Second largest city in Portugal, famous for its port wine, terracotta tiled roofs and traditions. We have put together a 24-hour itinerary to best experience what Porto has to offer.
Start your day in the iconic city institution – Cafe Majestic at 112 Rua Santa Catarina. In the early 1920s, it competed with the famous restaurants in Paris. The interior design of the cafe still reflects the spirit of the past era: mirrors are from Belgium, leather furniture from Spain and Portugal. You will see traditional tiles and biblical motifs.
The cafe is also famous for its francesinha-best in town. It is a sandwich, whose “grandfather” is a French sandwich croque-monsieur with ham and melted cheese. Between the two pieces of bread are sausage, bacon and chunks of beef. Francesinha is topped with melted cheese and served with spicy sauce and fries.
The building of Porto Cathedral in the historic centre of the city looks like an impregnable fortress. Actually, it was built like a fortress with many defensive functions because, during the wars of Christians with the Moors, the Cathedral was used as a fortification. The Church was built in the 12 century, and six centuries later, in the Baroque era, it was reconstructed. Italian architect Nasoni attached the elegant loggia to the Cathedral, replaced the old Romanesque portal with modern, and decorated the courtyard with the famous Portuguese tiles “azulejo”. Don’t miss the altar of the Sacrament when you walk inside. It took 800 kg of silver to create it. Not surprisingly, that in 1809, during the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon’s army, Portuguese quickly built the wall in front of the altar and hidden it.
It would be an unforgivable mistake to visit the Port and not see the Atlantic ocean.
To explore medieval traditions, you should take a closer look at the churches. Igreja do Carmo is a famous Barocco, and at the entrance, you can find not only religious artefacts and candles for sale but also the wax body parts behind the sliding glass doors of a display cabinet: hearts, breasts, hands and noses. The tradition is that if you have some illness, you buy a wax image of the relevant body part, and bring it to a church as pleas for divine intercession. At the end of the day, all the body parts are collected and burned.
Dom Luís I Bridge
Engineer Gustave Eiffel is mostly known for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but his path to the international fame began in Porto. The iconic city’s landmark is the 172-metre-long arched metal bridge across the Douro river carrying low-level road and a high-level metro line between Porto & Vila Nove de Gaia. It was built in 1886 by Theophil Seyrig, a student of the legendary Eiffel.
Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is Portugal’s most extensive modern art museum. The beautiful building is filled with light and shade. There are many exhibitions, as well as a cinema, a performance space and a spacious elegant park.
One of the world’s most famous bookshops, Livraria Lello on das Carmelitas is a trendy destination. You have to spend some time in the line to buy €3 tickets, which can be redeemed against a purchase. Built in 19 century, it has always been a beautiful and beloved bookshop, but there is something else to add to it. You have probably already seen it. When JK Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the 1990s, she often went there and the bookstore became an inspiration for Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts. Some scenes in the series were filmed in this bookstore: what a magical and extraordinary location!
It is indeed genuinely charming: a small, narrow, wood-panelled bookshop with a dramatic, double-forked staircase and stained-glass roof.
Lighthouse Farol Molhe do Douro
Located on Avenida D. Carlos I, Praia das Pastoras is one of the most majestic places where you can enjoy the ocean’s views. From the city centre take retro streetcar 1. A vintage transport made in 1872 take guests and locals along the Douro river straight to the ocean coast to the lighthouse Farol Molhe do Douro. The tower was built in 1886 and automated a hundred years later. In 2009 stopped serving as a navigational aid and became one of the famous sites in Porto.
To enjoy the sunset, go to the picturesque Ribeira promenade along the Douro river. Ribeira district is known as the soul of Porto. Colourful and bright houses with narrow facades seem to fight with each other for the right to stay in the pictures and in the memory of guests. Many of the buildings are decorated with traditional ceramic tiles in white and blue colours. Ribeira was once a poor neighbourhood, and the Portuguese called the locals “Tripeiros”, which means the Tripe-eaters, referring to their modest diet.
You are now hungry after a long and vivid day, but not to worry! The Riberia district offers visitors a variety of Portuguese restaurants that are not to be missed. Jimão Tapas e Vinhos is the perfect place to familiarize yourself with Portuguese cuisine. Their tapas are small so you can try a little bit of everything. The atmosphere is quaint and traditional: you enjoy the food sitting at the candlelit wooden table, overlooking the colourful streets of the Praça da Ribeira. Try cod salad, prawns Jimão, or monkfish with olive sauce; pork tenderloin with mushrooms and don’t forget the famous port: you won’t be dissapointed!
Address: Jimão Tapas e Vinhos, Praça da Ribeira 11, 12 S. Nicolau, Porto, Portugal, +351 22 092 4660
24 hours might seem like a short time to spend in the city that has so much to offer. Don’t rush, enjoy the atmosphere, tiny old streets and some really good Port!