By Theresa Ho
Recently voted “Best European Destination” by the European Consumers Choice, Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, has been luring visitors with its traditional beauty, top-quality wine, and trendy old-town bohemian vibe.
This eclectic city offers more of an authentic taste of Portuguese life than its popular capital Lisbon. It will enchant you with its mysterious narrow medieval alleyways and colourful azueljos (hand-painted ceramic tiles).
An ideal destination for anyone looking for a laid-back but active getaway, indulging in culinary opportunities and exploring historical landmarks and hidden gems on foot.
Stroll Down to the Remarkable Ribeira
A World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Ribeira is the oldest and most romantic district of Porto. Prepare to get lost in a maze of tight cobbled street alleyways set on a hill. As you make your way down, you will see a stunning view of the Douro River, Ponte Luís I and Port wine cellars.
Visit the São Bento Train Station
One of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. As you enter the entrance hall, you will find around 20,000 blue hand-painted tiles, each panel illustrating a scene from Portugal’s history that will simply take your breath away.
Pop into Livraria Lello
This neo-gothic bookstore is strikingly beautiful with its stained glass ceiling, iconic red spiral staircase, and ornate wood carvings. A must stop for Harry Potter fans – J.K. Rowling lived and wrote much of the series in Porto. Rumour has it, this was her muse and inspiration for Hogwart’s library. There is an admission fee for the bookstore and it tends to get crowded. Tip: Buy a ticket online to avoid waiting in the queue.
Climb the Clérigos Tower
Climb the 225 steps to the top of the Baroque style bell tower. Take in the gorgeous view of the city from the top of the most monumental landmarks in Porto.
Cross the Ponte Luís I Bridge
This 19th-century bridge was built by Gustave Eiffel, the architect behind the Eiffel Tower. The Ribeira’s landscape is shaped by this ironwork masterpiece connecting Porto and its neighbouring city of Vila Nova de Gaia. Cross the bridge and you will have the most impressive view of the Douro River and the two cities.
Discover the Port Wine Cellars
When you cross the Douro river on the Ponte Luís I Bridge, you will arrive on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the Douro. This is where some 50+ companies age their Port wine in wooden casks. Explore these Port wine cellars, learn how Port wine is made and take the opportunity to do a Port wine tasting.
Surf at Praia de Matosinhos
Learn to surf and catch a wave at the beach of Matosinhos. Here you’ll find surf schools, stores, and wind and kite surfers looking for the perfect wave. After a day of riding the waves, dine at one of the many fine restaurants located on the seafront. These restaurants are known to have the freshest seafood in town. And remember to pair it with a glass of light and fresh vinho verde!
Bike along Ribeira to Foz do Douro
Ride along the waterfront avenue and discover the riverside and the beach right up to where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Along the 6 km journey, enjoy the sea breeze and indulge in the local lifestyle. Stop and recharge at an outdoor café in Foz, an upscale neighbourhood.
Be sure to take in the beautiful Jardim do Passio Alegre, a lovely park where you can play mini-golf next to the river. Further down, you will find Farol de Felgueiras, a 19th-century lighthouse in the middle of the Atlantic. Enjoy a movielike view of the city and watch the rolling Atlantic breakers.
Treat yourself at The Yeatman Hotel
One of the most relaxing experiences you can have after an active day is to visit the luxurious The Yeatman Hotel, located in Vila Nova de Gaia. Home to one of the top 12 infinity pools in the world named by Condé Nast Traveler, shaped to look like a decanter. Here your breath will be taken away by the most magnificent panoramic view of Porto.
Round off your visit and have an afternoon tea, or dine at the only restaurant in Porto to be awarded two Michelin Stars while enjoying a stunning sunset. Pamper yourself at the Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa. Try the Barrel Bath where you will bathe in the beauty properties of grape extracts, helping you restore your skin, body and mind.
You’ll be wishing you could stay and enjoy this magical city a little longer!
Theresa Ho is the Founder of Happy Free Lifestyle. She’s a free-spirited, freedom-lovin‘, wellness travel junkie sent to help apprehensive go-getters reclaim their lives and grow into their most authentic self.