How to Spend 2 Days in Porto
Three hours north of Lisbon by train and set on the banks of the Douro River, this special city is the perfect place to spend a weekend. Although most famously known for its port wine production, the city has much to offer in addition. I've put together a 2-day itinerary for those who want to make the most of a couple days in Portugal's second largest city.
First things first: breakfast. Stop at any local bakery to grab a breakfast croissant (tip: ask for a brioche croissant with cheese - sweet and savory and delectable) and coffee before beginning your walk to Mercado do Bolhão, a large open-air market featuring farmers, fisherman, and many other purveyors. It's a great place to find inexpensive souvenirs in addition to the freshest produce. Be aware that the market closes early (at 1pm) on Saturdays and is not open on Sundays.
After you've perused the market, take a walk past and/or into 19th century church Igreja da Trinidade and down main road Avenida dos Aliados, passing historic landmarks along the way. Continue downhill through the narrow, winding stairways until you reach the Ribeira waterfront. Take a stroll or sit for a coffee before hiking up the pathway to cross Dom Luís I Bridge on its top level for the most magnificent views.
On the other side of the bridge, you'll find the port cellars. Enjoy a tour of one of them or do what we did and go right for a port tasting with lunch along the water. Take your time and soak in the sun and view. Walk back on the lower level of the bridge.
While in Porto - or Portugal in general - I highly recommend you experience a Fado performance. Fado is Portugal's traditional music and it is truly beautiful. Make sure to make reservations, especially on weekends, as all restaurants tend to fill up in advance for dinner. We went to Taberna Real Fado, a cozy space with intimate Fado performances during your meal, and it was spectacular.
If you enjoy a good brunch, Zenith is the place to be in Porto. They open at 10:00, but I would suggest getting there at least 10 minutes early as there was a line out the door when we arrived at 10:04 and we didn't get in until the second round of seatings 30 minutes later. Thankfully there's a good coffee place right next door when we enjoyed our first cup outside under a covered seating area so we could hear when our name was called. Between our table (I always have to steal bites of everyone else's food), I tried the vegan toast with avocado and sun-dried tomato, banana bread with flambéed bananas and blueberry jam, french toast with crème fraîche and mixed berries, eggs on toast with pesto and tomato, and the mixed berries pancakes with strawberry coulis and vanilla ice cream. While everything was really tasty, my favorite was probably the banana bread.
After you've had your fill of deliciousness, take a walk around the neighborhood and look out for some really cool street art!
Make your way over to the University area where you will find Livrario Lello. This famous shop is known for both being the most beautiful bookstore in the world and also being a spot that supposedly inspired J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts as she frequented it while she was teaching in Porto. Whether or not this is true, I don't know, but I was certainly able to draw similarities between the two with ease from the moment I stepped inside. There may be a line to get in, but it's worth it just to have a peek if the wait isn't too long. It's definitely very crowded inside and relatively small, so don't think you'll be sitting around reading. It's more of a walk-through-and-peruse-the-books-while-you-take-some-pictures-then-get-the-heck-out experience, at least for me, a person who does not love being in crowded places.
The rest of the day can be up to you - do you want to head back across the bridge to visit another port cellar or maybe just grab lunch at a nearby café? If the former, you may want to jump on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus blue line that will take you right over to the action. If the latter, check out Majestic Café right near the bookstore - another "most beautiful in the world" location. Alternatively, if you're looking for something more outdoors-based, you could take the Hop-On Hop-Off red line out to Felgueiras Lighthouse for some epic photos of the waves crashing around it. The bus will then drive all along the riverfront to Ribeira and back into town.
General Porto Tips:
- Make dinner reservations in advance! Many of the best restaurants in Porto fill up days ahead of time.
- Get a centrally located Airbnb. This is the one we stayed in, which was a two-minute walk from the São Bento train station, within walking distance to everything we explored, and super sunny and beautiful!
- Try port wine. Even if you're not a fan of port (me), when in Rome...it's fun to do a tasting and learn about the history and various types.
- Have a great time!!! Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or want more suggestions!