While Lisbon may get a lot of love given its capital status, its neighboring city to the North, Porto is well worth a visit for a couple of days. This coastal city is full of color and narrow, cobblestoned streets. I loved our few days in this vibrant and historic city and can’t recommend it enough if you’re planning a trip to Portugal. Today I’m sharing what to do, where to eat and where to stay! The best of Porto, if you will.
What to Do:
- Capela Das Almas: This beautiful (and massive!) tile wall decorates the side of a church and is so striking. I could have studied it for hours! The colorful tiles depict the lives of the saints. For scale, see here.
- Ribeira District & Square: This is the historical part of the city and full of interesting nooks and crannies as you wind the narrow and hilly streets.
- Palacio de Bolsa: A 40 minute tour here is well worth it to see the beautiful interiors of this palace. A tour is required and they book up quickly so it is recommended to book in advance. The building was originally built as the Stock Exchange and was erected to impress other European investors. I loved this site!
- Igreja de Santo Ildefonso: Very much a symbol of Porto, this impressive 18th century church sits atop a hill and its beautifully tiled facade is impressive from much of the city.
- Igreja de Carmo: One of part of the “twin churches” this church has another one of the most impressive blue + white tiled walls decorating it. One of my favorite photos from the trip was snapped outside of it.
- Clerigos Church: Not only is this Baroque 18th century church stunning inside, you can also climb its tower (it is about 270 steps up) for some of the best views in Porto. Try doing the climb at sunset. It’s 2 extra euros but well worth it.
- Luis Bridge: You can walk over this spectacular bridge for sweeping views of the Douro River (and an adrenaline high if you’re like me and experience a fear of heights!) It is a double decker bridge but I highly recommend the top portion for your walk.
- Port Tasting: Porto is the home of port (it is the only region in the world to produce port wine) so you can imagine how it shows up all over the city. Take a walk across the aforementioned Luis bridge and head over to one of the several purveyors of port for a tour and tasting. I highly recommend Sandeman’s Premium tour which allows you to try white, ruby & tawny port. They also have a lovely terrace outside for drinks and lite bites.
- São Bento Train Station: This train station is no ordinary train station. It is covered in thousands of tiles painted by José Marques da Silva who depicted scenes from important moments in Portugal’s history on each of the scenes.
- Jardins do Palacio de Cristal: Spend an hour wandering these beautifully landscaped grounds. You’ll most likely run into lots of peacocks and you won’t want to miss the rose gardens and great views of the Douro river.
- Claus Porto: This beautiful soap company is the perfect spot for a little souvenir. Visit the shop on Rua Das Floras.
Where to Eat & DrinK:
- Café Santiago: This eatery dates back to 1959 and is home to Porto’s famed sandwich the Francschina. Order this meat, cheese + special sauce sandwich and wash it down with a local Portuguese beer as the locals do.
- Bachalau: This riverside eatery has a few coveted spots outside on the sidewalk and has several traditional Portuguese dishes. I recommend the cod with potato and egg and don’t miss this spot’s Porto Tonicos. They were one of the best things I tasted in Portugal!
- DOP: This chic spot was one of my favorite meals in Porto. There’s an expansive menu that melds modern and traditional Portuguese food alongside beautiful interiors, great service and delicious cocktails.
- Digby: Digby is located in the new Hotel Torel Avantgarde and is one of the best terraces I’ve ever dined on. It has beautiful views of the Douro river and overlooks the classic Portuguese red roofs. The food and service are only ok but you’ll overlook that as you take in the views. Better yet? The lobby of this hotel has been decorated with a flower ceiling and flower walls and it is absolutely striking. This spot is a must visit if only for the Insta content.
- Sabores da Invicta: Right across from the São Bento train station, grab a Nutella stuffed croissant at this casual spot (before you head to Costa Nova!)
- Mercador Café: Situated right on Rua das Floras this is a great spot to get a snack or enjoy a Porto Tonico at one of their few outdoor tables when you need to rest your feet from all the walking.
- Droop Food & Wine: We happened upon this spot and had such a lovely meal here of Portuguese tapas. Don’t miss the steak sandwich. It was insanely delicious.
- Cremosi Gelato: Conveniently located in central Porto this gelato shop has so many delicious flavors. Definitely worth the calories!
- Nata Lisboa: Craving pastel de nata? (The traditional egg pastries that are famous in Portugal.) There are a few Nata Lisboa locations that offer delicious pastel de nata for when you need a fix in Porto.
- Capela Incomum: This spot is a bit outside the main downtown area but if you’re visiting Igreja de Carmo and Carmelitas then swing by here afterwards. This bar used to be a 19th century chapel but has been reborn as a wine bar. The wooden altar is still intact and if you get the right table you can marvel at it while you have wine and a charcuterie platter.
Where to Stay:
Pestana Porto Brasileira Hotel: I can’t say enough good things about this hotel. Not only is the location incredibly central making it easy to see a lot on foot, the staff are incredibly helpful (they helped us book both dinner reservations and our Port tasting) and the breakfast was one of the best I’ve had at a hotel. (Seriously – we skipped all the other spots on our list just to enjoy this breakfast all 3 mornings!) The property recently underwent a renovation so the rooms are all lovely and their new restaurant has floors that will have you wanting to post an Instagram immediately. Comfortable beds and a gym top off the reasons to make this your home base while in Porto.
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A few things worth skipping in my opinion? The Majestic Cafe which has outrageous prices due to its touristy reputation (but is worth passing by for a quick photo) and Livaria Lello. This book shop is famous but they make it a pain to get into, charge you 5 euros and it is so crowded you can barely enjoy it.
I’m still working on my guide to Lisbon but hope to have it live next week! (A few of you have been asking about it so it is a priority!) I also have one more post related to Portugal that I can’t wait to share as it was my favorite day of the trip.