Porto, Portugal City Architecture
Porto (Photo credit: Vilve Roosioks)

Porto Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The second largest city in Portugal, with a population of nearly 300,000.
  • This mercantile city, also known as Oporto, is traversed by the Douro River, one of the major waterways on the Iberian Peninsula.
  • The city’s most distinguishable landmarks are its six bridges, the most famous of which is Dom Luis, built by the disciple of Gustave Eiffel.  
  • Its most famous export is port wine which is exclusively produced in the Douro Valley.
  • Nicknames: “Cicade Invicta” or The Unconquered City, The City of Bridges

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Euro (EUR).
  • Spoken languages: Portuguese, although Spanish and English are also widely spoken.
  • Best time to visit: from March to September for semi-Mediterranean climate that sees averages temperatures of 24 ºC (75 ºF) coupled with dry weather.
  • Arriving via airport: Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) is served by Airport Shuttle service priced at €6 one-way or by Metro for €1.80 although that requires transfers at Trindade or Bolhão stations. Taxis charge €20-€30.

WHERE TO STAY

Ribeira is the heart of the ancient quarter, built on hills overlooking the scenic Douro River. Known for its meandering alleyways and their hidden gems, it is the perfect setting for a cultural exploration. Baixa marks the city’s downtown area, known for its bustling markets, Art Deco architecture and wide range of accommodation that includes hotel chains and hostels.

GETTING AROUND

  • STCP provides the metro, tram and bus services across the city and the suburbs under a unified ticketing system called Andante. Fares are charged depending on zones travelled while a 24-hour pass costs €7 or €15 for 72-hours.
  • Porto Card features the advantage of unlimited access to public transportation with free or discounted access to the city’s cultural highlights, including museums. The 1-day pass is priced at €10.50, the 2-day at €17.50 and the 3-day at €17.50.
  • Taxis are somewhat pricy (and almost useless amidst the heavy traffic in the city centre). Call +351 224 808 853 or +351 225 076 400 to book ahead.

PORTO NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, and last call is never.
  • Downtown and in particular the locations of Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Cândido dos Reis feature a heady mix of bars perfect for the casual weekend spirit.
  • Cais de Gaia across the river is known for its decadent wine cellars and floodlit scenery.
  • Zona Industrial combines massive nightclubs with prestige in an evening scene favoured by the party crowd.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Dom Luis Bridge is the arch that connects the city of Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia and was, at the time of its construction, the longest metal bridge in the world.
  • Coliseu de Porto is one of the most relevant landmarks in the city, a theatre espousing Portuguese Streamline Moderne and Art Deco styles of the early 20th century.
  • Church of São Francisco is the most important Gothic monument in Porto located in the city’s historical centre labelled a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Clerigos Tower is the main feature of the city’s skyline, formerly used by incoming ships as a guide. It is located opposite the Cordoaria Gardens.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Crystal Palace Gardens overlook the Douro River and form a landscaped park featuring a domed pavilion that serves as the venue for major events. The grounds are also home to the Romantic Museum, a 19th century mansion that showcases the lifestyles of the bourgeoisie.
  • Rua Miguel Bombarda is known as art gallery street thanks to the multitude of its exhibitions on contemporary art. Tea houses, funky shops and co-working offices complete the effect.
  • Avenida dos Aliados is the heart of the city, a boulevard lined with stately structures presiding over a central promenade. The Town Hall stands at the top of avenue while Praça da Liberdade signals the other end.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • The six bridge cruise is a popular way to admire the wonderful structures from the leisurely waters of the Douro River and to take in the full effect of Porto’s hillside location.
  • The francesinha is Porto’s iconic sandwich made with wet-cured ham, linguiça (fresh sausage) or roast meat all topped with melted cheese and served in a bowl of special tomato beer sauce.
  • There are over 50 port wine lodges in the city and together they form its most popular attraction. Free tours and tastings are available and represent an educational insight into Porto’s culture and history.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: Mercado do Bolhão sells traditional dishes at very affordable prices.
  • Dangerous areas: Porto is very safe. Watch out for pickpockets in tourist areas.

RECOMMENDED PORTO GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days


SEE ALSO:
Porto Travel Guide was last modified: September 25th, 2016 by Nick
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