I used to be surprised when my friends from other countries told me they preferred Porto to Lisbon. In fact, I was a bit shocked – for me there was no doubt that Lisbon was a city with so much more to offer than Porto. The streets are brighter, the architecture is stunning, there’s a fantastic scene of bustling restaurants and bars and, well, it’s the capital. However, the more I visit Porto, the more I understand my friends. The city’s got an undeniable romantic vibe, and it just feels so good to be in Porto.
I’ve been to Porto four times already, and I can assure you the city has so much to offer! You’ll be amazed by Douro river, the sun setting by Dom Luís Bridge, the mouth-watering food and the friendly people of the North. In this Porto Travel Guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about visiting the Invicta!
How to get to Porto and how to get around
If you’re coming from an European city, then it’s very likely that you’ll have a direct flight to Porto Airport, as it is the second biggest airport in Portugal. If you’re coming from Lisbon, then you can also hop on a quick flight (Ryanair often has 5/10€ flight deals), catch the train (roughly 3 hours – 25-35€) or the bus (around 4 hours – 25€).
Once you get there, it’s very easy to get around! For me, the best way to explore Porto is by foot. Yes, you’ll be tired from going up and down so many hills, but you’ll also find amazing viewpoints and cute corners along the way. If walking is just not your thing, there’s also a pretty nice surface metro system. If you’re coming from other spots in Portugal and have a car, my advice is to park it in Trindade Parking and leave it there, since you won’t be needing the car to move around. The parking fee for 3 days is 20€.
Where to stay
Luckily, there are hundreds of hotels and Airbnb’s in Porto. The choice is endless! You’ll easily find really cute boutique hotels, hostels, apartments and 5-star hotels. My advice would be to stay as close to the center as possible, since you’ll get a more authentic feel of the city and be on walking distance to everything. I’m talking about neighborhoods such as Aliados, Trindade, Bolhão, Ribeira, Sé and Santa Catarina.
What and where to eat in Porto
If you’ve already visited Portugal, then you know that our food is simply amazing. Food in Porto is no exception, and the city’s home to one of the most popular Portuguese dishes: francesinha.
Francesinha is not for everyone, but I dare you to try it! It consists of a sandwich with a steak, ham, bacon, sausages, lots and lots of cheese and a fried egg on top. If this wasn’t enough, the whole thing is covered on a yellowish francesinha sauce and it’s accompanied by French fries. Yes, it sounds hideous – but ask any Portuguese person, and they’ll tell you that this is one of the most beloved dishes in Portugal.
Other foods you should try are: amêijoas à bulhão pato, tripas à moda do Porto and rojões,
And these are my restaurant recommendations:
What to do and visit in Porto
- Take a walk along D. Luís bridge: D. Luís Bridge is the most famous bridge in Porto. Make sure you cross the bridge to the other side, Gaia, and sink in the beautiful view of the city.
- Watch the sunset at Jardim do Morro: once you cross the bridge, you’ll reach Jardim do Morro. This is a very popular place to watch the sunset – it’s stunning! You’ll see the sun reflections on the river and the sun setting over the city. It’s so romantic.
- Visit Lello bookshop: this is one of the most popular attractions in Porto, and for a reason! The bookshop is incredibly beautiful, and some say that J. K. Rowling was inspired by the bookshop’s architecture when describing Hogwarts (for those who don’t know, the author lived in Porto for a while).
- Go on a Portuguese tile hunt: the blueish Portuguese tiles are one of a kind. There are dozens of churches covered in tiles on the outside, and they’re definitely worth a visit. You’ll come across many of them when exploring Porto, but my favorite one is Igreja do Carmo.
- Have dinner at Ribeira: Ribeira is the downtown area by the river. It’s full of restaurants and life, and I would really recommend you have dinner or a glass of Douro wine there, while watching the sunset over D. Luís Bridge.
- Hang out at Jardim das Virtudes: this is a very popular place for groups of friends to hang out. You’ll often find lots of groups of friends drinking Super Bock beer there, or just chatting. Plus, this garden also has an amazing view.
- Visit Serralves: this is the most famous and well-known contemporary art museum. The art-deco building itself is worth a visit, and you’ll be able to find both permanent and temporary exhibitions. https://www.serralves.pt/en/
- Have breakfast or tea at Café Majestic: this is the most popular café in Porto, and for a good reason – the interior is extremely beautiful (and they also serve great food, although expensive).
- Visit Torre dos Clérigos: this is the tower you can spot basically anywhere you are in Porto, because it’s so tall! You can buy a ticket and go to the top of the tower, where you’ll have a stunning view of the city.
- Go on a Douro river cruise: cruises in Douro river are one of the most popular and unmissable activities. You’ll be stunned by the beauty of Douro valley and spend a great time getting to know the region.
- Walk along Avenida dos Aliados: you can say that Avenida dos Aliados is Porto’s version of Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade – it’s a huge avenue with lots of luxury shops. It also happens to have the most beautiful McDonald’s you’ll ever visit. Yes, this may seem weird, but if you have time, visit McDonald’s and see it with your own eyes!
- Shop goodies at Mercado do Bolhão: this is by far the most popular market in Porto. You’ll find food and locally produced and artisan goods. Last time we were there, we got really cute Portuguese tile bowls.
- Admire São Bento station: some say J. K. Rowling was also inspired by this beautiful and imponent train station. Even if you’re not getting the train, make sure you pay a visit!
- Go on a day trip to Douro Valley: if you have an extra spare day, I’d really recommend you spend it in Douro Valley. You can visit a few farms, learn about wine production and go wine tasting. For this activity, it is better to rent a car or go on a tour. I also wrote a post about the best activities to do in Douro Valley – check it out here!
I hope this Porto travel guide is useful to you and that you’re able to take the most out of your trip in Porto! As always, let me know if you have any questions and don’t forget to check out my other posts.