Porto is one of those places that tugs at the heartstrings, and most people cannot stop themselves from falling in love. But to really know the city you must enjoy it like a local. So if you want to experience Porto like a local rather than as a tourist, here are a few tips.
Portuguese people love their coffee, but there are no “cream-no-milk, hold-the-sugar-but-add-two-Splenda” orders. Coffee, or café, is usually a simple espresso (called a cimbalino in Porto). Other variations include a double espresso (um café duplo), a double espresso with milk (um café duplo com leite), half coffee and half milk (meia de leite), and a combination of a quarter coffee and three-quarters milk (um galão). Other than for breakfast, however, the Portuguese generally stick to their simple café, which they sip two, three or more times per day. It’s even common to see friends socialising at a night bar over a coffee instead of a cocktail.
Rooftop bars are in style at the moment, and it doesn’t seem they will be disappearing anytime soon. This is especially true in Porto, where the city’s lookout points are one of its main attractions. On the weekends, and even during occasional weeknights, they fill up. Since many bars happen to be on hotel rooftops, they are also filled with tourists, but that doesn’t stop the locals from attending, too. Entrance fees vary, from free to €10, depending on the location and the hour; sometimes a cocktail is included in the fee, so don’t be afraid to ask. There is no shortage of street-side, eclectic and traditional venues either.
Locals from Porto tend to be active with a love of the outdoors, perhaps due to the surrounding ocean and mountains. When the sightseeing slows down, take time to stroll along the wall at Miradouro das Virtues, or sit on a park bench at the Miradouro da Vitória and enjoy the views. Go for a run on the promenade at Foz do Douro. Or leave Porto for the day and visit the nearby Douro Valley or the Peneda-Gerês Park.
There’s no leaving the house in your pyjamas in Porto. Actually, in Portugal, it is uncommon for people to go about their business in anything but regular day clothes, and while in Lisbon this rule may be slightly more relaxed, it is much less so in the north. On the weekends (and during general downtime), people visit the local shopping districts for some fresh air, coffee (of course), and a bit of window shopping to check out the latest fashions. One of the main streets to do this in Porto is the Rua de Santa Catarina, which is also a lively tourist spot to boot.
While Porto may be best known for its francesinha sandwich, locals love another dish, too. In fact, their adoration for tripe is where the nickname Tripeiros stems from, and tripas à moda do Porto is one of the traditional dishes you should sample while visiting the city. Add a glass of wine from the Douro region, and you’re well on your way to blending in with the locals.
Interested in visiting? Porto is just one of several fantastic destinations featured on Culture Trip’s specially curated nine-day Portugal tour, led by our local insider.