Here’s what to do to have a full and incredible weekend trip in Portugal’s beautiful second city, Porto
Thinking of making a weekend trip to the home of port wine? The sweet red stuff isn’t the only attraction that Portugal’s understatedly elegant second city offers.
From the eye-catching, ceramic-tiled churches and arresting sounds of fado being played on the riverfront, to the majestic sunset views in peaceful parks and the mouth-watering pastries, you’ll find it hard not to surrender to the magic of Porto.
Dumped your bags on your hotel room floor? Unpacking can wait, Porto won’t. Start off at the exceedingly pretty São Bento railway station, which was built in the early 20th century and whose walls and ceilings are covered with 22,000 tiles—or azulejos—by Jorge Colaço, a famous Portuguese tile painter.
Among scenes that portray Portugal’s maritime and colonial history, the tiles depict workers tending to vineyards and harvesting crops, as well as shipping wine down the Douro, Porto’s meandering river.
After taking some photos, head down to Rua das Flores, considered to be one of the prettiest streets in the city, though the competition is tough. The pedestrian street, heavily frequented by tourists, connects the upper city with the riverfront and is home to a plethora of restaurants, jewelers, souvenir, and wine shops.
“Make sure to try Bacalhau a Bras, a dish made from shreds of salted cod, onions, and thinly chopped potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs”
Need a quick coffee fix? Step into Kug Flores, which boasts a beautiful outdoor garden with great views of the city centre. If you’re feeling hungry, there’s a great brunch menu to choose from while you take it all in.
Soak in some sunshine at Jardim do Infante D Henrique, a charming park near the foot of Rua Das Flores, before setting off to the riverfront for lunch.
Opt for outdoor seats at Farol da Boa Nova, where you can people-watch while sipping vinho verde, a light and fruity Portuguese wine. The restaurant offers an appetising selection of traditional Portuguese food; make sure to try Bacalhau a Bras, a dish made from shreds of salted cod, onions, and thinly chopped potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs.
Make sure to try a pastel de nata, a sweet creamy custard tart with a flaky pastry. Photo by Mon Œil
After your lunch, head east along the riverfront towards the iconic Ponte Luis bridge.
On your way, stop off at Nata Sweet Nata, for some (the clue is in the name) delicious pastel de natas and coffee. Munch away while enjoying the many buskers that sing and play music along the river. Not for too long though, as it’s time to burn off those Portuguese pastries.
Where Ponte Luiz meets the end of the promenade, take the stairs all the way up to get to the Porto Cathedral. If you’re not intent on sweating out the contents of the River Douro, take a 19th-century cable car instead. One journey on the Funicular dos Guindais costs four euros for adults and three euros for children.
The cathedral grounds are big, and you can take many Instagram-worthy photos here, as it sports a terrace with amazing views of the River Douro and Gaia.
“You’ll want to get to Jardim do Morro, a palm-tree-filled garden overlooking the River Douro in Gaia, before the sun dips below the river”
After a tour of the cathedral, head over to Porto’s most famous clocktower, Clerigos church. Access to the stunning view at the top of the tower and its accompanying museum comes at a cost of eight euros (it’s free for children under 10). If you fancy a guided tour of the museum and tower, you only need pay an extra €1,50.
Livraria Lello, perhaps Portugal’s most famous bookshop, is just a minute away by foot. Featuring an ornate staircase, a stained glass ceiling, and a neo-gothic style, the Lello is outstandingly beautiful and is a must-see for any visitor to Porto, not least a bookworm.
Don’t get too carried away though; you’ll want to get to Jardim do Morro, a palm-tree-filled garden overlooking the River Douro in Gaia, before the sun dips below the river.
The views of Porto, both here, and on top of the adjacent Mosteiro de Seira do Pilar, a former monastery, are utterly breathtaking and you could spend the best part of your early evening soaking it all in.
Was that your stomach grumbling? Hop on one of the cable cars at Jardim do Morro to head down to the restaurant-filled Gaia riverfront. Mercado Beira-Rio, a food hall where you can find traditional Portuguese restaurants, Spanish tapas bars, Brazilian food spots and Italian pizzerias, is open until midnight and is well worth a visit.
After you’ve eaten, head back up to Jardim do Morro, and take the Metro two stops to Aliados where you can enjoy the best of what Porto has to offer in nightlife. Head into Cafe Piolho and ask for a Pastel de nata shot. The ridiculously sweet stuff, which should set you back no more than one euro, will give you the kick you need to get things truly started.
“Owned by a hoarder, the bar features cabinets filled with toy cars, aeroplanes, dolls, and antique radios, as well as an actual car glued to the wall”
Galeria de Paris, found in the middle of its namesake street, is a must-visit. Owned by a hoarder, the bar features cabinets filled with toy cars, aeroplanes, dolls, and antique radios, as well as an actual car glued to the wall. Drink a port here before hitting Casa do Livro, which used to be a bookshop before it became a bar.
If you’re wanting an early night or drinking isn’t to your taste, you can round your evening off at Amorino, a gelateria situated next door to Livraria Lello, for some sumptuous gelato.
Chapel of Santa Catarina, off Rua de Santa Catarina, Porto’s longest and busiest shopping street. Photo by Manuel de Sousa
Bom dia! Nicolau, situated a stones-throw from yesterday’s antics on Rua da Galeria de Paris offers an all-day brunch menu so you don’t have to rush there before lunchtime.
Then head over by foot to Rua de Santa Catarina, Porto’s longest and busiest shopping street. If you’re in need of some clothes and like a bargain, head to HUMANA, a second-hand thrift shop where you can bag a new dress or shirt for less than five euros.
From here, head on to Bolhao market, a recently renovated historic market that contains 79 stalls and ten restaurants. Do your souvenir shopping here, snag a bottle of port wine, and taste some delectable pastel de bacalhau, codfish pasties filled with cheese, and port.
A francesinha sandwich with wet-cured ham, sausage and steak, covered with melted cheese and a spiced tomato, beer sauce Photo by TheRealDapperDan
Walk a short way to Maus Habitos, opposite the Coliseu on Rua de Passos Manuel. Restaurant and cafe by day, bar, performance space and club by night, pizzas here start at just six euros.
After dining at Maus Habitos, head across the city to Palacio de Cristal, where you can watch the sunset in a glorious garden, home to wandering peacocks and hens.
Finish your trip to Porto with one of the northern Portuguese city’s most treasured dishes: the incomparable and unbeatable francesinha. Made with bread, wet-cured ham, sausage like chipolata, steak or roast, and covered with melted cheese and a hot spiced tomato and beer sauce, this meat sandwich (vegetarian versions are available) is an absolute treat while you’re in Porto.
There probably isn’t a better way to bid farewell to Porto than washing a francesinha down with a beer or sangria at The Taberna Londrina.
Banner photo by By Peter K Burian
Read more: 5 Essential tips for a stress-free holiday abroad in 2023
Read more: What to do in Patmos, Greece’s mysterious holy island
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
Beyond the famed shores of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Daytona, Florida’s smaller beach towns welcome travelers from near and far for laid-back, sunny getaw
Discover how hyper niche travel guides are revolutionizing the way travelers plan their trips. getty The travel industry has seen a significant shift in recent
Mar 28, 2023, 8:30amUpdated 7h agoIf you’re planning an upcoming vacation this spring and summer, it’s important to be prepared. We compiled a few importan
The Southeast Asian nation of Vietnam is where oriental wonders might be at their peak, thanks to its rich culture and stunning natural wonders. The country