In the northwest corner of Portugal is Porto: a vibrant + relentlessly charming coastal town known for its port wine production, narrow cobblestone streets, bright tiled building facades + domineering bridges. After visiting Lisbon and Madeira, Porto was the cherry on top of an amazing trip to Portugal, one of my new favorite countries in all of Europe.
We spent 3 full days here but could have easily spent a few more. It's super walkable, full of things to do and more beautiful than any pictures could properly do justice. If you're like me, you probably don't know much about this city (which I didn't up until visiting) but I can't recommend it enough if you're looking for a rich hub of culture in Europe without a plethora of tourists. So if you're interested in planning a trip yourself, here are some of my favorites to help build your itinerary.
We stayed at InterContinental Porto, which has an unbeatable setting in a historic palace. Our room boasted beautifully restored interiors and overlooked Liberdade Square. From the hotel, it was only a short walk to São Bento station or Lello’s bookshop (which inspired the Hogwarts library in Harry Potter) so we literally couldn’t have asked for a better location!
The staff was so helpful in answering all of our questions and pointing us in the right direction, the breakfast was fantastic and our entire experience overall was everything you'd want in a luxury hotel. I highly recommend it!
Everyone talks about the tile facades in Lisbon, but I was so impressed by the ones in Porto! Don't get me wrong, Lisbon is gorgeous, but there was something so vibrant about Porto that really stood out to me. One of my favorite things that we did was getting lost in the streets and enjoying all the colors of the architecture.
WALK ALONG THE DUORO RIVER + THE DOM LUÍS BRIDGE
My absolute favorite part of Porto is the way the Duoro River seems to cut through the middle of the city. On either side, buildings stack amphitheatrically in dramatic fashion (which means this city has absolutely no shortage of scenic viewpoints.) The Dom Luís Bridge let's you walk across at two different levels: a lower and higher one (fair warning- the higher one feels real high). This (in my opinion) is the place to be in Porto. There are dozens and dozens of restaurants and patios and bars to sit and enjoy a glass of port while enjoying these stunning views from a variety of angles.
As previously mentioned, Port wine production is what Porto is known for so you simply can't visit without trying some! We really wanted to make it out to Douro Valley (where the grapes are grown and harvested) but our trip was simply too short. Nevertheless, even if you stay in Porto the whole time you can still visit plenty of port houses (usually where the port is aged) to get a taste (literally) of the process.
While there are lots of options, my favorite was easily Graham's Port Lodge. Graham’s is situated on a commanding ridge in Vila Nova de Gaia across the Douro River from Porto and only a few meters from the river’s south bank.
This working cellar allows you to experience three centuries of craftsmanship and heritage as you learn about port production, see where it’s aged and obviously, have taste some.
We learned about the difference between a ruby port and a tawny port- which is simply the amount of time and way that the wine spends in a wood cask before it is blended and bottled. Ruby ports are aged in large vats while tawny ports are then transferred to smaller vats for a lighter + more oaky flavor (because the smaller vats allow more contact with the oak). I personally preferred tawny ports (I tend to like smoky and oaky flavors) but it was so fun to learn about the process and taste the differences in each kind.
Aside from the port, I found Graham’s to be one of the most beautiful properties and have some of the best port. I recommend a private tasting (which is what we did) although group tours are available. Just be sure to make a reservation beforehand to guarantee your spot!
We had a seriously amazing brunch in the backyard of Rosa Et Al Townhouse. The vast menu allows you to sample Portuguese cuisine with a contemporary spin and includes everything from sweet breakfast dishes to savory lunch specials. Wash it all down with a glass of Vino Verde (my favorite Portuguese wine) and you're practically in heaven. Aside from the delicious food, the setting couldn't be more idyllic and the overall aesthetic is dreamy.
The townhouse is also an option if you're looking for a place to stay (although it only has six suites so it was fully booked when we were visiting). The entire property is gorgeous and you should definitely pay it a visit at some point during your trip-even if only for a meal!
Lunch at Vinum at Graham's Port Lodge was easily the best meal we had in Porto. Not only is the setting absolutely beautiful, but the food couldn't have been more impressive or delicious. The fish are all freshly delivered directly from the Matosinhos Harbour and their meats from Trás-os- Montes. All of the cuisine revolves around the flavors of their wine so we loved pairing each course with a different kind (and please note how massive that bottle of port is!) If you come to Porto, you simply have to eat here because it was my favorite experience of our trip!
If you can't already tell, we had no shortage of delicious food in Porto! For our last night, we ate at Vinhas d'Alho: an incredible restaurant positioned right on the river (again, my favorite place to be in Porto!) The restaurant was incredibly and was packed with guests who were all excited to hear the traditional Fado (a heartfelt Portuguese musical performance). Between the delicious food, incredible views and rich Portuguese tradition, Vinhas d'Alho is a must for any trip to Porto.
SHOP THE POST
All in all, there's nothing you won't love about Porto and I can't recommend it enough. This city is walkable, affordable and beautiful beyond belief. So enjoy some cod, sip lots of Port or Vino Verde, marvel at the architecture or scenic miraduoros and soak up all the rich culture this destination offers.
Any questions about this city I didn't answer? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for stopping by + stay tuned for some exciting announcements I'll be sharing in the next couple of weeks!