Porto’s on the up, people. It’s cheap, walkable and drop-dead gorgeous, making it an ideal destination for a weekend break from the UK. Here are a few suggestions for the perfect trip.
What to do and see
144 Rua das Carmelitas
You’ll be lucky to find a quiet moment at LivrariaLello © Emma Sparks
Potter fans, this one’s for you. One of the oldest book shops in Portugal, Livraria Lello was often frequented by the one and only JK Rowling back when she was teaching English in the city. One look at the ornate staircase and it’s clear to see why this place is said to have helped inspire her vision of Hogwarts.
A word of warning: Livraria Lello is extremely popular with tourists. Contrary to the tips I’d read online, the shop workers were definitely not interested in letting me in before the stated opening time (10am). Travel geekery having failed me, I joined the throng. The crowds make it difficult to photograph the glorious space – but persevere and with a little magic, you might just succeed.
Clérigos tower and Ponte Luis I
4050-546 Rua de São Filipe de Nery / south of São Bento station
My habit for seeking out bird’s-eye views was satisfied in Porto; Clérigos tower is an icon of the city’s skyline and we were lucky enough to have a view of it from our terrace; while a walk across Ponte Luís I certainly blew away the cobwebs.
You’ll find sights like this all over town © Emma Sparks
These blue tiles bring otherwise average buildings to life and are a huge part of Porto’s identity. You’ll spot them all over the city – but my favourite was the 20,000-tile scene that demands attention as you enter São Bento Railway Station (Praça de Almeida Garrett). My camera lens wasn’t wide enough to take a decent shot… so you’ll have to go and see it for yourself.
Street art can be found on every corner in Porto © Emma Sparks
It may be small, but Porto’s personality is big – and best portrayed by the wall-spanning murals and subtle splashes of colour found throughout the city. Take a wander and you’ll no doubt stumble upon some street art – quite possibly by Hazul, renowned local graffiti artist. The walk along the river to Casad’oro (see below) basically doubles as an open-air gallery tour.
What to eat and drink
797 Rua do Ouro
Pizza with a view at Casad’oro © Emma Sparks
With River Douro views and pizza this good, Casad’oro is a no-brainer for lunch. Grab a seat outside if you can - but large parties and families will be happy in the airy interior.
100 Rua dos Caldeireiros
Always a sucker for a good Lonely Planet review (what can I say? I’m biased!), minimalist, Scandi-cool Miss ‘Opo was firmly on the agenda for our Porto weekend. We arrived early (opening time, 8pm on the dot) to secure a spot, and sure enough we were soon brushing elbows with other hungry patrons. Despite being pretty hipster, it was surprisingly good value, at €40 total for a seafood dinner and wine for three.
130 Praça dos Poveiros
I failed in my hunt for francesinha - Porto’s ubiquitous soggy sandwich - as we left it too late and everywhere decent was PACKED. This pleased my waistline-watching companions, but not my stomach. Luckily, I found a substitute at Casa Guedes, where they serve delicious pork rolls with soft cheese, accompanied by plenty of chips. Naughty noms… achieved.
Retiro dos Carvalhos
7 Rua Estreita de Lóios
Retiro dos Carvalhos is known for its fado nights (get a sample here), held every Sunday in the cafe/bar’s basement. It has a welcoming, studenty vibe and the best _bolinhos de bacalhau _(deep-fried cod balls) I’ve ever tasted.
Where to stay
If you want a good Airbnb review, you know what to do… © Emma Sparks
My friends and I stayed in this Airbnb on Rua do Almada, which is in a central location and has a roof terrace. At £42 per night between the three of us, we couldn’t have asked for a better deal. Our lovely host Paula had even bought us some pastéis de nata which made for a delicious breakfast.
Plan your trip
- Like a local: Porto - Nat Geo Traveller
- Porto’s best galleries - Suitcase Magazine
- Porto on a plate: a perfect day in Portugal’s food capital - Lonely Planet