When you think of a holiday in Portugal, it’s usually either a city break in Lisbon or a week on the beach somewhere in the stunning Algarve. But Porto, further north, on the banks of the Rio Douro, is fast becoming the destination of choice for being cheaper and having the best of both, surrounded by gorgeous beaches and having plenty of wine bars, nightclubs and shopping in the city.
There’s plenty see and do (and eat) here for such a small city, so read on and find out how to make the most of your time here…
Where to stay: Hotel Dom Henrique
This fab hotel is just five minutes from the bars and nightlife of Rua da Galeria de Paris and being one of Porto’s tallest buildings, it has stunning views over the whole city. And while you’re here, make sure you grab a sundowner at the hotel’s rooftop terrace on the 17th floor – it will definitely be a highlight of your trip.
What to do: Explore the historic area of Ribeira
Get your bearings of the city and take a wander through the colourful, winding streets of Ribeira on the north side of the riverbank. It’s also part of the historical centre of Porto which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s right next to the Dom Luís I Bridge so there’s no shortage of gorgeous sights to see.
Where to eat: Café Santiago
A trip to Porto wouldn’t be complete without trying the city’s most famous dish – the Francesinha. It’s essentially a ham and cheese toastie that’s also filled with meat such as sausage and steak, covered in cheese and beer sauce, and topped with a fried egg; it has to be seen to be believed.
You’ll find one of the best in the city at Café Santiago near the colosseum – it absolutely was not my cup of tea purely because of how heavy it was (and I’m not mad about ham either), but most of our group came home raving about it. Just make sure you arrive very hungry.
Where to go: Take a boat tour along the Rio Douro
There are countless boat tours you can take along the gorgeous riverfront, ranging from a few hours in length to a quick 10-minute jaunt from the north harbour to the south, and vice versa. There’s no better way to while away a sunny afternoon in Porto.
One you’re on the south side of the river, make sure you stop into Rabelos Restaurante Bar for some local seafood and fantastic views over the city.
Where to go: Take a wander through the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
It’s hard to pinpoint the single most stunning view in Porto since there are so many gorgeous spots, but the palace gardens have got to be up there.
Situated on a hillside to the west of the city, the views out over the Douro River while you take a stroll through here are absolutely unparalleled.
Where to eat: Taberna de Santo António
There’s no shortage of cheap and cheerful restaurants serving up delish seafood and the family-run Taberna de Santo António in the trendy Vitória area is definitely one to try.
What to do: Go on a walking tour of Porto
Porto is a city that’s best explored on foot thanks to its many cobbled, winding streets, so a walking tour is by far the most popular sightseeing option. The Porto Walkers offer brilliant free tours with experienced local guides in exchange for tips, and they can also organise wine and food tours as well as pub crawls.
Where to drink: Rua da Galeria de Paris
There’s an endless amount of brilliant bars and nightclubs to choose from, with the majority of the best ones located around the Rua da Galeria de Paris. Order a bottle of wine at Base bar for around €6 and just sit out on the terrace and watch the world go by.
You’ll also have to take a stroll down to one of Porto’s many brilliant riverside rooftop bars, such as the 360° Terrace Lounge with next level views over the river and the Dom Luís I Bridge.
Where to go: The beach
Porto is surrounded by plenty of beaches, some very secluded and some that are packed with people and plenty of bars and restaurants dotted along the edge. If you’re looking for a quiet, chilled out beach day, Praia do Cabedelo to the south is a great spot to unwind for a few hours.
Or if you’re looking for something a bit livelier, Matosinhos beach and Praias dos Ingleses attract a younger crowd and have several beachside bars and restaurants where you can grab a drink.
What to do: Wine tasting
What would a trip to Portugal’s most famous wine region be without fitting in a wine tasting while you’re here? Take in a tour at one of the city’s famous port wine cellars, the oldest of which is Caves Ferreira which was founded in 1751, or make a day of it and book a trip out to one of the Douro Valley’s many wineries, an hour and a half drive outside the city with absolutely stunning views along the way.
If you’re pressed for time, there are countless wine bars in the city that can organise tastings for you. One of the best we went to was Prova – they really know their stuff and they have a great selection of small plates to boot.