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Insider tips for Porto: The lively coastal city in Portugal

19. February 2021, EXPLORE, TIPS

A glass of port in the evening sun on the Rio Douro. Enchanted, ancient alleys full of stories and populated with a lively night scene that captivates students. A place where culture meets modernity. At the same time, personal, manageable and incredibly versatile: All this, makes Porto the baroque city in the north of Portugal. On top of that, the incomparable charm of the Tripeiros, who are proud of their hometown and welcome visitors from all over the world. You might have guessed already: Porto is a unique experience and not only an absolute insider tip for tourists. Students also get their money’s worth here. It’s no coincidence that Porto is an extremely popular university city, which often attracts students from Carcavelos for a short weekend trip. No matter if you want to immerse yourself in the flair of the city for a few days or if you are going to live there for some time: Preparation is half the battle. Learn all the insider tips that will make your stay in Porto an unforgettable one. We must warn you: There is a dire risk that you’ll be overcome with wanderlust!

5 tips for travel, transportation and public transport in and around Porto

For some it’s an adventure, for others it’s a pain in the ass: Figuring out how to get from A to B the fastest and cheapest way possible. When it comes to Porto, we have some very good news for you. As the second largest city in the country, the impressive metropolis has an exemplary infrastructure, even though Porto itself only has 238,000 inhabitants. Even if the winding streets and hilly cityscape invite you to explore on foot, a look at the public transportation in and around Porto can’t hurt:

1. Arriving by plane: Porto has a nearby airport, the Aeroporto do Porto, whose flights cover a large range of European Airports via the Portuguese airline TAP Air Portugal. If you are a bargain hunter looking for cheap flights, you should browse the prices of low-cost airlines that also fly to Porto. Alternatively, you can take a flight to the Portuguese capital Lisbon and travel on to Porto by domestic flight, bus or train.

2. From Porto Airport to the city center: It is only 16 kilometers from the airport to the beautiful old town. If you want to keep an eye on your change and would rather do without a cab, there are plenty of cheaper airport shuttles. Find out about ticket purchasing and connections directly from providers such as 100rumos or Get Bus. The ride should cost you just a few Euros. However, you can get to your destination even cheaper by bus or metro in Porto. The purple metro line E, shuttles several times an hour from the airport to the city center and back. Alternatively, bus lines 601, 602 and 604 serve the airport almost around the clock. If you are arriving or departing at night between 1 and 6 a.m., be sure to check the schedules in advance.

3. Public transport in Porto: Getting around on foot allows you to immerse yourself in the rhythm of the city. However, if you need to get around more quickly, you can take advantage of Andante’s solid network of public transportation in the city and surrounding region. The cost of the trip depends on the zones you cross by bus, metro or regional train. For this you will receive a plastic card at the machine, which you should keep in any case. On the website of the Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto (STCP) you can find the right bus route. If you want to take the metro, use the route planner of the Metro do Porto. For tourists and visitors with short stays, there is the Andante Tour Card, valid for 24 hours or more, which can be purchased at the airport, metro stations or train stations. Students in Porto travel especially cheaply on public transportation. Check with Andante or your university.

4. By bus or train to and from Porto: Portugal has several train connections that go beyond the national border to Spain or France. The Alfa Pendular, the high-speed train operated by the Portuguese railroad company Combios de Portugal (CP), connects the north with the south of the country and, of course, makes a stop at the Porto-Campanhã station. In addition, there are a number of inexpensive bus connections to get from Lisbon to Porto or vice versa, which will cost you less than 20 euros per trip. You will also definitely travel through the bus terminal Rodoviário do Campo 24 de Agosto. Information on prices and connections can be obtained from the bus company Rede Expressos.

5. Porto by bike: The city is very hilly, especially in the old town Ribeira, where you will encounter many steps. Nevertheless, the bicycle is the ideal means of transport to visit distant beaches or to discover the small fishing villages outside the city, with their cozy restaurants, where you can enjoy freshly grilled catches of the morning. Starting at 2 euros per hour, you can rent a city bike and ride it along the shore, enjoying the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.

Accommodation for short trips and for students in Porto

Once you’ve learned everything you need to know about travel and public transportation, we come to the next important point for your Porto adventure: Accommodation. For a weekend getaway, Porto has plenty of hostels, privately rented apartments and affordable hotels. If you are studying in Porto and are in search of modern and clean student housing, we have a particularly hot tip for you. At MILESTONE Porto Asprela,(for students and young professionals), airconditioned & light-flooded apartments with comfortable furniture, private designer bathrooms and kitchenettes await. However, privacy and an appealing learning environment are not the only benefits here. If you are looking for contact and connection to others, you can meet people from all over the world in the common rooms. For example: In the in-house gym, the coffee bar or the roof terrace with a wonderful view. Additionally, most of the universities in Porto are within a few minutes’ walk. Thanks to the Polo Universitário metro station, which is right outside your front door, you’ll be in the city center in no time. Curious? Make up your own mind about MILESTONE House Porto Asprela now.

7 insider tips for sightseeing and excursions in Porto

The baroque city in northern Portugal is packed with sights waiting to be seen. However, there are a few things to keep in mind, to ensure that you don’t fall into any annoying tourist traps and get to know the city from its best side.

1. Old town Ribeira: Located directly on the picturesque Douro River, a walk through the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site is certainly not an insider tip, but a must-do on your Porto Bucket List.
While strolling through the streets, remember to look up once in a while. You might be taken by the contrasts. On the one hand, you’ll see intricate, beautiful and decorative facades. On the other, you’ll notice the many older and emptier houses which are much in need of renovation. Nevertheless, both aspects bring a sort of charm. Ribeira was once the residential area of the ‘poorer’ fishermen, which shapes the cityscape accordingly. Together with the winding alleys and the many steps, the old town quarter is an endless labyrinth to be explored in comfortable sneakers. A discovery tour is also worthwhile in the late evening hours. In the streets of Ribera you will find all kinds of restaurants and bars to turn night into day. By the way, as Mondays are less busy, the bars like to lure you into their premises with cheap happy hour offers.

2. Porto São Bento: If you walk through the entrance hall of the train station located in the middle of the city, you will find yourself in a sea of tales – literally. The tiles associated with Portugal, called azulejos, impressively tell the story of the life and battles fought by the Portuguese, the former seafaring nation. Stand in the hall for a while and let your eyes wander over the facades and ceilings. About 20,000 tiles are said to adorn the building on the former monastery grounds, which stuns with its overall appearance as well as architecture and is thus definitely worth a visit. By the way, the station hall can be entered without a ticket and is completely free of charge.

3. Holy and impressive at the same time – Cathedrals and churches in Porto: You won’t have to look very hard for Sé do Porto, the cathedral of the city. Very close to the São Bento train station, it rises above the old town Ribeira and shapes the cityscape in a striking way. As the starting point of the Portuguese Way of St. James from Porto, depending on the season, you will meet some pilgrims here every day who start their journey towards Santiago de Compostela following the yellow shells. A look inside can’t hurt either. Another insider tip is the church Igreja de Santa Clara, which looks quite inconspicuous from the outside, but shines in golden splendor on the inside. If you have fallen in love with the azujelos, the blue and white tiles typical in Portugal, you can’t miss the Igreja dos Carmelitas and the Capela Das Almas. A visit is worthwhile in any case. After all, what would the baroque city be without its ornate churches? In any case, all four buildings are convincing photo motifs.

4. The historic streetcar Linha 1 on the banks of the Douro: Of course you can also stroll along the banks of the Duoro, but when in Portugal, you should experience a ride on the famous yellow streetcars. The three remaining streetcar lines in Porto contribute more in character than to the actual infrastructure and are therefore not included in the zone tariff. However, a single ride costs only a few euros and it is a real experience to sit in the historical vehicle, to hear the rattling and crunching and dive into a long gone past. Be aware, the Linha 1 is a tourist magnet, so you should schedule your visit for the early or late hours. If you are unable to get a seat, cover the same distance from Ribeira to the Foz district by bus line 500.

5. Porto sightseeing tour on a donation basis: If you’re new to a city and don’t really know your way around yet, there are three options: Either you make a meticulous plan to cover every area, you walk around and see where your feet take you or you entrust yourself to a tour guide, who will take you to the most important places and be entertaining on top of it. It doesn’t even have to be expensive! Heard of donation-based tour guides? Join a tour and decide at the end, what the pleasure was worth to you. Check with providers like Porto Walkers or FREETOUR for the latest tours that take you through the old town, to the culinary highlights or through the nighttime hustle and bustle of Porto.

6. Excursion to the Douro Valley: Taste the world-famous port wine during one of the many wine cellar tours in Porto OR, if you have more time and want to experience the origin of Port wine, don’t miss this: Surrounded by green mountains, picturesque villages and graceful wineries, a visit to the Douro Valley is an absolute insider tip. Even though the source of the famous Port wine and the oldest wine-growing region in the world has gained some notoriety as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, few tourists stay overnight. Do it differently to the day-trippers and treat yourself to one or more nights at one of the many original wineries, or the so-called Quintas. Hikes and boat trips are just within reach. Enjoy the evening sun with a bottle of port wine and the sight of the unique landscape. For your arrival and departure, you can use the train from Porto São Bento or a boat starting at the shore of the old town Ribeira.

7. Free museum visit and orchestra performances in Porto: What to do on a Sunday morning? Sleep off the party from last night or take advantage of a trip to the museum, which is completely free of charge? Up until 2p.m. on Sundays, you can get your dose of culture without paying admission. For example, at the Museu do Vinho do Porto, where you can learn more about the history of port wine, or at the Museu do Carro Eléctrico, the streetcar museum in Porto. Students generally are not required to pay admission to most museums which is a huge plus. Another absolute culture tip for Porto: In the summer, you can enjoy orchestra rehearsals at the Casa da Mùsica – also completely free of charge. To find out the times and dates, get directly in contact with the concert hall.

5 viewpoints in Porto you should visit

Porto offers plenty of beautiful spots that can also be very romantic for when you’re on a date. Alone, you can also enjoy the stunning views, called miradouros, to the fullest. Here, you get new perspectives and can observe the hustle and bustle of the city with different eyes.

1.The highest point of the old town – Porto’s cathedral: We already talked about the appearance of the imposing cathedral Sé do Porto. However, the visit is worthwhile for another reason. From this point, you actually get a unique view over the old town, down to the Douro and that without paying admission. Your camera does not want to miss this.

2. The highest view – Torre dos Clérigos: This viewpoint isn’t free but allows you to expand your view to 360 degrees from the landmark of the city of Porto: The Torre dos Clérigos. A 75-meter-high tower rises above the church, jutting out from the picturesque city. The climb up the (approximately) 240 steps is not an insider tip. In order to avoid the streams of tourists, which can cause a traffic jam or two on the narrow spiral staircase, we recommend that you visit the baroque building during off-peak hours. In the mornings and evenings, there are much less people and you can enjoy the magnificent view over the city in its entirety. In the morning, Porto may even be shrouded in an enchanted haze, making the experience even more magical. Tickets start at 5 euros.

3. Miradouro da Bataria da Vitória: From São Bento da Vitória street in Ribeira, you can walk directly to this beautiful viewpoint in the middle of the old town. The place is actually privately owned, but has been left open to the public until today. This special place invites you to linger. Let the flair of Porto take effect on you between the stone houses and terracotta roofs.

4. Ribeira in all its glory – From the other side: The true postcard motif appears before your eyes when you view Porto from the other side of the river. From here, the true beauty of the city is brought home to any sightseeing grouch. For a special view of the colorful old town and the famous metal bridge Ponte Luís I, head to the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar viewpoint, which can be combined with a visit to the former monastery Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. At night, the old town and the bridge are even more impressive due to their illumination. You can also enjoy the sunset from here or the nearby Jardim de Morro. Afterwards, it is recommended that you take an evening walk on the shore side of Vila Nova de Gaia and admire the city at night from different perspectives.

5. Walk over the arch bridge Ponte Luís I: The bridge, a little less than 400 meters long, with its view over the area, is a unique experience that you should not skip. From here, you can observe the liveliness of the city and the Barcos rabelos, the famous port wine boats, which not only bring the barrels inland, but also invite tourists to relaxed excursions. A special highlight is the Escada dos Guindais stone staircase leading up to the bridge from the Douro, which you should definitely plan to take during your visit.

5 Culinary Highlights: Restaurants in Porto

Life is only half as good without good food and drink! With the Portuguese beer Super Bock, selected wines like Vinho Verde and port wine or tonic water, you can enjoy all the typical meat, fish, seafood and vegetables dishes in Porto. Our insider tips tell you where to feast and indulge your palate.

1. Breakfast and brunch in Porto: Brunch on the weekend with friends – Porto offers enough possibilities. Zenith is a must-try on our breakfast list. Dubbed “The God of the Brunch”, you probably already know what to expect at this place: An extensive and glorious brunch, all day long. If possible, come early and be there first thing in the morning at 9am. It gets busy quick and you’ll be left waiting for a table to open up.

2. Low budget breakfast, brunch and lunch: Located in Centro Comercial Bambarda is the charming restaurant Pimenta Rosa. It offers all kinds of delicious food at very reasonable prices. For afternoon tea, there are also a variety of sweet treats to choose from. Hard to resist!

3. Enjoy freshly roasted coffee: If good coffee is close to your heart, you should definitely stop by Combi Coffee. Not only can you buy coffee that you’ve roasted yourself, you can also enjoy it freshly on the spot with little treats. The distinctive VW bus in front of the door welcomes guests from afar. That makes this coffee secret the perfect stopover for caffeine junkies after a long day of exploring.

4. The best Francesinhas in Porto: Little Frenchwoman is the translation of the sinful specialty, for which Porto is perhaps not as famous as for its delicious port wine. Still, the combination of toast and an obscene amount of meat or mushrooms (as a vegetarian alternative) surprises compatriots and visitors from all over the world. What makes it special, however, is the spicy sauce consisting of beer, mustard and tomatoes, which is poured over the melted cheese of the toast. Often a fried egg or a shot of brandy/white wine is added to give the final touches to this unusual dish. As a rule, French fries are served with it. All in all, it adds up to quite a few calories. After a long day of sight-seeing? Who cares! The best way to enjoy the dish is with a good beer, liket at the rustic Brasão Cervejaria, for example. There, the house beer is not only served to the guests to drink, but is also the special ingredient for the homemade sauce. We also recommend Café Santiago, which, in addition to the hearty Francesinhas, offers many other traditional dishes, including fish and seafood.

5. Do you prefer greens? Vegetarian food in Porto: Portuguese cuisine is quite meat and fish heavy. However, restaurants have long since responded to other needs by including meat-free dishes on their menus. There are also a few vegetarian restaurants in the city that you should try, like daTerra Baixa. For as little as 10 euros, you can try your way through the entire vegan and vegetarian buffet or order à la carte in the afternoon.

6 Shopping Tips for Porto

In addition to the many sights, it’s also important to seek out the best shopping opportunities in the city. Some of these shopping hotspots can also be combined with a sightseeing tour or two.

1. Rua Santa Catarina: The pedestrian zone in the center of the city offers all kinds of stores, including large chains, well-known brands and many local owners, whose stores encourage browsing. At a distance of 1.5 kilometers, the most famous shopping mile of Porto leads towards the old town. Here you will not only meet tourists, but also locals who are just hanging out. The ViaCatarina shopping center is also located directly on Santa Catarina. In sum, whatever it is that you are looking for, you should find it here.

2. Market Hall Bolhão: If you are looking for Portuguese delicacies, spices, fresh fish, meat, dairy products and flowers, the market hall, which is over 100 years old, is the right place. Here, local producers display their wares and even offer food for sale, often cheaper than in restaurants. Also, be sure to try the Portuguese specialty Pasteis de Nata here – Little custard tarts that are perfect for midday coffee. The delicacies available here are a real crowd puller. The historic building with its sunny courtyard is definitely worth a visit.

3. Avenida dos Aliados: This central square has excellent transport connections. You may also want to take a look for more than just the shopping opportunities. Besides the Trinity Church with the name Igreja da Santíssima Trindade, the monument of Dom Pedro IV can also be seen here. Various magnificent buildings rise up to the left and right. In addition, there is no shortage of cute café’s nearby.

4. Outlet near Porto – Norteshopping: Just outside of the city, you’ll find the large outlet Norteshopping for designer clothing, which welcomes its guests with generous discounts. Our conclusion: Absolute bargain guarantee.

5. A Pérola Do Bolhão: As a gift, for your guests or simply because you are worth it to yourself: This quaint delicatessen is all about good food, ingredients and high quality. Among them, for example, local delicacies such as spicy mountain cheese, dried fruits or pickled olives. Just be sure not to enter this type of establishment too hungry.

6. More than wine – Touriga Vinhos de Portugal: Here the emphasis is on quality. If you’re looking for the best wines from local, small producers near Porto that you can’t find in supermarkets, you’ll definitely find them in this quaint store with its cozy tasting area. In the Touriga display, you’ll find a variety of Port wines, wines from the nearby Douro region, and the so-called Vinho Verde to take home or ship right away. If you want to know more about the background of port wine and viticulture in Portugal, the owner Davide offers personal tastings and workshops.

3 beaches for your Porto stay

The sandy beaches are located slightly outside of the city but are still well within reach. Even though the Atlantic Ocean is rather rough, the coast of Portugal has a charm all of its own and has certainly captured the hearts of many surfers, who flock to Portugal for its notoriously high waves.Here are our beach tips for Porto.

1. Praia de Matoshinos: Take the blue metro line A to Matasinhos Sul or ride your bike along the beachfront from Ribeira’s shore. The latter is a hot tip for a day trip. On the way along the coast you will pass numerous beach sections, restaurants and bars that invite you to stay and take a break with their food and drinks.

2. Piscinas de Marés – swim in a nature pool: If the sea is too cold and too lurid for you, the swimming pool at Piscinas de Marés offers the perfect conditions. The water in the pools is warmer and you’ll have a beautiful (at the same time safe) view of the waves. It’ll be almost like being at the beach.

3. Praia Cabedelo do Douro: Standing on this beach, you’ll look directly at the mouth of the Douro River into the Atlantic Ocean. Walking through the Nature Reserve Douro Estuary Site, you might catch a glimpse of a bird or two. But not only bird lovers will get their money’s worth here. For a walk, a swim or sunbathing, a trip to the beach on the other side of the Douro shore is well worth it.

4 No-Gos: What you can safely do without in Porto

Not everything that is offered actually makes sense to do, depending on your personality of course. We have summarized some ‘grey areas’ for things typically included in tourist-guides for Porto so you’ll at least know what to expect!

1. Better to walk: Though there are convenient ‘hop on hop off’ buses in Porto, for if you’re short on time…these tours often don’t reach the most beautiful corners of the old town, with its winding streets and historic steps. If you’d really like to immerse yourself in Porto, we strongly recommend travelling on foot or by bike.

2. Livraria Lello Bookstore: Artful shelving, wood paneling, creaky stairs, and a touch of Harry Potter. The Livraria Lello bookstore is said to have served as an inspiration for author J.K. Rowling and her well known book series. As a result, the store is highly visited, which is made evident by the long queues at the entrance. Bear in mind that you are also required to pay entry, so visit the attraction at off-peak hours to make the most of your visit. Should you purchase a book, the price of entry will be deducted from the final cost.

3. Majestetic cafe: No question, the handsome coffee house in art nouveau style with mirrors and chandeliers is already an impressive feast for the eyes. But when you see the crowds of people in front of it and inside it, the anticipation quickly fades. If you are just looking for a good coffee or a snack, you should simply go to one of the many alternatives in the immediate vicinity.

4. Expensive restaurants overlooking the Douro: Of course, there are always tourist traps lurking in the most beautiful corners of the city, where you can get something to eat, but usually at inflated prices with average quality. The view of the river is very expensive for these restaurants. Since the city offers so many free viewpoints and inexpensive eateries, consider taking in the view differently.

Are you ready for your Porto adventure? Then wait no longer and make your own mind up about the baroque city you will surely come to love. If that wasn’t enough of a good thing, find out more about what Portugal has to offer in the wintertime. You’ll definitely be surprised.

Josephine

Autor

Josephine is our Social Media and Community Coordinator. Internationally raised and fluent in sarcasm, she is a huge foodie who dreams of travelling the world in a van with an adopted puppy.

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