Portugal, a beautiful country that’s part of the Iberian peninsula and over the last couple of years thanks to Instagram has blown up as one of the number one destinations for tourists. Two years ago I went to Lisbon which was my first time in Portugal and I absolutely loved it. I went right before Portugal started to gain international attention from travelers. You can read about my Lisbon trip here.
This year I went to Porto, Portugal from April 15 to 20 and I had an absolutely wonderful experience. Porto offers a lot of delicious foods, Porto wine and a unique history. It’s a city that is completely walkable but is also very hilly so be prepared to walk a lot but it’s totally worth it.
Below are suggestions for restaurants, food to try, where to stay, what to do and see, useful Portuguese phrases and how to get from the airport to the city center.
Restaurants and traditional Portuguese food:
- Gazela Cachorrinhos da Batalha: This restaurant is more of a diner style where the patrons sit at the counter while you watch the chefs prepare the food. This place is frequented by locals and has the delicious cachorrinhos dish. Cachorrinhos is a hot dog with a bun and inside there’s also cheese. Then they put it in a panini press and then cut it up like the picture below. It’s absolutely delicious and you should pair it with some fries and a Super Bock (Portuguese beer).
- A lojinha do leitão: Just down the street from my hostel is this restaurant which has a lunch special. The day I went they had a pork sandwich with chips special for €6.50. The pork was very tender and also in the sandwich was a flavourful sauce with a bit of spice and garlic. I also added a side salad and had a drink and I don’t think it cost more than €8.
- Aquele Tasco: This restaurant is very unassuming and is located near the popular shopping street of Santa Catarina. It’s a great place to go with a group or by yourself if you want to try more traditional Portuguese dishes. They have smaller sizes that are great for sharing or sampling traditional dishes; however the smaller sizes are enough for a whole meal for one person.
At this restaurant is where I tried the traditional and famous Francesinha which is a traditional dish from Porto; the translation is Little Frenchie or Frenchie. It’s unlike any other sandwich you’ve ever had, guaranteed. It is made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça (smoke-cured pork sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika), steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. It’s a very rich dish but it’s definitely worth a try.
Also at this restaurant I had the smaller sized portion of the duck rice. I think the picture does it enough justice. Even if you’re not a fan of duck the flavour isn’t really overpowering because it’s mixed with rice and other flavours.
- Pedro dos Frangos: If you want traditional Portuguese chicken with french fries then this is your place. They have take-out, counter service, and full-service dining (upstairs). This place is always packed with locals but you can usually find a table upstairs. It’s really cheap and the food is great. I went here twice during my stay in Porto because it was close to my hostel and it’s delicious.
Where to stay:
–Porto Lounge Hostel & Guesthouse: This is where I stayed and it is probably one of the cleanest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. Everyday they have a cleaning service. It’s also a very quiet hostel so if this is something that you want it’s perfect for you. It’s not so great if you want to socialize and meet people; I found that the guests generally kept to themselves a lot. It’s also close to Praça da Liberdade which is the main square in Porto; so if you stay near this square you are in a good location.
-Airbnb: STREET ART HOME gallery: Perhaps if you’re traveling with friends and you want an apartment to yourselves I recommend this unique find. It’s near Praça da Liberdade as well. It can accommodate 4 guests and has all the amenities that you need including a kitchen, a washer, wifi and it has great reviews.
*I recommend using Booking.com to look for accommodations as you can customize your search and many properties offer the option of free cancellation. (I always book with free cancellation because you never know what’s going to happen).
What to do:
–City Lovers tour: City Lovers offers different types of tours so check their website to see what interests you. I went on a historical city tour the first day I was in Porto, in the morning. The free walking tour of the city meets in the Praça da Liberdade which is the main square in Porto. It lasted for about 3 hours and the guide was very knowledgeable in the history of the city. At the end of the tour we had a beautiful view of the city.
*It’s a free tour which means that at the end of the tour you should give the tour guide a tip as this is how they get paid. It’s a pretty reasonable deal and I’ve done it in many cities that I’ve visited.
-Porto wine tasting – Croft: Of course if you are in Porto you need to go for a tasting of Port wine. However, a word of warning Port wine is very sweet and is more of a dessert wine. I went for a tour and wine tasting at Croft Port. I received a short tour with 3 tastings for 14 euros. There are many other Port wineries and they are all located on the other side of the Dom Luis I Bridge which is technically the city of Gaia. They offer tours in English and Spanish throughout the day. It’s probably best to call them in advance to see what times their tours are at instead of walking to the winery to realize that the tour doesn’t start for a few hours. Here is the phone number for Croft Port: 00351 220 109 825
–Livraria Lello, aka the Harry Potter bookstore: The best time to go to the library is after lunch around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. But first you must buy tickets at another shop just a little north of the bookstore in the same block of store fronts. There is a red sign that says something like Tickets. You must go into the store and go all the way to the back of the store and then down some stairs on your right to buy the tickets for either that day or the next day for 5 euros. This 5 euros is also used towards any purchases you wish to make inside the bookstore.
–Dom Luis bridge: This is the famous bridge in Porto that connects Porto to the city of Gaia which is where you find all the Port wine wineries. You can cross the bridge at the bottom as well as the top. I highly recommend crossing it at the top as it’s wider and easier to walk. You also get an amazing view of Porto. When you cross the bridge, coming from Porto over to Gaia, you will arrive in a beautiful park in Gaia. When I was there during the week of April 15 there was a craft vendor market that also had popcorn and cotton candy. It was really beautiful and unexpected. This side of the bridge in Gaia is also a wonderful place to come to watch the sunset. During my last night in Porto I went there to watch the sun set and it was absolutely amazing. I think Porto has one of the best sunsets I’ve seen.
What to see:
Porto is known for its blue tiles and there’s definitely no shortage of them in the city. Here are some of the places I recommend going to to see the blue tiles:
Obrigado/a – Thank you (use obrigado is you’re a man and obrigada if you’re a woman)
Bom dia – Good morning
Cuanto custa? (cuanto cushta?) – How much does it cost?
How to get from the airport to downtown: Now that I’ve been twice to Portugal and I’ve traveled quite a bit in Europe I can say that Portugal has a great public transportation system that’s also incredibly affordable. It’s very easy to go from the Porto airport to downtown.
When you arrive at the airport you will have to exit for the metro and you will see this symbol:
Then you’ll have to buy a card that looks like this. The card only costs 60 cents:
When you buy the card you can also load it with the amount of money you need and this will depend on where you’re going. However, usually it costs 2.60 euros for each trip. At the machines there is a list of different zones and the code that you need to select on the machines. If you’re not sure which zone you will be travelling to you can always ask someone as most younger Portuguese people speak English fairly fluently.
Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try my best to answer them. Enjoy Porto!