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Visiting Porto? See Our Tips!

26 de January, 2024

Visiting Porto? See Our Tips!

A mini-itinerary for those who have little time to get to know Porto. Accommodation, gastronomy, viewpoints, rides and monuments to visit.
Reading: 14 min

If visiting Porto is in your plans, prepare your heart… Portugal’s second largest city is also one of the country’s most charming and will surely win you over. It has been elected four consecutive times as the Best European Destination in the World Travel Awards – and not by chance! Its historic center was classified by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 1996 and a brief glance through its narrow, colorful, tile-covered streets is enough to discover why. Its warm and friendly people will make your experience even more pleasant and unforgettable.

We have prepared a mini-route with unmissable tips for those who have little time in the city. Here are the best places to stay the belvederes the most incredible sights to take pictures, tours , museums e churches to visit, and of course, the the typical dishes dishes to try.

This itinerary is especially geared towards those who are going to the city for practical reasons, such as renewing visas or applying for the citizen card but want to get to know a little bit of the city. And believe us, all our suggestions are genuine and non-commercial. Come on, let’s explore Porto!

Portus Cale: The Origin of Portugal

Porto is one of the oldest and most important cities in Portugal. Its history dates back to Roman times, when it was still called Portus Cale. “Portus”, in Latin, means “port”. “Cale” was a reference to the Celtic people who inhabited this territory, before the Romans. In the 11th century, the region was the capital of the so-called “Condado Portucalense”, a name that, over time, evolved to become “Portugal”. Yes, it was in the north of the country that the kingdom of Portugal was founded, later expanding southward.

During the Middle Ages Porto became an important commercial center thanks to its strategic location on the Douro River. The city played a crucial role in the development of Portuguese shipping and maritime trade.

Over the centuries, Porto has grown and modernized. Today, it is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, world-renowned for its Port wine, its historic architecture its historic architecture, and its breathtaking scenery.

Visiting Porto: The “Invicta” City

Porto is also known as “Invicta City“, because during the Liberal Revolution, in the beginning of the 19th century, it resisted the troops of D.Miguel, brother of D. Pedro IV who tried to usurp the throne. The successor to the throne, D. Maria II, daughter of D. Pedro IV, granted the city the title of “Invicta”, and this denomination is still evident in the municipal coat of arms.

Serralves Museum and its treetop

Be sure to visit in Porto

Best art museum of art in Porto

Serralves Contemporary Museum

Located in a prime area of Porto, near Avenida da Boavista, Serralves Museum offers a combination of art, modern architecture, and nature.

Built in the 1930s, it was the residence of the family of the second Count of Vizela and is considered an architectural masterpiece Art Deco architecture in Portugal. It was enlarged by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The museum brings together temporary and permanent exhibitions of contemporary artists world-renowned artists. Another highlight of the space are the Treetop Walk that allow visitors to walk between the canopies of the space’s centennial trees, spread throughout its beautiful garden.

Museu Soares dos Reis

This is a completely off-the-beaten-path option. Many local residents are unaware of this space, but it deserves attention. Soares dos Reis (1847–1889) was a renowned Porto sculptor who played a significant role in the development of the visual arts in Portugal during the Romantic period and was an accomplished sculptor.

The National Museum Soares dos Reis, named in his honor, houses the finest collection of his works. In addition to “O Desterrado” and “Flor do Agreste,” the museum also displays the touching and gentle figure of “Conde de Ferreira” (1876).

The museum is located in the Palácio dos Carrancas, built between 1795 and 1809 in neoclassical style. A space that served as Soult’s headquarters during the second Napoleonic invasion. In addition to Soares de Reis’ works, it brings together collections of ceramics, sculpture, engraving, jewelry, furniture, painting, textiles, and glass from various artists.

.

Clérigos Church and Tower

Most beautiful churches in Porto

Porto is a paradise for art and architecture lovers. It brings together more than 40 churches and dozens of chapels of singular beauty, especially those in Baroque style. It is difficult to choose only one or two to visit. But here are some recommendations.

San Francisco Church

Built in the 13th century, the Church of São Francisco is predominantly Gothic, but underwent an internal reform in the 18th century, when its walls were decorated with wood carvings covered with gold from Brazil. It is not known exactly how many kilos of gold the church has on its walls, but there is talk of 600 kilos… We recommend a visit. Admission fee: 8 euros.

Porto Cathedral

It is one of the oldest churches in Porto, built in the 12th century, in Romanesque style, at a time when Portugal was establishing itself as a nation. Over the centuries it has also undergone renovations and its left side, in baroque style, boasts a beautiful decoration in blue tiles. Part of the extension was designed by the famous Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, the author of the iconic Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos. Paid admission: 3,50 euros.

Church of Clérigos

Another jewel of Portuguese Baroque, the church stands out as a clever architectural solution by architect Nicolau Nasoni who was challenged, in the 18th century, to build on a narrow, triangular plot of land on a hillside. The result is worth your visit. It is possible to climb to the top of its tower, from where you have a beautiful 360° view of the historic center. Paid entrance to the tower and museum: 8 euros. Access to the church is free.

Where to go with kids…

The Crystal Palace Gardens are an interesting destination for adults and children alike. Although the original palace was demolished in the 1950s, you can still walk among trees, flowers, and peacocks (yes, there are plenty of peacocks and ducks parading around) and enjoy a beautiful view of the city. The space has a chapel, a playground, picnic tables, a public library equipped with wi-fi internet, a museum (Museum of Romanticism), and even a Michelin-starred restaurant, the Antiqvvm.

For those who like zoos, Porto has a few options. Among them: the Maia Zoo and the
Santo Inácio Zoo
The latter is famous for its transparent tunnel that goes through the lions’ cage.

There is also a group aquarium Sea Life group, small but very interesting, with sharks, penguins, and giant stingrays.

Another option is the cable car ride that takes you from Cais de Gaia to Jardins do Morro (and vice versa), from where you can have a beautiful view of the city.

Best parks to vist in Porto

O City Park of Porto is the largest in Portugal, with 80 hectares. It brings together hundreds of plant and animal species, ponds, hiking trails and even a museum (the Water Museum).

Besides this one, the city of Porto has many other interesting parks. My favorite is the Virtudes Park which has a spectacular view of the Douro River. O Jardim do Palácio de Cristal and the Botanical Garden are other excellent options.

São Bento Train Station and Lello Bookstore

Obligatory Monuments of Porto

Of course, visitors are not obligated to do anything in a city. But if you want to check out the city’s most iconic spaces, be sure to visit…

São Bento Station

São Bento Station, built in the 20th century, played a key role in Porto’s commercial prosperity, allowing trains to reach the city center and facilitating the transportation of visitors and goods throughout the country. It was considered one of the 10 most beautiful train stations in the world by The Guardian, Lonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveler. The station stands out for the magnificent hand-painted tile panels that adorn the main lobby, depicting historical scenes and picturesque landscapes of Portugal.

Lello Bookstore

Forget all the controversy involving this historic bookstore and JK Rowling’s passage through Porto. Although the writer has denied on her Twitter to have been inspired by Livraria Lello to compose the scenes of Harry Potter, a visit to this space is almost mandatory. The magical atmosphere and the diverse collection of books captivate literature lovers and the curious. It has been recognized as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, also by The Guardian and Lonely Planet. Its neo-Gothic architecture, stained glass windows, and famous red staircase are breathtaking. It is the most crowded space in the city, so be prepared for lines.

The most beautiful viewpoints of Porto

Of all the viewpoints, none surpasses the Serra do Pilar in Gaia, from where you can have the most beautiful view of the city of Porto. To get there just cross the bridge Luis I by its upper deck. Then, all you have to do is walk to the monastery of Serra do Pilar. You have to be willing to face the slopes, but it is worth it.

For those looking for a more accessible (read, less tiring) option, I recommend the Miradouro da Vitória located near Torre dos Clérigos. It offers a spectacular panoramic view of Porto.

Best Por Wine Cellars in Porto

O Gaia Pier is a wine lover’s paradise. The port wine warehouses are located there, where the barrels, which come from the Alto Douro Wine Region, rest until they are consumed.

Which Port wine cellar to visit? The options are many!

If you want something more sophisticated, stay with
Graham’s
. They offer a guided tour, tasting in a large space, and have a luxurious restaurant with natural light and river views.

If you prefer something more economical, bet on
Quevedo
. They don’t offer a guided tour, only tasting and fado presentations.

Graham’s charges from 35€. Quevedo has tastings starting at 10€.

If you want to walk on the Douro River…

The small tourist boats we see in Ribeira offer a tour of the river. They are very similar to the traditional rabelo boats that, in the past, transported the barrels of port wine. However, they have all the modern safety conditions.

O 6 Bridges Cruise allows you to admire the main monuments along the banks of the Douro River, including the six bridges that connect Porto to Gaia. The information is transmitted by means of a recording played inside the boat. The price of these tours varies from 15€ per person, depending on the time of year. Groups sometimes receive discounts.

Crystal Palace Gardens, Bolhão Market and Clérigos Tower

If you want to see the best of the Historical Center in just 2 hours

For those who have practically no time in the city and want to see the main monuments, the most famous streets and learn a little about the history of Porto, one option is to take a guided tour in Tuk Tuk. This small vehicle is light and small, perfect for the narrow streets and slopes of Porto. Its transparent plastic cover makes it possible to see the city well, even in rainy days. It can carry up to 6 people, and is driven by tour guides, allowing the visitor to learn more about the city.

How to get around in Porto?

Porto is a city that offers an excellent public transportation service It is easy to get around the city. The main means of transport is the metro, which here is called metro. To use it you must purchase an individual card called Andante. It can be purchased from machines available in the stations for 0.60€. To this amount is added the metro fare, which costs from €1.30, depending on the distance to be traveled (zones).

In addition to the subway, the buses (called “buses” in Portugal) are also a great transportation option. You can use the same Andante card to pay the fare, or buy the ticket directly from the driver inside the vehicle. However, buying the ticket directly from the driver costs more (2.50€ instead of 1.30€). It is important to note that the same ticket can be used to combine the use of the metro and buses within the period of one hour.

For those who prefer to take cabs, this can be an advantageous option, since the city is relatively small and the fares are affordable. If you are in a hurry, this may be the best option for getting around Porto.

Where to stay in Porto: Historic Center or Modern Part?

Porto is a captivating city that deserves to be explored calmly, so it is highly recommended to spend at least one night here. The choice of where to stay can greatly influence the travel experience. Do you prefer to stay in a historic setting in the old town or in a modern place? In Porto or in Gaia?

Staying in the center is more charming, but it also tends to cost more. If you have a car, it may be more practical to stay away from this area, where parking is more expensive and difficult. If you prefer to stay in Gaia, be aware that you will be on the other side of the Douro River and will have to cross one of the 6 bridges every time you go to Porto.


10 Hotels in Porto: Meet Our Suggestions

Some recommendations:


Music Hotel

Where: Bom Sucesso Market, in Boavista
Category: 4 stars
Average price per night: 100€.
Why: Comfortable, modern and very well located hotel. It is located inside the

Bom Sucesso Market
a covered space that gathers 40 stores and restaurants, with an offer of typical Portuguese products. Staying in this hotel you will only be hungry if you want to be. Besides, it is near the Casa da Música, an iconic Porto architectural project built in the beginning of the 21st century, and the CNAI/SEF. The Historic Center will be at a distance of 2 km. All accessible via metro, which is just a few meters from the hotel.

Company House

Where: Rua das Flores
Chain: Intercontinental
Category: 5 stars
Average daily rate: 280€.
Why: It is located in the oldest -and also most charming- street in Porto, near the subway (São Bento station). Its building is from 1591, but totally renovated inside. Luxurious, it has a superior service, with an average of one employee per room. Luxurious, but intimate. It has a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, Turkish bath, views of the Porto Cathedral, and multiple breakfast rooms with small capacity to ensure guests’ privacy. If your budget allows, this would be my favorite option.


Sé Catedral Hotel Porto Tapestry Collection by Hilton

Where: Sé do Porto, near the Cathedral
Network: Hilton
Category: 4 stars
Average daily rate: 160€.
Why: Next to São Bento Metro Station, in the heart of the historic center. The hotel has a contemporary decor with a young and deprived air, but without losing the luxury, which is present in the smallest details.

What to Eat in Porto

A Portuguese cuisine is very varied. It includes seafood, pork, and poultry-based dishes, as well as different rice-based preparations. It also has a great diversity of cheeses and award-winning wines, as well as famous desserts such as the pastel de nata. In the city of Porto, two dishes are particularly renowned: francesinha and tripas à moda do Porto.

For seafood lovers, the seafood restaurants in Matosinhos, a neighboring city to Porto, or the old fishing village of Afurada, in Gaia, are excellent options. Do you want to snack on a little bit of everything? We recommend Mercado do Bom Sucesso and Mercado do Bolhão, two large markets with a variety of gastronomy options in one place.

Where to eat Francesinha

Where: Brasão Restaurant (there are several branches: Aliados, Passos Manuel and Antas).

How much: The dish costs around 15€.

What is it:Francesinha”, a typical Porto dish, was created in 1950 by a Portuguese immigrant who was inspired by the famous French Croque-Monsieur. It consists of bread sandwiches filled with mortadella, sausage, red meat, and a slice of melted cheese on top, all topped with a thick, spicy orange sauce. It is usually served with a soft-boiled egg and accompanied by fries.

Where to eat Tripas à Moda do Porto

Where: Adega de São Nicolau in Ribeira do Porto.

How much: The dish costs around 15 €.

What is it: The “Tripas à moda do Porto” is a traditional recipe that refers to a legend of the time of the discoveries. The story goes that the city’s inhabitants offered all their meat to supply the ships that would set sail for Ceuta, being left with only offal and having to create new food alternatives. Although this legend is probably fictitious (the dish existed before that), the nickname “tripeiro” came about in reference to it. The dish is prepared with meat, tripe, sausages, and broad beans.

Where to Eat Seafood

Where: Marisqueira de Matosinhos

How much: About 30 euros per person, depending on the chosen dish.

What: It has a wide variety of seafood and typical Portuguese dishes, such as arroz de marisco (seafood rice), stuffed crabs, grilled lobster, large shrimp from the coast, and even the traditional grilled sardines, as well as a wide variety of fresh fish.

.

Ribeira do Porto

All roads lead to the Ribeira

Even if you visit all the places listed in this article, a visit to Porto will never be complete if you don’t walk through Ribeira, the most emblematic and touristic neighborhood of the city. The classic image we see in photos of the city, with colorful little houses and arches, is the portrait of this secular area, so present in the popular imagination. Be sure to walk along the Wall of Bacalheiros to the Luis I Bridge. Enjoy the picturesque riverside views and absorb the authentic and charming atmosphere of this historic site.

*Silvia Resende is a journalist at Atlantic Bridge. Brazilian (from Bahia), she arrived in Portugal in 2015 to build a new life together with her family. She has a Master’s degree in Communication Sciences from the University of Porto. She has worked as a TV presenter, reporter, event producer, public relations and was also a tour guide in Porto. Her favorite spot in the city is the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal.

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Author:

Atlantic Bridge

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