered toast & bacon but I wasn’t disappointed with Portobello’s selection.
What We Did
I was so surprised by how large the city of Porto was and the sheer beauty of the tiled buildings, Romanesque architecture and the millions of steps it takes up and downhill to navigate yourself around. My favorite part of Porto was around the Dom Luís I Bridge at the base of the Douro River where multiple cafes, shops and vendors line the pedestrian street.
We spent most of our time sun-bathing on the gorgeous sandy beaches of Porto. My two favorites were Miramar, featuring the Chapel to the Sea and Camarido, where you can look across the water at Spain as you splash around in the waves.
The last night of our trip to Porto was a concert at the Oporto Coliseum, one of the most stunning venues in Porto. The inside has a domed ceiling featuring beautiful architecture and lighting, the perfect place to enjoy a concert of your favorite act.
I’d love to return to Portugal again someday, but exploring around the southern parts and Lisbon. The country has so much to offer and should be a top-stop on every traveler’s bucket-list.
Read More: Northwest Portugal in 3 Days
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