My favorite city in Portugal on our recent road trip was definitely Porto. I wished we had more than a day to spend exploring Porto, but I guess that means we will have to go back for more! I have a bunch of photos to show you, and then some recommendations for your visit to this gorgeous and interesting city.
We stayed on the other side of the river from Porto, Novo Gaia. This was great for us– and all of these views across the river were just taken from our balconette. It was easy to walk across the bridge over to the waterfront in Porto.
As usual, my favorite thing was looking at the architecture and beautiful tile. I saw several churches that were tiled, like these ones. So unique!I can’t visit a city without being curious about their open market(s). The most famous one in Porto is from Medieval times, and you can certainly see the architectural evidence, and the way it had two stories was pretty cool. However, it was a pretty depressing market to visit– super dirty and sparse, and it didn’t have the life in it that I enjoy in an open market. I’ll share a few pictures, and maybe you won’t feel the need to see it in person when you explore Porto yourself. OK, back to the fun tile and beautiful buildings!
A few tips for exploring Porto…
- Comfortable shoes are a must! You will be walking up and down steep streets all day long. The Funicular Dos Guindais is a nice shortcut and fun thing to do, too. We took this up to the top in the morning, and then explored our way down (and up and down some more) for the rest of the day.
- A boat tour of the Duoro River is a very fun thing to do, especially in the evening, when you are ready to relax and let the views come to you! You can just stop by any of the kiosks by the river to book tickets. There are also package deals that include port winery tours and tastings, as well as city bus tours. So if you get to Porto and think you might want to do a full day of that, then go there first!
- I have some restaurant recommendations for you…
The first place we ate was on the other side of the river where we were staying, in Vila Nova de Gaia. Our host said that most restaurants by the water are just for tourists and not that great– but there’s one that we should go to. It’s called Tempêro D’Maria, and they to Portuguese food in a tapas format. The good was great, as was the price.There is a favorite traditional Portuguese restaurant near the water that is a fun place to eat at. It was pretty busy, so we ordered wine and sat on the steps next to the restaurant with the others who were waiting for a table. I don’t know if they take reservations (I kind of doubt it!) and even if it’s busy, sitting on the steps and looking out to the water and being in the middle of everything is a fun experience, too. The restaurant specializes in seafood, and the dishes are rustic. Definitely consider having dinner at Adega de Sao Nicolao.
I love eating at tiny restaurants. There’s something about the intimate space you share with other diners, and the very small number of dishes being put out at every meal service that makes me feel like it’s a really special and worthwhile dining experience. You will definitely need to reserve in advance for Taberna Dos Mercadores. The setting is pretty cool, and the staff are obvious fans of food and wine, and have great recommendations. The menu is only in Portuguese, but they are happy to explain everything to you. We got to sit by the window, and saw all the people walking past, looking longingly inside for a free table (there were none, the restaurant seats 20 or less).
- If you are a Harry Potter fan or have a child that is, then you will want to visit Livraria Lello. It is a Gothic book shop that J.K. Rowling spent time writing her books in and used for visual inspiration for the Hogwart’s. Amelia loved being there! That said, I highly recommend that you buy tickets online– the lines to get tickets on the spot and then to wait in line to enter were long– but you can easily skip all of that and go in whenever you like, if you just reserve online, which you can do here.
- It will probably seem scandalous to you, but we did not do a port tasting or cellar tour while we were exploring Porto. Honestly, Jeff and I were really enjoying other Portuguese wines with our meals andPort wine is so sweet, that it would have knocked us out to drink much of it. That said, I think you can just walk into any of the cellars on the other side of the river (in Novo Gaia) and ask for tours and tastings.
- We loved the apartment we rented so much, and I recommend looking for a place to rent in Vila Nova de Gaia, right on the river, with this beautiful view of Porto. There are many on airbnb. (And if you haven’t signed up with them yet, you can use this link to get a nice credit toward your first stay.)
Thanks for exploring Porto with us! We can’t wait to go back one day.