I treated myself to a little trip to Porto last month. It was my second time in Portugal as I have already been to Lisbon and I absolutely loved it so I was looking forward to seeing the second largest Portuguese city.
I am aware it is not easy to score an affordable flight from London to Porto but sometimes the tickets go on sale. Make sure to turn the notifications on on SkyScanner or subscribe to FlyForFree or CheapFlights. This is what I always do while ticket hunting.
Nevertheless, Agnieszka found a Wizz Air deal so we went at the beginning of October. I can imagine July-August being slightly too hot to be able to fully enjoy the second-largest city in Portugal so I suggest looking for off-season tickets or deals. I recommend October.
What we experienced was sunny weather with the temperature hitting up to 23 degrees in the afternoon. The mornings were a bit chilly while the evenings allowed us to dine and wine outside. I wore sandals and short sleeves for the majority of time.
We were staying at a very small family-owned hotel in Almada. It was not a luxury place nor a boutique hotel but it was the most convenient accommodation we could have gotten for our little trip. The distance to the majority of sights was 10-20 minutes walking! The majority of supermarkets, coffee shops and wineries were also a stone’s throw from the place. I highly recommend a hotel in this area as it would save you a lot of time.
We decided to skip the public transport as Uber fees were very attractive. Airport-Hotel was a 20 minutes drive and cost us only about €12. Unfortunately, we skipped the iconic tram ride but the cost of it isn’t high (€6 return). In general – I would recommend to only use Uber if you travel in a group. The historical centre is walkable so there is no need for public transport.
Aga, my travel companion, measured we walked the distance of 50 km during our 3-day trip in Porto. Walking is, to me, the best way to see the hidden gems. The city is walkable, not as hilly as Lisbon and the sights are located 15/20 minutes from one another. It is also the best way to burn calories (around 103 calories in a standard Ruby Port glass).
The Blue Tiles
One of the most emblematic representations of Porto’s history and culture are those beautiful tiles you are able to see all over the city. The ‘azulejo’ tiles are an iconic part of Portuguese architecture but they undoubtedly are a ‘sign’ of Porto. It is impossible to miss them while in Porto but there are 5 major buildings we wanted to see. They are located within 15/20 minutes from one another so we dedicated day 1 to blue tiles and some photos. We wandered around with no specific itinerary and managed to see Cathedral, Sao Bento Train Station, Igrejo do Carmo, Saint Anthony’s Church Congregados, Chapel of Souls. It took us only about one morning but we skipped going inside. The ques were not massive but it can get a little bit crowded around afternoon so I suggest ‘the blue tiles tour’ in the morning.
I loved getting lost in Porto. The historical centre is rather small and there is no better way to get to know the city than… letting yourself to get lost in its tiny alleyways. While being lost we managed to step in for a delicious codfish pastry and some coffee, found a jewellery store and bought a fancy pair of earrings as well as … stepped into the most colourful luna park-looking fish store for a tasting.
After ‘the blue tiles route’, we headed to Cais da Ribeira where we decided to chill out for a bit where we enjoyed a glass of wine with the view! We then climbed to the Luis Bridge.
Food and Wine
Walking across the Dom Luis 1 bridge will take you to Vila Nova de Gaia and on your way, you will have a fabulous view of Cais da Ribeira district and the medieval part of Porto. Vila Nova de Gaia is where you HAVE TO try Porto wine. We stepped into 1970s winery Sandeman for a glass of Ruby, which was the best wine I had in Portugal. I regret we had no extra time for Sandeman wine tour.
There are apparently 5 dishes you need to try while in Porto, and Francesinha is the most popular one. I don’t eat meat but Aga ordered one and she loved it. She ordered again the next day, where I also discovered its vegetarian version in the menu. Francesinha is Portuguese sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. It is typically served with french fries. I ordered Bacalhau com Natas, which is a codfish, the most popular fish in Portuguese cuisine. We also ordered codfish cakes the other day. The food we had on our trip was in general really delicious!
Pricewise, it looks really affordable in comparison to the rest of the European cities, such as Barcelona or Florence. Main Course at the Riviera is a cost of €9-15 and the discretionary service of around 10% is added in some places. A glass of a really great Ruby Porto is €4 while house wine is
€2/3. We were lunching and dining at the Riviera which is the most popular tourist spot in Porto. I imagine the prices are much lower in some non-touristy districts.
Serra do Pilar View Point is my TOP of Porto. It is located just a short walk from Ponte de Dom Luis (Luis Bridge). Not only the view is astonishing but this place is a definition of a hospitable Porto vibe. We were sitting there with sipping wine till late hours, enjoying each other’s company, the views of river Duoro and the historical centre of Porto’s riviera, great music and the atmosphere.
Porto, with its tiny colourful houses built on hilly terrains and the six bridges over the Douro river, is a city of Miraduros (viewpoints). I have always been into rooftop restaurants, terraces and the sight points and I was excited to experience Porto that way.
We enjoyed the numerous viewpoints at Jardins do Palacio de Cristal (city park). We spent the whole afternoon in the park, which is located on the other side of Porto, probably around 40 minutes walking from Riviera. We also enjoyed Miradouro das Virtudes, the most popular spot among the locals. There were many young people drinking beer after work. Great vibe for sure.
It may seem odd to list the Vila Nova’s shore on Douro River as one of the best viewpoints in Porto but the truth is that this place offers the best view of the colourful houses. There are countless restaurants and bars where you could just step in.
There are also some lovely views from the Cathedral.
Farol Molhe do Douro
We managed to spend the whole afternoon at the edge of Europe. We ubered from our hotel in Almada, and it took only about 15 minutes. We saw the lighthouse and sat around for a while as the ocean breeze felt so fresh We enjoyed watching the waves crashing into the lighthouses and over the stones. We then decided to take a stroll and went for a walk along the coast – from Farol Molhe do Duoro through Ingleses Beach to Pergola da Foz. We stepped into the fancy-looking… Pizza Hut for a snack but there are loads of better places to go to for sure 🙂 The weather was changing every 15 minutes but in general, it was a sunny day. Too cold for a swim (although there were some brave people) but warm enough to sit on the beach. I definitely recommend a few hours by the ocean! Funny thing – the beachfront vibe reminds me of… Miami!
I would not be myself without searching for some Instagrammable spots! Thankfully, Agnieszka did not mind. What we really enjoyed was the lovely floral café at Torel Avantgarde Hotel. Make sure to step in for a little espresso. The place is not far from Igreja do Carmo but make sure to use Google Maps as it is quite ‘hidden’.
Vogue Café was found by an accident. It was around 2 minutes walking from our hotel in Almada. Not too far from the iconic Portal des Conservas. It is the second Vogue Café I have been to. I also visited the one in Shepherd’s Bush in London.
In general, I think Porto is a great destination for a weekend trip and a PERFECT place for a girls getaway such as a bachelorette party. We had a lot of fun which also did not cost us a fortune. The weather was really amazing, we walked over 50 km and I convinced myself to Ruby Porto… Can’t wait to go back!