Get an authentic taste for Porto on a guided walking tour as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated small-group Northern Portugal trip, led by our Local Insider.
Enjoy a local breakfast at Confeitaria do Bolhão
Start the day with a Portuguese-style breakfast at Confeitaria do Bolhão. After arriving in Porto by plane or train, you can hop on the metro and head straight here. Since 1896, this bakery has been a popular choice with residents, as it serves an overwhelming selection of pastries, cakes and savoury snacks. The house speciality is tigelinha do Bolhão, a small almond tart.
After breakfast, walk to Pérola do Bolhão, an old-fashioned grocery store with a gorgeous tiled facade. The Art Nouveau flourishes outside offer the perfect starting point for a tile-hunting wander. Other buildings festooned with blue-and-white tiles are only a few steps away, such as Capela das Almas, Igreja de Santo Ildefonso and the São Bento railway station.
Continue to downtown, passing by Avenida dos Aliados, a boulevard lined with imposing Neoclassical buildings. The city hall dominates the street, but, bizarrely, it’s the McDonald’s down the road that attracts the most attention; it has Art Deco stained-glass windows and vintage chandeliers. Next, visit Torre dos Clérigos and prepare to climb 225 steps, in exchange for panoramic views of the city.
After taking in the views, get ready to queue up at Livraria Lello, possibly the most beautiful bookstore in the world. JK Rowling once lived in Porto, and rumour has it Lello served as inspiration for her Harry Potter series. You can buy an entry ticket online and redeem it later by purchasing a book.
Have petiscos for lunch
All that walking probably made you peckish, so it’s time to grab lunch. Head to Voltaria or Tapabento for a round of Portuguese petiscos (a selection of small plates).
Following lunch, take a walk down Rua das Flores, a street full of al fresco restaurants and souvenir shops. For cork items, visit Loja Tradições; for wine bottles, try Porto in a Bottle. Don’t forget to visit Claus Porto, which sells soaps hand-wrapped in beautiful vintage packaging.
The next stop is Palácio da Bolsa. The former stock exchange office is now open to visitors. A guided tour will take you inside a series of stately rooms, but the highlight is the Salão Árabe. Completed in 1880, it’s the masterpiece of the palace, featuring intricate Moorish motifs and gilded stucco walls.
From the palace, take a five-minute walk to the Ribeira. This riverside promenade flanked by brightly coloured buildings is the image most people associate with Porto. Continue along the river towards Ponte Dom Luís I, a bridge designed by a Gustave Eiffel student. “Every place where you can see the river is amazing, but especially the path that goes from Ponte Dom Luís until the Foz,” says Rita, one of the owners of local boutique shop Coração Alecrim. She also suggests visiting the Prado cemetery and admiring the neo-Gothic statues; it’s a place where silence is only disturbed by birds chirping.
Enjoy a drink with a view at Guindalense
Skip the bars in Ribeira and walk up to Guindalense. This unassuming social club features a terrace overlooking the waterfront. If you don’t fancy climbing the hill, hop on the Funicular dos Guindais. Either way, you can reward yourself at the top with a cold beer. It’s also a great spot to watch the fireworks during the São João festival in June.
Keep walking to Passeio das Virtudes to catch the sunset, stopping to snap the cathedral on the way there. From this hilltop park, you can admire the Douro River and Vila Nova de Gaia on the other end. If you want, you can grab another bottle of wine or a beer and sit by the grass.
Eat a francesinha at Brasão Aliados
The francesinha is a Porto twist on the croque monsieur. It’s a hearty sandwich filled with cured meat, sausage and cheese, covered in a spicy sauce made of tomato and beer. While many cafés specialise in this dish, Brasão Aliados is a good entry option. Even non-meat eaters can try its veggie francesinha.
Continue the evening on Galerias de Paris. It’s the heart of the local nightlife scene, with bars and clubs in every corner. Enjoy a glass of wine at La Bohème, a cocktail round at the Royal Cocktail Club or a chilled beer outside Taberna Aduela. For live concerts and shows, check out the programme at Maus Hábitos.
Try the best brunch in Porto at Do Norte
Treat yourself to a delicious brunch at the café Do Norte. Choose between the traditional bacon and scrambled eggs, or the Do Norte with avocado and salmon. There are also veggie options such as the hummus bowl or the french toast with port wine.
Check out art shops and street art on Rua de Miguel Bombarda
Next, walk to Rua de Miguel Bombarda. “It’s where you’ll find some of the best Portuguese projects, and where you can spend days on end exploring design shops, galleries and street art,” says Ema Ribeiro, gallerist at the illustration shop Ó! Galeria. From small postcards to zines and large wall prints, the shop features illustrations by local artists.
After your arty tour, catch a bus to the seaside neighbourhood of Foz do Douro. Sara Riobom, local tour guide of Portoalities, suggests coming here for a walk and then continuing to the Matosinhos area for a seafood dinner. “Usually people miss those two activities, but it’s a pity – why not take advantage of our closeness to the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean,” she says.
Visit the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
Back in the city centre, visit the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. Flowerbeds and trees surround this charming park overlooking the Douro River. The domed pavilion in the middle replaced the original crystal palace designed by English architect Thomas Dillen Jones in the 19th century. Today, you can wander through the leafy paths and occasionally spot peacocks.
From the park, make your way to the Ribeira once again, but this time cross the bridge to Gaia. It’s here that you’ll find the majority of port wine cellars. Churchill’s specialises in vintage port. Graham’s Port offers a wine bar with spectacular city views, while Caves Ferreira is one of the few brands founded by Portuguese winemakers. Make sure to book tasting tours in advance.
Go up to Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
While in Gaia, head up to Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. To reach this hilly viewpoint, skip the steps and hop on the cable car. It’s the perfect spot to capture Porto and the pastel-coloured houses across the river.
Enjoy a Michelin-star dinner at the Yeatman
End the day with a luxurious dinner at the Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant. Two Michelin stars combined with the view of the Douro River make this a fine dining experience. Chef Ricardo Costa showcases the best of Portuguese ingredients in his tasting menu, which includes eight to 10 courses, with an option to add a wine pairing.
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meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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