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  • Writer's pictureGiulia M.

10 things not to miss in Porto (plus two ideas for trips out of town)



Well, let's get started right away!


Don't miss #1: the pasteis de Nata.

Don't miss #2: pastis de Nata.

Don't miss #3: the pasteis de Nata.


...


Jokes aside (but what jokes? 😅), a few weeks ago I was with my friends in Portugal, in Porto. The original plan was very different: to walk the Camino de Santiago. Unfortunately however (or fortunately, given the terrible weather) we had to review our holidays and reduce both the holiday days and the destination. Having already purchased tickets for Porto, we decided to take advantage of it and visit the city and its surroundings for 4/5 days.


So here I summarised the 10 things that we think are worth doing in the city, plus two ideas for incredible trips out of town.


1. Admire the view from the Torre dos Clérigos

We started our Porto adventure with a visit to the Torre dos Clérigos , one of the most recognisable symbols of the city. This baroque tower, 76 meters high, offers spectacular panoramic views. After climbing the 240 steps (yes, I counted them - just as I count the steps of all the stairs I go up or down!), we were able to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city, the Douro River and the surrounding hills, along with a incredible gust of wind that kept us company. I imagine that in good weather the view is even more beautiful!


2. Visit the Bolhão Market and all its stalls

The Bolhão Market is supposed to be the beating heart of Porto. Built in 1914, this traditional market is a vibrant and colourful place, where we immersed ourselves in the daily life of the locals. We strolled among the stalls offering a variety of fresh products, from vegetables to cheeses, spices to flowers. Each stall tells a story and every corner is an opportunity to discover unique flavours and aromas. A friend of mine purchased some spices that seemed to be really good!

Furthermore, upstairs in this market there is an incredible vegetarian restaurant 🚀 called Casa Vegetariana , where we found exquisite dishes of Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine.


3. Visit the Cathedral and take a tour of the nearby Sao Bento Station

The Sé do Porto , the city's cathedral, is an architectural masterpiece combining Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements. Located on a hill (strange that it is on a hill, Porto is not at all an alternation of tiring climbs and descents...!), it offers a panoramic view of the historic center of Porto. Entrance ticket only €3! After exploring the cathedral, I took a walk to the nearby São Bento Station. This is not only a transit place, but also a work of art. Its walls are decorated with over 20,000 blue and white azulejo tiles - typical of the city's culture (they are also found in many churches and structures), illustrating scenes from Portuguese history. Not like Bologna or Rome Termini station 😂


4. Take a walk in the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

I have to say that this was one of the activities I liked the most! If you are looking for a corner of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city, the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal are definitely the right place. These splendid gardens offer a corner of well-kept greenery, with their shaded paths, tranquil ponds, many free animals and spectacular views of the Douro River. The gardens, designed in the 19th century, are also home to the Palácio de Cristal , a historic building that today is used for exhibitions and cultural events. It is the perfect place for a relaxing walk or a picnic surrounded by nature. They are free to enter!


5. Try the pasteis de Nata, preferably in multiple pastry shops, so as to find your favorite

Guys, what do you want me to tell you. I found (or rather, confirmed, having already tasted them in Lisbon last year) my favorite dessert. Cream + cinnamon = unconditional love forever 🧡 Pasteis de nata are literally one of the gastronomic symbols of Portugal: cream desserts, with their crunchy crust and creamy filling 🤤. We tasted several (with a good average of 3/4 per day) in various pastry shops or pasteleries , to find our favourite. The ones we liked the most are Manteigaria and the very famous Castro .


6. Admire the sensational sunset from the Jardim do Morro

The Jardim do Morro , located on the other side of the bridge that connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia , offer one of the best panoramic views of the city. This park, located right in front of the historic center, is truly the ideal place to enjoy a spectacular sunset. When we went there were lots of people and a live band playing, the atmosphere was beautiful. We had a beer and enjoyed the moment until the end!


7. Take Tram 1 and travel along the Douro to the Ocean

Getting on board Tram 1 is a bit like traveling back in time. This historic tram takes you all along the Douro River, from the center past picturesque neighbourhoods and breathtaking landscapes, until you reach the Atlantic Ocean. The trip is a fascinating way to explore Porto and see the city from a different perspective. I ran the entire route (something I highly recommend, it's about 8km from the centre), and took the tram to go back. My friends took the tram there and back and recommend taking it early in the morning (the first one is at 9) to avoid the crowds and enjoy the journey.


8. Attend a Fado show

If there is one thing you really can't miss if you are in Porto it is a Fado concert. Fado, traditional Portuguese music, is an essential part of Porto's culture. Listening to a Fado concert was an incredible emotional experience for us, which conveyed to us the true soul of Portugal. The melancholic sounds of the Portuguese guitar and the passionate voices of the artists literally transported us into a world of deep feelings and poignant stories. We went to Ideal Club de Fado and we recommend it very much!!!


9. Visit the bookshop at Lello's (only if you have time)

Libreria Lello is often cited as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, and visiting it should be like stepping into a magical world. With its stunning wooden staircase, stained glass windows and dreamy atmosphere, this place should be a true paradise for book lovers. However, due to the long queues and myriad of people inside, I wasn't thrilled - not to mention the absurdity of the ticket cost to enter a shop! I therefore recommend visiting it only if you have time available.


10. Eat at one of the delicious vegetarian restaurants in the city

Porto is famous for its cuisine, and even vegetarians will find many delicious options here. The city offers a variety of vegetarian restaurants serving creative and tasty dishes, using fresh, local ingredients. We tried Casa Vegetariana , as I mentioned before, and Outra Especie - which was perhaps one of the best veg restaurants we have ever tasted. Then, and those who have been following my adventures for a while will already know, we obviously tried an Indian restaurant in Porto too, as per tradition - and it did not disappoint us at all! It's called Turmeric and we highly recommend it.


* BONUSESSSS*


On a trip to pretty Aveiro

Just an hour's train ride from Porto is Aveiro , often called the "Venice of Portugal" for its picturesque canals and colourful boats called moliceiros . This charming city is perfect for a day trip. We walked along the canals, explored the colourful center of the town and visited the park where we had a picnic with the packed lunch we had brought from home. Here too we didn't hold back from tasting some pasteis de nata and we found some very good ones at Nata .


Visit a winery in the Douro Valley

Second bonus, but certainly not least for importance, is a day trip to the Douro Valley, famous for its vineyards and production of Port wine; it is definitely an unmissable destination for wine lovers, but also for those who don't understand a thing about wine (like us). We took the miradouro train from Sao Bento station, a little slower than the classic train, but which allowed us to admire the incredible view of the valley from a breathtaking perspective. We then organised a visit to a winery in the valley to taste some of Portugal's best wines and discover the secrets of winemaking. If you have time you absolutely can't miss it!


I leave you a video here of the view from the winery we visited, Quinta de la Rosa .


Porto is a city that has a lot to offer anyone who visits it. With these 10 things to do and see, together with the two trips out of town, I hope to have given you some ideas to discover the wonders of this fascinating Portuguese destination. Have a good trip!


 

And here is the map that collects all the places we have been. There are several restaurants (especially vegetarian), so if you are looking for some inspiration, check them out :)



Xx,


Giulia

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