Porto is the second bigger city in Portugal, situated in the north of the country. It is known for the bridges that connect to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, situated on the other side of Rio Douro. And who doesn’t know Porto Wine? Well, guess where it’s produced?! Porto! In 1996 the center was nominated as “World Heritage by UNESCO”.
It´s a city full of life, with nice and cozy people. The little streets make you wonder about the history behind each wall. Any advice is for you to get lost in the small streets, and get to know a restaurant or a store or even a bar in the corner of a sharp street.
Porto won may awards, such as…
- 2012 – Best European destination;
- 2017 – Best European destination for the third consecutive time;
- 2020 – Best city break destination of Europe.
What to see and do in the city
Most of the attractions are located in the historic center.
In the main area, best known as the heart of Porto, is located the Praça da Liberdade. Here it´s where the Porto people (called Portuenses) celebrate big winnings or events. Around the Praça da Liberdade are some historical and important buildings, such as the Cardosas Palace, the Porto City Hall, or the Bank of Portugal.
Catedral da Sé is one of the most historic churches in Portugal. Located in the historic center of the city. You can visit it free between 9 AM and 5:30 PM. In front of the cathedral is the Pelourinho da Sé. It´s a square from 1945. From there you can have a beautiful view of the city.
One of the most beautiful places in Porto is the gardens of the Crystal Palace. In these gardens, you can admire a huge diversity of trees, plants, and flowers. You can also have a panoramic view of the city, Rio Douro, but also the sea.
Porto has many churches, but besides the Cathedral da Sé, there are some more that we need to include, such as:
- Church do Carmo e Carmelitas – Considered by many the most beautiful church in Porto, it was declared a national monument in 2013. The lateral wall is made with tiles, that recreate the foundation of the Order of Carmelites and Mount Carmel;
- Church of Clérigos – This church it´s a trio. It is composed by the church itself, but also the tower and the museum. Since 1910 is considered a national monument, and buildings in 1732. The interior is worth a visit.
- Chapel of Souls – A tiny church that doesn’t get unnoticed. It´s made of more than 15 thousand blue tiles. It´s one of the most visited churches in the city. The name came from the fact that there is where it is buried the Lady of Souls.
But there are a lot more to see in the city of Porto.
Bridge Dom Luis, it´s one of the bridges that connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, and the most beautiful. You can pass this bridge by car but also walk. Having 45 meters high, it has one of the most beautiful views of the city and is also one of the most Instagram-er places.
Cais da Ribeira is one-off the most visited places. With a lot of restaurants and cafes for you, to enjoy good food, and drinks while watching a beautiful view of the river Douro, and also listening to live music. From there you can catch a boat to do a boat ride in the River Douro.
São Bento station is an impotent building from where the majority of people arrive in Porto. It is worth the visit not just to catch the train, but also to admire the tiles, and the building itself.
Worldwide known, especially by fans of Harry Potter, is the bookstore, Lello. To see, you need to wait in line, and it’s usually one hour of waiting. It has a stunning red stair photographed by everyone that can enter. More than known by the fans of Harry Potter, it´s also one of the most beautiful bookstores in the entire world.
As you read above, Porto is full of cultural richness that needs to be seen, and have a lot more. To enjoy the full city, you should stay at least two full days, and for that, you need a place to stay.
Where to stay
Besides the cultural richness of the city, Porto is not that big, that you can’t explore by walking. For that you should stay, depending on your itinerary, on the historical center, or in the Ribeira, or near a metro station.
The next hotels suggestions are made by my own experience, of the few times I stayed there.
- Mercure Porto Centro Santa Catarina, It´s a well located hotel. You can go to almost every part of the city just walking. Has a nice restaurant and nice bedrooms. With an elevated quality. The shampoo, conditioners, etc are from the brand Nuxe, which is an excellent and well-known brand. The view from the restaurant and the top is amazing, you can see almost the entire city from there.
- Canto de Luz – Luxury Maison. In a futuristic and luxury building, composed of apartments, a shared lounge, and a restaurant. The apartments have high technology, one example is that is controlled by Alexa. The breakfast is served by nice employers and has a lot of diversity. You can ask for almost everything. Canto da Luz stays near Praça da Liberdade, that is a great place to explore the city by foot.
Where to eat
If there is a city with great places to eat good food, is Porto. The food in Portugal is great, the best in the entire world, but in the north, I must say that is where you eat the best food. One of the most typical dishes in Porto is Francesinha. It´s a unique dish made with bread, meat, sauce, etc. No, it´s not a light meal but it´s the most typical one in Porto. To try this typical dish, I suggest the restaurant “Capa Negra”.
Others suggestions that I have, are restaurants that I went and enjoyed the food and the hospitality:
- Flow Restaurant & Bar – This was the place chosen for a special dinner. a luxurious restaurant, with food with quality. I had a Sea Bass fillet and green asparagus risotto, so so good, that I still dream with the flavor of it.
- Flow Restaurant & Bar – Located in Cais da Ribeira, it´s a small restaurant with a unique menu. Perfect to enjoy a nice lunch while enjoying the view with a glass of wine in the hand, and listening to live music. I tried the celery spaghetti, with mushrooms, hazelnuts pesto, and parmesan. If you like celery, this is a must-try.
- Central Churrasco de Matosinhos– This restaurant is not in Porto but Matosinhos, a city near Porto. It has an elevated menu with dishes for every taste. The decoration of the restaurant is elegant. I ate a big and good squid and shrimp skewer.
I could write more things to do and see in Porto, but I hope this post gave you a glimpse of what Porto has to offer. It´s a multi-cultural city, with vibrant life.
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