Published on November 18th, 2019 | by Michelle Rose0
Ultimate Guide to Porto
Located on the hilly banks of the Douro river, Porto is a city waiting to be discovered. With its charming old town, trendy wine bars, rooftop happy hours, and gritty authenticity, Porto is a city on the rise. The second-largest city in Portugal is also one of the most beautiful cities in Western Europe and a must-see for lovers of art, food and wine. From all the top sights to Insta-worthy views to Unbordered excursions here’s our ultimate guide to Porto.
See all the Azulejos Around the City
Introduced to Portugal by the Moors, these colourful tiles are one of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive in Porto. They’re found everywhere from homes, churches and train stations. Here are some of our favourites:
Sao Bento Railway Station
The most famous of Porto’s azulejos and possibly one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. 20,000 hand-painted ceramic tiles by Jorge Colaço tell the story of Portugal’s rich history. If you’re looking to get a photograph of an empty station, you’ll most likely be out of luck. For the best lighting and smaller crowds, visit just after sunrise.
Igreja de Santo Ildelfonso
Around the corner from São Bento station is Igreja de Santo Ildelfonso. While best photographed in the mid-day sun when the light brings out the bright blue in the tile, if you’re looking for that perfect photo without the crowds, it’s best not to wait until mid-day. Rain or shine, visit just after sunrise.
Capela Das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
Covered almost entirely by azulejos, Capela Das Almas is worth the visit to the north end of Porto. This is one of the most popular spots for photographers, so it’s best to arrive as early as possible. For the best angle, ask your travel companion (or set up a tripod) to take a photo from the sidewalk across the street.
Visit the Se Cathedral
This romanesque cathedral is the spiritual heart of Porto and the main place of worship for locals, so please be respectful when entering. Head across the plaza to take in one of the most expansive views of the city and don’t forget to make your way down to the neighbourhood surrounding the cathedral for local hospitality, street snacks, street parties and grilled sardines from morning to night.
For the Best Views, visit the ‘Miradouros’
If you’re a photographer looking for that perfect shot, or someone who just likes to work hard for your views, you’ll want to visit one of the many miradouros (or viewpoints) around Porto. Some of our favourites are:
Passeio das Fontainhas
This is a 15-minute walk away from the upper section of the Dom Luis bridge. It is still along the Douro, but in our opinion, it’s the best view in the city. This is one of the few viewpoints in Porto where you won’t be fighting people for the same photo.
Miradouro do Teleferico de Gaia
This spot is no secret, but is still one of the best places to see the Gaia, Ribeira and Dom Luis bridge all in one shot.
Explore the Gaia District
Located on the opposite bank of the Douro to Old Porto and the Ribeira, the Gaia district was once nothing more than the industrial hub of the city, with port grapes arriving from the Douro valley and bottles of port being exported. With increased tourism, this area has been completely revitalized. A visit to Porto would not be complete without visiting one (or some) of the many port cellars that are only found in the Gaia. Here are our favourite cellars:
One of the oldest cellars in Porto, this is also one of the few that don’t require a reservation. Go on a self-guided audio tour of the cellars, complete with a tasting of 3 varieties of port for €15, VAT included. The tasting room at Taylor’s is located in a garden patio and serves small plates of cheese and charcuterie (extra charge) with your selected Port tasting. Our recommendation: Don’t leave without trying the white port.
Unlike its neighbours in the Gaia, Porto Cruz has completely renovated their cellar to be the hippest place in town. The cellar and tasting room are located on the ground floor while the rooftop bar serves inventive port cocktails. Our recommendation: Don’t leave without trying a sample of Rosé port in the tasting room and a white port and passionfruit cocktail from the rooftop bar.
Porto is a Foodie Paradise
From the iconic pastéis de nata to inventive seafood dishes, and local specialties, don’t be afraid to try them all.
Rua de Alexandre Braga 24, 4000-049 Porto, Portugal
This was our favourite pastel de nata in the city. From its flaky, almost croissant-like crust to its sweet but creamy filling, it’s impossible just to have one. Ordering tip: Wait to place your order when the bakers ring the bell. This means your pastel just came out of the oven. Don’t worry, with the turnover here you won’t have to wait very long!
Rua da Madeira 222, 4000-069 Porto, Portugal
Our favourite seafood in the city. This is a small but popular restaurant in Porto. If you don’t mind sitting at the bar, you’ll get a better chance of scoring a seat. Our recommendation: Try the fish soup, fish and seafood curry and peanut foam for dessert.
Rua de Passos Manuel 198, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal
You simply cannot leave Porto without trying its signature local sandwich. Francesinha is made with three different types of meat (each restaurant has its own mix) placed between two slices of white bread, topped with a fried egg, cheese, and gravy. Our recommendation: Santiago F is where you’ll find the best francesinha in town. There will likely be a line but it moves quickly. If you sit at the bar, you’ll move to the front of the line.
Try something unbordered
Hop on a train from Porto to Régua to explore the Douro Valley. From stand up paddling on the Douro river, hiking through vineyards or simply enjoying a day to yourself at the spa, you’ll find something here for every level of adventure. Our recommendation: Stay at the Royal Douro Hotel and Spa for amazing views and excursions.
There’s so much more to see and discover in Porto. Check out our 3-day itinerary and talk to one of our Expert Travellers to help get you started. Call us at 1 877 967 5302, or stop by your local Flight Centre store.