Porto is the second best known city in Portugal and also one of the most charming ones in the world. Its history, architecture, gastronomy and the fame of its wine have been attracting visitors from the four corners of the world for decades now. With its historical center classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s not difficult to lose a whole day in Porto’s streets and monuments.
Guest post by Marlene Marques
Blog: Surfer Girl On The Move
What’s the best time to visit Porto?
If you visit Porto during the summer, you have a good chance of catching good weather. However, this is also the time when the city is completely invaded by tourists. So if you prefer to get away from the high season, try to go in the spring or fall months, since in winter rain is almost always a certainty.
And why not visit Porto during the city festivals? São João is the local patron saint, and on the night of June 23 to 24 the smell of grilled sardines and the sound of popular music invade the streets. Also, the fireworks are usually epic!
What’s good to know about Porto?
Porto is a city full of history, which dates back to the 1st century BC, when it was known as Portus Cale.
It was in Porto that D. Henrique was born (1394), and from here he departed, in 1415, for Africa, beginning the time of the Portuguese Discoveries. You can see this episode of Portugal’s history portrayed in a fantastic tile panel inside the main train station of the city.
Port Wine is one of the best-known wines in the world, being aged in the cellars that are located on the riverside, in Vila Nova de Gaia. You can easily walk across the D. Luís Bridge and get to know them.
One Day in Porto Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Porto.
Standing on the banks of the Douro River, Ribeira is one of the city’s visiting cards, so start your trip here. It’s one of the oldest districts of Porto, with a very traditional architecture. Go on a boat trip up the river or enjoy the view on one of the various terraces in this riverfront spot.
Porto’s Cathedral is one of the religious icons of the city. Built in the 19th century, it is distinguishable by its two towers and a large central rosette in romantic style. Right next door you can find the Medieval Tower and the Church of St. Lawrence.
Aliados Avenue is the main artery of the city, marked to the north by the City Hall and to the south by the Cardosas Palace (19th century). Several buildings of 20’s and 40’s rule this avenue. At the top of the Aliados, to the right, you’ll arrive at the Bolhão Market.
One of the most emblematic monuments of Porto, Clérigos was built in 1754, designed by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni. Its tower has six floors and about 240 steps to the top, where you can have an amazing view of the whole city.
Born in 1906, Lello Bookshop is one of the oldest and most beautiful of its kind in the country. This meeting place for men of arts is visited today by thousands of people who want to admire the architecture of the building, appreciate the wood crafted shelves or walk the grand staircase that gives access to the upper floor.
Due to the large influx of tourists, the bookstore decided to start charging entrance, but the amount charged will be deducted in any book purchase.
Portuguese Photography Center
The beautiful building of the former prison is where the Portuguese Center of Photography is housed today. Here, you’ll be able to get to know the history of photography in Portugal, as well as see a collection of cameras, from the 16th century to the present day.
Stock Exchange Palace
Take a guided tour to know the history of each of the rooms of the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace). You can visit the Gustavo Eiffel Hall, where the well-known architect designed some of his best works in Portugal, such as the D. Maria Pia Bridge, or the Arab Hall, the ex-libris of the building, which took 18 years to complete.
San Francisco Church
San Francisco Church was built in the 14th century and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Also known as the “Golden Church”, this church-museum is distinguishable by the golden carvings in its interior.
Dinning in Porto
For dinner, we suggest one of the most typical dishes of Porto: the Francesinha.
At Passos Manuel Street, head for Café Santiago. The house dates back to 1959 and its Francesinha is considered one of the best in Porto. As such, it’s not uncommon to find a queue at the door. The bread used in this dish is cooked in a wood-fired oven, and the sausages and steak are of the best quality. As is, of course, the sauce, the big star (and the best kept secret) of this dish.
Where to stay in Porto?
In recent years tourism has grown in Porto, so what isn’t lacking are accommodation options for all tastes and wallets. Just so you don’t have to leave the city center, here are several suggestions:
Gallery Hostel is in the district of Miguel Bombarda, the so-called Art District of Porto. It’s a 1906 building, rehabilitated entirely and super trendy, with its own art gallery and ideal for design and culture lovers.
Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel
Between Avenida dos Aliados and Ribeira, Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel occupies the oldest stationery building in Europe leading to a trip up to the 19th century. A place of charm that doesn’t forget the city’s history.
Extra tips for visiting Porto
– Avoid renting a car to visit the center of Porto. All locations are accessible on foot and parking in the middle of the city can be a real nightmare.
– If you are short on time, you definitely want to have everything planned out before you arrive in Porto. With Welcome Pickups you can book most reliable transport from or to the airport and on top of that order yourself a travel essential products that will wait for you in the car.
– There are several low cost airlines flying to and from Porto, so this is a fantastic destination for a short visit if you are in a country in Europe.
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