New week, new destination! After Hamburg and Florence, let’s discover Porto through the eyes of five locals!

Porto Eiffel Bridge Above II

The sun setting over the city, seen from the Serra do Pilar monastery

What do you know about Porto? The northern capital of Portugal must be one of our favourite destinations ever. It is blessed with a stunning location, great architecture and thriving cultural and music scene. It has gorgeous weather, affordable prices and a great atmosphere, with a rough edge and a lived-in feel. We spent nearly a week in Porto, wandering and wine-tasting, trying local food and spending endless afternoons sitting on the banks of the river Douro.

Before we travelled, we asked some friends for their Porto tips: happy reading!

1) Francesinha – recommended by Marcelo, a bookworm by day and ladykiller at night.

Porto Francesinha

The second-best francesinha we had!

As soon as we got into Porto, we noticed signs in bars and restaurant proudly stating ‘temos francesinha’. Marcelo told us it’s the city’s unofficial specialty, a symbol of Porto’s harbour heritage. Francesinhas come in all shapes and sizes, from hole-in-the-wall restaurants and fancy black-tie affairs, but the bottom line is the same. A white-bread sandwich filled with an array of meats, topped with melted cheese and drowned in a spicyish sauce. We loved francesinha and decided to look for the best in Porto – check our francesinha-themed post to find out more about it!

2) Wine-tasting at Ferreira, recommended by Fernanda, a schoolteacher and part-time fado chanteuse.

Porto Offley Barrels

Ok, this is the Offley winery, still a great cellar door!

No visit to Porto is complete without crossing the Dom Luis bridge into Vila Nova da Gaia for an afternoon of port-tasting from the dozens of cellar doors in the area. We’re big fans of port, and called at five or six cellar doors during our time in the city. Some wineries are really small, others very touristy, some are massive affairs stretching for several blocks. The one we liked best was Ferreira. It is hard to say why; we loved the dark tasting room, the fact that it was really quiet when we visited, giving us the chance to enjoy our vintage port in total peace and quiet. A wonderful break from the busy riverfront that lies just outside its doors.

3) People-watching on the banks of the Douro, recommended by José, a crazy Real Madrid fan (even though he is Portuguese).

Porto Bridge Jump Boogie

Children jumping into the river from Dom Luis bridge

Ok, this is hardly a secret. But as José puts it, the river is what makes Porto what it is. And yes, the Ribeira area of town may be chockablock with pavement cafés and bad street performers, but if you spend some time there and delve beneath the surface, you’ll find some wonderful secrets. A tiny shop, sandwiched between two souvenir stalls, selling beer and snacks, where a tiny grandmother put down her embroidery work to serve us. A wonderful maze of staircases and houses with tiled façades, on the way up to the top of Dom Luis bridge. A group of children diving from the top of the super-famous bridge, not for money like the famous divers of Acapulco and Mostar, just for fun.

4) Mercado do Bolhão, recommended by Ana Luiza, who wrote a book in two weeks

For a market lover like me, this was a top tip. Walk away from the Ribeira and head inland towards the hills. Remember Porto is a town where you need strong legs. Once you’ve had enough of that up and down, go and find Mercado do Bolhao just off the main shopping street, Rua Santa Catarina. This market is strangely reminiscent of an early Twentieth-century train station, with wrought iron roofs and steps up and down the various levels. Spend some time browsing the stalls and enjoying the atmosphere, then sit down for a well-earned lunch at one of the fish restaurants in the ground floor, and order some grilled sardines. A wonderful fish lunch set us back about 20€ for the two of us.

5) View Porto from above – recommended by Max, a Game of Thrones junkie

Porto From Above

Porto from the top of Torre dos Clerigos

As I said before, Porto is a city of hills and staircases, of narrow streets and crooked alleyways. There are some scenic vistas (such as the sloped square in front of the town hall) but, generally speaking, Porto is best seen from above. Max recommended two viewing spots; one is the Serra do Pilar Monastery, high above the Dom Luis Bridge on the south side of the river, a hard but rewarding climb at sunset (scroll up to the first picture if you don’t trust me). The other is the Torre dos Clerigos, a bell tower in the city centre. They were both great viewpoints, but my favourite was the monastery.

Porto Church Sunset

The city at sunset

And here’s a couple of bonus tips of random places and things we loved in Porto.

São Bento Station – a train station covered in azulejos, traditional hand-painted tiles

Porto Nun and Station Tiles

Street art – all over!

Porto Street Art Alien

Have you visited Porto? What were your favourite places?

29 Responses

  1. noel

    Excellent post, I love this city – it has been too long since I’ve visited – the photos were stunning.

    • Margherita

      Thanks Noel! Porto is amazing, we loved it too. Glad you like the pics!

    • Margherita

      hey Katie! You should go to Porto next!

  2. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde)

    Wow, I love your pictures – they’re making me want to go to Porto right now! The francesinha looks incredible.

    I’ve never been to Porto, but it’s on my list (just like pretty much everywhere). But I’m right next door in Spain so hopefully it won’t be too hard to visit Porto.

    • Margherita

      You would love it Jessica! Porto is great!

  3. zof

    Porto made it to my bucket list now. Excellent tips, I will keep them in mind in case I go visit and explore sometime soon.

    • Margherita

      Thanks Zof! I’m sure you’ll love it.

    • Margherita

      You’re so right Amy! It’s beautiful!

  4. Alexandra C.

    Never would have thought to visit here! Definitely putting it on my list now! It looks so beautiful! That sandwich looks like something I’ve definitely got to try… and that view from above is just spectacular! Sounds like a wonderful destination! -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • Margherita

      hey Alexandra! You should really go, it’s great!

  5. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary

    What a beautiful city and it looks like you guys had an amazing time there. I would love to see the stunning view of the orange rooftops – it is definitely an magnificent sight!

    • Margherita

      Thanks Constance, it really is beautiful!

  6. lorrie

    thanks for the amazing photographs liked the city and the monastery at sunset ones best

  7. Hannah

    Porto looks so beautiful- I stumbled across a photo of the city a year ago and it was been on my to-go-to list ever since! I’ll have to keep this list in mind, especially the spots for those Porto-from-above views! Stunning!

    • Margherita

      Hey Hannah! You should go, Porto is great!

  8. Gabor Kovacs

    I loved Porto so much when I was there 7 years ago. Actually I think it’s one of the most underrated cities in Europe. Lovely places and views, the old neighborhood is simply amazing. Great tips, I think we only did nr. 3. (I am not a Real Madrid fan at all:) and nr. 5. I will try to remember the others when we go back there one day!

    • Margherita

      Hey Gabor! thanks for stopping by… we loved Porto too, actually it’s one of our favourites!

  9. Margherita

    hey Samantha! Portugal should be on your radar it’s amazing!

  10. Margherita

    It’s really nice! and francesinha is fab!

  11. Margherita

    You’ll have an amazing time there Jen, thanks for your comment!

  12. Margherita

    It’s so amazing! You should visit one day!

  13. Katie Featherstone

    Lovely post thank-you! I think Porto is one of my favorite cities- I wish I´d spent more time there! Need to go back to try some francesinha I think…

  14. Wolfgang

    Very nice article!
    But I guess, there much more to discover. Porto is such an amazing city and exciting as well! I´m now here since 2 weeks and I could stay much longer … 😉