I’m so happy to tell you about Porto (also known as Oporto)! I fell in love with the city right away and liked it more with each new bit we experienced. It is the second-largest city in Portugal, and there’s a lot more to it than the strong wine that carries its name.
Let me tell you a bit about our time there. We arrived in the early evening and after checking-in, we followed the recommendation from the owner of the charming guesthouse we stayed at and walked over to the Mercado Bom Sucesso in search of dinner.
I was expecting a couple of typical fast food options in a produce market, but what we found was a very large, bright and modern building, bustling with locals and in-the-know visitors. The original Bom Sucesso market was built in 1951, then completely updated and re-born in 2013. The current layout includes over 40 kiosks in the central atrium (mostly serving a variety of food and beverage options), a number of small stores, a section with offices, some fresh produce stalls, and even a full hotel. You can choose one (or more) of the enticing offerings available – from traditional to trendy Portuguese fare, tapas, sushi, burgers and other sandwiches, seafood, pastries and coffee, and much more – then sit at the food-court style tables to enjoy your meal and people watch! All in all, we found eating at the market a good value for some delicious food, and very cool alternative to a regular sit-down restaurant.
Later, on the way back to our room, we stopped by the Casa da Musica (a beautiful concert hall with a jam-packed calendar of performances and events), where a big band was playing a free Jazz concert outdoors. Many people were standing around or sitting on the floor to watch, or dancing “under the stars”. Such a great way to end the night!
The next day was dedicated to seeing more enchanting spots in Porto. We started at the Casa da Musica metro (subway) station, where we headed to the Sao Bento station. We purchased an Andante Card (you need 1 card per person) for 24h, which gave us unlimited access to the city’s subway system, buses and trams for that time period. The pass is valid for travel within the zone where the ticket is first validated and the zones adjacent to it. Most of Porto’s attractions are located within zone C1, and if your accommodation is in the same zone (like ours was) or in a zone next to it, the lowest cost pass (Z2) would be enough (click here for transit website). As a reference, the airport is in a different zone (N10, not adjacent to C1), and the Gaia Promenade is also in a different zone (S8, adjacent to C1), so depending on the length of your stay and transit needs to reach your accommodation and desired attractions, you may require a different pass with a further reach or may be better off paying for individual tickets as needed.
Here are some of the places we visited and recommend. I’ll try to list them in the order we followed, as a reference. We mostly walked by and took pictures, entering only the attractions that were the most interesting to us.
- Sao Bento Train Station (Estação de São Bento)
- Church of Saint Ildefonso (Igreja de Santo Ildefonso)
- Santa Catarina Street (Rua de Santa Catarina)
- Café Majestic
- Chapel Of Souls (Capela das Almas)
- Porto City Hall (Prefeitura do Porto)
- Lions Fountain (Fonte dos Leões)
- Carmo & Carmelitas Churches (Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas)
- Clerigos Church & Tower (Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos)
- Praça da Liberdade / Avenida dos Aliados
- Saint Anthony’s Church Congregados (Igreja de Santo Antonio dos Congregados)
- Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
- Museu de Arte Sacra
- Church of St. Lawrence (Igreja de São Lourenço)
- Palace of Arts (Palácio das Artes)
- Stock Exchange Palace (Palácio da Bolsa)
- Monument Church of St Francis (Igreja Monumento de São Francisco)
- Cais da Ribeira
- Ponte Dom Luis I
- Ribeira de Gaia
- Gaia Cable Car (Teleférico de Gaia)
We loved the Cais da Ribeira (riverfront promenade) – so full o life and buzzing with activity. After spending some time there, we walked across the bridge to the Gaia side of the river (in Vila Nova de Gaia) and its mirrored promenade with a gorgeous view of Porto on the opposite shore. The area around the Gaia Docks (Cais de Gaia) hosts many port wine cellars/wineries, and a large selection of bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes. Find a spot on either side of the river and enjoy! There’s plenty of places to sit back, get some rest, have a drink, a snack or a full meal, and savour the bustling surroundings. Don’t miss a ride on the Gaia Cable Car for some stunning views!
Porto is beautiful, lively, majestic, and charming – all at once. It captures your heart and delights your senses. It radiates a “joie de vivre” that is hard to find in most destinations. Porto is a special place and it knows it! 🙂