Lisbon's little sister ...
Often overshadowed by Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. But Porto has its own charm and is well worth the visit. Stunning architecture, fascinating history and the home of Port. Do yourself a favour and add it to your bucket list.
How to Get There
Although it isn’t Portugal’s capital, Porto still has quite a large airport serving various routes across Europe. I managed to get an affordable flight direct from London Gatwick with EasyJet, but like most EasyJet flights, it was delayed.
From the airport it is super easy to get to the city centre. There is a metro that leaves from the airport, which is well signed and tickets can be purchased from the machines below the platform. Although the machines seemed to confuse most people, there were staff on hand to assist. Essentially, you just have to know which station you want to go to and then you will purchase your ticket for that zone. Personally, I took a ticket to Sao Bento which cost €2.60, but as mentioned before if you are confused just ask the staff, they are more than happy to help. The metro definitely cannot compare to London, with me discovering that the next metro was not leaving for another 17 minutes! Now I’m sorry, but that is no metro to me.
Where to Stay
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d know by now that I am a budget traveller and will more often than not choose to stay in hostels. Firstly, because they are super affordable, centrally located and when travelling, how much time does one really spend there anyway. Plus, it is the best place to be when travelling solo because you will always meet like-minded travellers to explore with. And Porto has an incredible number of great hostels, I’ll admit it took me quite some time to decide on which hostel to stay at. I stayed at the Bluesocks Hostel but I met friends who were staying at Yes! Hostel and they raved about their hostel too. Both hostels organised free walking tours, pub crawls and social events.
Walking would definitely be the best way to explore this incredible city. The old town is beautiful to discover on foot, walking along the old cobblestone streets, admiring the old houses and admiring all the stunning vantage points.
You can also take the metro to get around, but I personally only took the metro from the airport into the city and then to the coach station.
What To Do
One of the best concepts around for young travellers has got to be free walking tours and thankfully this is a successful enterprise in Europe, unlike most other countries around the world. Porto had numerous free walking tour groups but I opted to join one that my hostel was partnered with. I joined the Porto Lifestyle Tour, one of a few run by the group, Porto Walkers. All the leaders were extremely friendly and very knowledgeable, introducing us to the modern historic sites of the city paired with relevant and interesting facts. The tour took around three and a half hours and in addition to the tour highlights and information, our guide, Maria was more than happy to give us advice on how to spend our remaining time in the city.
Note: Although it is called a free tour, it is run by volunteers and they do encourage participants to leave a tip at the end of the tour. This tip is at your discretion but I definitely to encourage to give something, even if it is a few euros.
Visit the Book Store that helped inspire Harry Potter
Livraria Lello, is the famous book store known for helping inspire JK Rowling whilst writing Harry Potter. Aside from the fame it’s gotten from its ties to Harry Potter, the book store is also one of Portugal’s oldest and ranked amongst the top bookstores worldwide. Make sure to climb the famous staircase and catch sight of the book cart on rails which may very well disappear behind a hidden door.
Note: Entry to the store costs €5 which is then redeemable in store. It is a busy sight so make sure you’re prepared to wait in line or plan to visit close to opening hours.
Gaia is the famous region for Port, so this is definitely where you should go for tasting. There are plenty of cellar doors to choose from so you definitely can’t miss it. I opted for a tasting experience with Ramos Pinto. The experience included a tour through their museum and cellar before a tasting in the lounge of their white port and toner port. The third and best port is the ruby port, which we were not given a taster of, however we grabbed coffee in old town and they gave us a free taster of their ruby port which was delicious.
Watch the Sunset
Gaia, the town on the opposite side of the riverbank, has got to have one of the best vantage points for the sunset. Get there easily by walking across the Ponte de D Luis I bridge on either the upper or lower level. Personally I’d recommend walking across the upper section since it gets you directly to Jardim do Morro, a beautiful park to sit down and if you fancy, set up a picnic to enjoy as the sun dips down. Porto looks truly beautiful bathed in the golden glow of a setting sun!
Note: If you’re already in Gaia you can walk up the hill or take the gondola to Jardim do Morro.
Try the Local Delicacies
Porto is famous for Francesinha, a sandwich made with bread, wet cured ham, Portuguese sausage, roast beef or steak all covered with melted cheese and a speciality tomato and beer sauce. It can also often be topped with a fried egg and fries. I didn’t end up getting the chance to try it having been distracted by a beautiful sunset on one occasion and on the other, being unlucky and unable to get a seat at the restaurant, Lado B which had been recommended by a local.
Take part in a Festival
Speak to the locals and the staff at your accommodation to find out if there are any festivities happening during your visit. We were told that in a smaller nearby town, there would be a celebration for San Pedro. We walked to the town of Afurada but unfortunately we were way too early for the festivities which we thought would be all day so definitely check the times if you do hear of any festival.
Where to Eat
Super close to the hostel in one of the small alleyways towards the Douro river and really affordable. I had a simple Beef Sandwich with Serrano ham which was delicious and only €5. Perfect for a snack or a small dinner.
A restaurant that I didn’t make it to in the end, but was recommended as the best place to try Franceshina.
Café Piohlo/Âncora d’Ouro
Also known as the lice café, but don’t worry there aren’t any lice, rather the name comes from its history. Perfect for a simple but delicious ice coffee and Portuguese tart.
I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the actual restaurant that we visited but they all seemed amazing. Afurada is a town on the same side of the river as Gaia, but further along the river. Great for seafood.
Traditional food, cooked with a homely feel. I tried the codfish but unfortunately wouldn’t rave about it. But the girls that I dined with were very happy with their dishes.
So, if you’re looking for that weekend getaway inspiration, look no further, Porto is great year round. Or why not plan a Portuguese adventure from north to south, Porto is definitely an essential destination.