Portugal. Pastel de Nata, poncha, great geographical beers – Sagres if you live in the South and Super Bock if you live in the North – and lovely people. Just some of the great things this beautiful country has to offer. It’s roamingkangaroo’s Top 10 things to do in the stunning city of Porto.
1. Francesinha for lunch.
Francesinha (or “Little Frenchie”) is a local delicacy in Porto. It’s basically a sandwich that contains cured ham, sausage, steak, a tomato/beer sauce and is finished off with an outer layer of cheese for good measure. Tastes good too. A decent serving should set you back around €7-8 with a side of chips. Definitely worth a try if you like to eat as the locals do.
2. Walk over the Dom Luis II Bridge.
Joining Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, the Luis I Bridge is a bridge of metal arch construction that has stood since 1886. The fella that built and designed the bridge was a partner of Eiffel, of the Eiffel Tower fame. The bridge carries traffic down below and the Metro above, as well as a pedestrian walkway. The confusing part of this is there are no fences or barriers whatsoever to separate the trains from the pedestrians on the side – so take care! Atop the bridge is a perfect viewing spot looking down on the city. I took in a lovely sunset from here.
3. Take in a football game or stadium tour of the Estadio do Dragão.
There are two main football teams in Porto – FC Porto and Boavista. Porto play in the Estadio do Dragão (Dragon Stadium) and are one of the top clubs in Portugal. The stadium is a little out of the city but it’s easily accessible on the metro, around a 20 minute trip. One Jose Mourinho was manager here in the early 2000s. Boavista, on the other hand, got done for corruption and were sent down to the second division a few years ago.
4. Climb the Clerigos Bell Tower.
The “Torre dos Clerigos” is a lovely Bell tower located at the Clerigos Church, offering a fantastic view across the city of Porto. In turn, the tower is visible from many areas of the city. The church it is attached to is a Baroque style, and is worth a look considering it is free. To climb the tower you will have to part with €3 – a small price to pay for the 360 degree views you will take in at the top. Expect around 200 steps, great for those defined calf muscles.
5. Make use of the Porto Metro system.
The Metro in Porto feels more like a light rail in truth, but it is very good. The network is vast considering Porto isn’t a huge city, which makes getting around a breeze. They have a re-loadable paper “Andante” card which you can use similarly to an Oyster in London, except at a fraction of the price! There is even an Airport line which makes getting in and out almost too easy and takes around 45 minutes.
6. Visit Matosinhos and it’s beaches.
Matosinhos is a smaller barrio of Porto located further west, on the beach and is easily accessible on the Yellow Sightseeing Bus. Here you will find gorgeous coastline, people soaking up the sun and a rather interesting monument, She Changes, a sculpture by American artist Janet Echelman, which sits on the waterfront of Matosinhos. If you are there on a weekend you will be rubbing shoulders with the locals who love to hang out by the water which makes for a great vibe. There are numerous cafes and bars here too.
7. Take in a river cruise on the Douro River.
I first saw the Douro River watching the Red Bull Air Race, some 6-7 years ago and I said to myself that I would love to get to see it in person one day, and I wasn’t disappointed in doing so. The Douro actually starts in North-Central Spain and flows for nearly 900kms, finishing in the Atlantic Ocean in Porto. For me, this was a great way to take in the city, overlooking both sides of the Douro, and very relaxing. There are plenty of operators here running tours up and down the river, mainly focusing on the many Bridges that cross high above.
8. Do a Port winery tour.
Porto is famous for it’s very own wine, simply called Port. A fortified, typically dessert wine that is famous around the world. Tours are easy to jump onto in Porto itself, but if you have the extra time it is worth venturing east and inland up the Douro river where many more Port wineries are situated. I took a visit to the Calem winery, which is on the South bank of the Douro River in town itself.
9. 6,7 and 8 can all be done courtesy of the Big Yellow Sightseeing Buses
You can’t miss these babies cruising around town, ferrying enthusiastic visitors like myself around this gorgeous city. There are around 25 stops that you can utilize across town with 2 different routes – the Old Town and the River/Ocean side. A 24 hour pass set me back around €20, and that included the River Cruise mentioned above, as well as a complimentary tour of the Calem Port Winery. Great value and in truth, a 24 hour pass would be more than enough time to see all of the city sights.
10. Check out the El Corte Ingles shopping centre.
Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, this big shopping centre will surely cater to any Shopaholic Travellers. El Corte Ingles is a massive Spanish department store, who have a few stores in Portugal also. Think along the lines of Myer or Selfridge’s here.
So, there it is. If you find yourself in Portugal make sure you head north from Lisbon and visit this gem of a city. In my opinion, it is extremely underrated in Porto, but I am so glad I went and I am sure you will be too!