Porto, Portugal is one of my all-time favorite cities in the world. It is a true gem of a place, and I’ve never been anywhere like it.
As I walked past the candy-colored buildings and looked out at the sparkling Douro River I wondered why more people don’t talk about Porto. Why isn’t EVERYONE coming here?!
In spite of spending a large chunk of time trying to sort out my phone problems I still fell madly in love with Porto. Here are the highlights.
Where to Stay
Bluesock Hostel is fabulous! It has a killer location in the Ribeira area of Porto just steps from the river.
I stayed in an eight-person all-female dorm room that was clean and well-appointed. The beds have privacy curtains, which I love to find in a hostel. The under-bed lockers are spacious and more than accommodated my backpack.
In the cellar level is a cool bar where you can also order food. This is also the location of the daily breakfast.
Best of all is the Bluesock staff, who really went out of their way to help me navigate my phone issues. They’re also a great resource for recommendations on anything you might want to see or do in the city.
What to Do
Porto is the home of Port wine, and one of the most popular things to do is to tour the wine caves. The caves are in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the River Douro from Porto. You can see them dotting the riverfront as you look across from Ribeira.
Taylor’s is one of the most famous Port houses, so I decided to do my tour with them.
Once you get to Gaia it’s an uphill walk to Taylor’s so be prepared. The experience and views are worth it though.
The tours are self-guided and include a walk through the cellar where the wine is aged, an education on how the wine is produced, and a sampling of the wine.
I didn’t like Port wine before, and I still don’t now; but I really enjoyed the experience. It was fascinating to learn about the wine production and what makes Port unique.
The beachfront in Porto is looooong. From Ribeira you can take a bus along the Douro River to the point where it meets the Atlantic. From there the road will turn and you’ll be riding along the side of the ocean until you get to Matosinhos. Pick any point along the way for a waterfront stroll.
Take a Walk
Porto is super walkable, especially the older area near the Ribeira.
From the Ribeira walk up the city to Sé do Porto. If you’re into old churches it’s worth a visit, and you’ll get magnificent views of the city. It’s also just fun finding your way up there sans directions through the narrow, winding streets.
From the church walk to Ponte Dom Luís I. The bridge is a major landmark in Porto and connects the city to Vila Nova de Gaia. You can take the Metro to the other side, but it’s much more fun to walk the span of the bridge.
Once you’re halfway across the bridge…
Take a look around, breathe, and take a moment to soak in every picture perfect part of this magical city.
Once you’re on the other side you can stop for drinks at Esplanada wine bar in Jardim do Morro.
When you get your fill of the views… Let’s be real, you won’t. So rather, when you are finally somehow able to pull yourself away from the views you can begin your descent to the base of the bridge. It’ll take a little while, but once you’re at the bottom you can spend some time in Gaia or walk under the bridge back to Ribeira.
On your way over you may very well be treated to a show of kids who daringly dive from the base of the bridge into the river (and then collect money from the crowd for their acrobatic feats).
Where to Eat
Anywhere in the Ribeira
People will steer you away from the Ribeira for meals because it’s touristy and overpriced. That’s true, but it’s such a nice scene sitting by the river that I think it’s worth it.
There are oodles of restaurants to choose from, so just stroll, look at the menus, and take your pick.
Palato in Matosinhos
Portugal is known for its sardines, so I wanted to give it a try while I was there. I’m not talking about canned sardines, I mean fish straight from the sea.
I was told to go to Matosinhos beach and keep following the sidewalk until I saw people outside grilling. It’s kind of convoluted to explain, so I’ll spare you the trouble.
I wound up at Palato Restaurante, where there’s a guy outside grilling away. He looked like a man I could trust behind a grill, and he did not disappoint.
It was really windy and there was construction going on, so I ate inside. When the fish was ready it was brought inside to my table. Who knew sardines could be SO GOOD?!
Each morning fisherman bring their daily catch to each restaurant, so what you’re getting is fresh.
The server instructed me on the proper way to eat my sardines:
- Turn the sardine on its spine
- Make a long cut along its stomach
- Splay it open
- Peel off the spine and most of the bones in one go
- Eat and savor the delicious goodness
For €7/8 I thought I would just get one sardine, but I got six. I’m new to this whole sardine eating thing. Paired with a glass of vinho verde it was the perfect Portuguese meal.
Have you been to Porto? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do there?