Listing our best Porto travel ideas has made us realise that our love for Porto is deep indeed. What makes this charming Atlantic city tick ? Here goes with our notes and tips – these should help you sell this city even to the most doubting member of your group.
Porto’s panoply of pleasures
With an urban area population of about 1.5 million (which would make it the UK’s fourth biggest city, we reckon, were only the UK so blessed) Porto is no sleepy coastal town. The city has a proud history as one of Europe’s oldest urban centres (Unesco dixit) whose culture goes back to before the Romans, Europe’s earliest marauding proto-stag-groups. Architecture, religion, commerce and academia are the ingredients that have created the unique spirit of this place. The imposing Douro River and Estuary is the city’s main artery, and of course Porto’s lifeblood is its wonderful Port Wine.
Porto is Portugal and more
Rivalry between Porto and capital city Lisbon is pretty healthy (and of course, friendly) – extending even beyond the boundaries of its football stadiums (where FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon are in serious and constant competition). Lisbon may be the capital and the biggest city (and, yes Lisbon is utterly awesome in its own right let’s face it) but the proud, bearded Portuense will retort that her city (pace non-bearded females) is the most hard-working, industrious and prosperous in Portugal. And even more importantly, the one that enjoys the best food and wine (much more on that subject below).
And, this city, known by the Romans as “Portus Cale” actually gave its name to the entire country, a feat few cities have achieved, as far as we can make out, in the era of nation states. To this, Lisboetas may rather lamely grasp for a retort (as they knock back their Sagres), possibly descending into characterization of their Porto cousins as “a bit tight with the old euros” – so often tantamount to conceding the debate (as Catalans, Scots and other high-achievers know well).
The great thing about this family dispute is that it never lasts past the third glass of wine, and pales into insignificance (in the eyes of the Portuguese) if compared with an appraisal of the the merits of a recently served francesinha steak or fresh seafood platter. From this point onwards it will much more lovey-dovey: hugs, more wines, custardy desserts and ecumenical recollections of Eusebio and the 2016 Eurocopa.
Porto is also a beach town, living side by side with the sea. The city combines a traditional and progressive urban centre with a fantastic Atlantic littoral unique in the world.
Best Porto travel ideas – the local flavour
We asked our Porto team to provide a few sightseeing and travel recommendations. What is it that makes Porto great? Best Porto travel ideas as follows:
- Prices for most tourist activities (especially the really good ones like drinking and eating and going out) are on average lower even than Spain, and considerably lower than UK cities.
- Porto in on the Atlantic Ocean with fantastic beaches nearby
- Porto’s famous 6 bridges are marvellous trademarks for the town, spanning the beautiful river. It’s a proud presentation that very few cities can boast.
- As in Lisbon and other parts of Portugal, the locals speak great English in general (not to mention Spanish and French)
- The weather is pretty ace – if a couple of degrees cooler than Lisbon
- Porto’s food is astonishing, based on marvellous local produce: fish, seafood from the ocean caught locally, Portobello mushrooms, marinated pickled mackerel, mussels with saffron, bacalhao (salted codfish), exquisite selection of charcuterie and cheeses. You’ll also find great cuts of meat, beef and pork.
- The typical local dish is the “francesinha” – a kind of sandwich with cold cuts and meat, melted cheese on top and a hot sauce dressing
- Wonderful wine: Port wine is famous all over the world, and you can visit caves once you’re there if you’re interested in wine-making. Usually you can join a guided tour, and there will be some tasting at the end.
- And it’s not only Mateus Rosé! There are wonderful Port wines (Porto is one of the world’s oldest wine production regions). Other excellent appellations: Dao, Alentejo, Vinho verde and Albarinho. And around the city you’ll see some rather iconic symbols of Porto’s old wine producing tradition.
- Porto is football crazy: FC Porto, called Azuis e brancos (Blue and whites) or Dragões (Dragons) are one of Europe’s top teams (European Champions twice!)
- Take a picture of the hand-painted tiles called azulejos. They’re everywhere, and especially in the main rail station and churches.
Top Porto for stags and hens
For organisers of Porto stag weekends or hen do’s who are looking for the best Porto travel ideas, here are our pointers:
- The character of the old streets of Porto, the famous bridge and the viewing points all over the city
- The nightlife of Ribeira and Baixa (see below): great clubbing and party-all-night spirit.
- Low prices for drinks and food
- The seafood is excellent but roast chicken and grilled meat also very good. Don’t forget to leave some space for dessert: almendrados, clarinhas, empadas…
- Grab a snack: brilliant Francesinha (a special meat sandwich of epic proportions) and delicious homemade desserts that you can try around in cute bars like Miss Pavlova and La Copa
- Very good food and drinks from other countries of Portuguese influence (Brasil, Goa, Mozambique, Angola to name but a few)
- Craft beer at Catraio Craft Beer shop, where you can try Porto-brewed Burguesa o Sovina and typical beers from all over Portugal
- Check out the towers, monuments and iron bridges: see the picture postcard views of Porto. Take a photo, …oh and there will always be a chance for a glass of wine or two while you’re there.
- Take some time to visit some of Porto’s art galleries: there are quite a few.
You can book almost anything in Porto with The Spain Event. Here is our selection of tried and trusted activities:
- Rent a boat or catamaran and have your own party on deck
- Take a public cruise on the Douro river, or a longer sail up river to the Port wine region!
- Guided tours of the historic centre of Porto
- For wine tasting, discovery the port houses, or wine cellars of Porto (in fact most are in Vila Nova de Gaia – south bank of the river)
- Football, bubble football, surfing, kayaking
- Go karting, paintballing and other activiies
- Try out a Porto beer bike along the river
- Take a surfing lesson – undoubtedly one of the best Porto travel ideas
- Porto has many vintage shops for cheap and really pretty second-hand clothes. Many carry quirky, kitschy old Portuguese nicknacks as well. Mon Père is one of the best ones.
- Ladies, check the fantastic and quite unique styles of Cortebel shoes – great designs that can be personalised
Where to go out in Porto – best Porto travel ideas
How can I book or find out more?