Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the northern part of the country. One of the most famous products of Porto is their 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.
We originally went to Porto for a concert in the springtime, but were completely surprised by how much there is to do outside of the city too. Porto and the surrounding area has the perfect combination of paradise beaches and mountainous terrain, not to mention the stunning architecture and historical significance of the city itself.
Day 1: Camarido Beach
Since we were coming out of the winter season when we visited, one of the first things we wanted to do was go to a beach. Before exploring the city of Porto, we drive our rental car north for a little over an hour to Camarido Beach. The scenery on the drive is stunning, showcasing the colors of spring.
After parking on the side of the road, we notice a boardwalk that hugs the edge of the channel. Following that path, we come upon a small beach but, with a little exploring, we find something more hidden. We continue on the trail that heads into the woods, climbing over a few broken pieces and finally seeing sand.
This was my favorite beach because we literally had the entire thing to ourselves. I’m not sure if people don’t realize that this beach exists beyond the first one, but it was pretty amazing to feel like we have our own sort of paradise for the day.
Also, see that hill across the water? That’s Spain! I was tickled to death that we were on a beach in Portugal yet staring at Spain, a country that I wasn’t able to visit during my time in Europe.
There’s only one option for food at Camarido Beach but it’s closed since we’re out of season. We drive about 10 minutes north, on the road that hugs the channel, and stop in Caminha, a town with the perfect amount of Portuguese charm.
We eat at a small cafe called Sandes & Baguetes. The entire inside of the restaurant resembles a grotto, feeling like we’re eating in a cave for lunch. I ordered the Tuna Baguette and my husband the turkey, a subtle refreshing lunch.
After some more time at the beach, we head back into the city of Porto to check in to our hotel.
We were staying at the Hotel Premium Porto Downtown, a beautiful hotel in a convenient location in Porto. The rooms were comfortable and clean; parking is available across the street in a private garage; the breakfast was scrumptious and can be purchased for a small fee; and the hotel had a bar/restaurant with a rooftop deck to enjoy some cocktails and witness some amazing views of surrounding Porto.
Day 2: The City of Porto
Today is city exploring day! If you’re driving a car in the city of Porto, expect many delays as the one-way streets are narrow and difficult to navigate through. Trying to go a certain way, we sometimes have to take detours around the block to reach our destination. To travel about a mile within the city, it takes about 30 minutes. Nonetheless, the Porto charm that is seen while waiting in traffic is captivating and makes time go quick. We end up doing the majority of our exploring on foot.
The first thing we stumbled upon in our exploration of Porto was Muralha Fernandina. This beautiful cliffside castle began construction in 1336 and is still a monstrosity on the cliffside of Porto, overlooking the Douro River.
We began to walk on the left side of the castle, trying to get to the bottom of the hill. Taking this walkway leads us to a dead end so we follow the road between the buildings, finding steps to go down.
Coming to a walkway that crossed the river, we capture some remarkable views of surrounding Porto.
The bridge in the picture is the famous Dom Luís I Bridge, which crosses over the Douro River, connecting Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia.
After gazing at these stunning views, we head off to see the Porto Cathedral, which was built in the early 1700s. The views of surrounding Porto definitely don’t disappoint from here either.
By this time, we’re hungry for dinner so, from the Cathedral, we walk north towards the center of Porto.
There are plenty of restaurants around the center of Porto, on the edge of the Douro, and near the Oporto Coliseum, where we attended our concert. One of my favorite restaurants was Republica Dos Cachorros. They had THE BEST Sangria, made from red Porto wine.
My favorite part of the city of Porto is at the bottom of the hill on the boardwalk next to the Douro River. Standing by the Cathedral, there are some restaurants and cafes nestled next to stairs that go down and plenty of places to snag a bite or a drink at the bottom as well.
Crossing the bridge is narrow with the busyness of traffic, but is definitely worth it to get some stunning views of the cliffside of Porto.
Day 3: Miramar Beach
About a 20 minute drive to the south of Porto is my favorite part of our Portuguese vacation. Miramar Beach is large and sandy, and has an iconic feature: Capela do Senhor da Pedra, or Chapel of the Lord of the Stone. It’s also known as the Chapel on the Sea.
We spend our whole day at Miramar since it’s so quiet and peaceful. We’re two of maybe 10 people on the entire beach for the day.
I truly adored Portugal; it was a place I had been wanting to go for such a long time and I was taken aback by the beauty of the landscape, the architecture, history, and the stunning beaches.
Have you ever been to Porto? How would you rate it on your destination list?