Cobbled, winding laneways and colourful terrace houses invite you to venture in and explore the hidden treasures of Porto.
One of the most beautiful historic port cities in the north of Portugal, the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site recognised as one of the oldest European centres.
Easily accessible from the UK and Europe, Porto is the perfect place to start your Portuguese adventure.
Begin by discovering churches and railway stations that are works of art, adorned with glazed ceramic tiles and intricate carvings. These tiles feature heavily on buildings throughout the city and reflect the Moorish/Arabian architectural influence.
The city is famous for port wine, also known as vinho do Porto, the aptly named local drink that is served at almost every bar and restaurant. While away hours exploring (and tasting) at the numerous port wine cellars along the Douro River.
Food and drink are a priority in Porto and restaurants and tapas bars abound. You won’t be able to resist trying Pastel de Nata (commonly known as Portuguese tart) – a delicious baked custard encased in a flaky pastry base.
Harry Potter fans will love the chance to see street performers adorned in Hogwarts cloaks. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is said to have been influenced by her time living in Portugal – visit the magical book store Livraria Lello and you will see an example of this.
Porto’s compact historic centre makes exploring on foot easy, and a few days in the city will leave your mind and body well and truly nourished.
Things to do in Porto
Calem port wine tasting tour
Near the river’s edge on the wide promenade of Vila Nova de Gaia, you will find Calem, one of many port wine cellars in the area.
The grapes are grown in the Douro Valley and transported by boat, just as they were in the past, on the Douro River to the cellar for maturation.
The tour is extremely professional and informative and is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Once you have learned about the process of making the port, you are then able to try two varieties.
It is a relaxed, generous tasting with no pressure to purchase. You can also choose to add snacks to your tasting but this must be confirmed at time of booking.
Calem: Avenida Diogo Leite, 344 Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto
6 bridges boat cruise
A cruise on the Douro River is a great way to gain an understanding of the historic significance of Porto as a trading post and to see the city from another perspective.
Various cruises are available along the river and tickets can be purchased at the visitor centre or as you board the boat.
Travel in a Rabelo Boat, a replica of the old boats that transported wine from the Douro Valley, where you will pass beneath six unique bridges that connect Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
The boat trip runs for just under an hour, with headset commentary available in multiple languages including English.
Douro Azul: Gaia Quay (south side of the river Vila Nova de Gaia), Porto
Bank of Materials
Open to the public since 2010, this is a unique museum of sorts.
The ‘bank’ is dedicated to preserving the materials that give the city its character, primarily the colourful patterned tiles that adorn many buildings.
The pieces are gathered from old buildings that are being demolished or renovated and made available free of charge to its citizens to replace or repair existing buildings. Some street signs and stucco decorations are also available from the bank.
It’s a small space but stocks rows and rows of tiles in different designs and a gallery of signs, stucco figurines and embellishments. It is open Monday to Friday, but hours are limited. Entry is free.
Banco de Materiais: Praça de Carlos Alberto, 71, Baixa, Porto
Places to eat in Porto
Jimao Tapas e Vinhos
Hidden away in the historic precinct of Ribeira, Jimao Tapas e Vinhos looks a little quirky from the outside.
When the cutlery and napkin arrived in a box that looked like a book I had my doubts but the food here was sensational.
Traditional dishes are served tapas-style accompanied by an extensive local wine list.
Jimao Tapas e Vinhos: Rua dos Mercadores, 11 – 12 Sao Nicolau, Porto
Taberna Esta-se Bem
On a cobbled street in the historic Ribeira district, this stylish cave-like restaurant could easily be missed.
The food is traditional, but dishes are served with a modern twist. Gazpacho is a must-try and the menu includes matching local ports to accompany each dish.
Service is brilliant and staff are really passionate about local food and produce.
Taberna Esta-se Bem: Rua da Fonte Taurina 70, Porto
Galeria de Paris
This whimsical place is filled with vintage wares showcased in wall-to-wall cabinets behind a long bar.
It has a very simple menu with limited but delicious choices.
The entertainment is a highlight, with a young trapeze artist accompanied by a talented pianist who regularly performs throughout the dinner sitting.
Bookings are recommended.
Galeria de Paris: Rua da Galeria de Paris, 56, Porto
Where to stay in Porto
We recommend staying at an Airbnb in Porto.
A great location to consider is the northern district of Cedofeita which is near many main attractions, bars and restaurants.
Getting to Porto
Flights arrive into Porto’s Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport, about 10km from the city centre.
A train service is available to take you into town on the purple line, or you can opt for a taxi or bus.
Long distance bus services, such as FlixBus, are available from various European destinations.
Train services from Spain are available but may not be direct to Porto, depending on where you are travelling from.
Disclaimer: The writer travelled at their own expense.