In order to enjoy Porto, you will need to bring a pair of good walking shoes. This beautiful city is best seen on foot, however, walking isn’t a breeze for all: there are steep slopes and stone cobbles proliferate in this hilly metropolis. Porto is a city brimming of life and tugs at your heart strings and makes everyone fall in love with the city.
The best way to experience Porto, you must enjoy it like a local. Tripeiros – as Porto inhabitants are known – are laid back, pleasant, and enjoy the slower pace of life. It is very common to see people in Porto enjoying the fullest appreciation of life by taking the time ‘to smell the roses’, or in most cases that means sipping on wine. So, if your plans include wanting to experience Porto like a local rather than as a tourist, here are a few tips.
Drink coffee…a lot of coffee. The Portuguese love their coffee. But the coffee you will find in Porto is not the coffee you will find at a Starbucks, you won’t find ‘cream-no-milk, hold-the-sugar-but-add-two-Splenda’ orders. Coffee, or café, is usually a simple espresso (called a cimbalino in Porto).
While you are walking around Porto one thing that shouldn’t be missed is immersed in historical and spiritual surroundings, Braga. These café-filled piazzas are generally populated with students from the nearby university who are hanging out near the famous Bom Jesus do Monte (Bom Jesus Sanctuary) and the oldest cathedral in the country.
Local Tip: Visit the Port Houses. There are dozens of port houses in Porto, since this is the city where Port was originally created. Try to stay away from the port houses along the river, they tend to have the most people and have smallest spaces, unless you go during the “off season”. If you want to have a more personal experience you should head out to the father out port houses and spring to spend a little more for the better tasting experiences.
After you get done taking a tour through Port town, you won’t need to visit Italy to float your way down the river in a gondola ride. Aveiro is nicknamed the ‘Venice of Portugal’. Though much quieter than Venice, however and some say, far more colorful; with the painted boats and vibrant buildings are just a few of Aveiro’s signature features. It’s very easy to get to from Porto, whether visitors choose to drive, take a train or hop on a bus.
If you’re in Portugal for the first time, you’re going to want to check out some popular tourist spots. If you’re staying in Porto, be sure to pick up a Lisboa Card or a Porto Card right away. These are city passes that will give you free or discounted admission to lots of major museums, sights, and tours, as well as free transportation on the Metro, public buses, the trams, the funiculars, and some trains. We used these cards when we were in Lisbon too and they were a total lifesaver!
A must-see cathedral while in Porto is the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral). Free to the public this cathedral sits atop a hill watching gracefully over the city of Porto. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, this cathedral features a variety of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic. The fortress-like church is the largest in the city and one of Porto’s oldest monuments; it’s flanked by twin towers. That is known by locals and tourists alike in its ability to draw a crowd.
No trip to Porto is complete without a trip to Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market). Let the aromas of the market find you before you find it. The sweet juices of the fruit, the comforting smells of freshly bakes breads, cheeses, and the spices will overwhelm all your senses. The open-air market is like many you’ll find in Europe, with vendors selling a variety of fresh and homemade wares at good prices. The market itself dates back to 1850, is housed behind a neoclassical facade in a two-story building in the heart of Porto. The market is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entry is free, but you should bring along some cash to spend on the fresh food that may tickle your fancy.
Porto is a city full of life around every corner and a life designed for enjoying the pleasures of life. When you visit I suggest that you mirror this way of life, it is worth the experience.
Even though we can’t travel right now doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing our research for when we can!