Discovering Porto


Porto, the second biggest city in Portugal, is a city of unrivalled beauty, considered one of the most stunning in the world, with incredible and unique architecture, full of amazing people. The river Douro and the Vino do Porto caves in Gaia are some of the city's best features and are an absolute must see.

Before you arrive

The first thing you should do, almost always before you get there (the more adventurous types might prefer to wait until they actually get there though) is to find somewhere to stay. There are loads of places; hostels, hotels, B&Bs or even apartments you can rent for a period of time.

Here are some suggestions for places to stay, some cheap and some more expensive:

  • Yes! Porto Hostel: from €15 euros.
  • Gallery Hostel Porto: rooms from 20€ and private rooms from 22€.
  • Eden House: rooms from 10€ and private rooms from 17€.
  • Guesthouse Hostel Vivacia: from 11€.
  • Stay at Porto: private rooms from 13€ to 20€.
  • Modern Apartment in Porto Center: private rooms from 20€.
  • Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa: from 100€.
  • Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira: from 75€.

Porto is a relatively small city which means no matter where you choose to stay, you can still get to the other parts of the city pretty easily. The area they consider to be the city centre is Santa Catarina, Ribeira, Aliados y Coordoaria.

Weather

Porto has a mediterranean climate, with temperatures ranging from 0ºC to 13ºC in winter (bearing in mind winters in Porto have been harsher recently) and between 20ºC and 30ºC in summer.

In winter there's usually the odd 'nortada', or very strong, cold winds. Fog, wind and even hail are also common, bearing in mind it doesn't snow. In summer they might be some really hot days, as well as some fresh-aired, more moderate evenings.

What to see in Porto

The city's main landmark is the Dom Luis Bridge, located in Porto's most characteristic area, the Ribeira. Using the bridge you can get to the Gaia side of the city where you can visit the Cais de Gaia which has one of the best views of the Ribeira. It's perhaps the scenery that best represents Porto and the most common for postcards.

Another must-visit part of the city is the Mercado do Bolhão, which has been running since 1839, home of the typical port merchants. The market has two levels and the freshest produce, with a much closer buyer-seller relationship. Anyone visiting the market is never going to forget it.

There's also the Praça dos Aliados, with the Câmara do Porto the most notable building there. It's a pretty area but was renovated and has lost some of its 'greener' characteristics. It's now a more modern/stylish place but still pretty despite all the buildings that now surround it.

The Torre dos Clérigos is another one of the most famous city landmarks. A work of Nicolau Nasoni, it has 240 steps and was one of the tallest buildings in Portugal. To climb up you need to pay the 3€ entry, and even though it's quite a difficult climb the view from the top is absolutely stunning and you'll be able to take some amazing photos.

We also have the Casa da Música, a relatively new building which plays host to concerts and other musical events. It's in the Boavista area.

The Serralves Foundation is another must-see attraction. It has a museum that houses all types of art, with enough space too to host musical events and other concerts. It also has one of the most beautiful gardens you'll see in Porto.

Foz is one of the most affluent areas in the city. With a view of the sea, idyllic landscape, and the possibility of being able to walk along the sea, or at least make the most of the view of it from the tons of cafes and restaurants dotted around.

Few things to know about the city

You have to pay to see some of these things considered as city landmarks. Some prices are very trivial, like for climbing Torre dos Clérigos or getting in to the Jardins da Fundação Serralves. Other things can be slightly more expensive, the Palacio da Bolsa for example, but there's always the possibility of getting a student discount.

Where to eat?

There's hundreds of places to enjoy some good food in Porto. From smaller restaurants serving the most typical Portuguese food, where the dish of the day (soup, a main, drink and a coffee) will cost you just 5€; to the more fine-dining restaurants where prices can start from around 25€ for a lunch/dinner.

It's common, in Porto, for the smaller restaurants to serve their food on massive plates, usually suggesting that that specific dish is for two people, their portions are huge.

Here are some of the most common restaurants, all serving really good food:

  • Magestic Café: from 10€ to 15€.
  • Restaurante Portucale: from 15€ to 25€.
  • Restaurante Escondidinho: from 15€ to 25€.

Now I'm going to suggest someof the more typical dishes in Douro and Minho.

Soup

For soup I'd recommend (in Portuguese): caldo verde, canja de galinha, papas de sarrabulho or sopa de ervilhas. The caldo verde (cabbage soup) is probably the most typical kind in Porto and it is always ALWAYS eaten on St John's Eve.

Meat

Some of the best meat dishes, again in Portuguese: arroz de cabidela, cabrito o anho assado, feijoada à transmontana, francesinha, tripas à moda do porto o rojões à moda do minho.

Fish

And finally some of the most popular fish dishes: arroz de feijão com bolinhos de bacalhau, sardinhas assadas, bacalhau à D. Tonho, bacalhau com grão de bico, polvo com arroz à minhota.

Where to go out?

Porto has two main places for going out: Área Praça dos Leões and the Área Industrial which is slightly further away from the city centre, in Matosinhos.

I recommend the Praça dos Leões as it has more bars and you get a much better feel for the city. You'll find loads of bars and cafes, all open all night and with free entry, where you can spend the whole night chatting inside the bars, or even outside. The difficulty is not finding a bar, but choosing one. 'How do I get there? ' I hear you ask. Just follow everyone else.

The most common days for going out in the Praça dos Leões, and when it's the busiest, are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On Mondays it's best to go to Ribeira, full of the infamous 'baldes' and as for the other days of the week, there's always some club or bar that's open.

Here are some of Porto's most famous bars/clubs:

  • Act: a club open on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Alfandega: a bar open every day.
  • Bazaar: a bar open every day and with themed parties every Wednesday.
  • Real Feytoria: a sort of cafe/bar, open every day from 22:00. It plays rock music.
  • Tendinha dos Clérigos: a club/bar open every day.
  • Twin's: another club/bar, open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.


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