Top 5 Things to Do In Porto
It is hard to believe I almost missed visiting Porto for the first time. During a recent Windstar cruise, I sailed from Dublin to Lisbon on Windsurf. Porto was one of the last stops on our itinerary. We were only scheduled to be in this port for six hours. I considered not even bothering to disembark as we only had a short window to explore the town. Additionally, we were there on a Sunday and I was unsure which shops and restaurants would even be open, if at all. I am so glad I got off the boat because it was love at first sight. Porto is officially my new favorite European city.
Built into the cliffs at the mouth of the Douro River, this compact hilly city is best explored on foot. It is an architectural gem. Meander through neighborhood squares, stroll down medieval alleyways and make your way down to the water. The Ribeira district is located alongside the river and is one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods. It is part of the city’s historic center and protected by UNESCO. Shops, wine bars, and restaurants line the quayside making it a picture-perfect spot for a drink overlooking the Duoro.
Porto’s cobblestone streets are lined with boutique shops like A Vida Portuguesa. Visit the Armazém, a converted old warehouse with vintage shops, art galleries, and a tapas bar. Or walk along the Rua de Miguel Bombarda, known as the arts block, to browse in the stores that open at noon.
Among the architectural highlights of Porto are the many baroque and gothic style churches. You don’t need to be religious to appreciate the beauty and history of these archaic structures. Probably the most famous are the Clérigos Church with its iconic tall bell tower, and the Church of São Francisco with its fine rose windows and gilded interior. Don’t miss the Church of Santa Clara. Its unassuming façade gives way an extravagant and beautiful nave adorned with ornate gold-leaf woodwork.
Located directly across from the well-known Church of Carmo, you will find several cafes lining the street. We enjoyed a healthy breakfast at Noshi Coffee before setting off to explore. For authentic Portuguese cuisine make a reservation at one of Porto’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Pedro Lemos or for more casual fare try A Cozinha do Manel.
Recognized around the world for its trade in port wine, port cellars can be found all over the city. Nearly all of them offer tours and tastings. However, you will enjoy more than just a sweet glass of red wine at the Caves Cálem. In addition to premium wine tastings, visitors pass through an interactive museum to learn about the port making process. They also have an opportunity to listen to traditional Portuguese Fado music. Browse the store or relax on the wine bar terrace with a glass of port. From here you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. Soon Caves Cálem will be offering a 5D film that is a complete journey of the senses.
Disclosure: The cruise was provided by Windstar Cruises. No other compensation was received for this review. This post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.
This article originally appeared in Porthole Cruise Magazine.