14th April, 2018
After spending 3 days in the Algarves, we headed to the Northern part of Portugal – PORTO.
Porto, Portugal. The ideal place for a weekend trip, we suggest a maximum of 3 nights in the city is enough to see the major attractions, and to get a great dose of culture, architecture and top-notch food and wine all in one.
The unique sweetness of world-famous Port wine has been putting Porto on the spotlight of wine lovers for many years.
Best time to Visit
The best time to visit Porto is anywhere between March and October. It is a city to be enjoyed with sunny weather. Might have to do with the architecture, the colors of pavements and buildings or just with the light reflecting in the traditional tiles of the houses.
MIRINDA suggests ! – If you ask us, we would say mid-June is the best time to visit the city. Not only the weather is warm and nice, but the massive street party of São João takes over the entire city and there’s an infectious joy of being there around that time. In July and August the crowds take over Porto and prices get inflated.
Getting around Porto
There are many ways of exploring Porto, but we feel that the best way of getting around the city is to Walk.. It is a quite hilly city, but small in size so almost all the major sights are within reach.
The city is full of hidden gems that will surprise you at every turn: a viewpoint with river views, a tiny hole-in-the-wall arts-and-crafts shop or a local restaurant.
Other ways to get around Porto are :
The network of the Metro is very good, considering the scale of the city. It can take you to all major spots, including from the airport. You’ll need a reusable Andante card which you can top-up with individual trips.
Uber is also widely available here.
Hop-on Hop-off bus With 43 conveniently located stops around the city, City Sightseeing Porto makes touring Porto both easy and fun. Just hop off to see the destinations you want to explore up close and then hop back on whenever you want, all you have to do is present your valid bus tour ticket! The Blue Line starts off at the Torre dos Clérigos and the Red Line starts at Riberia. Remember, you can switch between bus lines at your disposal!
MIRINDA suggests ! – We strongly suggest you drive from one major city to another when travelling in Porto.. Lush green forests, changing landscapes, small towns and villages en route are worth a pit stop before you explore the major cities. Cars are easily available on rent and at a very cheap price.
Top 7 must visit attractions in Porto
Here are our top 7 picks of the must visit places and attractions in Porto….
1. Livraria Lello (Lello Library)
Livraria Lello & Irmão is the oldest bookshop in the world. Make sure you enter there just to experience the impressive wooden ceilings inside and the famous red art noveau staircase.
Rumour has it that this place was the inspiration for J.K. Rowling to write about the Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter. Actually even the Hogwarts costumes seem to have been inspired by typical Portuguese students outfits!
The iconic symbol of Porto, Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) is a Baroque bell tower of the church with the same name. At the moment of its construction in the 18th century, the tower was the tallest building in Portugal !
MIRINDA suggests ! – Just in front, the recently renovated Passeio dos Clérigos is a shopping street with a neat-looking garden with olive trees on top. The outdoor seating of BASE is a cool spot to grab a drink or a coffee.
3. Ponte D. Luis (Dom Luis Bridge)
The entire landscape is dominated by this ironwork masterpiece by a Gustave Eiffel’s student. You can definitely feel Eiffel’s hand on this.
MIRINDA suggests ! – Make sure you cross the bridge on foot both in the bottom and upper platforms. The upper one is not for the fainthearted though, specially if it’s a windy day!
Just after you reach the other side – Vila Nova de Gaia – there’s a small park to your right. If you can time your visit to see the sunset from there, prepare yourself to a magnificent moment.
The most traditional neighborhood of the city is Ribeira right next to the river Douro. Bearing World Heritage status, it’s easy to fall in love with the tiny streets where you can indulge on local’s lifestyle. Not only this is Ribeira, this is the soul and essence of Porto.
You can not only enjoy a nice port wine by the river, but also have a nice stroll by the river where there are multiple activities for both adults as well as kids.
What so special about tiles? Well first of all they’re everywhere in Portugal, but Porto manages to keep better the tradition of decorating beautiful colorful facades with them.
You can find the finest examples of typically-Portuguese blue tile art on the inner hall of Estação de São Bento (São Bento Railway Station) and on the lateral facade of Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church). But my personal favorites are the residential buildings all covered in green, blue and red little tiles.
6. Monument Church of St.Francis
The Church of São Francisco do Porto is a fine example of Gothic architecture in the city. You can easily find the church near Praça do Infante, or just a few yards above Ribeira. From the street, is easy to see the stately big south wall of the building, with its Gothic arches, windows and rosettes, as the granite staircase that leads up to the main door. Next to the church, there is a picturesque tram station, with connections to other parts of the city.
7. Praca de Lisboa
It is both an urban garden and a building with a semi-covered commercial street, inserted on a slope where the three programmatic levels are incorporated: Garden on the top (corresponding with the Cordoaria garden and Praça Gomes Teixeira; commercial street (in the mid-level that connects Lello Bookstore and Clérigos Tower); and an already existent parking lot in the lower level (connecting with the lower streets).
Where to Stay ?
Accommodation in Porto is generally inexpensive. We strongly suggest you stay in Porto Downtown near the metro station, as most of the attractions in Porto are close by from there.
Airbnb across Portugal is very reliable and has plenty of options. It is quite cheap too. Just book a nice apartment with good reviews and you will be set.
Some people prefer hostels too. There are some good ones which offer a good deal for money. Check the reviews on trip advisor.
Food in Porto
It’s time to loosen your belt. No, seriously. Food is a standalone reason to visit Portugal but in Porto things get even better. Food in northern Portugal is quite meat-based, but you still can find lots of fish and healthy stuff.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – Apart from superbly seasoned food made with the best regional produce, portions are HUGE and prices are borderline ridiculous. You can easily grab a lunch menu for less than 6 euros.
- Pastries – Obviously don’t miss on the unbeatable pastel de nata, available at literally every pastelaria of the city. And there’s éclair. This pastry with sweet whipped cream filling is the highlight of Leitaria da Quinta do Paço.
- Francesinha – Probably one of the most caloric meals you’ll ever have but hey, save your diet for later. This massive sandwich on a platter dish has all the goods on it: cured meats, steak, cheese, egg and a delicious beer-and-tomato sauce. Have it at lunch time rather than at the evening.
- Caldo Verde – One of my personal favourites is this comforting soup, also known as Kale Soup in English, is a simple but delicious recipe that showcases healthy kale as the superstar. It’s generally all vegetables, however, is normally flavored with Portuguese chouriço. Thickened with pureed potatoes and flavored with garlic.
- Pataniscas de Bacalhau. I associate this dish with typically homemade meals made by Portuguese grandmas. Confectioned with cod (or octopus) mixed in a dough mixed with egg, flour, pepper, parsley and fried in vegetable oil. It’s served with beans or tomato rice.
- Arroz de Pato. This tasty rice is made with duck meat with gratin cheese on top can be found at its best in Porto.
Where to eat in Porto?
- Majestic Cafe This cafe used to be the meeting point of the elite of the city. Writers, politicians, artists, thinkers. You name it. At the time, the elites met in different cafes around the city to exchange ideas and discuss different topics over a cup of coffee or a glass of absinthe. As it is very expensive, we would suggest you go there for a cup of coffee or to have their famous french toast !
- Museu D’Avó. Literally translated as the Grandma Museum, it’s an extremely kitsch place with amazing Portuguese “tapas”. Suggestion: go for the choriço!
- Árvore. Portuguese food presented in a modern way. The weekday lunch menu at 8,50 EUR is pricey for Porto standards, but the gorgeous view over Douro is more than worth it.
- Taberna Santo António. This small family-run restaurant is a hidden gem but popular amongst locals especially during lunch time. Try the codfish pataniscas!
- Cervejaria Brasão. Many rate Santiago as the #1 Francesinha in Porto but the one from Brasão looks and tastes much better. It’s made in a wood-fired oven and is so delicious you simply can’t dare to try anything else.
Going out for drinks in Porto
Going out to Galerias is very popular with locals and tourists on the weekends. These streets have the higher concentration of cool bars and discos we have seen.
I’m not talking about booze bars or Irish pubs. Like most of new architecture in Porto these are stylish and the best of all: with affordable prices! You can choose to stay inside or drink outside in the street, if the weather allows.
Must visit bars in Porto
- The Wall Bar. Great for either a quick glass of wine or a stylish night out with friends.
- Plano B. With a full-on retro look, it’s of the most iconic discos in Porto.
- Galerias de Paris. Once a fabric shop, this place was kept almost intact and is now a kitsch bar, café and restaurant.
- CaipiCompany. Start your evening with a fruit-based caipirinha.
- Champanheria da Baixa. Boho-cool ambiance where the champagne is king.
Coming up next… Must Visit “Day trips” around Porto !
Keep following up on www.mirindatravels.com to know all about it ….