In December I took some much needed time off and visited my best friend who lives in Porto. Here’s some very basic advice on what to do over a long weekend there.
I flew to Porto for less than £80 (about €90) return from Gatwick via EasyJet. The flight is just over two hours.
Luckily, Porto’s main airport is connected to the main City through an overground system. If you get a daily metro card, you can get from the airport to the main city for €7 (select zone 4 if you’re travelling from the airport, zone 1 or 2 if you use if from the centre).
Eating Out / Going Out
As a poor student, I didn’t do any fine dining in Porto – which was great because Porto turned out to be super cheap for food and drinks!
We mainly ate in tascas, casual restaurants serving typical dishes such as seafood risotto, roast meat and bacalhau, the fish from the area. These places are your best bet for real Portuguese food and for a great local vibe. Plus, more often than not, a main with a beer, sangria or a big wine carafe would cost about €6!
Breakfast was always my favourite meal however. You can easily go to any cafè or pastelaria (bakery) and get three or four pastries, a coffee and water for less than €5. I lived off pasteis de nata and the like for four days like a kid because they’re just too good.
Porto has a very lively nightlife, with plenty of live music options. Some of the best national and international bands play at the Hard Club, a huge gig venue where Anna Calvi recently played. For smaller, more intimate venues, check out the Embaixada do Porto, a bar that also sells vinyls and has an impressive juke box playing mainly American funk and rock n’roll.
Things to do
Porto is an extremely walkable city. Make sure you visit the uphill streets of the old town and literally enter every church you see because they are breath-taking. The Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, two churches that stand almost side by side, were my favourites. Built in Rococo style with gold inside, and the typical azulejos tiles on the outside, they are really worth a stop.
The Sè (Porto Cathedral) and its beautiful view of the city from above are also unmissable. When I went, the Sè was being refurbished from the inside, but was still imposing from the outside – and its view of the snake-like streets of porto was worth the stop.
I also recommend taking the overground to the Jardim do Moro to cross the main Porto bridge (Ponte Luiz I) and get the stunning view of the Douro river from up top. You can find picturesque and picture-worthy corners of Porto showing different corners of the bridge, but the view from the Jardim was definitely one of my favourites.
From there, you can then take the cable car down to the riverbank. It costs €6 one way, but the price of the ticket includes a Port tasting from one of the local distilleries. #worthit
The cable car will leave you on a lovely spot on the riverbank, with some of its nicest restaurants, distilleries, street art and hidden side streets.
If you follow the Ribeira do Douro, you can get all the way to the river’s mouth, the lighthouse and the surf beach.
Foz Do Douro is a fisherman’s village with picturesque houses and killer waves, beautiful to visit close to sunset. From there, you can either climb one of the bridges through a guided tour or take a helicopter over the river.
I really enjoyed visiting the Livraria Lello (Lello Bookshop) in old town. You have to pay €5 to get in, but you get them off your book purchases once you’re in.
The bookshop sells international and Portuguese books. It inspired JK Rowling while writing Harry Potter and its beautiful staircases and bookshelves definitely reminded me of Hogwarts’ forbidden library section.
Porto also has a wealth of vintage shops where you can find unique pre-loved fashion. My favourite shop were Mon Père in Rua da Conceição and Tricirculo near the main square, Praça de Liberdade (all done up for Christmas – I know it’s late but it was cute). Vintage shops have a bunch of cute accessories for less than a tenner, and often sell fantastic fashion for just under €30.
Porto is super easy to visit in just three days. I’d recommend going in the early autumn to avoid torrential rain and to escape colder climates. I loved it and I’d love to hear if there was anything I missed in this post – any excuse to go back!
I’ll leave you with more shots of its stunning riverbank and a few cheesy Christmas shots from December.