What to do and where to stay
There is an academic air to the coastal town. The University of Porto, one of the best architecture schools in the world, resides in the epicenter of the city, adding a youthful pace and giving you a taste of the city’s level of taste. It looks like a grand, historic Ivy League campus, nestled above the Douro River and next to the fertile land of Portugal. wine valley. His cliffside domiciles beg for photos; its cozy pubs and bars draw throngs of open-air people happy to strike up a conversation; its art scene equals or even surpasses that of Lisbon; and you can feed entirely on regional foods and drinks if you wish.
Familiarize yourself with these: francesinha (a stacked meat egg and cheese sandwich dipped in tomato broth and beer); alheira (minced meat sausage); bolinas de bacalhau (cod fritters); and of course a Porto tonic (cocktail of Porto + tonic).
I hope you give the city more than a few days, allowing plenty of time to experience its many dimensions. Here is an itinerary of what to do, where to stay, where to eat and how to get there.
How to get to Porto
For one thing, Porto and Lisbon aren’t that far apart (it’s a small country after all). You can switch between the two on the CP train (Comboios de Portugal), which takes about 3 hours.
However, it is also easy to fly directly to Porto via TAP Airline’s stopover program. In the spring of 2019, TAP is transforming its twice-weekly direct flights from Newark to daily year-round service. If your last stop is one of the 10 EU cities (and it depends on when you read this), you can fly to Porto for up to five days at no additional airfare cost.) These cities, at time of publication: Barcelona, Madrid, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Zurich, Geneva, Luxembourg and Funchal (which is on the Portuguese island of Madeira, aka the home of Cristiano Ronaldo, and a truly amazing vacation spot ).
Where to stay in Porto
Infant Sagres: If I could make a list of hotels that left me in awe, this one would sit high on it. The attention to detail at the 5 star Hotel Infante Sagres, both in design and hospitality, is truly remarkable. Every note is right, from the stained glass staircases to the carved wooden details, Claus Porto amenities to a secluded swimming pool with sundeck. The luxury hotel, which opened in 1951, is as central as Porto gets, and they’ve just completed a huge renovation that brought light, color, and vibrancy back to the property. This overhaul also led the city to The Vogue Cafe (yes, that Vogue), which matches the hotel in terms of taste, quality and ambience. Come for cocktails, coffee or a meal as fresh as the Porto breeze. You won’t forget the rooms at the Infanta Sagres either, which combine wooden furniture with textiles in soft tones, as well as a few pops of color to draw attention. It’s the kind of hotel you look forward to retiring to at the end of the day, because it will mark your memory as much as the trips themselves.
Hotel Theater: The Hotel Teatro is very different from the Infanta Sagres in its execution, but just as warm and well organized. It’s probably because it’s a 4 star design hotel. It’s the kind of place you settle into like a blanket, with its deeper, darker details. Teatro opened in 2010 on the site of the former Baquet Theater (hence its name, which means “theater”), and its design is a nod to that historic predecessor. With flowing curtains, large mirrors framing the bed and a restaurant, PalcoFollowing Portuguese culinary art, Teatro syncs brilliantly with the pulse of Porto, making it an obvious abode for your weekend getaway.
What to do in Porto
Port wine cellars in Gaia: All of those Port wines that Port is famous for are technically across the river in another town called Gaia. But don’t worry: everything is accessible on foot or by taxi, because it looks like one city. Organize a cellar visit or a tasting at one of them, although I would suggest taylors, Ferreiraand Graham’s.
Douro Valley Day Trip: As if the Port wines weren’t enough, you’re also in the bed of the Douro Valley, and a day trip on the river (drinking all the time) or driving through the vineyards (drinking responsibly all the time) is a great way to pass the time. If you prefer to float, try the always reliable Douro Azul. If you want to hire a car and navigate on your own, then Quinta do Bomfim, Quinta do Tedo, Quinta da Pacheca are all good benchmarks. If you want a tour guide by land (and a 1 hour boat cruise) then Living tours is a good way to go.
Hit the Praias: Porto’s beaches aren’t its main selling point, but they are lined with praias. If you want to soak up the sun on a lounger, head to Praia Matosinhos (technically its own town), as it’s the longest unbroken stretch of sand. Other picturesque beaches, although rockier, include Praias Carneiro, Ingleses, Molhe, da Luz or Castelo do Queijo. You’ll find cafes and promenades along the shore, so it’s worth a visit for that west-facing Atlantic sunset. You can also walk to the southwestern tip of Porto, to the Felguiras lighthouse.
Foz Tower: Porto’s fresh seafood makes its first stop in the city’s fishing district, Foz, just off the city’s southwest coast. You can stroll after your walk along the beach, in search of its many excellent restaurants, such as Ichiban for sushi, Caffeine for a whimsical Portuguese-French-Italian fusion, Portarossa for Italian, or Popular restaurant in Foz for authentic Portuguese navigation. Also add to your favorites Mercado da Foz do Douro, the local fisherman’s market.
Serralves Museum — Serralves Foundation: You can spend hours here, nestled in an oasis of culture and respite. Serralves is a contemporary art museum, and its ownership rivals Versailles. Bring a book, a lover and leave your stress at the door.
A literal Mira-Douro: You may be familiar with the Spanish word “mirador”, which means “lookout”. And in Portuguese, it’s “miradouro”, which is so fitting in Porto, given that the city is full of views over the Douro River. The best of these comes from Serra do Pilar, the monastery that dominates the coast of Gaia and the Dom Luís I bridge. Also add to your Google map the Miradouro da Vitoria at the top of Porto (which adds red roofs into the mix) and the Miradouro Ignez (west of central Porto, less photogenic but equally charming). You can also take a walk to the Gaia cable car for a quick but scenic view of Porto’s waterfront.
Casa da Musica: You can visit this geometric marvel and concert hall – just book ahead for their daily tours in Englishat 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., where you can (and should!) concert program to see what’s happening while you’re in town.
Lello Bookstore: You know this grand little bookstore as the place that inspired JK Rowling to Harry Potter. Now there is a queue for tourists who want to photograph the space. It’s a bit fancy, to be honest, and the elegance of the place gets lost in the Instagram crowd. But, if you’re looking for a book, your entry fee can be applied to your purchase.
Take you to the church: Whether churches are your thing or not, don’t miss the baroque and gilded Igreja do Carmo, with its blue tiled exterior (representing the imposition of the brown scapular… which you knew, right?). It is built right next to the equally impressive Baroque and Rococo style Igreja dos Carmelitas. Other notable churches around the center include the Igreja do Santo Ildefonso, also blue-tiled, also Baroque, the Igreja do São Francisco, Gothic on the outside and Baroque on the inside (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site). ‘UNESCO to this), the Baroque bell tower Igreja dos Clérigos and the 400-year-old Romanesque cathedral itself, AKA Sé do Porto.
Claus Porto: Whether you’re a grooming nerd or not, local soap makers Claus Porto make the skin-friendly, wonderfully scented products in equally stunning packaging. It’s the perfect place to give a gift to your friends back home or to stock up and impress your own guests.
Where to eat and drink in Porto
Caffeine: It’s your perfect excuse to head to the coast for a sunset, followed by a fine seafood dinner. (It’s Portuguese cuisine, with elements of Italian and French cuisine.)
Cafe Candelabro: The perfect place to mingle with Porto’s happy hour or late night crowd. Pick up a Porto tonic and sit outside for some quality people watching. (It’s also great for a coffee or browsing their selection of books.)
Cafe Vitoria: A delicious multi-level restaurant straight out of an Edward Hopper painting.
Bar Aduela Taberna: It’s so much like Porto: there’s usually a flood of locals drinking beers and chatting in the street outside this cozy tavern. End one of your nights here for a cozy ambience of European living.
Miss Opo: Where Porto’s hip crowd eat prawns, couscous and more, all in a modern, well-presented style. Sometimes you’ll even get a DJ serenade.
Vogue Cafe: Inside Infante Sagres, Vogue Café is the place to see and be seen, especially with a tasty cocktail in hand.
Cafe Santiago: You can’t leave Porto without having an aforementioned francesinha, a smothered sandwich that’s drenched in a broth of tomato and beer. Café Santiago is one of the best. Bring Pepcid and check it off the list.
Flor dos Congregados: Another must-try sandwich in Porto is the terylene, a slow-roasted pork sandwich (cooked for about 24 hours, to make the meat even more tender). Flor dos Congregados is the best place to try it.
Attached to fish: Get your seafood overlooking the Douro, facing Gaia. There are a ton of seafood restaurants lining the waterfront, but most are touristy, overpriced, and substandard. The best agreed upon is Fish Fixe, tucked near the top of the slope with stunning waterfront views.
Capa na Baiza: Another great place for a francesinha or anything fried.
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