12 min read
After our Head of Operations Sam spending 48 hours in Vienna and bringing you some amazing travel recommendations, our Founder Greg takes you on a journey to Porto, the 'City of Bridges'.
Whether you’ve made those deadlines, hit that quota, got to the end of a stressful quarter or just think you are long overdue a bit of rest and relaxation, this week’s BRB destination is the remedy you need. It’s got delicious food, even better booze and a wonderful, laidback, all about the fun atmosphere. Before you ask, no, I’m not describing paradise! I’m talking about Portugal’s second largest city, the terracotta maze of Porto!
Located near the north west coast of Portugal on the banks of the dazzling Douro river, Porto soared to prominence thanks to its usefulness as, you guessed it, a port! The medieval harbour used to be packed with merchant ships ready to transport Portuguese goods off around the world and bringing wealth to the country. Nowadays, the old charm of the city remains in Porto’s picturesque, cobbled streets, beautifully coloured houses and elegant tiled churches. Set amongst this pleasant urban scenery, you will find loads of funky new bars, flavoursome foods and friendly locals which all add a vibrant buzz to the city.
Barely two hours away, small enough to explore on foot but packed with exciting activities to do, Porto is one of the best places to visit for a long weekend. Read on to find out where to go and what to do if you are lucky enough to have 48 hours in Porto. Spoiler alert, you are going to leave a little bit in love with this city!
After a 2 and a half hour flight from London Stansted, I land at Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (the main airport in Porto). I want to make the most of my time in the city so I jump in a taxi and head straight to the 4* Cathedral Design Apartments to drop off my bag.
Situated in the historic heart of the city, an area classified by UNESCO as World Heritage, Cathedral Design Apartments offer an amazing view over the city as well as direct routes to the most important attractions in Porto.
If you love culture as much as I do and you also like to enjoy your own private apartment when abroad, Cathedral Design Apartments is the place for you. With a modern design, great comfort, amazing views, a perfect location and an average rating of 4.5, I know is going to be a great stay!
Hit the ground running by heading straight to Porto’s famous Livraria Lello, an extraordinarily stunning bookshop. According to The Guardian, CNN and Time Magazine, the Livraria Lello is the most beautiful bookshop in the world and it is an unmissable stop on your tour of Porto.
Photo Credit: @charlenescape
The twisting staircase, intricate wooden panels and columns and stained-glass ceiling are truly magical, so magical in fact that it is rumoured to have been the inspiration for locations in Harry Potter!
Follow this up with a classy cup of coffee in another gorgeous building, the Majestic Café. As the name suggests, this café is spectacular. Ornately decorated in the Belle Epoque style with mirrors and chandeliers, the café dates back to the 1920’s and still exudes all of its original splendour.
Photo Credit: @mr.goldenhour_
Fuelled up and ready to go, its time for you to take on the 240 steps to the top of the Torre dos Clérigos! It’s a mean feat climbing all the way up the tower, but the view is worth every step. What little breath you have left will be completely taken away by the incredible sight of the city stretched out below you!
Photo Credit: @aqui.no.porto
From the Torre dos Clérigos, walk to the nearby São Bento Station. This iconic train station is another of Porto’s many unexpected beauties. The interior is decorated with approximately 20,000 of the blue and white azulejo tiles which Porto is famous for.
Photo Credit: @airelavie
The tiles depict several significant moments from Portuguese history including military battles, royal families and the development of transport in the country. Not far from here, you will find the Palácio da Bolsa or Stock Exchange Palace – don’t worry it is more exciting than it sounds!
Photo Credit: @andreideferrer
Located in the former economic and commercial heart of Porto, the building was constructed to schmooze foreign investors and secure trade deals. Consequentially, this palace, dripping in all its finery and opulence, brings the phrase dress to impress to a whole new level! All the rooms are jaw-dropping, but the showstopper is the Salão Árabe or Arabian Hall, which is a massive ballroom gilded with 18kgs of gold!
From here, you are just moments away from the city’s waterfront and Porto’s main street the Cais da Ribeira. Stroll along with the river on one side and picturesque houses on the other and soak up some of Porto’s vibrant atmosphere.
Photo Credit: @jaime.c.abreu
If you’re feeling peckish, pop into one of the Ribeira’s many quirky eateries and try a dish of sardines, a popular and expertly done Portuense favourite! As your afternoon comes to its end, hop aboard a river cruise of the Douro.
Photo Credit: @museummermaid
Travelling in a traditional rabello boat, this is one of the best ways to see and learn about the city and its famous six bridges. Sail into the evening with an unbeatable view of the sun setting over the city.
After that long day, you’ll be looking for a place to wind down and I have just the spot! Casa Santo Antonio is a friendly little establishment and one of the best places for authentic Portuguese food in Porto. You can’t go wrong with ordering their petiscos (the Portuguese version of tapas) which will allow you to try a selection of the tastiest seasonal specialties at the chef’s recommendation.
Photo Credit: @tabernasantoantonio
Pair it with a nice wine, and you’re set for a perfect evening!
Porto isn’t famed for its nightlife, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a party scene for people who know where to find it! Lucky for you, I’m here to help! Porto’s nightlife can be found on two main streets Rua da Galeria de Paris and its neighbour Rua de Cândido dos Reis.
Photo Credit: @dawid_lebar
The Portuense way, is to grab a drink from a bar and take it to the streets which become buzzing with people enjoying their night. Do as the locals do and jump from bar to bar, revelling in this electric atmosphere.
Shake off any drudgery from the late night before with a fresh coffee and a revitalising stroll through the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. This exquisite botanical garden features a maze of sun-dappled walkways and is dotted with sculptures, fountains, giant magnolias, and even peacocks.
Photo Credit: @porto_portugal
Make you’re way around and you will reach one of the best viewing points of the city with the Douro River, vineyards and harbour all below you. Admire the landscape and wish every day could begin like this!
Next up is a look around the National Museum Soares dos Reis. The museum is housed in the Carrancas Palace which is the oldest palace is Porto. The collection inside is also impressive offering a vast range of 16th to 20th century ceramics, paintings, glass work and jewellery. The main feature is the collection of masterpieces by António Soares dos Reis, a Portuguese sculptor born in 1847 who was so influential that the museum was renamed after him. Once you’ve finished here, head back towards the waterfront.
Photo Credit: @pedro.qualquer.coisa
Keep an eye out for somewhere to grab lunch, we recommend Restaurante A Regaleira. By this time, I’m sure you’ve seen tonnes of signs advertising franceshinas and it is time for you to see what the fuss is about! The franceshina is essentially a Portuguese version of the French Croque Monsieur. Made with bread, ham, smoked sausage, covered with melted cheese, topped with an egg and smothered in sauce, the franceshina is delicious but demands an appetite! You can’t visit Porto and not try one!
Photo Credit: @lauroborges
Now dear readers, is the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, it’s port tasting time! Porto is famous for its port wine and it’s not like we need an excuse to indulge! This is a holiday after all! Cross the imposing Luís I Bridge (making sure to snap some insta-worthy pics midway!) to the district of Gaia. Here you will find all the main port houses.
Photo Credit: @marisacaiano
Pick a company and embark on a tour which will take you through the dark, cool cellars whilst an expert explains all about the careful process and the differences between tawnys, rubys and vintage. Once you’ve tasted all the samples, there will be opportunity to purchase a bottle (or two!) of your favourite.
Tour over, grab a seat on the Teleférico de Gaia cable car. On this journey, you get a bird’s eye view of the port lodges and rooftop bars, as well as of the river and even out to the ocean. The cable car will transport you up to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a simple but stunning circular church and monastery which serves as a beautiful spot to watch the sun set over the Douro river.
Photo Credit: @gbwalter87
You may have had your fill of port but there is another drink Porto is famous for that you must try. Vinho verde, literally meaning ‘green wine’ is a young wine with the titular green referring to its youth rather than its colour which is still the customary white, rosé or red.
Photo Credit: @vinhoverdeoficial
Originating from Portugal’s Minho province, this light and refreshing wine has a slight fizz to it. There’s nothing better than sitting outside and sipping on a cool glass of vinho verde on a warm Porto evening. Try and grab a seat on the balcony at Bar Ponte Pensil for yet more magical views.
Photo Credit: @barpontepensil
At this point, you might have just recovered from your huge franceshina lunch so head to Adega São Nicolau for a delicious dinner you won’t forget. Tucked away, down a charming little alleyway, this restaurant is a hidden gem of the Ribeira and is an escape from the really touristy joints.
Photo Credit: @tononrafa
You will feel like you have been welcomed into a Portuguese family home as they serve you hearty portions of simply scrumptious food. Savour your last hours in the city by going for a cocktail at Baxia Bar before stumbling back to your hotel!
Photo Credit: @baixa_bar
If like me you love taking short weekend breaks across Europe and spending 48 hours in cities like Barcelona, Prague, Porto, Split, Bologna, Stockholm or Venice, but if like me you hate wasting hours trawling travel sites to plan and research your next weekend break, only to be hit by increased flight prices just before booking, then BeRightBack is for you!
The team at BeRightBack believes that the mission of a travel company should be to save you both time and money.
With BeRightBack, you get three trips a year to three surprise European destinations, all for the monthly cost of £49.99, which includes your return flights and your hotel.
With BeRightBack, creating a trip takes 60 seconds. Simply tell us how you like to travel when you create your account, and our concierge service does everything else for you. You won't have to lift a finger.
Best of all, you always pay the same price for your trips, no matter when you go away and we help you spread the cost of your travel, thanks to our monthly subscription.
I hope you enjoyed my 48 hours city guide to Porto and do not hesitate to use our website chat or to email us if you have any questions!
Gregory Geny (Founder of BeRightBack)
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There's something for everybody to do in Porto, Portugal.
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