On the first night in my dorm in Milan I was getting ready to head to sleep when I heard someone come in, it was my new housemate! As it was late at night I said “hello!” very quickly and chatted for a couple of minutes with her before heading to bed. I asked where she was from and she replied “I’m from Portugal”. Now to be honest at that point I really didn’t know much about Portugal at all. Sure, I’d heard a lot about the economic crisis and I knew that the people there spoke Portugese but aside from that I knew nothing else….
Over the next few weeks and months my house mate went on to tell me more about this magical place, from the hundreds of codfish recipes to the beautiful beaches and friendly people. I thought, ok, I have to check this place out. My plan was to stay in Portugal for about six days to celebrate her birthday then head to Lisbon with our exchange friends. Before I knew it I had spent three weeks in Portugal with almost a fortnight in Porto alone. I loved it. I have never been so sad to leave a place before! Part of me thinks that having a routine was what I loved most about it because after traveling for a while you really do start to crave stability. In any case I have written up a guide on what to see, eat and do in Porto, one of my favourite cities in the world!
P.s. Thank you to the lovely Correia family for hosting me and treating me so very well. I cannot wait to return the favour soon.
Rua das Carmelitas 151, Porto, Portugal
Clerigos’ food focuses on modernising classic Portugese dishes such as pataniscas de bacalhau (codfish fritters) and bacalhau à braz (fried potato, olives, onions with codfish). The prices are reasonable given the restaurant positions itself as a more upmarket experience with its fresh interior and innovative wine tasting section. It’s also the perfect place to eat at if you’re checking out the downtown area in general.
Leitaria da Quinta do Paço
Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 47, Porto, Portugal
Regarded as the best eclairs in Porto, LQP started off as a humble dairy producer. The company now boasts a number of outlets in Porto serving up some of the softest eclairs filled with heavenly chantilly cream. They also do a cheap but hearty breakfast and serve a good cup’o’coffee.
4100 421, Av. da Boavista 854, Porto, Portugal
If savoury crepes and creamy frappes are your thing then you’ll fall head over heels for Casinha. The cafe looks like it’s been housed inside an old home with a sweet garden at the back to laze about in the sun. There were lots of students studying whilst I was there so I get the feeling that it’s the kind of place where you can just chill and not feel pressured to hurry up and leave. They also have pretty good brownies 🙂
Mercearia do Miguel
R. do Passeio Alegre 130, 4150 Porto, Portugal
Located in Foz, Mercearia do Miguel aims to provide healthy and fresh produce to its patrons. From fruits and veggies to grains and wines MdM is little but definitely packs a punch. The juices are incredible and well worth trying, fairly generous portions with a range of health benefits.
Originally established in Lisbon Santini has recently moved to Porto to offer the North delicious home-made gelato! Although not as good as the stuff in Italy, and a little pricier, Santini still manages to hit the spot when those gelato cravings hit!
R. de Gondarém 843, 4150-038 Foz do Douro, Portugal
This is by far one of my favourite spots for lunch in Porto. There are daily specials at Cepa Torta for €6 and they are incredible. I would pay double for the dishes given how good they taste! Just be aware however there is a smoking and a non-smoking section at Cepa Torta.
Francesinha (Little Frenchie)
So the quintessential dish you have to try whilst in Porto is Francesinha! There are so many ingredients that it’s difficult for me to explain what the dish actually is but I will try – so you start with toast and you layer in about 4 different types of meat, then you cover the whole thing with cheese, then you put some sort of mystery sauce on top and you can either add a fried egg or fries or both… So for me this isn’t appetising but a friend in Porto did eat about 4 of these in the few weeks I was there (yes, what.the.heck). I would say try it because hey this might be really delicious to your tastebuds but sadly it wasn’t for mine!
Sushi and Sangria
Praça DªFilipa de Lencastre, 205, 4050-260 Porto, Portugal
Could there be a more perfect combination of foods? At Sushi and Sangria the dishes are served omakase style if you’d like, so you just ask what’s fresh and good and they’ll bring it out to you. Now in Portugal sushi is not what I was used to because it had fruits and nuts and one combo I tried had raspberry and peanut butter?! It was delicious… But some people may find that defies everything they have ever known and loved about sushi and may not be into this, which is also cool. However, if you’re keen to try something new then definitely check this place out!!
Where the river meets the sea my friends. 🙂
A popular surf and swimming beach with locals with clubs, bars and restaurants nearby as well as a weekend market with an amazing selection of handmade and artisan jewellery.
By far one of the most beautiful bookshops you’ll ever see in Porto and the world! It’s said that whilst JK. Rowling lived in Porto as an English teacher she drew inspiration for Harry Potter from Livraria Lello.
Serralves is a cultural institution with a contemporary art museum, park and art-deco style villa. The temporary exhibitions (depending on the theme) may not necessarily be to everyones liking but the park and villa are breathtaking and well worth the visit, especially if you’re a tertiary education student as it’s free entry! It was so lovely just wondering through the grounds of Serralves and exploring the smaller gardens tucked away behind the hedges and trees. There’s also a library for you to study in and a couple of cafes for a coffee break. It’s the perfect place to lose yourself for the day.
Dom Luis Bridge
The Dom Luis bridge was designed by Theophile Seyrig, a Belgian engineer who was the student of Gustave Eiffel (erhm Eiffel tower). Construction was completed in 1886 and today the bridge upper level is reserved for pedestrian access and the metro with the lower deck for pedestrians and cars. The views from the upper deck are incredible and the walk across is breath-taking for views of both Gaia and Ribeira.
Parque da Cidade do Porto
The largest city park in Portugal stretches all the way to the beach in Matosinhos. It’s the perfect place to come for a picnic, stroll or bike-ride.
Cais de Ribeira
One of the most picturesque parts of Porto is Ribeira, with its medieval alleyways and streets, pastel-hued old homes, numerous cafes and restaurants and market stalls. In 1996 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sao Bento Station
The tile panels in Sao Bento station depict the history of Portugal. It’s located in the Almeida Garret Square, which is also where you’ll spot ladies selling manjerico plants before the celebration for the festival of St. John, which I talk about a little later!
Palacio de Cristal
For stunning views you have to visit Palacio de Cristal. This place is incredible and I’ll let the pictures below do the talking for me!
They are everywhere and they are stunning. You’ll start to realise that tiles and sardines are a big big big deal in Portugal!
Praia de Gondarém
Av. do Brasil 561, Porto, Portugal
Hands down my favourite beach bar! You gotta come here and just feel the chill vibes and pair it with my favourite drink a Somersby Blackberry on ice.
Praia da Luz
Rota do Cha
Rua de Miguel Bombarda 457, 4050 Porto, Portugal
Tea lovers unite! This place is real hippy and offers about a bajillion different kinds of tea. It’s a nice place to go for a quiet tea catch-up with friends, again it’s all tea remember that!
Porto Exit Games
Praça de Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 53, Porto, Portugal
By far one of the most fun things I have ever done! You gotta give Porto Exit Games a try! The first time I went with two friends and we didn’t escape the Original Port Wine Sabotage sadly but the second time I went with 4 other friends and we were the second quickest to make it out of the Lost Memories game! It’s a great way to build trust, have fun and take your mind off whatever is going on. It’s also very challenging! The games aren’t in Portugese or anything so anyone can play!
Portobello Rooftop Bar
Very pretty but very expensive, good for one drink and a couple of pictures of the view.
Ok so I am calling this place the general store because I actually forgot the name but it’s a few doors down from Livraria Lello so you can’t miss it. It stocks a whole range of products from Portugal so it’s the perfect place to buy a non-tacky gift for family and friends.
Fado is a type of traditional music in Portugal and I would really recommend finding a bar or music store to try and listen to some live Fado. It’s hauntingly beautiful and will touch your soul in ways you never thought. I was lucky enough to catch the guys below as we were walking from Ribeira to Gaia but I’m not exactly sure what music shop this was.
I feel like I need a whole separate post just to cover the amazing shopping in Porto… which is exactly what I will do so keep your eyes peeled for that one! 🙂
Festival of St. John
I was lucky enough to be in town during the Festival of St. John and it was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I have had. Everyone gathers in Ribeira to eat, drink, dance and be together for the night before watching the incredible fireworks and later on an epic concert. You’ll also notice that people will hit you – yes, hit! I was surprised too and thought WTH r u doing mate before I realised it’s a tradition and it’s very gentle, more of a tap than a hit – so anyway they “hit” you with garlic flowers or plastic hammers for good luck. Now, if you ever in your life get the chance to see this then do it, the celebrations are so much fun! Just make sure to not lose your friends, which I did as I needed to use the bathroom and by the time I went back to the find them they had already been pulled away by the crowds to another area and it was mayhem. So hold onto your friends and have an epic time!
Put on those shoes and walk my friends, this city is beautiful and there’s a lot to see.