To write this Travel Report Porto we did not only the city center but also made a Douro river boat trip. It was great to not only discover this great city but also the breathtaking landscapes around. Read more about our boat trip in the second part of this article.
Travel Report Porto City
The so-called “Cidade Invicta” was Portugal’s first capital city way before Lisbon. It is famous for its accent and locals pronounce “v” as “b”. The city is spread over the hills along the impressive Douro river. It hides its charm and beauty between the narrow alleys. Tiled houses, cobble streets and hanging clothes create an almost burlesque atmosphere!
Walking through the city center
It’s by the river banks in the district of Ribeira that we felt most of the “Porto essence”. You can see loud chats in between neighbors from window to window that seem to almost touch and enter each others houses. There are walls covered with different tiles, vivid colors and pigeons all over the place. Busy local commerce makes Ribeira a perfect start, continuous or ending point of any city discovery. This neighborhood lives around the clock! At night, like an artist taken from a cabaret, it changes its face into something more mysterious and flamboyant. On the streets are strong orange lights speckled with some yellow ones coming from the houses above. The night owls coming raging through the night bring music down to town.
Still in Ribeira, we kept on looking for the west side of the city. Framing the river like a royal gate, there is one of the most beautiful and iconic monuments of Porto. Dom Luís Bridge is an all-iron-made bridge that can not deny Gustav Eiffel’s most known signature. Even though the project was signed and designed by Eiffel’s most prominent student, Théophile Seyrig, the tremendous influence that the french civil engineer had on this project and on the sister bridge Maria Pia Bridge is undeniable .
The best way to discover Porto is by walking up and down and talking to locals! Roaming through the streets, we were stunned by the amazing blue tiles of São Bento Railway station, Carmo Church and our favorite Chapel of Souls. We climbed to the best rooftop of Porto named Torre dos Clérigo and admired the views of Avenida dos Aliados. There are beautiful watching points of Palácio de Cristal that you should not miss. Palácio da Bolsa and Sé do Porto are great places to get to know more about local life. And when your legs get tired, just have a lift up the hill on the Funicular dos Guindais.
TurtleFav’s: The Must-See’s
Livraria Lello: It may be the most beautiful and incredible bookstore in the whole world! The interior could definitely be a painting from Picasso due to its unusual and waving forms. Any remembrance of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter world is not a mere coincidence. The writer lived in Porto for a couple of years while teaching English. During this time she frequented the store with regularity, making no secret that this place served as an inspiration to write the first books and draft the interior of Hogwarts.
Mercado do Bolhao: This is one of the most local and vibrant places in the city. We could just sit down and observe the people during hours. It’s an interesting exercise (at least for us) watching the people, their connections, their singularities and their day-by-day life.
Cais de Gaia: It has without any doubts the best view of the city! On the other side of the river is Gaia. This city with its cais (pier) stands proudly on the river bank watching and admiring the beauty that Porto is. Best time surely is sunset and night time.
Food and wine: Wine is great and even the Roman and Greek gods knew that. But having one of the best wines in the world directly where it is produced is absolutely lush! Wines from Douro and Port wine pair with amazing Portuguese food! Check out for more about food from this region such as Francesinhas on our post Portuguelishes.
Douro journey: Picture stunning and gasping hills filled with vines and wild vegetation! Picture the different tones of greens in contracts with the shape of different types of trees and spotted houses spread through the fields! Picture the different edges and mountains touching the sky or the water surface like if a perfect draw had been carefully done! This is Douro River and the astonishing landscape surrounding it. Check out more below.
Overall, Porto has been well-known for its people and hospitality since decades. The way they welcome and their open doors attitude towards strangers are refreshing. However, also here the rising mass tourism may have changed some of what it used to be so that more and more “tourist traps” appear.
Best Time to come
In general the best travel times are similar to our advice for Portugal in general. However, if possible, you should definitely come during St John’s Festivities! In June the protector saints of the two biggest cities in Portugal are celebrated all over the country! They celebrate St Anthony in Lisbon and St John in Porto. The way to celebrate is very similar with few different singularities in each place.
While in Lisbon there is a huge parade with each neighborhood competing for the best song, costume and choreography. There are tremendous celebrations inside of each neighborhood with popular music and grilled sardines all night long. In contrast, in Porto they have some special additions: hitting each other’s head with huge plastic hammers, waving garlic in front of people’s faces, releasing paper lanterns and asking for wishes as well as watching fireworks on the river bank. The most famous and common icon that is used and spread in both cities is the Manjerico. It is a potted basil plant that comes with a message on top.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Eat the amazing food! As weird as it may sound, don’t miss out the opportunity of trying everything!
- Drink Port Wine where it is actually produced!
- People here are very chatty and touchy. Don’t be afraid of the open arms asking for a hug or the kisses people may give you.
- Don’t call Porto by its English name “Oporto” as it sounds weird. When Portuguese speak about the city they say “The Porto is…” (O Porto é...). This eventually led to foreigners without knowledge of Portuguese calling it by a wrong name.
- Don’t talk bad about Porto’s most famous football team. Everyone takes football here very serious and especially their loved teams.
Travel Tips and Info – Porto
Where is it? Northern Litoral (Second biggest Portuguese city)
Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro, by train Estação Sao Bento or Campanhã, by bus Terminal Rodoviário Campo 24 de Agosto or by car (car sharing with Blablabla car is very popular and affordable specially when traveling between Lisbon and Porto).How to get there? By plane via
Porto Metro keeps the city well connected.How to go around? The main sights are within walking distance. To go anywhere further or even to the airport
What is it famous for? Gastronomy, tiled houses, Dom Luis I Bridge, wine and welcoming people.
What is good to know? Porto has one of the biggest football teams in the country and they are “devoted” to their club. NEVER say anything bad about it!
A funny Fact?
- During the 15th century, on the early days of Portuguese discoveries, the first ships were built along the Douro river banks to start their Tripeiros. Even though the population was unaware for what purpose these were being built, the people of Porto gathered their food supplies to send it with the fleet. All they were left with was animal guts! From these days the famous dish “Tripas à Moda do Porto”. Since then people of Porto became known as Tripeiros or “tripe-eaters/animal gutters”.
- The city of Porto is also called Cidade Invicta meaning “unconquered city”. It bravely resisted the siege of the 19th century civil war for over a year.
- Likewise its Spanish neighbors, people from Porto read “v” as “b”. We aren’t aware of any reasonable explanation for this but it sounds funny.
Travel Report Douro Boat Trip
In the morning, a picturesque train journey started in São Bento train station that took us deep inside the mountains. The trip to Régua lasts 2 hours. Once there we were brought to a small pier, boarded a typical boat and began descending the river back down to Porto.
This journey can also be done the other way around: going up on a boat and returning by train. But after gathering several opinions from locals, the descending option seems to be the most interesting one. The landscape around is just stunning: high mountains, green landscapes and spectacular vineyards. One of the highlights were the two lifts in the water dams. The feeling of being swollen by this giant walls made out of concrete is inevitable when doing the journey down the river.
Anyways, be prepared for a very long day! It lasts for around 10 hours in total, the boat journey alone being 7 hours. If you decide to make the longer journey from or two Pinhão then definitely split the journey in two halves with booking a night halfway through. There is also mini-cruises with individual suites on the boat. However, it is only suitable if you have a high budget.
Companies offer very similar packages such as Tour + Lunch+ Port wine tasting. Find our top 3 for different types of budget below.