Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal known for its stately bridges and Port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes. São Francisco church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors.
HOW TO GET THERE
Also known as Aeroporto do Porto or Aeroporto de Pedras Rubrasthis is the third busiest airport in the country and is about 15km from the city centre. This airport has been awarded since 2006 as one of the best airports in Europe and one of the best in world in its category, it offers really good conditions to all of the passengers since it has been remodelled in 2004 at the same time that the EURO 2004 was organized in Portugal. Just outside of the airport is the AeroBus which for €6 (2014) takes you to Praça da Liberdade (city centre) or will drop you off at the Pousada da Juventude. A similar taxi trip will cost €20.
The Metro line connects the Airport to the city centre, offering a fast and peaceful ride into the heart of the city, for €1.80 + €0.50 for the rechargeable ticket (type Z4). You can buy 24 hours pass for Metro and buses for €6.20 (Z4 – includes the airport). To reach the city centre, exit at Trindade or Bolhão stations. Casa da Música is also a popular stop, but a bit removed from the city centre. Use it to visit Casa da Música building or if your hostels is in the Boavista area. At night, after 01:00, the only regular connection is an hourly bus coming from Av. dos Aliados (line 3M) – using a taxi or spending a night at the airport are the only other possibility.
Ryanair offer cheap flights from several cities like London Stansted, Liverpool, Dublin, Dusseldorf-Weeze, Eindhoven, Brussels-Charleroi, Frankfurt-Hahn, Bordeaux,Maastricht, Paris-Beauvais, Milan-Bergamo, Marseille, Bologna, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Marrakesh and Valencia. easyJet also flies to Geneva, Lyon, Nantes,Toulouse, Basel, Bristol, Milan and London-Gatwick.
TAP flies from most European airports.
The city is served by two major train stations, the “São Bento” (Saint Benedict) station, and the “Campanhã” station. Trains from and to Madrid (Lusitânia Comboio Hotel) and Paris (Sud-Expresso) are regular. If you come in the Lusitânia train, you’ll have to change in Coimbra to an Intercity train to Porto and the Sud-expresso starts at Hendaye/Irun, from which you’ll have to change to a TGV train. Other non-domestic destinations vary according to demand and time of year. Domestic trains are very frequent and usually on time. Be careful on the train from Madrid. On at least one route, the computer systems will say you need to change trains at Guillarei in northern Spain. However, Guillarei has stopped trains through Portugal since 2004. Instead, you will need to transfer to a station named Tui which is a few miles from Guillarei. The computer system hasn’t been updated even though this change occurred in 2004 for some reason. You can go into Guillarei but you will need to take a taxi (cost €5) to Tui to connect. Sao Bento station is right in the city centre.
WHAT TO SEE AND WHAT TO DO THERE
The first place to begin with is the Ribeira, the part of the city near the river, which is also a good place to start visiting the World Heritage area; to the other side of the river you will see the Ribeira de Gaia, a similar area from the city of Vila Nova de Gaia (the two are only separated by the river) and where you could find the Port Wine Cellars. Next go up to the São Francisco church and the Stock Exchange palace nearby, where you can visit the most impressive Arab room in the country. The world known Modern Art museum at Serralves and the [Casa da Música] (House of Music) concert hall live in the area known as Boavista. From there you can reach the amazing ocean front drive, known as “Foz”. Go back to the centre of the city and visit Mercado do Bolhão, a traditional market of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Next the Aliados and the City Hall and finally the 6 bridges connecting Porto to Gaia over the Douro river, many of them providing an excellent view to the river. Porto is a mysterious city that reveals its charm to the visitor through time. Take your time, wander through the mazes and alleys of the city. Take in the old, bohemian spirit of the city. Hike through the Ribeira and Foz do Douro regions (the latter, at sunset). Porto may not be in every tourist’s Iberian Peninsula itinerary, but it’s well worth a visit if you want to see a city that has changed economically, but that has kept its old traditions, something that is being forgotten in Europe today.
Mercado do Bolhão, A traditional market of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. One of Porto’s most emblematic places. Has some small restaurants available with good local dishes for a low price. Expect people to interact a lot with you, even if they don’t speak any foreign language.
Livraria Lello, near Praça dos Leões and the Universidade do Porto. It’s an old bookshop with an amazing interior and spiral staircase, where you can also have a coffee or glass of port. Voted as one of the most beautiful bookshops in Europe
Torre dos Clerigos (Clerics’ Tower), One of Porto’s landmarks, the view from the top is definitly worth the 240-step effort.
Soares dos Reis, for Art.
- South city centre
Museum of Sacred Art and Archaeology of The Higher Seminary of Oporto, Largo Dr. Pedro Vitorino, 2 (Located in the Church of St. Lawrence (known as the Cricket Church (Igreja Grilo) after the nickname of the religious order that took ownership in 1780). Beginning at the riverfront, head north on R de Mercadores and look for the Igreja dos Grilos signs directing you into the delightfully narrow streets that lead to the church. Best approached on foot.),
West of city centre
Pavilhão Rosa Mota, A multi purpose pavilion with nice gardens to rest, also known as “Palácio de Cristal”. Nearby there is the
Museu Romantico, a house where the king of Italy stayed while on exile.
- West of city centre and north of the Douro River”
Casa da Música designed to mark the festive year of 2001, in which the city of Porto was designated European Capital of Culture, Casa da Música is the first building in Portugal aimed from its conception to be exclusively dedicated to music, either in public performances, or in the field of artistic training and creation.
Casa da Música’s project was set in motion in 1999, as a result of an international architecture tender won by the project presented by Rem Koolhaas-Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Excavations began in 1999, at the old tram’s terminus station in Boavista roundabout (Rotunda da Boavista), and Casa da Musica was inaugurated in the spring of 2005, on April 15th. Guided tour available in English at 16:00 for €5/person, kids <12 free.
Fundação de Serralves (Modern Art Museum), A contemporary museum designed by the famous architect Álvaro Siza, with a huge garden/park and an Art Deco Villa. When visiting this foundation you can visit the exhibitions, relax at the park, have lunch at the restaurant, bar or tea house and explore the shops or the library.
Porto is well served in terms of accommodation. You can choose from the simplest pension and guesthouse to the most exquite 5-star hotel. There are several holiday apartments and houses as well as hostels. Unfortunately the only Camping Place in town is no longer open. So the nearests are in Angeiras to the north, but with hard bus connections, and in Madalena to the south, being closer to town, there are buses going there.
Be aware that there may be pickpockets in heavily crowded areas and on public buses and trains; however, pickpocketing is not common in Porto. Travelling by bus or metro is generally safe and one of the best ways to go from a place to another.
Porto is generally a safe place to be if you take normal precautions like walking in well-illuminated streets at night. One part of Porto, near the Tourist Information Office between the cathedral and the steps to the small church, often has drunk people that could possibly be trouble. There’s no reason for alarm because many of them are inoffensive, but it is best to use some caution, as you would elsewhere.
If you take the main road from the bus station to the cathedral and tourist information center, walk back to the bus station after you’re done and then walk from there to the other sites. Avoid the shortcut from the tourist information center downstairs because near there have been many incidents there.
Call 112 if you have an emergency.