The Alternative Weekend Break; a guide to Porto, Portugal
When it comes to visiting new cities, Instagram worthy spots are far higher up my priority list than they ought to be. Luckily, Porto is rather blooming gorgeous and has lots going on so your holiday snaps will fit your aesthetic but you won’t have to compromise on good food or exciting things to do. The city has a real trendy vibe but, with most people heading to the capital Lisbon, it isn’t over crowded. It’s the perfect alternative easy breezy weekend break…
Everything is just so relaxed in Porto. The focus is on enjoying things and there’s no rush; Breakfast is whenever you feel like it and if a bar closes before you’ve polished off your bottle of vino, they’ll pop the cork back in for you to take it home.
Speaking of vino, it’s incredibly cheap. You can grab a decent bottle for around €5. The Douro wine region is just next door so we opted for something local each time we visited a restaurant, and generally went for the house wine since they often came so highly recommended. We paid around €11-13 for each bottle, in gorgeous restaurants and bars, so it was always great value.
You’ll find restaurants open till 4am, ones that turn into bars and clubs, ones that try and feed you more food than your Gran does… We accidentally stumbled upon Maus Habitos (which we absolutely loved), a restaurant that shares a floor of the building with an art gallery and a night club. It filled up with locals towards the end of the night, when they pushed the tables back and turned up the music. We were given so free drinks tokens too, though I’m still not sure why! Another favourite was Museu D’avo, with its treasure trove of items hanging from the walls and a seemingly endless list of small plates, of which we ordered far too many. There’s also a custom in Porto to bring out plates of bread, cheese, olives and ham without you asking for them, but they only charge you if you eat them. You can read more about my favourite foodie spots in Porto here. Oh and make sure you eat as many Pastel de Natas (Portuguese Custard Tarts) as you can manage – they’re delicious.
No matter where you go in the city, there are beautiful sights to see. The iconic blue and white tiles pop up on every street and the city is filled with street art, like the brightly painted phone boxes. Even the train station looks like a movie set; nothing like the scruffy, dark stations we have in the UK with the resident drunks. Make sure you head up to the Cathedral for incredible views of the city too.
We got tickets from the tourism office for a Port cellar tour but if you head across the river, there are plenty of cellars that are happy to give you a tour and tasting for a couple of euros. We’re desperate to do a wine tour of the Douro Valley at some point too, so if you’re planning on staying longer than a few days, I would definitely make it part of your agenda. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you have to check out Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It totally feels like it could be Flourish and Blotts and rumour has it JK took some inspiration for Hogwarts from the place.
The metro makes getting around Porto unbelievably easy. Grab a travel pass for however many days you need from the tourism office and you can whizz around the city. We did spend our first day wandering around to get our bearings and to see the city but once you’ve got to grips with it, heading out to your dinner reservation or avoiding the particularly hilly areas of town becomes so simple. It also made airport transfers incredibly cheap as a taxi into the centre would have cost us around €30 euros but you can get a three day Porto card including unlimited Metro travel for just €25
– Head out for breakfast; it’s part of the lifestyle there, making it majorly affordable. I bought two cappuccinos, a double espresso and three different pastries all for five euros (not all for me, I promise).
– Go for the Porto card with transport, even if it’s just for the airport transfers. Buy it in advance or get it at the tourism office at the airport.
– The best restaurants are popular with the locals, so call up and book in advance.
– Ask for your Pastel de Natas warm and topped with icing sugar and a little cinnamon.
I absolutely loved the city and would go back in an instant. What do you think? For me, it’s a must visit!