A Weekend Guide To Porto, Portugal

With its faded cascading houses and history which seeps from the azulejo tiled buildings, it’s not difficult to see why Portugal’s second-largest metropolis is fast becoming a traveller’s destination in Western Europe. Porto or Oporto is a long-time rival of the capital, Lisbon, but is now enticing visitors with more than its abundance of historical Port Wine lodges.

The hillside view of Porto Portugal

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Spend a weekend in Porto navigating the warren of narrow streets of the ancient Ribera district. Admire the tile-fronted Baroque churches, hop between the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia and sample the city’s gastronomic specialties. It’s not only the myriad of port wine vintages that will leave you intoxicated. Drink in the sorrowful tunes of the accordion players along the medieval waterfront, be swept away by the charm of the avant-garde architecture and climb up to a miradouro for a panoramic view of the city that will make your head spin. Whatever it is, there’s magic to be found in Porto. Check out what Jasmine from The Travel Quandary recommends!

Wandering the streets of Porto

Day One in Porto

Touchdown at Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro. Welcome to Porto, Portugal.

For die-hard foodies, it would be remiss to come to Portugal and not eat "bacalhau". Bacalhau translates to "salted codfish" and is integral to Portuguese cuisine. It’s been said that there are over 1,000 ways to serve the fish and you’re practically guaranteed to find a version of bacalhau on a Portuguese restaurant’s menu. In Porto, head to Restaurante O Escondidinho where the homely establishment serves the all-time favourite Bacalhau à Brás (shredded fish and potato bound with egg and topped with parsley and olives). Take a seat in one of the mahogany chairs and admire the blue & white tiles that depict Portugal’s naval history.

Address | Rua Passos Manuel 144 - Porto, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal
Opening Hours | Daily 12.00pm - 3.00pm, 7.00pm - 11.00pm

Related | You might be interested in this 2-day itinerary for Braga, another lovely gem in Portugal.

Day Two in Porto

Start your morning at one of Porto’s oldest bakeries, Padaria Ribeiro. Established in 1878, the bakery creates delicious Portuguese snacks that attract locals and tourists in droves. To continue your Portuguese gastronomic adventure, order "um bica" (coffee) with a "salgados", a salty deep fried Portuguese snack food. If savoury isn’t for you in the morning, the bakery serves a plethora of pastries, tarts and cakes. Your most difficult choice will be choosing just one!

Address | Praça de Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 21, 4050-526 Porto, Portugal
Opening Hours | Monday - Saturday 7.00am - 8.00pm

Around the corner from Padaria Ribeiro is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal. The Lello Bookstore, also known as Livraria Lello & Irmão, has become famous for its forked crimson staircase and large stained glass window overhead. It’s reputed that Lello Bookstore was a source of inspiration to Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, who is said to have frequented the shop during her time teaching English in Porto. Hailed as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, visitors are required to pay a small entrance fee. Browse the hallowed shelves for Portuguese and international titles amongst art deco details on the walls and wooden columns.

Address | R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
Opening Hours | Daily 9.30am - 7.00pm

Head towards the Douro River where you’ll reach the medieval waterfront of Bairro da Ribeira. Along the river you’ll find traditional rabelo boats docked in the quay. Locals sit side by side with travellers, sharing the shade of cafe umbrellas and sipping um bica. Make your way towards the iconic Ponte Dom Luis, and walk over the metal-arched bridge to the left bank of the city.

Nab one of the outdoor tables at Taberninha do Manel. Nibble on tapas plates of fresh olives, roasted chorizo and bolos de bacalhau as you soak up the view of the colourful hillside dwellings on the opposite side of the Douro river.

Address | Av. de Diogo Leite 308, 4400-111 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Opening Hours | Tuesday - Sunday 11.00am - 12.00am

It’s time for a tipple. Porto is renowned for port wine and it’s here on the banks of the famed Douro river/region where you’ll learn about the famous digestif. Gather your friends and embark on a port wine crawl of the cellars. The larger British companies, including Graham’s, Cockburn, Taylor’s and Sandeman all have their cellars in the Vila Nova de Gaia district, so hopping between them is a piece of cake - until you’ve sipped one too many tawny vintages!

Port wine tasting at Taylors in Porto Portugal

Meander up to Miradouro da Serra do Pilar where you can watch the sunset over the River Douro. As dusk falls, you’ll see the lights of Ponte Dom Luis flicker on casting a romantic glow over the tranquil waters.

Sunset at the Ponte Dom Luis over the Douro River

A wave of ambitious restaurants has surged into Portugal’s second-largest city over the last few years, including Cantinho do Avillez. Founded by Michelin decorated Portuguese chef, José Avillez, Cantinho do Avillez offers contemporary Portuguese cuisine influenced by Avillez’s travels abroad. Start with the marinated scallops with avocado cream before settling in with the Alejanto black pork with "farofa" french fries. Wrap things up with a traditional toucinho-do-céu topped with refreshing raspberry sorbet.

Address | R. de Mouzinho da Silveira 166, 4050-416 Porto, Portugal
Opening Hours | Monday - Friday 12.30pm - 3.00pm, 7.00pm - 12.00am. Saturday - Sunday 12.30pm - 12.00am

Related | Check out what you could see and do in Ribeira Grande

Day Three in Porto

True to its Catholic roots, it’s quite difficult to find cafes in Porto that are open on Sundays. But don’t look out for a McDonalds or Starbucks straight away; Café Guarany helps to meet visitors’ demand for breakfast along Avenida dos Aliados. Breakfast at Guarany is a smorgasbord of buttery croissants, fresh orange juice, yoghurt with fruits and a choice of eggs, smoked ham or a breakfast steak.

Address | Av. dos Aliados 85/89, 4000-066 Porto, Portugal
Opening Hours | Daily 9.00am - 12.00am

For those who feel an inextricable pull to the past, head to Rua do Almada, where a string of vintage shops are sure to elicit feelings of nostalgia. At Typographia, you can take home a screen-printed t-shirt with humorous graphics, while the fashion forward will find a new pair of hip sneakers at Portuguese boutique store, The Feeting Room. If you’re looking for a Portuguese tile or souvenirs to take home, one of the best spots is at Prometeu Artesanato.

One cannot visit Porto without sampling the city’s specialty dish. Be warned, franceschina is not for the dieters or vegetarians. Core ingredients ham, beef, sausage and cheese are sandwiched between slices of bread, drizzled with a warm tomato-beer sauce, topped with an egg and accompanied with a side of fries. To sample one of the biggest gastronomic icons, one should swing by Cafe Santiago with an empty stomach and forget to count the calories.

Address | R. de Passos Manuel 226, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal
Opening Hours | Monday - Saturday 12.00pm - 11.00pm

Franceschina at Cafe Santiago in Porto Portugal

You’re likely to walk past São Bento Subway Station several times during your weekend in Porto but make sure to take a peek inside. The 20th-century railway station sits on the site of a former Benedictine monastery and is well-known for the elaborate azulejo tilework in the main vestibule. Over 20,000 blue and white tiles adorn the walls of the main hall, which depict scenes from key events in Portugal’s history.

It’s time to head home. With luck, you’re feeling warm and fuzzy after a sun-soaked weekend and have a newfound affinity for port wine. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle at the airport on your way home. Obrigado, Porto!


Discover more of Porto

If you are looking to visit places away from the 'tourist-y' circuit or want to be able to freely explore the area, then the best way to do so would be by hiring a car. You could take a look at Discover Cars. They work with both international car hire companies and trusted local companies and offer their customers competitive rates. Hire a car with them and you could add places like Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lime, Barcelos or Braga to your itinerary. All these places make for great day trips from Porto.

Where to stay in Porto?

Porto offers accommidation in all budgets and to cater to all choices. Whether you are looking for B&Bs, inns, guest houses or hotels, you will find everything in Porto and the surrounding areas.

Click here to compare and book hotels in Porto.

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