11 Tips for Enjoying a Short Trip to Porto, Portugal
When Lonely Planet listed Porto as one of their ‘must see’ destinations for 2017 we just had to include it in our itinerary for the year.
Whenever we mentioned that we were heading off to Porto, everyone said that we will love it – and they were all right. If you can try and spend more than three days, we would even go as far to recommend a week.
Here are our top tips on what to see and do in 3 days:
Where to Stay
Stay close to the centre of Porto. It is such a great city to walk around and just get lost. Be prepared for some hills; you will definitely work off all the ‘yummy food’ you get to eat. Just recently, the centre of Porto has been given a new lease of life and it is buzzing.
Know Where You Are Going
Enjoy a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour on the first day you arrive. It will give you your bearings and also an idea of what places you want to go back and spend more time visiting. There are three companies offering the tours; we enjoyed the Yellow Hop-on Hop-off Bus.
The Porto Card is well worth the money for the discounts and the free transport on offer. The bus system is easy to use and understand, and it is a ‘tap on’ when using the Porto Card.
The buses are modern and clean and not as crowded as in some cities we have visited. We also used the discount card for a 50-minute Six Bridges River Cruise.
Food and Wine
Porto is all about food and wine. You can visit local bars and restaurants and even enjoy a 15-euro three-course meal at the Bolhao Central Market.
To understand more about Porto’s food and its people we went on the Taste Porto Downtown Walking Tour which was the highlight of our trip. We would recommend that you have a very light breakfast.
We tasted delightful flaky pastries known as Chaves; nibbled on the lightest of cheeses, drizzled with olive oil and oregano; drank several varieties of locally produced wine; ate the local sardines and ‘terylene sandwiches’ made from pork that had been marinated for 20 hours and slowly roasted. We topped it all off with chocolate and lemon curd éclairs.
Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are our favourite way to learn more about a city. Porto Walkers had a 5pm tour that lasted two hours.
It took us through back streets that we would never find again. It was mid-summer, so an afternoon tour was the best time to see Porto. The view at that time of the day from the Mirador was spectacular.
Just for Harry Potter Fans
Harry Potter fans must pay a visit to the Lello Bookshop. It was here that J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for the elaborate staircase used in the movies as well as the 9 & ¾ railway platform.
Apparently, the bookshop used to have their books delivered on a trolley. The trolley would disappear into an opening in the wall at the front of the shop. Interestingly, the gowns worn by the Hogwarts students are similar to those worn by the University Students of Porto.
You do need to purchase a 4 Euro ticket to enter the bookshop these days, but the amount will be deducted from any purchases that are made. It is a busy place, and we were recommended to go after 6pm when there are fewer tourists.
The Best Fish Restaurants in Porto
If you love fish you need to head to Matsinhos, a beach suburb about 9km from the centre. There are two ways of getting there: timing it well with the Hop-on Hop-off Buses on their Porto Castle Tour or catching the #500 bus from various parts around the city.
Both buses will drop you off at the beach area. You will need to head away from the beach, two streets back to Rua Herois de Franca, or just follow the cooked fish and garlic aromas or the laughter from the diners.
We stumbled into Casa Serrao, which apparently is one of the top restaurants there. It is a great lunchtime experience. Try the local grilled Sardines, which Porto is famous for.
Pedestrian Only Street Rua das Flores
Head down the pedestrian only street Rua das Flores for a large selection of bars, restaurants and cafes. Your only problem is, which one to choose? Do keep in mind that the prices here a little higher.
Best Shopping Street
The mile-long Rua de Santa Catarina is Porto’s main shopping street. From high-class boutiques to book stores, coffee shops, etc. it is busy with tourists and locals alike.
Bolhao Central Market
Wander around Bolhao Central Market before it closes down for a 2-3-year-long renovation. Here you can enjoy a three course meal with coffee for 15 euros, buy local produce and taste the local cheeses and wine.
Pace yourself each day. Go on morning, afternoon and evening adventures. Enjoy after lunchtime siestas. Downtown Porto comes alive in the evening. Just walk the streets and listen to the sounds. You will want to return.
Have you ever been to Porto? What do you love most about a new city – the shopping, food, culture or ambiance? Please share your thoughts and experiences below!
Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith are nomadic semi-retirees, baby boomers, travellers, House Sitters and co-founders of To Travel Too. Their motto is “Age is no barrier when it comes to travel.” Although not yet pensioners, their goal is to travel the world on what is currently the Australian Age Pension of approx. AUD 33,716 (USD 25,110) per year, or AUD 92 (USD 69) per day for two people.