Beautiful Porto

We’ve spent close to a month in Portugal, and we’ve really loved the country. The Algarve had such a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, even if the tourist presence was a bit on the high side. Lisbon was completely underwhelming, although I was glad we found some redeeming areas before we left. Then we arrived in Porto. What a perfect place to finish our time in Portugal!

We traveled by train from Lisbon and arrived in the late evening. It was chilly and drizzling, yet there was something inviting in the air as we stepped off the metro station’s escalator. Even though we couldn’t really see any of the city, there was such a great vibe I couldn’t wait to get out the next day and explore.


Getting Around Porto

One of the things about Lisbon I didn’t enjoy as much was its transportation system. The metro only covers part of the city, and that’s only the beginning of the hassles.

I loved Porto’s metro system instantly. Not only does it provide great access, but the major sections are accessible by four different lines. That really cuts down on the wait times and need for transfers. Every metro train we saw looked new and modern.

It’s also a fairly pedestrian city and quite easy to get around.


Port Wine

If you like port wine, you’ll want to do a pilgrimage here. I did a port wine tasting of three different varieties, and they were fabulous. I had never known port wine comes in a white variety, and it’s dang good! There are so many places to do tastings. Bring some snacks, though. Port is a fortified wine, and my three tastings left me a bit tipsy since I had an empty stomach.

There are so many places offering these tastings that you won’t have a hard time finding them. Most of them are concentrated on the other side of the river. Friends recommended Offley, but as I was already buzzed we didn’t go there.


Harry Potter

You may be wondering about the connection between Harry Potter and Porto. Well, Rowling lived here for a couple of years while writing her first book, and there are some local sources of inspiration that show up in the books. If you’re a Potter fan, stop by the Livraria Lello & Irmão. The interior looks like something you’d find on Diagon Alley (and even if you aren’t a fan, it’s worth checking out). The university students with their black capes probably inspired the black robes the Hogwarts students wear.

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Porto has so much old world charm. The historic section represents at least a few different eras, but there is something just in the air. When the sun is shining, you are drawn to sit at one of the outdoor cafes sipping an espresso while people watching.

On the weekends at least, the section by the river is quite lively with street performers, people dancing, and all kinds of vendors. Even in the springtime you’ll be able to find chestnuts roasting on an open fire. And servings of cotton candy that are bigger than your head.




Porto easily transports you to a happy place. You’ll find yourself smiling as you walk through its ancient alleyways and streets.

Things to do

We only spent a few days here, unfortunately, so most of our time was spent just walking around the various neighborhoods, an impressive cemetery, and down by the riverside. We also had fun on the brief cable car ride from the riverside to the top of the hill overlooking the city (€5 per adult one way (roundtrip is discounted), and kids are half off).

If you do the cable car ride, I’d recommend doing that when you’re done exploring the riverside. There is a metro station up at the top, so you can explore that area and take the metro back into town.

Obviously, I’d recommend the port wine tastings.

Make sure to check out even the small squares or plazas. You may find some really great markets.Porto


We really enjoyed exploring the riverside area across the bridge. It was a completely different atmosphere. If you follow the signs leading to the caves, you’ll get to see the historic cellars and learn more about the area’s history, as well as of port.

Porto is part of the Douro Valley region which has some rather beautiful villages and small towns. They’re easily accessed by train or car hire.

If you can, definitely plan more than just a few days to spend here. Three days was nowhere near enough for us.

I’d love to give you more recommendations, but we didn’t engage in any of the many tours and activities offered in the city. Trust me, though. You’ll want to make sure you add Porto to your Portugal itinerary.

Have you been to Porto? What activities or sites would you recommend?

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  1. Absolutely loved Porto, I was there for only 4 days but completely fell in love with the atmosphere, friendly locals and the amazing food! yum!

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  2. Sounds like a great place. I haven’t heard much about Porto, next time I visit Portugal I will definitely visit. I personally really liked Lisbon but everyone’s experience is different. I could definitely imagine that staying in an undesirable area would effect your view of the city.

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  3. Aw man! I am so bummed to read that Porto reigns supreme in a Lisbon vs. Porto smackdown because when Tony & I had to decide which location to fly home from out of Portugal, we decided we might as well do the capital city and went with Lisbon. We likely won’t have enough time while we’re in the country to see more than one city, and we hadn’t really read anything about Porto, but it sounds like we may have chosen incorrectly. If you have any recommendations for best locations to base oneself for 3 or 4 days in Lisbon, I’d really appreciate it… will need to make the best of the city since it will be our final stop in Europe… and on our RTW trip! (Gulp!)

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    • Wow! The end to the RTW. Bet those are some major mixed feelings!

      Belem, Campo de Ourique, and Jardim da Estrela are areas I would try to stay in. Basically west of the Rato metro station. Definitely stay away from Intendente and east of that area. It just felt so dilapidated and depressing. Had we had a different base, I think we would’ve liked Lisbon more.

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      • Thanks so much for the tips, Talon. We haven’t even started planning Portugal yet, since we’ve only got the one destination, but I’ll keep your recs in mind when I do get around to stressing out about lodging (right now we’re focused on Paris & the few places in Italy we’ll be hitting… SO PRICEY. I can’t even deal…).

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  4. I haven’t been to Porto, but it looks like the part of the city by the river would have been my favorite as per your description. Portugal is still a country I haven’t explored but the more I read about, the more I want to.

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    • It’s a really great country. I wouldn’t mind going back and exploring more of its lesser known areas. The riverside was my favorite area for sure. So lively and charming.

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  5. I haven’t heard much about Porto, but it’s all been good. A good, comprehensive transport system definitely makes me more likely to enjoy a city too, so I can get this. And I’m surprised by the Harry Potter connection! Fun.

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    • I was surprised by it as well! Had never heard of the connection before.

      The transportation was great. One of the metro trains goes to the airport. It takes about 22 mins from near the center, and it was around 1.80 EUR. More cities need this setup!

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  6. Strange how I didn’t know the Harry potter thing about Porto. I loved walking in the narrow downtown streets and seeing how life went by there comparing to other more modern areas. The river side was definitely gorgeous at night time! 🙂
    Lovely post!

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