City Guide: Discover The Best From Porto ♦ Set aside the Douro River, Porto is one of the most ecletic destinations Europe. With its Medieval architecture, it’s defining Dom Luis I Bridge (designed by the engineer and disciple of Gustave Eiffel, Teófilo Seyrig) and Art Nouveau cafes, there’s something for everyone. Porto Wine, Azulejos, Amazing Sunsets and incredible food are some of the things to see and do in the city. And today, Secrets from Portugal will set you up on a city guide: what to do, what to eat and where to sleep. Check out our suggestions, keep reading down below.
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Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal (after Lisbon) and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Proclaimed a WorldHeritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, the city that named Portugal has a lot to offer. With its Medieval architecture, it’s defining Dom Luis I Bridge (designed by the engineer and disciple of Gustave Eiffel, Teófilo Seyrig) and Art Nouveau cafes, there’s something for everyone.
History buffs will fall for its charm – check out the Lello Bookshop with its amazing Neo-Gothic interiors, or head to the São Bento railway station to see the 20,000 tiles that decorate its walls. Foodies will be in their element – from the Mercado do Bolhão food market to the many port wine lodges (on the Gaia side of the river) – this city just keeps giving to those with a serious appetite for culinary finds.
Between 1732 and 1763, Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni designed a baroque church with a tower that became its architectural and visual icon: the Torre dos Clérigos (English: Clerics’ Tower). During the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became an important industrial centre and had its size and population increase.
Port Wine, one of Portugal’s most famous exports, named after Porto, is made in the wine cellar of Vila Nova de Gaia. Wine has always been produced in the Douro Valley, since the 13th century, wines were transported to Porto in the Barcos Rabelos (falt sailing vessels).
Of all the cities in Portugal, the capital is often the favourite, but Porto is fast becoming the destination of choice. While it may be smaller than Lisbon, Porto packs a feisty little punch when it comes to the best attractions. First of all, it’s the home of port and the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia are a must-visit (and must-taste). Secondly, its Ribeira district is one of the most Instagrammable historic quarters you’ll have ever laid eyes on.
What To Do In Porto
This ornate, 75-metre bell tower, which watches lovingly over the city of Porto, is arguably the city’s most iconic silhouette. It was opened in 1763 and is blessed with a beautiful barrage of Baroque motifs thanks to its Italian designer Nicolau Nasoni. Given its prominent position, you can get some amazing 360° views of the city from the top, but you’ll have to climb 225 steps to get there.
Crystal Palace Gardens
When Googling this park, if you’re faced with a bunch of fibreglass dinosaurs, then you’re in the wrong Crystal Palace. Despite the lack of prehistoric models, these gardens are somewhat more exotic than what London has to offer. Not only does this verdant paradise have a maze of walkways, tree-lined waterways, sculptured topiary and a huge domed pavilion (all thanks to German landscape architect Emile David), but it overlooks the Douro River too. Well worth the hike up there.
Foz do Douro
To blow away the cobwebs make for the Foz do Douro, a trendy district where the Douro enters the Ocean. There’s a long promenade with palms and pines, and a pergola that you might recognise if you’ve been to Nice. The Pergola da Foz was installed in the 1930s as the Mayor’s wife fell in love with the one on the Promenade des Anglais. The Farol Molhe do Douro lighthouse meanwhile guided vessels in and out of the Douro for 120 years before being deactivated in 2009. New, modern restaurants pop up in this quarter by the week, and when the sun is setting you couldn’t ask for a more romantic backdrop for a stroll.
Serra do Pilar
The Serra do Pilar is a jagged hill above the Douro river on the Gaia side. Needless to say, the view is spectacular, especially at sunset. Visit the thirteenth-century monastery to find out more about the four World Heritage sites in Portugal’s northern region: the historic centres of Porto and Guimarães, the Douro wine region and the Côa Archaeological Park.
Porto Wine Cellars
Porto’s sister city Gaia has beaches and those famous Port wine cellars. They’re gorgeous, with guided tours to teach you the history of the stuff and the distinguishing features of each variety (there are many varieties of the port). Every tour has a happy ending: a Port tasting. We recommend the Sandeman Cellars (Largo Miguel Bombarda, 3; the ones with the chap in the black cape), which include a museum; Taylor’s (Rua do Choupelo, 250), featuring the highly rated O Barão de Fladgate restaurant; and Cockburn’s (Rua Serpa Pinto, 346), where you can enjoy a picnic with some lip-smacking Portuguese delicacies.
Luis I Bridge
An industrial symbol for Porto, this twin-level metal arched bridge opened in 1886. It was conceived by the German engineer Théophile Seyrig who co-founded the Eiffel Company. There’s a bird’s eye view of the Cais da Ribeira from the top level, which is also used by Porto’s light railway. After that, you could board the Funicular dos Guindais to get down to the waterside.
The Guardian and travel website Lonely Planet picked this as the world’s third most beautiful bookstore. Are they having a laugh? It’s gorgeous! More than a century old, Lello is an art nouveau pearl with gothic details, stained glass and a fabulous red staircase, said to have inspired the one in Hogwarts (JK Rowling once lived in Porto). Harry Potter fans: make a beeline here immediately. There are so many visitors these days that you are now charged to enter, but this is discounted from any purchase. Plenty of tours go to the Lello Bookstore
São Bento Train Station
It’s been voted one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations. The outside is super-cool, in a Belle Epoque Parisian kind of way, but it’s the interiors that will really knock you out: the station lobby walls are covered with 20,000 decorative tiles, which took painter Jorge Colaço 11 years to complete, portraying scenes of Portuguese history, daily life and transportation (for the trainspotters). Catch a train from here to nearby towns such as Miramar (with its beautiful beaches and mansions), Braga or Guimarães. And if you miss your train, so what?
The Cais da Ribeira has been spruced up a little in the last few years and information boards have been installed to tell you about this district’s characters and businesses when it was Porto’s hive of commerce. You’ll have a perfect shot of the iconic Luís I Bridge from here, and if you duck through the arcades there’s a confusing maze of steep streets and stairways between pastel-painted houses in varying states of repair.
Palácio Da Bolsa
Porto’s old stock exchange was built next to the Church of São Francisco after its cloisters burned down during the Siege of Porto in 1832. The exterior was finished by 1850 and has a Neoclassical design, while the eclectic interiors were decorated right up to the start of the 20th century. You have to go in to comprehend the richness of the sculpture, decorative carvings, plasterwork, frescos, chandeliers and tiles.
First, there’s the villa, Casa de Serralves, a graceful Art Deco property built between 1925 and 1944 and with designers like Charles Siclis and René Lalique recruited to craft the interiors. The villa looks out on sumptuous terraced grounds with tree-lined avenues, topiaries, regimented lawns and pergolas. Then on the other side of the park is the Contemporary Art Museum, which opened in 1999 for high-profile temporary exhibitions. Right now, you can see Joana Vasconcelos’s exhibition “I’m Your Mirror”.
Where To Eat In Porto
Cantinho do Avillez
Cantinho do Avillez in Porto, is a friendly, welcoming and relaxed place. As always, quality is a priority. The menu offers some of Lisbon’s Cantinho most celebrated dishes -Deep fried beans with tartar sauce, Marinated scallops with avocado, Sautée poultry livers with onion and Port reduction, Cod with bread crumb, LT egg and “exploding olives” are some of the dishes of chef Avillez’s restaurant in Porto. The restaurant is in Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, close to Ribeira.
Dating back to the 19th century, the old Quinta da Macieirinha is now called ‘Porto do Solar – ANTIQVVM’. With an enormous monumental beauty, this space is filled with luxury design from the buildings to the gardens surrounding it. With a privileged and unique landscape in the Invicta city and with the masterful kitchen knowledge of the chef plus an enviable wine list, this restaurant is a true dream to all food lovers.
The ‘Restaurant’ – Yeatman
The Yeatman is the destination of choice, not only for the oenophile but also for the gastronomic lover. Yeatman’s ‘The Restaurant’ provides a classic comfort environment where you can taste sophisticated and creative cuisine inspired by local ingredients. Particular attention is paid to the combination of the flavours of the dishes and the accompanying wines. Yeatman’s ‘The Restaurant’ is the only restaurant in Porto, which holds two Michelin stars.
Pedro Lemos opened doors in 2009 and since the beginning became one of the most prestigious restaurants in Porto. In 2014 was consecrated with a star in the Michelin guide becoming the first in the city. Located in Foz, one of Porto’s most beautiful and emblematic historical neighbourhoods, in a house classified as architectural heritage.
Twenty years ago, Vasco Mourão, adventured into the creation of today’s historic Caffeine restaurant. Over time, the project has been growing and has become a case study of restoration for its consistency and permanent quality. At the moment, there are 4 restaurants of the Group (Caffeine, Terra, Portarossa and Casa Vasco) and to these also joined Foz Club, an exclusive club of members, regulars of restaurants. The restaurants are all located in Foz and are separated by scarce meters.
Casa de Chá da Boa Nova
Boa Nova Tea House is much more than a restaurant. Those who visit it immediately perceive the immense horizon through the impressive windows, maximizing all the moment expectations. Chef Rui Paula surprises customers with his audacity, taking them to the next level of gastronomic experiences, through a symbiotic vision where he really shows his inner self. You can, perhaps, visit the kitchen, open a window, dip your toes in the sand and seawater nearby, or just have a good chat with the Chef. Trust on the originality of the suggestions, with a special highlight on the freshest fish and seafood, our Menu stars. Here, eyes upon the sea, all the senses are awake.
The Barão Fladgate Restaurant offers you a fantastic location and a unique setting in the Port Wine cellars with a magnificent view over the Douro River and the historic centre of Porto. It offers a contemporary interpretation of the traditional cuisine with tonic in the use of fresh local ingredients, a showcase of the authentic flavours of Portugal. The wine list offers a wide range of references from the main Portuguese wine regions and, as you would expect, a wide choice of Port, from appetizers to aged tawnies and the most expressive Vintages. Its name originates from John Fladgate, the celebrated port wine exporter and partner of Taylor`s in the 19th century, having been awarded the title of Baron for his innovative work in viticulture.
At first glance, it may seem like an unlikely combination, one that three childhood friends want to give us to taste at the new restaurant Terra Nova: cod and oysters. Hence the name of the most recent Ribeira do Porto restaurant, opened at the end of November, was an apology “to the discoveries and the sea”, as Antonio Leitão, one of the three partners, explains to us together with Diogo Proença and Vasco Amaro by Salpoente, in Aveiro). To add to all this, there is still a privileged view of the river Douro.
Situated on a 13th floor, this luxurious restaurant, with a service of more than 40 years, offers a fabulous view of the city, due to its location on the highest point of the city. Exquisite decoration and ambience in an impeccable space, with architecture from the 60s. The menu proposes unusual dishes of national and international cuisine. The exceptional wine list.
KOB BY OLIVIER
K.O.B. – an acronym for Knowledge of Beef – serves meats with up to 45 days of maturation, from Portugal, Spain, Ireland, the United States, Argentina, Australia or Japan – the reputed steak of the empty Wagyu, for example. The menu is the same as the K.O.B. Lisbon but integrates some dishes from the Olivier Avenida restaurant, such as the fish puff pastry or the grouper fillet with sauteed vegetables. The steakhouse of Porto is also distinguished by its bar slope. You can go there just to drink cocktails or sangria and, on Friday and Saturday nights, there is a DJ.
Where To Sleep In Porto
Maison Albar Hotels Le Monumental Palace
Discover what lies behind the majestic façade of the Monumental Palace: spectacular decor, unique architecture, traces of the past, a refined setting, many living spaces and wellness areas. Experience the comfort of cosy luxury in grandeur. historically luxurious and predestined to remarkable travellers. You will discover that Le Monumental Palace, does not have monumental only as a name.
Ancient most renowned “café” of Porto since 1930, the Café Monumental, will become the most distinguished of the city. Such as the locals you belong to history by choosing this place exceeding the ordinary. Choose between 63 rooms and 13 suites with a spacious intimacy, dive into ancient books in our library, share good moments with your family next to the fireplace, sit at your exceptional gastronomic table, escape into your well-being space
Pestana Porto – A Brasileira
Pestana Porto – A Brasileira is the newest 5-star hotel located in the centre of Porto, just 4 minutes from the mediated Avenida dos Aliados and 12 minutes from the Ribeira area. Built in the famous Portuguese Coffee Shop A Brasileira, the first to serve coffee in a cup at the beginning of the century. XX, and recognized as “the best coffee is the Brazilian D’A”, this new historical hotel was built keeping its original traits.
This luxury hotel, next to the Sá da Bandeira Theater and the famous São Bento station, offers you a gym, 2 meeting rooms, a restaurant inspired by Portuguese gastronomy, a French Páteo with a vertical garden with natural plants and the Cafeteria The Brazilian with more than 115 years of history. The 89 rooms and suites are spread over several thematic floors related to the spices imported in the XV and XVI centuries, during the Portuguese maritime expansion. They are ANISE, COFFEE, CINNAMON, TEA, CHOCOLATE and PEPPER PINK.
Intercontinental Porto – Palácio das Cardosas
With its unbeatable setting in a historic palace, InterContinental Porto – Palacio das Cardosas hotel boasts beautifully restored interiors. The hotel overlooks Liberdade Square and is a few minutes’ walks from São Bento station and Lello’s bookshop. Many of the city’s main attractions are nearby, such as the Clérigos Tower. You can take a boat ride along the River Douro or visit one of the city’s famous port wine cellars. At night, dine in our restaurant and enjoy a cold drink in the bar.
Casa da Musica is 2.1 km from the property and Parque da Cidade is 7 km away. The property is located within 10 minutes walk from the centre of Porto. Cathedral, galleries and monuments can be accessed directly. Climate control, sitting area and sound system are available in all lush rooms. Guests of the hotel can enjoy beautiful views. Dishwasher, refrigerator and kettle along with built-in cushion mattress, foam cushions and feather pillows are offered in each room on site.
The most prestigious luxury hotel in the city center of Porto, Infante Sagres, was the meeting point for the city’s elite as well as the destination of choice for a demanding international clientele, including numerous renowned personalities, for more than six decades, being then recognized for all its historical and decorative heritage, highlighting, at the same time, its contemporary and cosmopolitan trait. This acclaimed “jewel of charm” of Portuguese hotels reopened its doors in April 2018, after extensive restoration and renovation.
The Infante Sagres offers 85 rooms and suites, all individually decorated in an elegant and luxurious style. In keeping with the hotel’s sophisticated ambience, the finest decorative materials have been selected, including beautiful fabrics and natural wood and marble finishes. This hotel also hosts the Vogue Café, that exists in cities like Dubai, Moscow and Bangkok, where you can enjoy a delicious coffee, cocktail or light meal in a sophisticated, modern and relaxed atmosphere.
Porto Palácio Congress Hotel & Spa
Porto Palácio Congress Hotel & Spa is a truly cosmopolitan hotel that follows the evolution of the times and adapts to the wishes of its visitors and seeks to lead. This is the Porto Palácio Congress Hotel & Spa, a unit marked by sophistication and refinement. But this is also a very active hotel. With several programs scheduled, you want to please and win your visitors, whether those who go on business, those who seek health and wellness treatments in the spa, licensed to Maló Clinic, without forgetting, of course, all those who seek an experienced restaurant in one of the unit’s six restaurants.
To the end, the best. The almost magical Vip Lounge, on the terrace, with a wonderful view to the Foz and, of course, the excellent rooms, suites common areas, where sobriety, refinement and luxury reign supreme and where the use of materials such as mirrors, glass black, polished steel and wood. Its central location is also an asset to business travellers.
Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel & World Heritage Site
On the banks of the legendary Douro River with fabulous views of the river and the historic houses of Port Wine on the other shore, the 5-star Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel has Porto’s loveliest location. It is located in the charming and historic square of Ribeira, the first stop of the discerning traveller. With this privileged location, the mere stay in the hotel means that you are living the inimitable essence of Porto, but the hotel is also a great base to explore the historical city centre classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, with all its landmarks walking distance.
Or you can take the tram to Foz do Douro, or even a river cruise from the bank just in front of the hotel. The hotel itself is part of Porto’s more than two thousand year history, incorporating a collection of buildings dating back to the 16th century; has been completely rebuilt as a modern and luxurious hotel, offering all the comfort and facilities that a modern traveller could wish for. The combination of location, history and comfort means that all guests depart with very special memories.
HF Ipanema Park
With an outdoor pool and rooftop Lounge Bar offering you a panoramic view of the city and the mouth of the Douro River, you just have to climb to the top of the building to dive under the Porto sky or let yourself be contaminated by the lights that draw the horizon after sunset, while dancing to the sound of music from one of the city’s busiest spaces, OnTop. The HF Ipanema Park has this and more!
Located between the river, the sea and the city centre, the hotel offers gym, squash, massages and babysitting on request, private parking and free wi-fi internet in all social spaces and rooms. In addition, and because knowing the food is to know the heart of the city, whether in the restaurant, bar or just at breakfast, you do not need to go out to taste the best of Portuguese gastronomy.
Vila Foz Hotel & Spa
Vila Foz Hotel & Spa is heaven on earth. Located in the Atlantic Ocean Coast and at only 20min of the heart of the city of Porto, Portugal. The interior design project is the highlight of the venue. Signed by Nini Andrade Silva, he prizes for refinement and sophistication. The architect kept the details created in the 19th century when the building was built and combined them with the luxury and elegance of today.
The Onice rooms – 24 double or twin – are luxurious offerings, all with shower. The Onice Sea View are 35 double or twin rooms, with balcony and sea view, also with shower. Finally, the Manor House Rooms and Suites are four double or twin rooms with shower or bath and areas that can reach 36 square meters. At the hotel, you can also discover Vila Foz Spa, with four treatment rooms, relaxation area in the garden area, indoor pool, gym, Turkish bath and sauna. You will find the exquisite Maison Codage and Elemental Herbology products, whose sale in Portugal will be made here for the first time.
Torel Avantgarde is an Award-winning five-star art boutique hotel in the centre of Porto. Inspired by the Avantgarde years, the design of the hotel is reminiscent of the elegance of the 1930s/40s, while at the same time celebrating contemporary Portuguese art, design and craftsmanship. Each of our 47 rooms and suites is dedicated to an avant-garde artist and designed individually.
Enjoy the stunning view over the river Douro, sip a cocktail in our quirky “Avant-Garden”, or relax with one of our signature treatments in our “Balsamea”-Spa. Finish your day with contemporary Portuguese cuisine and a large selection of wines in our elegant restaurant and bar “Digby”. Located just a few steps from the city centre, our cutting-edge hotel with its innovative spirit is the perfect playground for the trendy and curious traveller who looks for cool elegance.
It is a new 5-star hotel in the historic centre of the city of Oporto, opening for the summer of 2019. With a great location on Rua das Flores, right next to Misericórdia Church, the hotel is within easy walking distance of the main tourist attractions of the city. This 500-year-old hotel is a fusion of the Classic and the Contemporary, supported by two buildings: a 16th-century palace and a new wing, built from scratch.
PortoBay Flores has 66 rooms and suites, restaurant, bar with access to Rua das Flores, Spa, gym and indoor pool with natural light. It also has a meeting room, a reading room and an 18th-century chapel. The landscaped courtyard is a calm and serene space to relax in the heart of the city.
Whatever your interests, Porto will have something to suit you. And to narrow down your search, check out our guide to the ten best attractions, hotels and restaurants in Porto. These are all our suggestion of a City Guide for the amazing city of Porto. We truly love the city and are thrilled to let you know everything about it! Hope you enjoy this as much as we do.
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