You can only get Port from Porto
How long for:
Porto is an underrated gem but it won’t be underrated for long, the word is out and even Ryanair flies there! It is a great place for a weekend or 3 day trip and definitely a place you can travel solo. If you’ve got more time to spare, explore the the majesty of surrounding coast or the famous Douro wine Valley.
Porto is beautiful; smaller and more rustic than Lisbon, it is typical port town coated in hypnotising coloured tiles. Take a stroll through the centre, visit the main bridge and riverside to get a sense of the place. Clerigos is a great buzzing area to stay in, also plenty of nightlife around to keep you entertained. Generally the city is quite compact so anywhere central will be perfect.
- Scoot around Porto like a boss
- Porto is a small town but also spread along the coast. Like Lisbon it is characterised by massively hilly geography. To see it all and have a blast at the same time I suggest renting a vespa.
- I rented a scooter with Oportoshare. The company is run by one sweet guy and every time I’ve referred a friend to him and sends me a cute email thanking me emphatically. (I don’t get any referral bonus FYI, he’s just a genuine local guy running his own business).
- Cost: 50 euro for two people for a 2 hour tour with a guide (who scooters along with you and will be in your Instagram photog).
- Top tip: Book in advance and put this early in your itinerary so you get a good feel for the city and perhaps identify some places to revisit on foot.
2. Port wine tour:
- Only fortified wine from Porto can be called ‘Port’ (like champagne from Champagne). It is a huge part of the culture and urban form in Porto so I 100% recommend you take a tour.
- I went with PortoWalkers on both my visits to Porto.
- Cost: circa 20 euros.
- Top tip: Both hostels I stayed in had hook-ups with PortoWalkers, essentially you got a discount if you booked through the hostel. Check to see if that’s an option where you are staying. No stress, they also have a website you can book there too. It gets busy in peak season and you definitely don’t want to miss out on this experience.
- Also note: after an afternoon of Port you’ll no doubt make some merry-port-mates. I went out to dinner with a few people afterwards and it’s a good way to meet other travellers in Porto.
- A book shop, what? Are you sure I should spend my precious time on this? Answer: yes. Queue up, pay your 3 euros, go and report back if you didn’t like it.
- A great pitstop right in the center to see some lush Portuguese architecture and one of the most magnificent interior tile masterpieces. Make sure your pop-in.
- Cost: It’s free and being a railways station it is also a gateway to nearby beach towns.
5. Espinho Beach (Say: ess-speen-you)
- If you want to take a dip or go surfing you can easily get a train to Espinho from Sao Bento.
- Cost: minimal 2-3euros, time 30mins.
- Top tip: There are a few surf hostels in Espinho if you’re that way inclined.
6. Santa Catarina Street Shopping
Santa Catarina is the main shopping strip in Porto. I wouldn’t normally write about shopping but hey there is definitely a point of difference between this place and the rest of Europe. What’s great about it is that Portugal is cheap and Porto seemed to have a concentration of shops that I had never seen before in Europe which is a refreshing break from the chain stores that you get used to.
I stayed at 3 different places across my two visits in Porto:
- Yes! Porto – rated 9.6 on Hostelworld. In the central and buzzing Clergios part of town.
- Garden House Hostel – also rated 9.6 on Hostelworld. It is located on pedestrian street near the Santa Catarina shopping area. Much more chilled and spacious than Yes!.
- Airbnb – Portugal is cheap so you can definitely get bang for buck on Airbnb. An entire modern apartment is only around £30-£50 a night – a lush and also economical way to stay in Porto if you’re not travelling alone.
- Franceschina – an indulgent gravy-laden-meat-feast sandwich which you can only find in Porto (don’t miss it!). Kudos if you can finish one on your own.
- Portuguese tarts ‘pastel de nata’
- Tawny Porto
- Ruby Port
- Rose Port
- Blanco Port
- Mixed up Porto
Port will keep you warm in winter and being on the river and near the coast makes it a nice place to be in the summer too. A number of hip music festivals like Primavera and others come to Porto.
Last tip… It is quite likely that you will fall in love with Porto and Port wine. I suggest you get checked luggage so you can take a stash back with you. On my first trip I ended up buying a whole new suitcase, 6 bottles of port and buying last minute check-in baggage #worthit.