How to spend a long weekend in Porto.
Porto, a gorgeous hilly historic city with incredible views, alfresco sun and all the fortified wine you can drink.
Known for its production/distribution of Port and the Douro river, this vibrant city has so much more to offer. The whole city is steeped in history and the center has actually been deemed a UNESCO world heritage site. The humble cobbled streets are shadowed by towering baroque buildings and tiled churches which gives the city an extravagant yet homely feel.
Three whole days is enough to see the city but four would be perfect - especially if you want to visit more then one port cellar. So take off a Monday (or throw a sicky) and book a flight, NOW!
AM: Arrive at Francisco Sa Carneiro airport, hopefully not too drained if you took a budget flight, and make your way to either the taxi stand or the metro station. Taxi's can be fairly expensive and I'd recommend the metro to get you into town swiftly. Be aware of the queues for the ticket machines however, they aren't the easiest to use - try and grab a local to help you out.
Budget Hotel Recommendation: Loft by Gio Rodrigues
If you don't mind the occasional rumble of a train and you can sacrifice a view, then this apartment could be for you. The location is priceless, its a stones throw from the stunning Sao Bento railway station and just a short walk to Praça da Liberdade, Ribeira District, Torre dos Clerigos and Rua da Galeria de Paris. The apartment is modern, clean with cool unique decor - you'll find most of Portugal has the best interiors.
Splash the Cash Recommendation: InterContinental Porto Palacio Das Cardosas
Unfortunately we didn't have the cash to splash on this occasion but we visited for a drink and was greeted with ultimate opulence and classic styling. The bar of course was well stocked and the hotel itself is rated the best hotel in Porto on TripAdvisor. It is situated in a former palace and located just down the road from our budget option, overlooking the Praça da Liberdade.
PM: After checking into your hotel and unpacking, showering, napping etc. It's time to do the first scope of the city, if you're centrally located this is quite easy and the city center is quite compact and most things can be easily reached by walking. HOT TIP: this is not the place for non-sensible shoes, the hills are steep and the roads are cobbled and marked with tram lines.
Get a feel for the area around your hotel and work out where things are in the city so when the proper exploring starts tomorrow you won't spends hours locating where you are. The architecture of Porto is incredible, I could spend hours walking around, taking photos of all the unique 'azulejo' - hand painted ceramic tiles that are used to decorate houses and churches etc.
Dinner Recommendation: Tapabento
If you like super tasty, homemade, authentic, fresh and genuinely excellent food, visit Tapabento. I was blown away by the quality of the food in this no thrills, very affordable restaurant next to Sao Bento railway station. A Portuguese friend recommended this one and I was a bit apprehensive when I walked down a dark side road to get to it, but so glad I did.
We started with oysters and in the words of French poet Léon-Paul Fargue, it was “like kissing the sea on the lips.” Joseph (the boyfriend) had a huge steak, which he still claims today was the best lump of beef he has ever had and I had a Scarlet Shrimp Risotto which was incredible - although my heart was with the steak too.
All washed down with a jug of sangria and some port and a cheese board to finish, then we was ready to go to bed. If you can stay awake long enough, Porto gets very lively at night, head to the Ribeira District for a Caipirinha and a dance. HOT TIP: Locals don't eat till fairly late and they start drinking even later, don't expect the bars to get busy till around 1am.
AM: Wakey wakey, have plenty of coffee and a substantial breakfast because today is all about the regions main export - Port.
The city is full of Confeitaria selling cakes, pastel de natas (YUM) and panini's etc. If you'd like a heavier breakfast to avoid stumbling around the third port cellar then this is my recommendation: