Your Porto Itinerary: An Honest Guide
Let our Porto itinerary guide you through one of Europe’s most memorable cities.
One thing jumps to the forefront of our minds when we think of Porto;
Port the energy. The locals have such passion for their way of life which makes it a truly worthwhile place to visit. The restaurants, bars and shops are so clearly the manifestation of the hard work and vibrant vision of talented connoisseurs. Set beside the River Douro, whose residents on either side have a light-hearted Montague vs Capulet kind of relationship, this picturesque town is packed full of attractions. So grab a drink and kick back while we guide you through our ultimate Porto itinerary – you’ll feel like a local in no time.
Porto is steep. There are steps and there are cobbles so we suggest you wear shoes you can scale in (but that’s your prerogative). Start with Palácio da Bolsa because of it’s impressive neoclassical facade and surprising interiors, but also because it’s at the top of the hill (of the old town). We wouldn’t blame you if you skipped everything in this building and headed straight for the Arab room. The intricate ornate detailing is impressive enough to eradicate all forms of jet lag and set you on the path to view the rest of the day through a cloud of golden sparkles. Now Porto has your attention, check out the other historic sights it has to offer. On our checklist? São Bento railway station, Torre dos Clérigos and Igreja de São Francisco. Then head on down to the river where you’ll naturally stumble across Cais da Ribeira – a collection of brightly coloured townhouses mark a lively commercial district filled with fishmongers, grocers and shoemakers.
Peeling back the layers of Porto’s intricate personality, we came across a lot of contemporary architecture completely juxtaposing the medieval identity of the old town. Under no circumstances are you to pay for a guided tour of Porto’s contemporary architecture as you will most likely find yourselves outside the Vodafone headquarters. Instead, head straight to Museu Serralves where you will be greeted by an immensely satisfyingly minimal building architected by Álvaro Siza Vieira in the 1990’s, housing solo exhibitions and themed shows by renowned contemporary artists. In stark contrast to the museum’s modernity is Parque de Serralves, which dates back to 1923 and is considered to be one of Portugal’s first takes on art in the form of flora. The gardens surround an audacious art deco villa where you will can enjoy tea and scones.
The ultimate Porto itinerary wouldn’t be ultimate if we didn’t break down the best places to wet your whistle in a classy yet mischievous manner. If you have a sweet tooth and penchant for dessert wine then you will not leave Porto disappointed. Since this is a one day itinerary we won’t send you down the river for a full day of wine history, instead you’re going to either take a stroll across the bridge (which is a must see in itself – more on that later) or take a taxi to Churchill’s. Although it’s one of the younger wineries in Porto, its tasting room evokes a traditional sense of elegance. You will taste both Port and Douro wines on this visit whose bottles you will want to bring home and leave on the dining room shelf as a conversation starter, indefinitely. If you immediately picture being stuck underground for hours during a wine tour, don’t. At Churchill’s you can choose to be seated on a terrace overlooking the River Douro, so wise readers will pencil this part of the itinerary for sunset.
The Maria Pia Bridge
The Maria Pia Bridge is noteworthy for one reason in particular. It
looks a lot like something else will remind you of another European landmark, as the bridge was the last project Gustav Eiffel worked on before moving onto the Eiffel Tower. Although he did abandon the project before completion due to creative differences with his design partner (oo-er!). Well, we’d say the Eiffel Tower is certainly a point well made, wouldn’t you? But enough on history, we haven’t even touched on food yet.
You will not find this local delicacy anywhere else in the world (not one worth eating anyway). A Francesinha is hearty, wholesome and has that classic grandmother’s cooking feel to it. If you are vegan, vegetarian, meat-free, dairy-free or alcohol-free then this certainly isn’t the dish for you. A Francesinha is basically a lasagne in the guise of a sandwich. It’s filled with a variation of red meats, covered in melted cheese and topped with spicy sauce. Every single restaurant has their own recipe for the sauce, the kind of recipe that only the head chef knows and will take to his/her grave, but it typically consists of tomato, beer and wine. Oh and they top it off with a fried egg, in case all that flavour wasn’t enough. Our favourite place to indulge in the most satisfyingly unhealthy dishes we have ever sunk our teeth into? Yuko Tavern. You’ll want to jump in a taxi as it is a little out the way, but certainly worth the journey. This is where locals come to eat Francesinha. They also have a lovely selection of tapas and other Mediterranean dishes if a meat filled, cheese smothered, egg topped feast isn’t your cup of tea. The interiors are rustic and cosy enough to make you actually believe you’re being served by the Portuguese grandmother you never knew existed.