Bem-vindos ao Porto!
I want to give you a warm welcome to my wonderful city and the European Best Destination 2017 (repeating the award received in 2012 and 2014 – we’re that good!). We’re very proud of the recognition we’ve been receiving lately and to feel that the people visiting us leave Porto happy and in love with our city, our gastronomy and our world-famous wine.
You probably heard someone call Porto “Oporto”, right? Let me clear that for you: the name Porto is not translated a lot like Lisboa, for example, so when you call our city Oporto… it stands out. This started with the English, when they were here they heard us talk about “o Porto”, in which “o” is the definite article. For some reason Porto is one of the only cities in Portuguese that has a definite article before all the time.
Long story short, they just assumed that was the name of our city, when was in fact two different words.
Our motto is: “Antiga, Mui Nobre, Sempre Leal e Invicta” (Old, Very Noble, Always Loyal and Undefeated), which, let’s face it, is a bad ass motto. We are really, really proud of our history.
Even though Porto is not a very big city, it’s big enough for you to get lost in it and it’s much more than just the centre. Make no mistake, downtown Porto is beautiful but this city has much more to give. Some people say Porto is very grey but I must disagree. Especially in the last couple of years we have been rebuilding the city and even if for me Porto was always magical, it’s getting a lot of colour back. And then there’s the people of Porto… But that you need to experience for yourself.
Day 1: 09:00 – 14:00
Let’s get this party started!
Well, you know what they say: breakfast is the most important meal of the day! For that reason, Leitaria da Baixa is the first place in our itinerary. I absolutely love this little café between the avenue of Aliados and the street of Santa Catarina.
After you feel satisfied and ready to go, it’s time to start by walking on Santa Catarina’s street, one of the busiest streets in Porto, because it’s the main shopping street in Porto. Don’t forget to check shops like a Pérola do Bolhão, beautiful on the outside with the colourful tiles but also full of traditional Portuguese products on the inside. I also love to take the chestnuts from the street sellers, they are delicious!
Next, let’s appreciate the beautiful architecture of Aliados’ avenue, the ex-libris of the city. Even today, there is always some detail I notice for the first time and I’ve done that avenue thousands of times. Next to it there’s the very traditional Rua do Almada, where you have Almada 13 which is one of my favourite shops (with a beautiful pavlova too!).
Don’t forget to go to the Clérigos Tower if you never did that before, the view is breath-taking.
After all this exercise, you need understandably to have lunch and to make this as portuense as possible, I suggest you go to Conga and taste the beautiful bifanas they make.
Day 1: 14:00 – 19:00
“At this point it’s time to get going to the river. I love to go down on Rua das Flores when I’m going to the river side, because it’s just a very cute street. There are no cars and it’s full of colours and life, which is impressive if you know that a couple of years ago it was mostly “abandoned” and full of ruined buildings. If I see a café that I like I will take an espresso and relax a little bit – there’s the thing about Portuguese people, we love to sit in cafés talking with friends or family. We’re not like Italians, we don’t take out coffee standing and then move on with our life – we like to stop and savour that little moment.
Our river side it’s beautiful, so it may be a cliché, but go ahead and take as many pictures as you like. You can cross the bridge to the other side, but don’t think you’re still in Porto! it’s actually other city named Gaia. In Gaia, you can taste Porto wine in the caves. Funny little fact: because the taxes were smaller on that side of the river, all the caves are there and not on Porto.
Jardim do Morro or Serra do Pilar are the two most touristic points to see Porto from Gaia’s point of view (don’t say this out loud when you’re there, but in Porto we use to say that the best thing about Gaia is the view of Porto), and they are great, but I’m going to tell you mine that is a lot more reserved and where you can have a more extensive view of the city: Via da Misericórdiahe.
When you go back go through the upper part of D. Luis bridge, and I hope you’ll get to see it at night. It makes me fall in love with Porto every time over and over again.
Day 1: 19:00 – ???
“If at lunch you had bifanas… At dinner, you need a francesinha! Francesinha is one of the most popular dishes in Porto, but I need to raise some awareness now: it’s a caloric bomb. Like heavy heavy. I’m talking about a sandwich full of different kinds of meat inside, that is covered in cheese and has a spicy sauce on top. And you can still have French fries on the side and a fried egg on top. It seems too much? It absolutely is. But it’s delicious and everybody in ALL the world needs to try it.
Don’t forget to have a beer alongside your Francesinha. It must be a Super Bock, trust me – say no to Sagres! The traditional way to ask for it is to call it a “fino”, but in Lisbon and the south they will call it “imperial”, don’t do it here! To try francesinha I’m going to go with Santiago, my personal favourite and also my fellow Spotter Vasco’s. Obviously there’s an on going argument about which is really the best francesinha of Porto and everybody has their own opinion. But believe me, Santiago is the winner.
After dinner you just need to decide with kind of bar or disco will suit your needs. I usually go to the area that we call “Galerias de Paris”, where you have a lot of different places (like Plano B) and where you can buy your favourite drink and be just be on the street with your friends.
Day 2: 09:00 – 14:00
For this next 24 hours we are going to explore the surroundings of Porto and we’re going to start on the biggest avenue of Porto – Avenida da Boavista. I love this avenue because it’s full of architectonic treasures (classical and modern) and you can go to straight to the Serralves Foundation or the City Park. But we’ll get to that soon.
First things first: it’s time for the first meal of the day, and here you have a lot of options. If you want a nice brunch, you have Casinha, if you want a lot of options you have Mercado do Bom Sucesso and if you just want something simples, you can taste a very good croissant accompanied with a coffee in Boémia. I love all the options; it just depends of what I’m feeling like in that moment.
Now that it’s Spring and the weather is nice I love to walk the Avenue. The first architectonical mark as to be Casa da Música, a concert hall made for the Porto 2001 European Capital of Culture. Casa da Música is beautiful inside out, nevertheless the architectonic style is very different from what you are used to see in Porto, so there were a lot of complaints at the time. If you’re lucky enough to be in Porto when there is a a club night at Casa da Música, don’t miss it. It’s a perfect opportunity to see and experience all the rooms inside for a cheap price.
Another modern building that stands out is the Vodafone one, but mostly from that point forward you have beautiful classical villas – we are near Foz, which is the most “rich” part of Porto. But eventually you will see the entrance to the City Park – That’s our next stop. Here you will see a lot of people working out and you can see why, you have beautiful scenery, clean air and you’re going to the ocean. That’s right, our park goes until the ocean, which I particularly love.
You can choose to see Serralves instead of the City Park. But it’s paid, so it’s not something I do very frequently. Nevertheless, the gardens of Serralves are amazing and you have a modern art museum – for example, until June there’s a very good collection of Joan Miró. If that’s your style you should definitely go.
Day 2: 14:00 – 19:00
If you choose not to have brunch you should be starving by now. Luckily for everybody, there’s the Edifício Transparente, right at the end of the City Park. You have a couple of bars and restaurants where you can eat something if you like. After this it’s time to explore the seaside of Porto and Matosinhos. I really like to stay here for a while before exploring nearby areas like Foz Velha. If the weather is nice just go to a random beach bar and drink my coffee looking at the ocean. In Summer the Tide Pool is something not to miss: it’s a swimming pool near the ocean with salty water that is one of our architectonical treasures by Porto’s famous architect: Siza Vieira.
One of the things I love to do in the area is to play mini golf at Jardim do Campo Alegre. This is not Matosinhos anymore, it’s Porto, and you can really see where the river meets the sea. I can spend easily an all afternoon where just playing and having fun. There is also a little café where you can rest and take something in this garden.
Day 2: 19:00 – ???
I have to recommend one of my favourite restaurants, that’s why I decided to end the evening in this zone. I’m talking about Casa de Pasto da Palmeira. I love the concept of Tapas and sharing food in general because I like to taste a lot of different food without having to commit to one. This restaurant doesn’t have Spanish tapas: it has Portuguese’s. The food is really lovely and you have a lot to choose from on the menu. Another thing I love is that the menu changes every month so they can use the ingredients that are fresh for each season. Save a bit of space for the desert, the spicy chocolate cake of Sandra is to die for!
After being satisfied and hopefully in love with my city and our food, it’s time to get back to the centre of Porto, where you can go and have a drink in Maus Habitos and from there… No one can now where you’ll end up.
And that’s a wrap!
I hope you enjoyed it, I tried to showed you two typical days of my life (weekends, especially) that can make anyone have a local view of Porto: those who already know the city and those that were never here. It’s a good start for everyone who wants to explore this beautiful city. Unfortunately, a lot of things were left out but getting to know Porto better is my challenge to you. I hope to see you in Porto soon!