Located in the northern part of the country, along the Douro River, is the second largest city of Portugal: Porto. This city is one of the oldest European centres which is why its history and architecture are so intriguing to the world. In addition to the beauty of the city itself, Porto offers dozens of fun activities for visitors, excellent local food and, of course, the best of wine, making it a top destination. Not to mention Porto is only a one-hour flight away from Madrid, which is ideal for a weekend getaway. Here are my “must-see” spots and some tips to make the best of your trip:
Kitties Rock is the perfect spot to take some wine with you and enjoy a spectacular view of the sun sinking behind the famous Dom Luis I Bridge and right into the Douro River. The place itself seems plain, and getting there can be tricky as the path is hidden, but you can easily find it on Google Maps. In order to get to the actual rock, you have to walk through tall grass and may have to do a little climbing to reach the top. However, it will all be worth it once you are there experiencing the magical views.
There are so many beautiful churches around Porto. My personal favorites are the Porto Cathedral (“Sé do Porto”) and the Chapel of Souls (“Capela das almas”) which is famous for its delicately decorated tiles on the exterior.
The Tower of Clerics (Clérigos)
The Tower of Clerics is a bell tower that was built in 1754 and is more than 75 meters high. It takes 225 steps to reach the top, where you will have a 360-degree view of the whole city. The tower is attached to a beautiful church and the House of the Brotherhood, which is a museum containing a collection of cultural artifacts and art from the 13th to 20th century.
Lello Bookstore (Livraria Lello)
Lello Bookstore is where J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, found much of her inspiration for Hogwarts. The building is stunning with a gothic style exterior and art-nouveau décor on the inside.
Sao Bento Railway Station
The Sao Bento Railway Station is a 20th century train station built in 1904. The inside of the station is very pretty with the azulejo tile and paintings depicting important moments in the country’s history and rural scenes from distinct regions.
Six Bridges Tour
One of the best activities, in my personal experience, is taking a boat along the Douro River that takes you to the six iconic Porto bridges. There are shared boats which cost 15 euros per person and will take you to all six bridges in 50 minutes while also playing a recording for the historic background of the bridges and other monuments on the riverside. Before or after the boat trip, I recommend walking along the riverside as well, as there are good restaurants there with amazing views.
Food and Wine
As for food, you cannot leave Porto without trying the traditional dish “Francesinha” or the delicious “Pastéis de Nata”. In addition to their local food, most restaurants also offer fresh seafood. Not to mention the wine! Porto is very well-known for its amazing wine produced in the Douro Valley. In Porto, you will always see someone sipping their wine, no matter the time or place. Throughout your visit, you will find many places where you can have a wine tasting experience or even tours around the vineyards and cellars.
Free Walking Tour
My best and final suggestion is to take a free walking tour! These can be easily found and reserved online. The tours usually last around three hours and will take you around the city to the most important landmarks. The guides are very friendly and knowledgeable, sharing lots of background information throughout the tour. Consider that during the tour you will not enter all of the places, so you may have an opportunity to explore on your own later.
These are my favorite spots and tips. I hope you have a chance to escape to Porto for a weekend getaway, experience all of the fun activities and learn about this extraordinary city!