Porto exudes charm of every sort.
From its parties in the piazzas to the zigzag streets of the Unesco Ribeira district, Porto is known for its fortified wine and its warm, friendly atmosphere. It’s a beautiful and beguiling city of spires, old bridges and romance that rivals any big city in Europe.
Location: Porto, Northern Portugal
Population of city: 216,000
Nearest airport: Porto airport (Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport)
Main train/bus station(s): Porto Campanha Station/Porto Sao Bento Station
Best time to visit? April – October
Budget level? ££
Best for: Beach, shopping, Nightlife, art & culture, history/museums
Porto is the kind of city where you could easily spend a week… but at least 2 nights are enough to see the basics. The relaxed nature of the city means that you can stroll around at your own pace.
The Ribeira lining Porto’s river bank is undoubtedly the most famous area of the city. Multicoloured buildings look out over the chic marina full of tiny fishing boats and charming restaurants. Wandering the winding Medieval streets you’ll stumble upon Igreja de São Francisco. The inside of this Gothic Church is one of Portugal’s most impressive examples of Baroque architecture. Covered in 100kg of gold leaf, the interior really is one of Porto’s highlights. For the best views of the river bank, make sure you visit the Ponte de Dom Luis I. Designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the creator of the Eiffel Tower, this pedestrianised bridge offers incredible views over the Old Town.
The Livraria Lello is one of the most famous and most stunning bookshops in the world. A tourist favourite, this book store received 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a day. Opened in 1906, this Neo-gothic building boasts a stained glass ceiling, wooden carvings and a room reserved for protecting the shops rarest collections. Rumour has it that the library inspired J.K Rowling, a frequent visitor to the city, to write the world renowned Harry Potter Series.
Completed in 1763, this impressive bell tower was built by Italian architect, Nicolau Nasoni, at the request of the Brotherhood of Clerics. This Baroque tower is 75m high, with 225 steps to reach the top. As a reward for your climb, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Porto. If you’re interested in the history of the tower than visit the adjoining museum. Explore the House of the Brotherhood and wander through the registry, infirmary and sala de cofre to see the cultural collections of sculptures, paintings and furniture.
Porto is easily accessible via rail from Lisbon, which connects up to Spain and the rest of Europe. You can also loop up to the South of France via San Sebastian.