Welcome to Porto!
Porto, Portugal, brimming and full of life, tugs at your heartstrings and makes it easy for everyone to fall in love with this city. Tourists, arriving on the Lisbon to Porto train, are drawn to the more well-known attractions, but a worldwide local knows how to experience it best. This insider’s guide will show you how to revel in some of the greatest local spots and truly enjoy this beautiful city.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you are going to explore Porto comfortably, it’s advised that you bring some good walking shoes. Walking isn’t a breeze since there are steep slopes and stone cobbles throughout this hilly metropolis.
How to Live Like a “Tripeiro”
To really know Porto, you must experience it like a local. Tripeiros (Porto residents) are laid back and pleasant and enjoy a calm pace of life. It is common to see people in Porto appreciating life by taking the time to “stop and smell the roses,” or by enjoying some wine. If your plans include experiencing Porto like a local rather than a tourist, you’ll want to bear a few things in mind.
Drink coffee…a lot of coffee. The Portuguese love their coffee. The coffee you will find in Porto, however, is not the coffee you will find at a local Starbucks. You won’t find “cream-no-milk, hold-the-sugar-but-add-two-Splenda” orders. Their coffee, or café, is usually a simple espresso (cimbalino in Porto). Drink at least two to be able to keep up with the local debate over the strengths and weaknesses of the FC Porto.
Braga: A Must-Visit Neighborhood
While you are walking around Porto, one thing that you should be sure not to miss is Braga. You’ll find it immersed in historical and spiritual surroundings. Here, there are café-filled piazzas, very popular with students from the nearby university enjoying the balmy Porto weather. Tourists will enjoy seeing the famous Bom Jesus do Monte (Bom Jesus Sanctuary), the oldest cathedral in the country.
Worldwide Local Tip: Visit the city’s port houses. Try to stay away from the port houses along the river, however--they tend to have the most people in the smallest spaces. If you want to have a really personal experience, visit the furthest port house and pull out your wallet to spend a little more for a better tasting experience.
Take a Day Trip to Aveiro
After you get done taking a tour through Port Town, enjoy a gondola ride without a visit Italy. Aveiro, nicknamed the Venice of Portugal, is much quieter than Venice, and some might say far more colorful. The painted boats and vibrant buildings are just a few of Aveiro’s signature features. It’s very easy to get there from Porto by car, train, or bus.
Porto on a Budget
If you want both to get around and cash in on a local deal, then don’t forget to grab a city pass. Be sure to pick up a Lisboa or Porto Card right away. They are city passes that will give you free or discounted admission to lots of major museums, sights, and tours, as well as free transportation on the Metro, public buses, trams, funiculars, and some trains. Talk to the manager at any Porto hotel for help purchasing a city card, and for directions.
History and Architecture
A must-see cathedral in Porto is the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral). Free to the public, this cathedral sits atop a hill, watching gracefully over the city of Porto. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, this cathedral features a variety of architectural styles, including Romanesque, baroque, and gothic. The fortress-like church is the largest in the city and is one of Porto’s oldest monuments. It is flanked by twin towers. The masterpiece is known by locals and tourists alike for its ability to draw a crowd.
Visit a Porto Market
No trip to Porto is complete without a trip to Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market). Let the aromas of the market find you before you find it. The sweet juices of the fruit, the comforting smell of freshly baked bread, the salty cheeses, and the bright colors of the spices will overwhelm all your senses. The open-air market is like many you’ll find in Europe, with vendors selling a variety of fresh and homemade wares at good prices. The market itself dates back to 1850 and is housed behind a neoclassical facade in a two-story building in the heart of Porto. The market is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entry is free, but you should bring along some cash to spend on the fresh food that tickles your fancy.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Porto is a city full of life around every corner, designed for enjoying the many pleasures. When you visit, we suggest that you mirror this way of life; it is worth the experience. Roaming the city as a worldwide local will grant you unparalleled access to its amazing sights and fascinating sounds.