After being lucky enough to spend approximately 5 weeks in the Porto and Douro region of northern Portugal on behalf of my research for Rough Guides, despite the sometimes very rainy and windy March/April weather (Porto is right on the Atlantic coast, and has a latitude not that dissimilar to the SW of the UK – hence the weather is quite similar), I found a city full of aesthetic delights and surprises. Here, then, is what I consider to be my favourite things to do in Porto.
Take a tourist bus ride
I know that it sounds as if it’s too touristy, but trust me, the Hop-On Hop-Off tour in any city, I feel, is a great thing to do in your first few days in the city. Porto is no exception. It gives you perspective and an overview of the city and an idea where to head back to later. My red tour took me to all the major sites including the Cathedral, along the river and eventually out to the seafront. Obviously you can hop-on and off but I chose just to make use of the good weather and sit on the top deck as a round trip, getting my bearings and enjoying the view.
2. Walk along the Ribeira District
This is a highlight and must for any visitor to Porto. Located along the Rio (river) Douro, and reached from the main town by way of a funicular ride down past the old castle walls (or walk the many steps and get the funicular back up), the Moorish architecture, daily life viewing people hanging their washing from colourful houses, the many cafes and restaurants on offer right on the river, you could spend a whole afternoon just wandering and chilling.
3. Randomly wander the streets, admiring the architecture and street art
There’s nothing I enjoy more than ‘loosing’ myself amongst the local streets and in Porto, it’s a sheer joy to do so. Magnificent churches, street art, local architecture and even transport you wouldn’t get ‘back home’, it’s all appreciated.
4. Walk across the Dom Luis I bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia & take a cable car ride
Across the river from Ribeira is the district of Vila Nova da Gaia, which is the famous area for its wine cellars, where the port is stored and aged. Spend a pleasant few hours walking along the riverfront here again and see the views back to the Ribeira district and all those colourful houses – magnificent! Then to save your legs, for €5 (adult) take the cable car back up to the bridge and walk back across.
5. Take a Taste Porto Food Tour
This has to be one of my favourite tours I did in my time in the city; connecting with locals, being shown the best spots where a LOCAL would eat and sampling delicious Portuguese food along the way, the Taste Porto Food Tour – at €59 for a 3.5 hour tour including your food (and dietary restrictions also catered to) and passionate guides is a perfect way to sample local life. Visit the Bolhao indoor market, frequented by locals, in operation since 1914 and has everything from fish stalls, meat, olive oil and barber shops!
6. A cookery evening with Taste Porto Food Tours
Last but not least, I had the pleasure to experience the first of Taste Porto’s Cookery Class, held at the beautiful Rosa et al Townhouse accommodation. Run three times a week from 6pm, for three and a half hours and €79 you’ll join others in a hands-on cookery class and, depending on your instructor, have the opportunity to make cocktails, bone codfish (yes, even I tried that!), make cake, starters and all manner of Portuguese dishes (all ingredients included in the cost – and be sure to advise them of any dietary restrictions). And even better, after you’ve all ‘bonded’ over the cooking experience, you get to eat your creations afterwards in the lovely dining room upstairs!
So what are you waiting for?! Whatever time of the year, Porto awaits. Just don’t be fooled and think that just because it’s Portugal, it’ll be warm all the time. Due to its proximity on the Atlantic coast, there’s a real north/south divide in weather in Portugal. Pack warm clothes up to about April time – actually, prepare for all seasons in one day!
- Ryanair flys to Porto from Liverpool, Stansted, Dublin and various other European hubs
- easy jet flies to Porto from Bristol (seasonally), London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester
Note: It’s also possible to get a train straight from Lisbon airport to Porto’s central station. So that could be another option.
PIN for later