Porto, Portugal: 5 Must Dos
Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal. In 1996 Porto’s historical center was named a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2014, the city was named Europe’s best travel destination by European’s Best Destinations. And if that’s not enough to convince you that this city is worth visiting, you might be interested in knowing that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto for a few years (from 1991 to 1993) and spent her time in local cafés, writing none other than Harry Potter. The city is drenched in history, magic and buildings playfully covered in colourful Portuguese ceramics (azulejos). Here are the 5 must dos while in Porto, Portugal:
Indulge in a Francesinha
May I suggest a vegetarian Francesinha? This famous sandwich is originally made with a ton of meat, egg and cheese and is very popular in the city of Porto. The locals are very proud of this sandwich. I too was able to taste a Francesinha but of course, I had a vegetarian version of this famous dish at Cultura dos Sabores. Cultura also makes a vegan version. Their staff is helpful and fluent in English (as most Portuguese are).
Image by Visit Porto and the North
Go on a Porto wine tour
Porto is famous for their Porto wine and when in Rome (ah-hem, when in Porto), do as the Romans and enjoy this world-renowned drink. The way to truly appreciate the drink is to learn a little bit more about it, how it is made and its history – which is why I recommend taking a tour. Across the Dom Luis I bridge, along Avenida Ramos Pinto, you will find several different “Caves de Gaia” which are the different Porto cellars.
I enjoyed the Ramos Pinto house tour – for only 6 euros, we had a guided tour of the founder’s private office, the cellar and then enjoyed a taste of the white and the tawny Porto. I’m not a big drinker but Porto is very sweet and subtle at the same time, so I really enjoyed it.
Browse the books and admire the architecture at Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is considered one the world’s most beautiful bookshops – and for good reason. It is lovely and inviting – you don’t exactly feel like you’re in a bookshop. Instead, Lello is more of a library or museum (with a fair 3 euro cover charge). You will browse the books on display but will also spend time admiring the intricate woodwork and the magnificent staircase. You can even enjoy a coffee or tea at the café upstairs. J.K. Rowling is known to have spent quite some quality time in the Livreria.
Visit A Texan in Spain for more on Finding Harry Potter in Porto.
Hunt for Azulejos
Igreja do Carmo, Sé Cathedral and the train station
Azulejos are Portugal’s famous and colourful ceramics – the azulejos decorate the façades of homes and in Porto, many cathedral walls. Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church) is covered in blue and white, the classic, azulejos. It is quite a stunning and unique sight.
Visit the Sé Cathedral’s cloister for more story-telling azulejos. The cloister will also be very familiar to Harry Potter fans (again, see A Texan in Spain). The Porto train station, Estação Ferroviária de Porto São Bento, is also decorated in the famous tiles. These intricate azulejos retell Portugal’s history.
Visit the Mercado do Bolhão
It might not be as well known a market as La Boqueria in Barcelona but Porto’s central market is charming nonetheless. Bolhão is great for strolling and finding fresh produce (found mostly on the top floor), baked goods like natas and even souvenirs (on the ground floor).
Over to you – have you been to Porto?
If you have, what’s the #6 must-do in Porto?