The Ultimate Guide For Porto Portugal

2 Traveling Lovers

We decided to visit Portugal during our last trip to Europe. It was a three-month trip, starting in Greece, then Italy, and finally ending up in Portugal. We split the month between Porto and Lisbon. We couldn’t have been happier with our choices. In this post, I will show you the Ultimate Guide For Porto Portugal along with the reasons why you will want to visit Porto.

Porto is the second-largest city after Lisbon in Portugal.  It’s the safest country in Europe and the third safest in the world behind Iceland and New Zealand. It’s known for its port wine, colorful ceramic tiles,  it’s river cruises down the Douro River, great Portuguese food, and friendly people.

Contents

  • What to do in Porto
  • Port wine with drink options
  • The Valley of Douro
  • Fun Port Wine Tidbits
  • Must-See Attractions
  • What & Where to Eat
  • Authentic Recipes
  • Where to Stay

What To Do In Porto



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What To Do In Porto
1.  Try Port Wine

Portugal has been making and exporting wine for thousands of years.  It wasn’t until 1678 when Portuguese wine was referred to as ‘Port.’ It’s produced from grapes grown and processed throughout the demarcated Douro region.  Much of the port wine was transported down the Douro River to be exported to other countries in Europe. It was in 1964 when land transport took the place of water transport down the Douro river towards the sea for its export. 

2. Take a day-trip to Douro Valley

We visited Douro by taking a day trip from Porto.  We took a tour through nearby towns and to a couple of wineries in Porto. Also, we went on a river cruise, which was great fun, as it enabled us to see the beautiful scenery along the riverbank. One way to visit Douro is with a tour guide. If you are interested in seeing the video and reading about our experience, click here. The tour includes transportation, explanations along the way,  lunch,  a river cruise on the Douro river, and all wine tastings. The drive from Porto to Duoro will take you on the National 222 road which is considered the 2nd most beautiful drive in the world after Highway 1 in California. 

If you are interested in a luxury hotel in Douro click here for one of the most beautiful hotels in Portugal.

The Valley of Douro
Port wine is a sweet wine only produced in Douro. Douro is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2001.  

Port wine consists of flavors which include raspberry, blackberry, chocolate sauce, caramel, and cinnamon. The red port is less sweet, and it has characteristics of berry and chocolate. The tawny colored port has flavors of caramel and nut which lends to a sweeter tasting port.

The best time to visit Douro in regards to the weather is September and October when the region will come alive with the harvesting of the grapes. The grapes are hand-picked throughout Douro. If you can visit during this time, be sure to check with the wineries as you may be able to partake in the stomping of the grapes. The harvest typically starts in mid-September depending on weather conditions throughout the year.

4 Types of Port

  • Tawny Port: very sweet, small barrel-aged with more contact with wood, more brandy flavor, tastes younger
  • White Port- the sweetest made with indigenous white grapes
  • Rose (Pink) Port – a newer style similar to rose wine made to entice the generation to consume port wine
  • Ruby Red Port – larger barrel, 10 years + in barrel, dark red port, blackberry, and plum flavor, Vintage

Fun Port Wine Tidbits:

  • Port should be served around 60 F 
  • If you don’t see a year on a bottle, that means it’s average. If there is a year printed on the bottle it’s considered a superior Port
  • A Port over 20 years-old should be consumed in 2 hours or it will spoil
  • A single serving of Port is typically 3 oz. due to its sweetness
  • If there is a date on the bottle, it means it came from a single harvest
  • If the bottle says ‘Reserve’ it means it’s a 7-10 year Port
  • Vintage is a special edition for port wine decided by the organization Port Wine Institute
  • Port must be consumed quickly if it has a regular cork
  • Port wine with a plastic cork will last several weeks, while young vintage Ports will last 4-5 days, and older vintage Ports will last 2-3 days
  • Port should be kept in a cool place
  • Vintage Port will get better with age
  • 48 hours to drink a bottle of vintage
  • 2011 was an excellent year for port wine across the Douro region as it’s considered the best vintage year in the last 25 years.

For those of you that want to spend more time along the Douro river, you may want to consider a river cruise.  There are river cruises from 2,000 to 15,000 euros for a 2 or 3 weeks maximum duration.   

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Must-See Attractions

3.  Walk along the Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge
Ponte de Dom Luis is the double-deck bridge that crosses between the cities of Porto and Gaia. At the time of construction in 1886, it was considered the longest bridge in the world at 564 feet in length. There is a narrow sidewalk on the bridge, so be careful walking across. The view from the bridge is stunning, and it’s a great place to take photos.

4.  Visit the San Bento train station
The San Bento train station is considered the most beautiful train station in Europe.

5.  Walk around Ribeira and the Waterfront area
Ribeira is a fun place to walk around to see the shops, monuments, restaurants, and then walk down along the riverfront. The nightlife in this area is fun with lots of options even through the week.

6.  Take a stroll around Liberdade Square (Praca da Liberdade)
Liberdade Square has shops, restaurants, and cafes.  It’s home to the ‘most beautiful McDonalds.’ In the 1930s it was Imperial Cafe before Mcdonalds bought it in the 1990s. One of the conditions of the sale was they couldn’t change the original decor.

7.  Check out Palacio da Bolsa
Palacio dal Bolsa is Porto’s old stock exchange from the 1800s.  

8.  Depending on the time of year, you may want to visit the beach
The most popular beaches are Praia dos Ingleses and Foz do Douro.  Foz do Douro Beach has picturesque views, a promenade walk, cafes, a lighthouse and it’s a great place to watch the sunset. You will find lots of cafes, shops, restaurants, and bars at both beaches.  Other popular choices are Akisol Sesimbra Beach and Porto Beach. 

Daily Boutique Deals

What & Where To Eat

9.  Try a Francesinha
Joel tried a Francesinha the first day we arrived in Porto. It’s a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto.  It was prepared with two slices of white bread, filled with cured ham and a hot dog, smothered in cheese and tomato beer sauce. I didn’t particularly care for it, but in full disclosure, we were starving and just found the first place that we came to where we could order food. So this may not be the best way to try this authentic Portuguese dish. Joel, however, did enjoy it, but he tends to like everything. LOL

10.  Try a  Portuguese authentic Pastel de Nada
We tried a Pastel de Nada right after trying a Francesinha. Monks created the Pastel de Nada before the 18th century.  It’s a custard tart usually dusted with cinnamon. They can be found all over Portugal at the bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants. We bought a few from the grocery store and warmed them up at home, and they were so tasty.

Below are some highly recommended restaurants (some we tried and some we didn’t):

Coffee Shop
Linha 22

Bakery
Confeitaria do Bolhao

Breakfast & Brunch
Zenith

Bar/Wine Bar
Cafe Candelabro
Aduela Taberna Bar
A Bolina – tapas bar (hip)

Italian
La Ricotta

Steakhouse
O Assador Tipico

Portuguese
Cafe Santiago – great Francesinha!

Portuguese/Mediterranean
Vinhas D’Alho
Bacalhav – amazing cod dishes!
Casa do F.C. Porto na Afurada – also, great BBQ & fresh fish dishes!
A Sandeira – great place for lunch!

Seafood/Mediterranean/Portuguese
Taberna do Sao Pedro – in Fisherman’s village

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Food & Wine Suggestions

If you have a kitchen while staying in Porto, buy some cod at the local supermarket to cook yourself.

Codfish is the national dish of Portugal.  Salted cod is EVERYWHERE, so we were glad for the opportunity to learn how to cook cod Portugal style. If you go to Portugal and want to try it for yourself here are a few things we learned.

  1. You can buy it at any grocery store.
  2. Bring it home and put it in a large bowl of water, skin side up (Salt falls to the bottom).
  3. Return it to the refrigerator (can’t remember if you have to).
  4. Check the fish every 3-4 hours and change the water.
  5. Repeat the last step for 24-48 hours.

If you are interested in a recipe for authentic Porteguese soup and cod check out our post from the cooking class we took while staying in Porto.  Click here for the post with the recipes.

Port Wine suggestions for those that prefer less sweet drinks:

  • To lessen sweetness try a glass of Port, tonic water, ginger, rosemary, and lemon
  • Port, tonic, lemon, and mint
  • Ruby port on the rocks with a lime peel
  • Port pairs well with stronger cheeses, dark chocolate, smoked nuts or even smokey meats.

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Where To Stay

If you are interested in staying in Porto, click here for direct access to the booking.com website.

One of the most beautiful hotels in all of Portugal is called the Yeatman Hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from Porto. Click here to check availability.

Closing Words

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