For years, I traveled the world in search of ‘my place’. You know, the elusive space that makes you feel alive and excited while rested with a happy soul?
Sounds impossible (and believe me, I can be quite the pessimist), but oddly, Porto in Portugal has given me exactly that. Yay for international travel, am I right?
Life As an Expat in Porto, Portugal
So, I’ve been an expat in Porto for a total of two years. This is now my second stint living in this chilled city, and am certain that this will end up being my ‘forever home’.
And because I love it so much, I’ve compiled a list of must-do activities, things to eat, places to stay, and tours to enjoy. Welcome to…
A Local’s Guide on Things To Do in Porto, Portugal
There’s so much to do here, whether you’re into beautiful views, nature, biking, gastronomy, or cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone.
Before diving into a comprehensive, objectively-stellar info session on everything Porto-related, here is my personal opinion on how to live your best life in Porto…
- Place to Stay: Maison Albar Hotels Le Monumental Palace
- Brunch Spot: Garden Porto Cafe
- Chilled Bar Vibes: Bonaparte Foz
- Best Place for a Day trip: Aveiro
- Quiet, Natural Beach: Madalena Beach
- Beach Bar Drinks: Daikiri Bar
- Favourite Cultural Activity: Jardim do Palácio de Cristal
- Favourite Shopping Mall: Gaia Shopping
For me, these are my favourite little spots in Porto. But this post isn’t about me! So, here are a ton of other cool things to do in Porto…
Food! Where is the Best Francesinha in Porto?
I’ve been recommended, on more than one occasion, to eat francesinha at Café Santiago, as it’s known as one of the best places to try Porto’s most prided dish.
Francesinha is a sandwich made up of cured ham, steak or roast meat, egg, and melted cheese, then covered in a hot thick tomato and beer sauce.
It’s usually served with fries, and is something that the locals in Porto go absolutely crazy for. Have I tried it? Sure, more than once! Does it float my boat? Not really. But! I have yet to meet someone who agrees with me.
Cultural Activities in Porto
Porto is a vibrant and youthful city yet boasts an extensive history. Earning the title as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, you can be sure to enjoy an exciting and jam-packed itinerary around this historic city.
Museu Serralves: If you love visiting museums, Museu Serralves is a must-visit cultural site when you’re in Porto.
Ranked as one of the most visited museums in the world, the building includes 14 galleries, farmland, shops, and cafes.
Museu Serralves also provides audio guides for its frequently changing exhibitions. With its minimalistic architecture, spend your afternoon at the exhibits, take loads of pictures, or simply settle down with a Vitamina de abacate (fruit smoothie).
Palácio da Bolsa: Dating back to the 19th century, Palácio da Bolsa (a former stock exchange), boasts the city’s history of riches. Here, you can wander around the lavishly-furnished rooms and admire the richly decorated interiors.
Interestingly, the building is now the headquarters of the Porto Chamber of Commerce, and its General Assembly Room is still being used by it members.
Porto Cathedral: One of the must-see historical sites is the Porto Cathedral (Se Catedral), the largest church and one of the oldest monuments in Porto. Completed with a gothic chapel and two square towers, this church dates back to the 12th century! Amazing!
Porto Shopping Guide
If you are a shopaholic, you’ll definitely enjoy Porto. From international brands such as Zara to getting cheap thrills at a street market—if you want it, they’ll have it!
Street markets usually open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., while shopping malls open from 10 a.m. to midnight. So, if you fancy some late night shopping or buying a chic outfit right before a party, you’ll never have to worry.
Question: Is it cheaper shopping in Porto? While many products are comparable to other countries in Europe, you may possibly find cheaper clothes in Porto than anywhere else!
Boutiques such as Zara and Bershka in Porto may have a price difference of as much as €15 to €20!
Shopping Malls in Porto
Porto Gran Plaza mall: A five-storey shopping centre that houses over 75 stores. It has a wide variety of products, such as fashion brands, homeware, shoes, books and electronics.
Via Catarina Shopping: Highly recommended, despite being a small shopping mall. On the top floor, you may find many restaurants with the aesthetics of a typical Portuguese home.
Mercado do Bolhão: If you like shopping for fresh foods and unique traditional souvenirs, Mercado do Bolhão is a great place to visit.
Not only that, but you can also feast on the bright designs and exciting atmosphere of an authentic Portuguese market, making it an exciting trip for all travelers.
Where is Mercado do Bolhão? R. Formosa, 4000-214 Porto, Portugal
What are Mercado do Bolhão’s opening hours? Monday–Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed on Sundays and public holidays)
Wine in Porto
Another highly recommended wine cellar is Caves Ferreira, the only big house of Port wine that has remained with a Portuguese owner since its foundation in 1751.
The cellar has a long brand history of 250 years and is found in the Douro region.
Douro River Boat Tour: If you would like to experience sitting on a traditional Portuguese wooden boat, called a Rabelo boat, a Douro river boat tour is a must.
Whilst on a tour, you can enjoy a picturesque view of the Douro Valley, with its vineyards, wine farms, and architecture.
Fun fact: The region is also designated as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO!
When can I go on a Douro River Boat Tour? Monday to Sunday – From April to October. Operating hours: 10:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
How long is the Douro River Boat Tour? Two hours
Where can I get on the Douro River Boat Tour? Departure and arrival is at the Pinhão Pier.
Hop-on-Hop-off bus in Porto: If you’d like to explore Porto at your own pace but would also like to save some time on public transportation, get a one or two-day ticket on a Hop-on Hop-Off Bus in Porto.
You will get to choose from two different routes and discover over 25 of the city’s main attractions. The lines are easy to switch and buses come at a 30 minute-interval.
And, if you’d like to learn more about Porto’s history and culture, there are also audio guides that come in eight different languages.
Recently, the nightlife in Porto has changed completely, especially downtown.
From a relaxing night in a pub at a historical building to clubbing till 6 a.m., there’s something for everyone after dark!
Porto’s nightlife attracts a crowd of all ages due to its cheap alcohol (possibly the cheapest across Europe). Most bars charge around €2 for a beer and less than €5 for spirits. Club entries are usually less than €10 and sometimes includes at least one drink.
What Are the Best Clubs in Porto?
Indústria Club: The oldest and most famous Techno club in Porto. Established in 1986, Industria Club houses the best local and international DJs. It’s also located conveniently in Foz just by the River Douro.
Clubs in Downtown Porto: A highlight for nightlife in the city. You may find some bars that send you back into the 1930s, or fancy pubs for a glass of sparkling wine. Most clubs and discos close at 6 a.m., while bars downtown close at 4 a.m.
For endless choices, check out R. da Galeria de Paris, as there are several different clubs and bars lining one busy street.
Festivals in Porto: If you’re up for a festive night, do visit Porto on São João, an annual celebration on the 23rd and 24th of June.
Sao Joao is a Catholic festival celebrating the birth of Saint John the Baptist. Despite it being a religious celebration, everyone celebrates it in Porto.
You will get to party all night and join the crowd on the streets as they savor some sardines, the traditional dish of São João.
What’s more, there are folk dances all over town, particularly in Fontainhas and Miragaia.
Then, if clubbing or partying isn’t your thing, one of the best places to chill in the evenings are historical cafes, such as Majestic Café in Rua de Santa Catarina.
How to Rent a Bike in Porto
Do you find public transport a little crowded for your liking? Or would you like to travel at your own pace without having to worry about bus or train schedules? Then renting a bike in Porto is be the perfect option for you!
With Baja Bikes, you will get to see the city and all of its highlights in three hours. Not only that, but you can also get an English speaking private guide that will take you around Porto at your own pace.
All you have to do is book a schedule, decide when you’d like the tour start, and where you want to go. If you’re uncertain, the guides can also pick a route for you and show you the must-see attractions such as Arrábida Bridge and Foz Velha as well as a few hidden spots.
Booking with Baja bikes is affordable and does not require any booking fees.
Prices for a Private Bike Tour in Porto as follows:
- 1 person: € 86 per person
- 2 people: € 61 per person
- 3 people: € 52.65 per person
- 4 people: € 48.50 per person
- 5 people: € 46 per person
- 6 people: € 44.35 per person
- 7 people: € 43.15 per person
- 8 people: € 42.25 per person
- 9 people: € 41.55 per person
- 10 or more people: € 41 per person
Where to Stay in Porto
One of the most strenuous parts of planning a vacation is booking a suitable accommodation!
Neighborhoods in Porto
Although Porto is a small city, there are some neighborhoods that are preferred over others. These areas include, Ribeira, Cedofeita, and Bonfim.
They are located near public transportation and attractions, and have a range of accommodation to choose from.
Ribeira: Amongst all the neighborhoods, Ribeira is probably one of the most touristic places to stay. It is also a great place that caters to tourists of any budget.
If you’d like to stay in a quaint boutique hotel, 1872 River House in Ribeira is a great romantic getaway. It has an elegant interior, and is located close to D. Luis bridge, making it a great spot for lovers.
For solo travelers who enjoy making new friends and saving a little on accommodation, there’s Bluesocks Hostel.
Unlike many other hostels, Bluesocks Hostel offers beds with curtains for privacy as well as extra large mattresses. The hostel too has private rooms, if you fancy.
Cedofeita: If you are seeking a trendy neighborhood with art galleries and hipster stores, Cedofeita will be a great place to stay during your travels.
Casa da Guitarra is also within the vicinity, a musical instrument shop that focuses on the plucked-string instruments of traditional Portuguese music.
Cedofeita is definitely a place suitable for couples, solo travelers, and families with children.
And when it comes to accommodation, Rose Et Al has earned high ratings for its fantastic brunch and beautiful vintage suites. The dining room faces a garden, making it a lovely place for honeymooners.
If you’re traveling alone however, So Cool Hostel in Cedofeita is a great choice. The clean and chic hostel allows you to select shared rooms with a garden view–a perfect hangout spot for you and the new friends you’ve made! Otherwise, there are also private rooms available.
Bonfim: Lastly, there’s Bonfim, a neighborhood that has a perfect balance of stores catered to locals and tourists.
Although it does not house any tourist hotspots like museums or monuments, it is conveniently only a 15-minute walk to the city centre! Not only that, but Bonfim is also quiet with less traffic.
It’s the perfect combination for busy days and quiet nights.
Cocorico Luxury Guest House in Bonfim is perhaps one of the best hotels you can find in Porto, with its simplistic and modern yet homely interior.
The accommodation is conveniently located near Sao Bento Station, and offers homemade breakfast every morning.
Its rooms are large in size, consisting of balconies and seating areas. You can also enjoy some sun on the terrace when the weather is perfect.
Lastly, What’s the Weather like in Porto?
Porto shares similar characteristics with the coastal south… warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
In summer, the average temperature is about 16 degrees to 27 degrees Celsius, but may reach 40 degrees days during the hottest days of the season.
In winter, the average temperature is between five degrees and 15 degrees.
Since Porto is one of the wettest cities in Europe with precipitation concentrated in the winter months, it’s best to travel between June and September.
Nevertheless, Porto’s weather is mostly mild, making it a perfect city to venture and explore. So, gear up with Baja Bikes, set out on foot with friends, or rent a car, and travel around carefree!