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Euro City Guides: Porto

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Lisbon may take the spotlight for Portugal's beauty and culture, but don't sleep on Porto! Portugal's second-largest city has so much to offer, it would be a shame to miss out on during your Portugal trip. If you're planning a trip to Lisbon, consider adding on Porto as well. I promise, you won't regret it. It's like Lisbon's cooler, edgier cousin. While Lisbon is for vacationing, Porto is a city for living and working in (in my opinion). It's laid-back vibe is even more strong than in Lisbon, but the two are essentially just different cities that don't need to be compared too much. I stayed in an Airbnb in the center of town, which was definitely the move. The city is super walkable and easy to get around. There's really no need to use taxis or public transport unless you're coming to and from the airport. If you're coming from Lisbon, there are a few super cheap bus lines that go between the two a few times a day. The trip is 3 hours, but it's super easy. There's planes and trains of course as well, but the bus is a great, easy option if you're on a budget!


This beautiful, waterfront city is full of life and culture, with lots of different hills and incredible viewpoints. Wander through the streets and find some cool lookout points!





I honestly just enjoyed Porto so much, it felt like a real, livable city with lots of local culture. In my centrally-located Airbnb, I got to wake up to this view every day.




Getting Around:

Like most European cities, Porto has a metro and public transit system. But also like most European cities, Porto is incredibly walkable. If you plan on leaving the city and exploring some of the vineyards further out of town I would suggest renting a car. Otherwise, everything you need is right here in the city, and it's easy to walk everywhere! Porto feels quite a bit smaller than Lisbon, and it's one of those cities where you'll find something interesting around every corner.


Food:

  • Tapabento: So good! This upscale tapas spot with a cozy atmosphere is a must-visit. If you're going to splurge on any spot in Porto, this is the one. Come here for dinner, and order the Castelho de Alba red wine. http://www.tapabento.com/EN/contactos

  • Majestic Cafe: The alleged spot where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter series, this cool cafe is a must-visit, whether you're a Harry Potter lover or not. It's grand, elegant decor makes you feel like you've stepped back in time. The brunch here is great, while a bit on the pricier end, but I'd recommend coming here at least to see it and have a coffee in a beautiful place. The brunch is 30 euros, but you get this full set up, as well as a fruit and yogurt cup and a champagne flute. https://www.cafemajestic.com/en/Utilities/Homepage.aspx



  • Hungry Biker: This breakfast spot is a bit of a walk from the center, but well worth it. In a more lowkey residential neighborhood you can find this healthy, affordable spot with mainly vegan and vegetarian options. They also double as a bike-rental shop, so stop by if you'd like to rent a bike to explore Porto! https://www.facebook.com/hungrybikercafe

  • Mercados: Not a specific restaurant, but check out some mercados while you're in Porto. There are a few by the water, and some really good ones on the north side of the river. I had some of the best cacio e pepe at one of the main mercados on the north side, but unfortunately I've forgotten the name of it.

Drink:

While Lisbon has a much livelier nightlife scene, Porto is well-known for it's port wine and wineries. Port wine isn't my thing personally, but when in Rome I guess. Just be wary that the alcohol content is much higher than in regular wine!

  • Graham's Port Lodge: Granted this is the only port winery I visited, but it was quite good. It's on a hill overlooking Porto, and their port is really nice, it's not all just super sweet and sugary. They do flights and tastings, and they're also walking distance from the city, which is convenient. https://www.grahams-port.com/



Sights:

Porto may have less sightseeing than Lisbon, but consider it a good thing! This gives you time to wander around, take pictures, and enjoy the atmosphere. This super affordable city has something for everyone.

  • Porto Sign: You'll probably end up in the main plaza at some point while you're here, why not take a picture at the Porto sign? It may be touristy, but everyone actually waits in an organized line to take a picture, so there's no crowding, and you're the only one in the picture!



  • Cathedrals: Porto is well-known for it's many cathedrals. You can find one on just about every edge of the city center. Just wander around and you'll find one! Many of them will have those iconic Portuguese blue-tiled walls, which are great for taking pictures. Most of them cost a bit to go inside so I wouldn't suggest going in every single one, but definitely check out at least one to see the artwork inside.

  • Ribeira District: This cool neighborhood stretches along the Douro River, and is a great place to stroll anytime of day or night. It's always lively, and full of cute plazas and squares with small alleyways connecting all of the streets and beautifully-tiled buildings. The main bridge connects both sides of the river and is easy to walk across, and both sides have great views of the other. You'll probably end up here while wandering around Porto anyways!

  • Livraria Lello: Known as the "Harry Potter Bookstore", this is where the library from the Harry Potter series was modeled after. This magical little bookstore is another must-see. You have to buy tickets beforehand to enter since it's quite small, but you can do this right before and you'll get in pretty fast. (Fun fact: J.K. Rowling used to live in Porto as an English teacher, and got lots of inspiration for the Harry Potter series from this city!).

  • Douro River Cruise: Hands down one of the best experiences I had in Porto. There are a few different cruise companies in the Riberia District that offer them, but I just went with one of the cheaper options. I paid only 14 euros for a 45-50 minute boat tour of Porto along the river, and it was great to get a different view of the city by water! 100% must do while you're in Porto.

  • Se do Porto: This was by far the coolest cathedral I visited in the city. It doubles as a palace, and it's on top of a hill with great views of the city. If you're going to pay to go into one cathedral while you're in Porto, go to this one. Roam the grounds, climb the towers, and enjoy an aerial view of the city.


For more pictures of these beautiful places, take a look at my Flickr!








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