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Porto: The Ultimate Guide

From river cruises and port wine cellars to architectural wonders and artisanal shopping opportunities, Porto is Portugal’s city exuding old-world charm and modern-day flair. With an abundance of things to see and do we have created an ultimate guide to Porto to help you plan your trip. The coastal city of Porto in northern Portugal is known for its port wine, iconic azulejo tiles and a historical UNESCO World Heritage city centre. Surrounded by the azure waters of the coast and the Douro river, together with lush gardens and iconic cobblestone streets, Porto is a place with its own unique character. Explore art, architecture, culture and cuisine in a Portuguese city break you won’t forget in a hurry.

Unique things to do in Porto

From the emblematic Douro river to the architectural and cultural highlights that make Porto unlike anywhere else in the world, here are some of the quintessential hotspots of the city.

1. Clérigos Tower Porto’s famous Baroque style tower was constructed in the 1700s and has been an icon of the city ever since. The tower is attached to a church and museum – fascinating for exploring before climbing the 225 steps to the top of the tower for panoramic views of Porto. Clérigos Tower is open daily from 9:00 to 19:00, and until 23:00 from June to September. Tickets cost €5.

2. River cruise The beautiful Douro river passes alongside the city of Porto and is a hub of local life. Six bridges of varying architectural styles cross the river from Porto, offering insights into both historical craftsmanship and a glorious geographical phenomenon. The best way to explore the river and bridges is to get out on the water on a river cruise. There are numerous river cruise providers in Porto all of which can be booked via our concierge department, offering hour-long river cruises from €12.

3. Casa da Música As culturally interesting outside as it is inside, Porto’s Casa da Música was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in an asymmetrical polyhedron shape. It is the only concert hall in the world to feature two walls made solely of glass. This is the perfect place in Porto to take in a musical performance from a vibrant calendar of events, or simply visit the building for a tour. Casa da Música is open daily from 9:30 to 19:00 (18:00 on Sundays) as well as for scheduled performances. Tours cost €7.50.

4. Livraria Lello bookshop This bookshop has become a cultural centre as well as a place to pick up a book. Livraria Lello has become best known for inspiring JK Rowling, who was influenced by the store when writing part of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Porto. A visit here offers a glimpse into a magical world of wizardry, but it’s also consistently rated as one of the top bookstores in the world. Livraria Lello is open daily from 9:30 to 19:00 and entry costs €5.50, which is redeemable against in-store purchases.

5. Port wine cellars As the home of port wine, it’s impossible to visit the city without sampling some of the locality’s famous tipple. There are a number of kiosks and shops in the city where you can stop for a taste, but indulge in the full experience by visiting one of the port wine cellars next to the river. Simply cross the river on the Dom Luís I bridge and visit one of the many cellars clustered here for a tour and tasting. Caves Ferreira is one of them, which has been in operation since 1756. Caves Ferreria is open daily from 10:00 to 12.30 and 14:00 to 18:00. Guided tours and tastings start from €12.


Azulejo tile tour The Portuguese have been exploring their unique take on the art of azulejo tiles since the 1500s, and Porto is a centre of this. Mostly blue and white in colour, these local tiles often form part of larger creations to depict detailed stories. There are a number of opportunities to embark on walking tours in Porto to discover some of these tiled scenes that embody art and history. A three-hour tile tour of Porto costs €25 and can be booked via our concierge department and includes a visit to Porto’s Tile Museum.

Free things to do in Porto

A city radiating history, art and culture, there’s plenty to see and do in Porto that doesn’t cost a penny.

1. Historic Centre The city centre of Porto is a classified UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a locality ripe for exploring on foot. Take in the medieval part of the city found inside Roman walls, catch a glimpse of the cathedral at Sé do Porto, take a look at the Palácio da Bolsa – the impressive stock exchange on the site of a former monastery, and stop to look at a number of important monuments.

2. São Bento train station It may not sound like an obvious place to visit, but the city’s São Bento train station is an impressive place to explore. The interior is made up of thousands of ceramic Porto-made azulejo tiles depicting former battles, providing some colour of the local history in an iconic location.

3. Jardins do Palácio de Cristal These botanical gardens cover an area of 8 hectares and offer paths, lawns and array of flora overlooking the city. Free to enter, this is a true retreat from the city and somewhere to enjoy a relaxing breath of fresh air.

Shopping in Porto

With everything from local craftsmanship to iconic fashion brands on offer, shopping in Porto offers something for everyone.

1. Rue de Santa Catarina This is Porto’s main shopping street, home to dozens of high street brands and department stores. Side roads off the main street are also the place to find some local treasures made by Portuguese artisans.

2. Bombarda This Porto neighbourhood is also known as the ‘arts block’ for the numerous art galleries and cultural hotspots to be found here. As well as art, this is an eclectic neighbourhood to find original crafts and fashions, which can be discovered in places such as the Bombarda Shopping Centre and CRU Cowork.

3. Markets Porto has a number of exciting markets worth visiting, with each one specialising in something slightly different. The Saturday afternoon Porto Belo market is popular for antique goods and locally made olive oil and jam, while the Urban Market sells original fashion and home décor products. For those who love delving into flea markets, the Saturday morning Feira da Vandoma is the place to go – it’s also one of the oldest markets in Porto.

4. Azulejo tiles If you want to buy a few locally made azulejo tiles to take home, there are various shops in Porto that sell beautiful and original creations. Try Azulima to buy a range of colourful tiles off-the-shelf, or visit Gazete Azulejos, where it’s also possible to take part in tile-painting workshops.

Places to eat in Porto

Porto is becoming a city loved for its gastronomic credentials, and it’s equally possible to taste local delicacies from unassuming cafés, or indulge in ten-course tasting menus by trailblazing chefs.

1. Cervejaria Brasão This local gem is a place people love to go to for the Porto classic dish known as the francesinha. This is a sandwich with layers of meat including sausage, ham and beef, topped with melted cheese and a spicy tomato sauce. Cervejaria Brasão is perfect for a lunchtime pitstop.

2. Snack-Bar Gazela This low-key eatery is the place to try another Porto classic – the cachorrinho. This local dish is comprised of thin slices of bread served with fresh sausage and a spicy sauce. Snack-Bar Gazela has been making this foodie speciality for more than 50 years.

3. Majestic Café This Porto institution dates back to the 1920s and its decadent interior is truly like stepping back in time. A former meeting place for artists and creative thinkers too, it regularly features on top ten lists of the most beautiful cafés in the world. Majestic Café is the ideal place to stop for coffee and cake or afternoon tea.

4. Cantinho do Avillez This restaurant by chef José Avillez serves an original menu of contemporary Portuguese cuisine. With a loyal local following, this is a must-try restaurant for lunch or dinner, where it’s possible to taste local classics with a twist, from bacalhau cod with locally-sourced olives to a reinvented francesinha sandwich featuring truffles.

5. Pedro Limaõ An intimate restaurant with tables set around an open kitchen, Pedro Limaõ is the place to go to sample the gastronomic delights of chef Pedro Barreiros, a former architect. The seasonally changing ten-course tasting menu is a delightful culinary experience, featuring plenty of local ingredients.

Things to do in Porto when it rains

Even if it rains while you’re in Porto, the city still has plenty to offer.

1. Soares dos Reis National Museum This museum housed in a former palace showcases an original collection of Portuguese art. In particular, there is a significant collection by the Portuguese sculptor, António Soares dos Reis, after whom the museum is named. There is also a fascinating collection of 19th and 20th century Portuguese furniture, metalwork and ceramics. The Soares dos Reis National Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00. Entry costs €5.

2. Serralves Museum Another of the best-known modern museums in Porto, the Serralves Museum was designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, an iconic architect from the Porto School of Architecture. This is a space for showcasing contemporary art which can be enjoyed through collections, exhibitions, performance art and cinema showings. The Serralves Museum is open from approximately 10:00 to 18:00 daily, with hours varying seasonally. The cost of admission is €10.

3. Cooking class With so many local specialities, a great way to spend some time in Porto is to embark on a cooking class. There are plenty of cooking class providers in the city and Workshop Pop-up is one that runs some classes in English. Workshop Pop-up is also home to a rotating collection of artists and designers selling their unique goods. Three-hour cooking classes at Workshop Pop-up cost €25.

Non touristy things to do in Porto

The city of Porto is a wonderful place to explore, with some unexpected treasures just waiting for those who like to get off-the-beaten-track.

1. Claus Porto This Portuguese soap and fragrance brand has been a staple of Portuguese life for more than 100 years. The brand’s building located on Rua das Flores – the site of Porto’s former marionette museum – is a place to buy soaps, explore the history of the brand and try your hand at making soap products at a regular calendar of workshops.

2. Cantinho das Aromáticas This organic farm in Porto grows dozens of flowers, plants and herb varieties. Members of the public are welcome to wander through this cacophony of wonderful crops before stopping at the farm shop, where it’s possible to buy everything from infused olive oils to floral liqueurs.

3. Sao Pedro da Afurada For those who want to experience some typical Portuguese village life, visit Sao Pedro da Afurada on the outskirts of Porto. A traditional fishing village, watch locals get the daily catch on their boats and visit one of the local restaurants for fresher than fresh seafood served with local salads. Have you been to Porto? We’d love to hear your stories, get in touch in the comments below.

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