7 really special things not to miss when you travel to Porto [Portugal]
Porto is a coastal city in the northwest of Portugal known for its stately bridges and port wine production. That said, it’s so much more than that, the city exudes history and echoes of the past can be felt everywhere. The great news is that you can rent an apartment in Porto right in the historic center and experience it for yourself.
Porto’s signature narrow cobbled streets and artisan shops are now patch worked with a new style – a youthful modernism which embraces technology and design bringing a very cool new vibe to the city.
Porto is a city of contrasts between old and new, the little wool shop and the trendy café, the old curiosity shop and the design shop, they all weave together down the steep hill to the spectacular River Douro. Porto is shining and optimistic – it’s enjoying a boom right now and is certainly worth a visit if only to catch some of its optimism. Why not rent an apartment in Porto and experience the positive atmosphere first hand?
In the last few years vacation rentals have boomed and you can rent an apartment in Porto for a song compared with the rest of Europe. Modern and trendy short term apartments and holiday rentals can be found in abundance right in the heart of the city, in small quaint cobbled streets overflowing with charm and authenticity.
Eating and drinking in Porto has also never been more exciting. The city is having an epicurean moment, with chefs such as Rui Paula and José Avillez starting a new-wave Portuguese cuisine, and Pedro Lemos and Ricardo Costa keeping Porto on the Michelin map. Look out for the excellent food markets, retro cafes serving lazy brunches, cool bistros offering inventive petiscos (small plates), and family-run tascas (taverns). Add to your list the food tours, cookery classes, olive-oil workshops, wine tastings and Gaia’s grand port cellars and you’ll experience one of Europe’s tastiest cities.
Rent an apartment in Porto
If you rent a holiday apartment in the old center of Porto, you will be able to walk to all the best bars, restaurant and historic sites. From the Sé cathedral terrace and Gaia’s hilltop Jardim do Morro, you can see views the city like a postcard: a colourful vision of soaring bell towers, extravagant baroque churches and stately beaux arts buildings. Equally staggering is the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal’s jigsaw of palm-fringed, fountain-speckled gardens. Even in the heart of the city, seagulls soar on the Atlantic breezes and indeed a rickety tram ride will take you to the beach at Foz do Douro in just a few minutes. From Foz, the coastal path to Matosinhos has broad ocean views and weaves past sandy beaches.
1. Take the cable car – Teleferico
After you have enjoyed a few tiples of Port in the many wine cellars, head up the steep hill and take the Teleferico. It’s well worth the climb, it’s a state of the art engineering project which was completed in 2011 and for 5 Euros it gives you the most beautiful view of the city over the river Douro and Porto rooftops. It runs between the southern end of the famous bridge Ponte Dom Luís I and the riverside. It’s a must if you choose to rent an apartment in Porto.
2. Visit the food market – Mercardo Bom Sucesso
This food and drink hall is similar to the tapas halls found in Madrid and Sevilla. This market in Boavista (close to to Casa da Musica) is an excellent place to try a variety of Portuguese and international food and drink at reasonable prices. It’s a popular place with the locals and not too crowded. Look for the suckling pig served in a roll and in a wooden box tray or the seafood pasta, both are excellent.
3. Drink Craft beer at Armazém da Cerveja
If you love your beer you have come to the right place. There is a shop at the front with a large selection of European and international craft beers and a bar and patio behind. The atmosphere is laid back and bohemian and the interior design industrial and minimal. A great place to hang out which is popular with expats and locals alike.
4. Sit on the terrace sipping a cocktail at Terraplana
Terraplana is one of the first cocktail bars to surface in Porto and no expense has been spared by it’s British/American owners. It has a smart feel, American bar style décor in a traditional Portuguese building with high ornate ceilings and a dramatic raised Patio garden area. It also sells a good selection of beers for the beer drinkers among us and a wood fire in the bar area for delicious pizzas.
5. Eat tapas with a glass of wine at La Bohème
Natural, knotted pine beams and a wood-slat motif resembling a giant record cabinet delineate the two spaces at La Bohème, Porto’s newest – and possibly first – wine bar. Boss Paulo Dantas owns two music clubs in the city, which may have inspired the design by AVA Architects, but this place is really about the region’s world-famous wine and port. It’s served with tapas-sized portions of traditional Portuguese dishes like ‘caldo verde’ soup with potato and chorizo, and ‘alheira’ smoked-game sausage with lemon chutney. It’s no surprise the wonderfully raw space has a reliable soundtrack of alternative beats – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s around the corner from one of Porto’s most famous sights: Torre dos Clérigos.
6. Dress up and have a glass of port with a view at The Yeatman Hotel Roof top bar
The Yeatman was considered ‘the best wine hotel’ of 2015 and belongs to the company that owns the renowned Taylor’s port wine. The bar and the rooftop of the Yeatman Hotel are open to those who are not staying at the hotel, making it one of the best rooftops in Porto for a glass of Port wine with an unbeatable view of Ribeira.
7. Visit Porto’s exceptional art deco contemporary art museum Fundacao de Serralves
If you rent an apartment in Porto, you shouldn’t leave without visiting the wonderful Serralves, not only is this one of the best collections of contemporary art in Portugal, but the estate is worth visiting for its architecture alone. The 1925 mansion is an art deco delight by Jose Marques de Silva, with a René Lalique skylight, and a neo-baroque chapel that is completely enveloped within the pink walls. The landscaping is proto-modernism at its most flamboyant. The museum, which features large-scale exhibitions (currently Miro as I write) and the library with it’s Tobias Rehberger ceiling installation, occupy a substantial 1999 building by Pritzker prize winner Siza Vieira – a sculptural white box in tune with its setting. The top floor restaurant offers an exceptional buffet, which can be eaten on the roof on warm days.
Rent an apartment in Porto
With the boom in tourism in Porto, many of the old apartments in the historic center have been converted into vacation rentals and you can often find a bargain and rent a really stunning modern apartment right next to all the tourist attractions.
Resources for your Porto trip
The Portugal Wire – handy tips on what to see and do in Porto by Lonely Planet writer Emily McAuliffe
Viver o Porto Blog – a blog about Porto, shared with passion through the eyes of a local