Olá e bem-vindo!
That’s hello and welcome in Portuguese for anyone looking to learn a few words before you set off!
What could be better than heading off to visit a country that cannot only guarantee shorts and flip-flop weather for pretty much the entire summer but offers it all at an extremely low price? Not much in my opinion.
Flights to Porto can be found at crazy low prices from most big cities in Europe and once you’re there everything is so much cheaper than other Southern European countries. Eating out in restaurants in Porto can be half the price of an equivalent meal across the border in Spain.
So before the summer really gets underway it’s time you start planning a short trip to Portugal’s prettiest city!
Day 1 of the perfect weekend in Porto
Let’s assume that your sightseeing and exploring will start mid to late afternoon as you will have to arrive at your accommodation and settle in before heading back out.
Rua de Santa Catarina
Head to Rua de Santa Catarina, which is the main artery running through the city centre. Lined with shops, restaurants and bars it’s a great starting point so you can get your bearings and figure out whereabouts you are in the city. From there you will get a better idea of the layout of Porto so you don’t spend the whole weekend feeling lost.
Mercado do Bolhão
The main market in Porto is on one of the streets just off Rua de Santa Catarina so it makes it a perfect place to visit after you’ve looked in the shops and stopped for a coffee or beer. The market is on a street called ‘Rua Fernandes Tomas’ and there you will find a mix of locals and tourists checking out what’s on offer.
Fresh fish, meat and other goods are on sale and some stalls prepare food for you to eat there so grab a quick bite but save yourself for dinner later on, I have a great suggestion you cannot pass on when in Porto.
Dinner Time – The Famous Francesinha
Porto is famous for a dish which may seem a bit strange to people who have never heard of it before. The Francesinha is a sandwich filled with a lot of different meats: sausage, roast beef, ham etc.. There are lots of different combinations but let’s just say it is STUFFED with all sorts (if you’re a vegetarian just look away now).
The sandwich is then covered in melted cheese, and spicy beer sauce is poured over it. Sometimes you even get a fried egg on top. It sounds strange but I really loved it, my girlfriend wasn’t so sure. I had two.
They were invented in Porto and you will see them on offer in cafes all over the city so get in the Portuguese spirit and try one if you think you can manage it! Or at least share one..
Take a walk down to the river and eat in one of the restaurants by the famous bridge in Porto, Ponte Luis. It’s a great area to visit at night and this way you will get to experience it with your Francesinha. Nothing says Porto quite like sitting under Ponte Luis while eating a Francesinha.
Day 2 of the perfect weekend in Porto
Ok so are you ready for a day packed full of walking and exploring?
Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace)
The gardens surrounding the Crystal Palace are becoming more and more popular with both tourists and locals. During summer I can’t think of a nicer way to start the day than taking a gentle stroll though the amazingly well kept gardens.
The gardens are on several different levels and have stunning views over the River Douro.
Another advantage of making this your first stop of the day is the photography opportunities. Visit during the ‘golden hour’ (the hour or so after the sun rises) for the most flattering light and best looking photos.
The Bookshop Where Harry Potter Was Born
Did you know that JK Rowling spent a few years living in Porto in the early 1990’s before the success of Harry Potter? The city is entwined with urban myths that the inspiration behind Harry Potter came from various places around the city.
The Livraria Lello bookshop is one of those places. And yes, she did visit frequently when she lived in Porto
Does it remind you of anything? Maybe the bookshop in Harry Potter where the students bought their schoolbooks? Even if you are not into reading it’s definitely worth a visit.
There are plenty of other things in the city that could well have been her inspiration but I will let you figure them out for yourselves. Just look at what the university students walking around the city wear though..
You’ve seen the river and the restaurants that line its banks already at night, but you need to go back and explore during the day. The Ribeira is the part of Porto that lines the southern hillside of the River Douro.
Get lost in the little streets and alleyways that snake though the neighbourhood and find a nice cafe or restaurant to stop for lunch. Try to find somewhere that serves another well known Portuguese sandwich called a Bifana. It’s like a roll with slow cooked meat inside and spicy sauce. Not as heavy as a Francesinha so don’t worry you won’t need to sleep it off afterwards. It is a very typical Portuguese snack though, so if you are like me and like to eat as local as possible keep your eyes peeled for one.
Farol de Felgueiras (Lighthouse)
Save this one for sunset and you won’t be disappointed. The lighthouse stands at the end of a walkway heading out into the Atlantic ocean and is one of the best spots in the city to watch the sun dip below the horizon.
It can be quite a walk from the Ribeira part of the city but if you like long walks than it’s completely within reach. The way I suggest you get there though is by taking the old tram that goes from the Ribeira neighbourhood to right by the lighthouse. It really adds to the experience and is like stepping back in time when you’re on the old wooden tram.
If you are looking for a few evening drinks, or a bit of a party that isn’t going to cost you, then visit Adega. You will find mainly foreign students here but the atmosphere is great. They have a different drink on offer everyday but it’s normally either beer, sangria or cider. The best part is the drink that’s on offer only costs €1!
Day 3 of the perfect weekend in Porto
Start your last morning with an amazing breakfast in an even more amazing cafe. The design of this Belle Epoque-era cafe will leave anyone who appreciates design and architecture in awe. Visit cafemajestic.com for more info and directions.
After a long day of walking yesterday I’ll leave your last afternoon fairly free for you to decide what you want to do and how far you want to explore. Everyone likes different things so use this day to do the things that interest you. It could be a visit to FC Porto’s football stadium or a tour of Porto’s wine cellars where the world famous Port wine comes from.
As I like to eat and drink as many local things as I can while travelling I’ll suggest that you visit a bakery on your last afternoon and pick up some pastel de nata’s to take home for friends and family. Or to eat on the aeroplane. Mine didn’t make it home with me.
As always, thanks for reading!
Since 2016 I’ve travelled full-time working as a travel photographer and writer remotely. I move around at my own pace (I hate fast-paced travel) and like to spend a few months getting to know each place I base myself in. Currently in the north of España 🇪🇸 and loving it.