Everyone is heading to Porto nowadays – and who could blame them. A huge regenerative programme over the past two decades, along with an influx of budget airlines, is bringing visitors by the thousands. The challenge for the city now is to maintain the character and charm that people are currently enjoying.
Its a beautiful city to visit and perfect for a mini break. There’s a metro in from the airport, lots of accommodation options and its compact enough to enjoy over a few days.
The following is a sample of what you’ll experience in Porto. After you look at this list, I know you will be booking your flights!
This is the famous Ribeira – the riverfront district with its alleys, houses, restaurants and promenade.
Ribeira Square is a great meeting spot…..
….or a late night tipple.
2. Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is right opposite Ribeira – its technically a separate town but is easily accessed across the bridge. Most of the wine companies will be found here.
There’s a nice promenade on this side also….
… and great views of Ribeira….
The painted tiles – a legacy of the the Moors – can be seen everywhere.
This is the side wall of Igreja do Carmo
The 20,000 tiles in Sao Bento train station depict battle scenes and tableaux of everyday life.
Capela das Almas
Igreja de Sto Ildefonso
Igreja dos Congregados
Of course its not just the major public buildings that are adorned – there are plenty of examples in the facades or ordinary homes and shops…
4. Ponte de Dom Luís 1
Dominating the river, this bridge is the main link for visitors between Ribeira and Gaia. There are walking paths on two levels.
The bridge was constructed by a student of Gustav Eiffel and is similar in style and design.
There are great views from both levels but particularly the upper deck. Try and get there for sunset!
5. Red Roofs
6. Squares and Fountains
7. Cable Car
From the Gaia side of Ponte Dom Luís 1, you can take the cable car down to the riverfront. The 5 minute descent brings you over the red roofs of the wine houses and offers great views of the city and river.
8. Pastel de Nata
You can watch them being made….
…or just keep eating them!
9. Clérigos Tower
Torre dos Clérigos dominates the skyline -its ideal for getting your bearings wherever you are.
If you really want to, feel free to climb the 240 steps for the view.
10. Wine Tasting
The real reason you’re here! Head over to Gaia and pick a wine house… Time to sort out your ruby from your tawny…..
…..which was which???? Better have another go!!
11. The River
The Douro snakes about 900kms from Northern Spain before it hits the sea at Porto. There are several ways to enjoy the river – depending on how much time you have:-
You can take a day cruise upriver to the Douro Valley and enjoy the scenery and wine tasting.
If you haven’t a full day to spare, you could opt for something like the 6 Bridges tour – less than an hour and you still have your Douro cruise!!
If all else fails, catch the ferry from one river bank to the other for €3!!
I’ll be honest here – for me this is more experience than enjoyment! Hard to define, its described as a cross between a toasted sandwich and a burger… or a steak sandwich… basically its two thick slices of bread with layers of meat – sausage, ham, pork – doused in a sauce and cheese. And yes – that IS a fried egg on top. Makes for a substantial snack or lunch.
The 12th century Sé is another building that dominates the skyline here.
There is a lovely 14th century cloister with Azulejo tiles
Great views from the terraces and upper cloister.
14. Livaria Lello
It’s fitting that the last time I think I queued at a bookshop was for one of the Harry Potters. This bookshop, with its incredible staircase, was supposedly an inspiration for J.K.Rowling who lived in the city for a few years.
You must pay €5 for the privilege of getting inside but that is offset against any book you buy.
15. Tourist Shopping
16. Ice Cream
17. Majestic Cafe
18. Seasonal Treats
Its not only about the wine!!!
21. Just Wandering Around..
In the end, Porto is a city that should be enjoyed not just for the major sights and vino but for the alleyways and streets, the architecture and colours, the sounds and the smells…
City folk admit that Ryanair put Porto on the map. The company has been joined by other airlines to offer lots of flight options into the city. Its easy to reach (e.g. less than 2 hours from Dublin) and you will arrive into a lovely new terminal.
A train journey from Lisbon will take about 3 hours .
The city is very walkable and the best way to enjoy the sights is on foot. There is a metro system with tickets costing €1.20 for local rides and €2.60 to the airport
There are still a few tram lines operating in the city.
The city is hilly, and cobbly in spots, and you will do a lot of walking – be warned!
There are plenty of options for all pockets. We spent 3 nights in Porto Suites do Marqués. We chose it because it offers free parking (there’s a public car park next door which has an arrangement with the owner of the suites) and although its about 2 km downhill to the river, its right beside the metro so you don’t have to climb back up!!! Don’t be put off by the facade – the interior is full renovated and you’ll get a good breakfast and plenty of advice from the owner. Would we stay again? absolutely!