Porto is the town that gave Portugal its name! Porto is famous for port wine produced in the Douro valley. It's a must visit city, with stunning views, incredible architecture, deep history and great nightlife. My favourite part of Porto is the famous blue tiles can be found all over the city. The azueljo tiles depict stories from throughout history and truly make Porto stand out. Read on for ten things to do in Porto!
Things to do in Porto
1. São Bento Railway Station
Porto is full of beautiful tiles, and one of the first places you're likely to see them is at the Railway Station. The tiles depict are some of the major episodes of Portuguese History. If you fancy a day trip, why not head down to Pocinho, in the Douro valley, the journey follows along the Douro river and offers absolutely stunning views. Even if you're not planning to take a train, be sure to visit and admire the building!
2. Livraria Lello Bookstore
Nicknamed the Harry Potter bookstore, and thought to have inspired JK Rowling, the Livraria Lello certainly wouldn't look out of place in the wizarding world. Did you know that JK Rowling did actually live in Porto!? The interior is absolutely stunning, covered in carved wood, with a beautiful stained glass skylight and an elaborate winding staircase.
It is actually relatively small and, as the bookshop has developed a bit of a name for itself, does feel particularly cosy. It was opened in 1906 and is thought to be one of the oldest in Portugal. You do have to buy a ticket and queue for entry (we booked ours online, so missed most of the queueing), it costs around €5.50. But your entrance fee will be refunded against the price of any book you buy.
It is well worth a visit but do expect crowds so try to go at non-peak times!
3. Try Francesinha
A Portuguese twist on the French 'croque monsieur'. A monster of a sandwich, a francesinha is made with thick bread, various meats including cured ham, sausages, beef, topped in melted cheese and covered in the special tomato and beer sauce.
I must admit, I wasn't crazy about the one I had, but then again I didn't hate it, I think I was almost confused by it! We had just popped into a random restaurant, couldn't even tell you which one. But don't worry, Taste Porto has tried them all and has narrowed down their top 5. I'll be sure to try one of their suggestions next time!
4. Visit the Chapel of Souls
The Capela das Almas, was by far favourite chapel in Porto. It is relatively small compared to some of the other chapels in Porto. The chapel dates back to the early eighteenth century, but it was in the 1920's when the outside facades were tiled with the iconic azulejo blue tiles. The tiles make for a stunning backdrop, and you'll find yourself in awe of the detail and beauty of the building.
5. São Francisco Church
By the time we got to the Igreja de São Francisco I was pretty much over churches, after all, we'd been in pretty much every church in Porto so far (My dad is a major history buff and can spend hours in a single church), however, the São Francisco Church is like nothing I've ever seen before.
Every inch of the interior is adorned with ordinate gothic and baroque elements and covered in gold leaf. So even if you're not really into visiting churches, be sure to put this one on your list. The interior alone is worth it. There is an entrance fee, which I think was around 5 Euro. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside but trust me, it's worth it!
6. Walk across the Dom Luís Bridge
Back in 1886 when it opened, the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge held the record for the longest iron arch in the world. The double-story bridge is the perfect place to admire the views of the river and the city below. The metro crosses the upper deck, whilst cars pass at the bottom under the arch. Pedestrians can use either levels, but if you're not scared of heights be sure to cross on the upper deck!
7. Drink Port - and lots of it!
You really can't go to Porto and not drink Port now can you..! There are so many different Port wine houses to try, some you need to queue for, some you have to book ahead of time. We weren't in Porto nearly long enough to experience enough of them, but Sonja from Migrating Miss has a pretty awesome post about her experiences trying a lot of them out!
8. Stroll along the Cais da Ribeira
Porto's riverside is incredibly picturesque.The area is full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals alike. Filled with market stalls, cafe's and shops. Stroll along the waterfront and stop at one of the many bars or restaurants for a drink with a view. You'll have numerous opportunities to capture the iconic Luís I Bridge. Take the time to get lost among beautiful pastel houses.
9. Visit the Igreja Do Carmo & the Igreja Dos Carmelitas
If you, like me, can't get enough of the gorgeous blue tiles, be sure to visit these two stunning churches. They look connected, but in fact are separated by a narrow one metre wide house, with the purpose of keeping the nuns and the monks separate. They are both incredibly detailed and absolutely stunning both inside and out.
10. Take a boat ride down the Douro River
There are so many options when exploring the Douro River. Whether you'd prefer a luxurious wine tour or a simple boat ride to admire the landscapes, there's something for everyone. You can hop on a boat for a few hours, or cruise along for a few nights.
Give it a miss
We didn't love the Clérigos Church though...
Although the church it's self is rather beautiful, and the tower offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city, the organisation and the number of people really let it down. I typically don't mind queuing, but there was absolutely no control, with people going both up and down the narrow staircase with no system at all. It felt like we were cattle, pushed along, and at some points not moving at all as people pushed their way up not allowing for people to actually get down.
You won't get to know how long the queue is when you buy the tickets, as it's hidden and once you're in you don't have much choice but to just wait. The queue took almost two hours, and whilst the view was nice, there are plenty of other places in Porto to get fantastic views without all the stress. It's not too pricey, so perhaps on a quiet day it would be worth it.
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