Many people asked me why me and my husband chose Porto, not Lisbon, for our first trip to Portugal. My answer "Why not?", we just wanted to go somewhere different. There was not much research done before this long weekend away, but Porto turned out to be the perfect destination with charming corners, welcoming people and superb food.
Porto is lively and colourful, it is a city where you would want to walk for hours to admire it in all of its beauty, despite being quite hilly. So first tip: bring comfy shoes.
We rented an Airbnb apartment for 3 nights from Cláudia and Mafalda, they are the perfect hosts from welcoming us at the nearest station to ensuring we had a great stay. The apartment is located near the historical centre with a breathtaking view of Luís I Bridge. There was even a lift (not operating at weekends) to avoid all the steps to reach Cais de Ribeira and Ribeira Square, which is thought to be one of the oldest squares in Porto.
If you have never used Airbnb - you can sign up with my code and get £25 off your first booking- just click here.
During our stay, we had many cafés com leite after realising that ordering a cappuccino was going to disappoint us every time. I ate lots of pastries- in specific Nata and Pastel de Belém - and we made the most of the unusual warm weather for December by walking around admiring all the pretty façades- don't even get me started on the tiles.
Places we visited
Sé do Porto- our Airbnb apartment was located only a few minutes away from Porto Cathedral, so we have walked past it when it was still empty early in the mornings, busy at lunchtime and in the evenings. I would definitely recommend visiting at sunset, as it has one of the best views of Porto historical town, which is UNESCO World Heritage.
São Bento railway station - this is Porto main rail station, so we made sure to visit quite early in the day to avoid the crowds. Around 20,000 magnificent tiles narrating to the history of transport and Portugal cover most of the atrium, the tiles are definitely the main attraction of this station. The artist is Jorge Colaço and its work dates from 1916.
Mercado do Bolhão - dating back to 1850, in this market you can buy fresh breads and cheeses, there are vegetables and fruits stalls, you can buy fresh fish- probably caught the same morning. Visit to soak up the atmosphere and the vibes from locals doing their shopping.
Capela de Almas and Igreja do Carmo - tiles alert- both a must see for their exterior walls covered in blue and white ceramic tiles.
Foz do Duoro- where the river Duoro meets the Atlantic Ocean, we went for sunset and walked to the lighthouse. I could have stayed there for hours watching the waves breaking on rocks and the locals trying to catch some fishes. We managed to take one of the historic electrical tram from Infante to Passeio Alegre on our way back. Useful tip: you can get a tram from the city centre to the lighthouse. Google Maps failed to pass on this information to us and we got a taxi. Also, getting a taxi will cost you the same as getting a Uber.
Livraria Lello - we attempted to visit this bookshop on a Sunday and the queue was just way too long, so we decided to try again the morning after. You need a ticket (€3) to enter, which can be bought online, and this amount will be taken off the price of any book purchased from the bookshop.
"Rumour has it J. K. Rowling was inspired by Livraria Lello while writing Harry Potter (and teaching English) in Portugal. It doesn't take long to appreciate Lello's potential as a muse: a stained-glass atrium puts the spotlight on the bookshop's deep-red staircase, spectacular enough to stop you in your tracks." Time, the 15 coolest bookstores from around the world.
People did stop in their tracks when they entered the bookshop to take turns for a photo standing on the stairs, so I had to be quite patient to snap this one.
It is a stunning bookshop, but I personally would not queue more than 10 minutes to enter. Tip: get there 15 minutes before it opens on a weekday.
Cais de Gaia - we didn't take a ride on the cable car, but we did admire the view of Riberia.
Where we ate
Coffee at Majestic Café - one of the oldest cafés in Lisbon, recommended to sit in and enjoy a coffee to admire the stunning interiors.
Adega São Nicolau - great seafood and atmosphere, as this restaurant is located in the historical centre of Porto.
Cantina 32 - the best meal we had during our stay in Porto- superb seafood dishes. We very lucky to get a table, as we didn't have a reservation. So I highly recommend making a booking if you are planning to visit for dinner.
Farol do Boa Nova - good food. My husband ordered a seafood risotto, which ended up being soup with rice inside.
Pastelaria Trigo Doce, Av. Da República 383, 4430 Vila Nova de Gaia. Typical Portoguese café- no tables, people just ordering at the counter and a vast selection of pastries.
O Diplomata- the place to go for brunch! Located near Livraria Lello.
Arcos dos Loios- highly recommend this family run business: great portions and amazing seafood. We had the dish of the day, which was cod.