Porto lies in the northern part of the country while Lisbon towards the south. Porto is smaller, more compact and steeped in local history and traditions while Lisbon is bigger, busier, cosmopolitan and fits right in with the major cities around the world.
The second-largest city in Portugal, the heritage city sits at the bank of the tranquil Douro River surrounded by scenic mountain-embedded houses, and cathedrals. For your next quick getaway we’ve curated (with the help of a local!) a 4 day 3 night itinerary for the magical land of Porto – a loadstone for young travellers, thanks to its rich history, wine ports, art scene and a buzzing nightlife.
Photo courtesy of Almada the GREEN
Airbnbs are huge all-around Portugal with a plethora of choices and budgets to pick from. We recommend Almada the GREEN (from S$143/night on Airbnb), a centrally located homey apartment equipped with a bedroom, living space and backyard. If prefer your own apartment hunting, our local team member suggests to look at the Rua do Almada, Rua de José Falcão and Rua Das Oliveiras areas. Restaurants, bars and shopping districts are easily accessible to them, though hotels like the Oporto Collection Santa Catarina also offer impeccable service and fuss-free comfort!
Grab your sunhat and hit the streets of Foz, an upscale neighbourhood where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Here you’ll find stunning beaches, good restaurants and architectural musings. Spend a relaxing day at Foz, or go sightseeing at the must-see Igreja do Carmo, consisting two different churches, famous for Porto’s iconic artistic blue tiles and catholic architecture. The interior is just as beautiful with marble walls and golden elements.
Photo courtesy of L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash
Just two minutes away is the Livraria Lello, one of the oldest bookstores in the world. Beyond its expansive collection of books, here you will find yourself getting lost in the building’s spectacular architecture and history. It is also said to be a place which inspired J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. For art-lovers, the Rua de Miguel Bombarda is a street sporting interesting concept stores and is the home of the Portuguese contemporary art scene.
Pro tip: Download the Bird app on your phone for a fun way to explore the city on a skate scooter. Rental bikes are also available, but may not be the ideal due to the city’s steep slopes.
The Francesinha, photo courtesy of AndreyFilippov.com on Flickr
Indulge in the local food culture by making your way to some tascas, modest family-owned establishments that offer good food and drinks at affordable prices. Gosto & Paladeres boasts fresh ingredients available in their kitchen at relatively cheap prices; local whisky rings in at €2 per serve here. At dinner, be sure to try Porto’s culinary icon – the Francesinha topped with layers of meat and cheese, drenched in a spiced tomato and beer sauce. Creamy and rich gelato awaits at Gelataria Portuense, where must try flavours like hazelnut chocolate and pistachio make a perfect ending to the day.
To come all the way to Porto and not to sample some Port wine would be blasphemous. The birth place of Port, some of the finest vineyards have their roots planted on the steep hillsides near the Douro River, making Douro Valley the only significant wine producing area in the world to practice hot climate hillside viticulture.
Photo courtesy of Svetlana Gumerova on Unsplash
When the region has been making wine for over two thousand years, you know the trip across the river to Gaia, where the wine cellars and warehouses are located, would totally be worth it. One of the oldest houses, Taylors Port Wine, has an experience dedicated to the production of Port. On your tasting tour, sip on the intense berry fruit flavours of a Reserve or a Late Bottled Vintage, melt into rich mellowness of an Aged Tawny, though the Vintage Port charms with its structure and aromatic power. Pair your drinks with chilled native oysters, hearty meats or the unbeatable combo of savoury cheese.
Photo courtesy of Maus Habitos
If you’re up to party after a day of port appreciation, take it to Passos Manuel, Porto’s best-kept-secret. An old cinema converted into a club, the playhouse sets a stage for eclectic music concerts, performances, as well as artistic and cultural events. Maus Habitos, on the other hand, has monthly programmes full of deviant art, music concerts and dancehalls.
Nothing better to cure the ugly hangover than a day at the beach, amidst the crashing waves, the raw beauty of the Atlantic coast, and hot sand beneath your toes. Just half an hour’s drive from downtown Porto, take your pick of beaches in Gaia with scenic views, and seaside restaurants serving fresh grilled seafood. Mindelo is known for its gorgeous sunsets and underwater activities whilst Espinho is considered to have some of the finest beaches within the vicinity of Porto, great for folks who love to ride the waves on surf boards.
Chapel Senhor da Pedra at Miramar Beach, near Porto, Portugal.
For your last dinner in Porto, Churrasqueria de Antas is one of our personal favourites for Peri-Peri Chicken, and their tenderly grilled meats. For an equally quality dining alternative, Cafeina has the hospitality to match delicious food with much bigger portions compared to other fine dining establishments.
Call it a night here, or have your last night of hurrah at Plano B, an interdisciplinary venue split in two floors and a series of themed rooms with different ambiances. Besides hosting visual arts, design and architecture exhibitions, conferences, the performing arts, and workshops, it also transforms turns into a club and concert hall blasting house, jazz, rock and eclectic sounds.
Wind up your Porto itinerary with a relaxing morning stroll at the Parque da Cidade do Porto with lush greenery. This spot is already a great one for a picnic, but on your trip here you might also be able to catch a glimpse of roaring music concerts and food festivals.
Photo courtesy of Mundo de Luisa
Otherwise, head to Fisga, a space for creatives, where you can work on your deadlines, check your email and check out your flight details. They also believe in supporting the art community in Porto with art and music events from time to time. Grab brunch at Mundo de Luisa, owned by a culinary TV personality and serves an evolving menu daily. We heard the desserts are a must have!
Photo courtesy of L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash
After waving tchau (bye in Portuguese) to the city, head to the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto or catch a train to Lisbon to explore the capital. You might just end up extending your stay here thanks to Portugal’s hauntingly beautiful cityscapes, untouched beaches, and intricately designed cathedrals.
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Top image: Jure Tufekcic on Unsplash