Explore Portugal’s Historic City in a Weekend

Porto may be Portugal’s most beautiful city, and it is certainly one of the most iconic in Europe. Here are some things to do if you have 48 hours in Porto

Porto is the city that gave Portugal its name and that means it’s one of the country’s most historic cities. Built on the hills around the mouth of the Douro River and with beaches stretching along the Atlantic Coast, it offers some of Europe’s most stunning views.

As well as its iconic Baroque architecture, narrow cobbled streets and majestic bridges, Portugal’s second-largest city is famous for the fortified red wine, Port, that is grown, fermented and fortified in the vineyards of the Douro region.

Here are Gray Line’s tips on how to spend 48 hours in Porto.

Friday Night — Traditional Food and Music in Ribeira

Pop along to Adega São Nicolau to have some of Porto’s best traditional food for dinner. Well-known for its fantastic local food, this restaurant has views over the Douro where you can sip on your first glass of port. Adega São Nicolau is set in the middle of the fashionable Ribeira district and is surrounded by beautiful, narrow, cobbled streets.

Once you’re full of fish, octopus and rice or cod cakes, on to the music. Fado is more associated with Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, but you are sure to find excellent places to listen to the traditional sound of Portugal in Ribeira. Ideal Clube de Fado Porto is highly recommended as the least commercial, and most traditional, place to hear the mournful songs.

Saturday Morning — A Small Breakfast and a Bus Tour

The Portuguese aren’t big eaters of breakfast, so try the hotel first if you’re after a full meal. However, they do love their baked goods. Porto is full of artisanal bakeries serving excellent croissants, pancakes and the famous pastel de nata. This is a custard tart that goes very well with your morning espresso.

After breakfast, hop on a Gray Line bus tour to take in the sights of Porto. This will take you past all the major landmarks, such as the Crystal Palace, the Dona Maria Bridge, and the Serralves Foundation, and you can hop on and hop off at any of the stops to explore each attraction.

Saturday Afternoon — Tapas and the Venice of Portugal

Tapabento is an amazing tapas restaurant close to Porto Cathedral on the banks of the Douro. Here you’ll find some of the best seafood, ham, and cataplana. Many of the ingredients are seasonal and can depend on the day’s catch, but it’s always excellent.

Nicknamed the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro is a delightful city that is easily reachable from Porto. It is full of canals that are navigated by brightly-colored boats called moliceiros, which are similar to gondolas. The city is full of beautiful, vibrant art nouveau buildings, and you can taste the delicious ovos-moles — a delicacy made of eggs and sugar.

Saturday Night — Dinner on the Terrace and Sunset From Jardim do Morro

On the ground floor of an old terraced building in Ribeira is the unpretentious Porto À Noite. Here you will find some of the best sea bass on offer in Porto. It’s small, traditional and offers excellent views of the Luís I Bridge. 

Once you’re full, cross the bridge and you’ll find the Jardim do Morro in Vila Nova de Gaia. This is the best place to watch the sun set in Porto without going all the way down to the beach. From here, you can see the sun burn red and disappear into the river surrounded by Porto’s magnificent architecture.

After the sun goes down soak in the atmosphere of a Porto evening at Aduela. This bar has an excellent terrace to have a few drinks on while surrounded by the comings and goings of people in the city. Aduela serves excellent wine and sangria, it’s cheap, and it’s many people’s favorite place for a drink in Porto. 

Sunday morning — Have a Coffee and Take in the Culture at the Serralves Museum

Coffee culture is huge in Portugal. Portuguese colonists were very important in the spread of coffee to Brazil and parts of Africa, and much of it ended up back in Porto. Most people drink an espresso called a cimbalino, and if you want a long coffee with milk, ask for a meia de leite or a galão. You can decide which goes best with your morning pastry.

The Serralves Museum is one of Portugal’s most important cultural institutions. It doesn’t have the largest collection but is the second most-visited museum in the country. The works on display are contemporary and track the period following the collapse of Portugal’s dictatorship in the 1970s to the present day. Serralves and the grounds that surround it are considered excellent examples of Art Deco and Modernist architecture. 

Sunday Afternoon — Explore Iconic Ribeira

The best codfish cakes in Porto can be found in a little restaurant in the heart of the Ribeira neighborhood. Escondidinho do Barredo is the sort of place where it feels as if you’re being served a home-cooked meal. It’s off the beaten track and hard to find, but you’ll never forget it.

Ribeira is the most iconic and famous of Porto’s districts. It is full of narrow, winding, cobbled alleyways, grand, ancient churches and is the perfect place to get a little bit lost. The Romanesque Porto Cathedral stands at its center overlooking the river and the Neoclassical Palácio da Bolsa is full of ornate, sumptuous decorations and art. Climb the Clérigos Tower for incredible views over the magnificent neighborhood.

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