If you’re looking for a nice place to sneak away over the weekend – not too small to get you bored, but not too big to be able to say you’ve seen most of it in a couple of days – Porto is your city!
Get ready for lots of delicious food, wine tastings – Porto wine has been famous for centuries, not without a reason! – and wandering around a colourful city with ceramic tiled walls.
As I already mentioned, Porto is pretty compact, so you can easily Google the most visited touristic spots of Porto. Therefore, I prefer to rather share a couple of the things that I enjoyed the most with you, instead of providing an exhaustive list of sights.
The most relaxing thing in Porto is just to take a walk along the Ribeira, following the antique tramlines – which literally means riverside – along the typical, bright colored houses with the laundry hanging outside. It’s the perfect way to inhale the typical Porto atmosphere, and also leads to one of the best restaurants in town to eat some freshly made codfish – about which later!
With a little bit of imagination – and sunshine on your face – you can almost imagine you are walking in a city in Brasil… 🙂
Come with an empty stomach, because Portuguese cuisine is delicious, but definetely not one of the lightest! Don’t leave this city without trying the freshly caught codfish – “bacalhau” – which they are able to prepare in an infinite amount of exquisite ways, and pour it down with some typical Porto wine. Porto wine is a special sort of wine, a little bit stronger and sweeter than the regular red wine, and typical to the Oporto region.
It existst in red, rosé and white version and is a very nice alternative to warm you up during your walk down the Ribeira as well.
One of the most recommended restaurants to try the cod and many other delicious plates is Papavinhos – recommended not only by me, but also many other travelers on Tripadvisor. They serve delicious dishes in huge portions, freshly made in their stove (so prepare to wait at least 15 minutes to get served) for a more than acceptable price! From own experience I can highly recommend the salmon and codfish “a lagareiro”, served with young potatoes in peel and greens, but also the garlic prawns were finger-licking good.
Another typical food is a “francesinha” – something that translates like a “frenchie”, though I am quite convinced the French don’t have any idea that they’re involved in the origin of this dish. This is basically a killer sandwich, something like a pimped version of a “croque monsieur”, but filled up with a couple of different meat types, covered in melted cheese and swimming in a pool of tomato and beer sauce.
Not for the faint hearted – or the vegetarian!
Drop by at “Lello’s” bookshop – an antique bookshop, the interior still intact like in ancient times. If you want to take a picture, be early – you are only allowed to do so from 9 ’till 10 AM.
A very popular tourist attraction is the “Torre do Clerigos”, a big tower in the center of the city that allows you to climb all the way up its narrow staircase to the top. There are quite a few steps – I lost my count several times- but I promise you the view you get on the city from the top of it is more than worth it!
If the weather allows it, a boatride down the Douro river is definetely one of the nicest options to spend the day, finishing in one of the wine cellars where you can taste the different Porto wine flavours and enjoy the sun. Gaia – the city on the other side of the Douro – is also worth discovering by foot. Also just walking down the harbour promenade, “Ribeira”, as mentioned above – is a nice walk to enjoy. Little artisan shops selling ceramic souvenirs, porto served in chocolate shot glasses and nice views on the river will let your mind flow to more relaxed levels than ever.
Spring, early summer and autumn are probably better periods to visit Porto since it will offer you the best weather conditions and you’ll be able to enjoy more of the city than in winter. But if you’re quite satisfied with a relaxed getaway full of food and relax, winter is not such a bad time to spend 2-3 days here neither, to be honest 🙂
How to get there?
Ryanair serves extremely cheap flights from over 40 different airports all around Europe, so getting there is certainly not going to be any problem. I bought tickets from Barcelona about a month before departure, for around 60 Euro – but if I would have bought them earlier, they could have probably been half the price.
Many other low cost airlines cater Porto as well.
Check out www.skyscanner.com for the best options departing from your city. To get an idea of the best possible price, choose an entire month as possible departure date.
How to get around?
Getting around in Porto is extremely easy and cheap by public transport, including getting from and to the airport. For 6 Euro you get a daily pass that will get you into the city, and will spare your feet at least for the first day and get you free access to all public transport.
Actually, you can even walk everything, since the city is not that big – if you enjoy wandering around small streets – which we did with pleasure. It shows you not only the main touristic spots, but also the little hidden backstreets of the city. Also, a big plus for the public transport: the night busses, and not only in the city, but also a special bus to bring you from the center to the Airport, extremely useful when you have a 6AM flight!
Accomodation is extremely well priced in Porto, if you aren’t looking for too much luxury. A simple, well-rated and centrally located double room is already available for around 25-30 Euro per night. My eye fell on Almada Guest House , and the friendly owners and clean room were more than worth the excellent reviews of this place.
If you want an even cheaper option – that is still acceptable – try looking for a hotel a bit further out of the center – with prices sometimes as cheap as 15 Euro per night, e.g. in Estrella da Noite where I’ve spent the last night before taking the 6AM flight to Barcelona. It is not as cosy and nice as Almada, but for this budget price you get a clean room and a comfortable bed, well worth its value.
Also, don’t forget options like AirBnb or even Couchsurfing – if that’s your cup of tea!
Boa viagem – have a good trip!