The coastal city of Porto may be famous for its port wine production and incredible bridges, but there are many more reasons to fly to Porto than this alone. From the narrow cobbled streets of its old town to the stunning historical architecture and cafes and restaurants down by the River Douro, it’s impossible not to be charmed by Porto.
Porto is a fantastic alternative to Lisbon for those wishing to discover a different side of Portugal. It has been built on commerce over the years and the wealth of traders and merchants has left many an interesting building. If you don’t believe us, then take UNESCO’s word for it, as the Ribeira district of the city was made a World Heritage Site in 1996.
Ride the vintage tram, with just 5 lines and one of those specifically for tourists it’s a great way to see the city.
Head to Porto Belo (meaning beautiful Porto) and explore this vibrant neighbourhood. It is like stepping back in time and has the added benefit of a great flea market and fantastic cafés.
Don’t judge a book by its cover – visit the Church of São Francisco you won’t be disappointed when you head inside.
Sample a Francesinha, they are the city’s unofficial speciality. They are sandwiches filled with an array of meats, topped with melted cheese and drowned in a spicy sauce.
May: May sees the 'Festival of our Lord of Matosinhos', it’s great for those wishing to experience Porto’s religious traditions. For three weeks the city hosts recreational, cultural and sports events and thousands of light bulbs decorate the church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos.
June: If you are a literature connoisseur then head to Porto in June for its book fair when authors and publishers from around the world gather.
July: July sees the port wine festival take place on the banks of the river, where you will be able to try out a variety of port wines and food.
August: Fans of rock music will love the Ritual Rock Nights, a series of gigs held in the gardens of Palacio de Cristo to promote up and coming local bands.
Itineraries for a city break in Porto may vary depending on your taste, but among the other attractions to consider are:
One of the iconic sights in Porto is the double decker wrought iron arched bridge that connects the city with Vila Nova de Gaia across the Douro River. It was designed by Teophile Seyrig, who has worked with Gustav Eiffel, giving it that distinctive style of beauty. Don’t miss the opportunity for a drink at Ponte Pensil right next to the bridge.
As well as enjoying the lawns, fountains and giant magnolias of Porto’s best-loved botanic gardens, be sure to look up and take in the views. These stretch across the city and the river, offering fantastic vistas of the surrounding area.
With its elegant central staircase, beautiful crafted wooden shelves and neo-gothic façade, stepping into the Lello Bookshop is like taking a trip to a different time. A definite must-do for bibliophiles or anyone who enjoys true beauty.
If you just go to two parts of Porto, make it these two:
Starting at the riverfront and stretching up to the city centre, the Ribeira district is the medieval heart of the city from which it grew. Meander through its alleyways, admire its historical buildings and stop off at any of the charming cafes and restaurants along the way.
Technically not Porto, but just over the river, Vila Nova de Gaia is home to some of the oldest and most respected port wine cellars in the region. Many are in stunning locations and offer tastings.
If you have more than just a few days in Porto, you may wish to explore some of the places nearby, which are well-connected by public transport. Guimaraes was the first capital of Portugal and has a castle and cable car to experience. Meanwhile, the sand at Espinho Beach stretches for a whopping 17 kilometres and is dotted with colourful fishing boats.