It has been the underestimated brother of Lisbon for a long time, but now Porto seems to get more and more attention. Located in the northwest of Portugal, the best time to visit the city of Porto is on warmer days as in late spring / early fall. It is best known for its bridge Dom Luis and the port wine production.
Ponte de Dom Luis crosses the river Douro and connects the city of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge was a project of Gustave Eiffel, who is known for his famous work: the Eiffel Tower.
On one side of the river, there are the famous and most photographed colorful buildings of Porto and on the other side wineries stand side by side. They offer tours, so if you are interested in the making of port wine (and wine tasting) then this is for you. We went on a tour with the company Ferreira which now is also owned by Sandeman, so it doesn’t really matter with whom you go.
If you are already on this side of the bridge then I recommend watching the sunset from the Jardim do Morro or Miradouro da Serra do Pilar. They offer great view over the city of Porto and I’m sure most pictures you have seen of Porto have been taken standing there. Tip: it can get a bit chilly because of the wind, which is why a warm jacket or a blanket are essentials in spring, fall and winter.
There are many sights to see in Porto, but luckily the city is walkable and you reach everything in under 30-40 minutes. We stayed in the neighborhood Ribeira, which was the perfect location. My friend recommended the website DouroApartments, so we booked the “One Bedroom Apartment with City View” (Rua Ferreira Borges) and it was amazing. Our apartment was modern and clean with high ceilings and large windows. The street is also quiet which helped us to a good night’s sleep. As I said before, the location was great: 5 minutes to the riverfront, 5minutes to the best breakfast spot (I’ll come to that later), 10-15minutes to the shopping street and 5 minutes to many restaurants and bars.
On the first day, we walked around aimlessly and just explored. We then marked the sights we wanted to see on a map (I also use CityMaps2Go, which I mentioned in this post) and decided to take our time the next day to properly visit them.
What to see
Ponte de Dom Luis and the riverfron
The place where J.K. Rowling reportedly got inspiration for the Harry Potter books. I can see the similarities in the architecture and the students, which passed by in their uniforms (the black capes). It’s a bit a shame that the library is now a book shop and tourist attraction only. I would have loved to stay there reading a book or rummage around a bit. You’ll pay 4 Euros for a ticket and if you’re lucky, you don’t have to wait in line too long. The library is crowded and we only spend approximately 10 minutes in there. However, it really is worth a visit as the building is spectacular from the inside.
Paços do Concelho
There is a huge avenue where you can find many impressive buildings. Monumento a Garret is one of them. Definitely check out Avenida dos Aliados, as there are so many amazing architectural master pieces around.
São Bento railway station
Just as impressive as New York’s central station or Barcelona’s xx São Bento railway station shines with its tiled walls in the hall and takes you back to the time train travelling was more graceful. It’s very well preserved and worth having a look.
Jardim do Palàcio de Cristal
On a sunny day Jardim do Palàcio de Cristal is where you would want to be. Enjoy the quiet and idyllic surroundings and take a deep breath. It’s a mosaic of small garden that features sculptures, fountains and olive trees.
Mercado Bom Sucesso
A snapshot into local life and time to do some local shopping. This market offers fruit, vegetables, seafood as well as crafts. Bags and wallets made out of cork and pretty tiles can be found here. It’s also nice to just have a look.
Where to eat
- My no 1 choice is the Hungry Biker, Rua das Taipas 68/72, (avodado toast, peanut butter banana toast, smoothies, porridges, salads etc.).
- Another cool place is Belos Aires, R. de Belomonte 104. Serve yourself at the buffet for only 7 euros.
- Moustache, Praça de Carlos Alberto 104, is close to the University of Porto and another cool place to get your morning coffee.
Lunch / Dinner:
- Puro 4050, Largo São Domingos 84 (tapas & amazing mozarella)
- Taberna Santo Antonio, R. das Virtudes 32 (traditional portuguese food)
- Terranova, Cais da Ribeira 34 (great fish and such lovely staff)