Porto, in Portugal’s north, is a confusing old place, from the mix of styles and eras evident everywhere to the jumble of streets. It’s as though the city can’t decide what it wants to be. Which may actually be a cunning marketing ploy, since this innate confusion means you can make Porto whatever you want it to be.
Start your day with a bite at the Mercado do Bolhao, before stopping by the Pavilhao Rosa Mota for a culture fix. Drop by Livraria Lello, a quaint little coffee-serving bookstore you’ll fall in love with, and end your day (or start your night) at the Port Wine Cellars for a true taste of Porto and a view of the sun setting over the River Duoro. The cool kids may have fled to the seaside suburbs, but Porto will have you feeling pretty content right where you are.
Porto’s Top 10
10. River Duoro This windy river’s waters are perfect for contemplative ferry rides, while its vistas are perfect for contemplative cocktails.
5. Se Cathedral Over 900 years old and a mix of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic, this cathedral is a testament to Porto’s architectural eccentricity.
9. Torre dos Clerigos Once the tallest structure in Portugal, this city symbol is still visible from most corners of the city.
4. Solar Vinho do Porto Doesn’t the city’s signature drink just taste better when you’re sipping it on the patio of an 18th century villa?
8. Serralves These obsessively manicured gardens are home to the city’s Museum of Modern Art.
3. Sao Francisco Church With a golden interior, it’s clearly not just what’s on the outside that counts.
7. Estadio do Dragao Home turf of FC Porto. Watching a match is compulsory viewing even if you don’t like football.
2. Casa da Musica The performers are almost as interesting as the building itself.
6. Palacio da Bolsa As a general rule, stock exchanges are boring. But this luxurious monument to Portugal’s wealth is anything but.
1. Ponte D. Luis 1 If you thought the view of this double-decker bridge was good, just wait till you’re standing on top of it!
- Museu Romantico – A house where the king of Italy resided while in exile.
- Porto Cathedral – A 12th-century fortress overlooking the square of Ribeira.
- Torre dos Clérigos – A huge tower more than 75 metres high offers superb views of Porto’s cityscape.
- Praça de Mousinho de Albuquerque – One of Porto’s most notable landmarks.
- Pavilion Rosa Mota – A 50-year-old stadium boasting an imposing domed structure.
Porto Art & Culture
- Fundação de Serralves – A modern museum designed by the renowned architect, Álvaro Siza.
- Centro Português de Fotografia (Portuguese Photography Museum) – This museum is housed in a striking building in the Porto city centre.
- Port Wine Museum – This riverside museum celebrates all that is great about the city’s famous tipple.
- Museu do Carro Eléctrico – Tourists will find an array of restored vintage trams here.
- Casa da Musica – Enjoy a musical performance at this concert hall.
- Mercado do Bolhão – Porto’s food market is also home to many handicrafts stores.
- Santa Catarina Street – A busy shopping street that is highly recommended.
- Cedofeita Street – A bustling shopping strip popular with tourists and locals alike.
- Norte Shopping – One of Porto’s largest shopping centres.
- MUUDA - This concept store offers clothing, books, fine jewellery, shoes and arts, making it the perfect place to find all your required purchases at once.
Gay & Lesbian Porto
- Aniki Bobo – A gay-friendly hotspot where gays discreetly go to meet like-minded individuals.
- Boys ‘R Us – Porto’s most well-known gay club. Expect flashing lights and loud music. The place for the gay community to enjoy lively dancing and great music.
- Labirinto – A gay-friendly straight bar located just a few minutes’ walk from Casa da Musica.
- Pride – A bar that proudly displays a rainbow flag at its door and is known for hosting flamboyant drag shows.
- Zoom - A gay hotspot, especially popular on Saturdays.
- Pavilhão Rosa Mota – A multipurpose pavilion featuring lovely gardens in which to take a rest in the sunshine.
- Santo Inacio Park and Zoo – Home to a range of different animals, including leopards, meerkats and owls.
- Casa-Museo Van Zelle – The former summer home of the Van Zeller family, who were heavily involved in the port wine trade. The gardens include ancient trees and unusual species of plants.
- Ribeira – Take a hike through this fascinating region to explore the best of Porto’s scenery.
- Foz do Douro – A great region in which to take a stroll at sunset.
- Visit the Dragão Stadium, the home ground of FC Porto.
- Take a trip to the Pavilhão Rosa Mota athletics arena to catch the athletic stars of the future in training.
- Support the runners of the Porto Marathon, which takes place every October.
- Visit the Rua Campo Alegre to see Porto’s cricket club in action.
- Find the Boavista street circuit and watch rally races.
For those who agree eating leftovers is the best part of Christmas, Dia de Reis (6 January) should be an important consideration in deciding when to visit Porta.
Make sure you’re well caffeinated before participating in May’s Serralves em Festa. There are 40 consecutive hours of exhibits, shows and workshops.
All the cool kids come flocking back to Porto for the Sao Joao Festival in June. It is officially one of the liveliest street festivals in Europe, where pretty much anything goes.
Assumption Day (August) is marked with parades and street vendors. But when the sun goes down the night sky comes alive (with fireworks, not angry extraterrestrials complaining about the noise).
The Portuguese celebrate Christmas with gusto – and lots of lights. Sunglasses are recommended.
When To Go
The weather is pleasant year round due to naturally warm temperatures cooled by Atlantic winds.
July and August are the sunniest, warmest – averaging 25°C (77°F) – and busiest months.
Spring is when the city comes to life, with trees and flowers blooming.
The old subway system has been revamped, although the newer areas of the city are still not well serviced.
Avoid rental cars, even if you’ve got a brilliant GPS – the Portuguese are notoriously bad drivers.
Boats are a good way to get a different vantage point, and are surprisingly cheap to hire.
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