Porto Essentials:

What are the language and the currency?
In Porto the people speak Portuguese and use the Euro.
How many people inhabit it?
Located in northern Portugal, Porto is home to around 237,000 people.
How big is Porto?
Porto covers an area of over 41km² and is the second-most important city in Portugal after the capital, Lisbon.
  • Rabelo boats and the Ponte Luis I
Rabelo boats and the Ponte Luis I Inside Lello Bookshop The colourful Ribeira area Along the beach in Matosinhos Gaia Porto at night Sandeman port in Gaia Porto The tourist tram Avenida dos Aliado

Things to see in Porto

The beach in Matosinhos
Say I want to hit the shops. Where should I go?
Well, first of all, you should definitely have a wander along Rua de Santa Catarina, which is the city’s main shopping stretch. This long, winding street is flanked by store after store, including a huge number of internationally renowned brands. There are a number of pedestrianised sections on the street and various stalls have set up along Santa Catarina, too, offering leather goods, jewellery and more. Porto also sports quite a high number of large malls. For example, check out Dolce Vita on Rua dos Campeões Europeus and Shopping Cidade do Porto at Rua Gonçalo Sampaio 350.
Anything else which shouldn’t be missed?
Sure! While you’re in the city try to take one of the guided tours of the ornate Palácio da Bolsa on Rua Ferreira Borges. All of the rooms inside are different, with the Arabian Room and its colourful glass and plaster being probably the most beautiful. This was the first building in the city to have electricity and because of this it’s home to some amazing antique light fixtures. Each year, more than 200,000 people take the guided tours offered here. Another treat is the Serralves Park on Rua D. João de Castro, a leafy paradise that covers 18 hectares and is administered by the Serralves Foundation, an important cultural organisation. Here you can wander through the shaded woods, enjoy the sweet-smelling rose garden or check out the park’s free-standing artwork. On the grounds you’ll also find an impressive Art Deco villa, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you’re up for a bit of a climb (225 stone steps to be exact!), check out the Torre dos Clérigos on Rua de São Filipe de Nery. This is the highest tower in Portugal, affording you amazing views of the city. Built between 1754 and 1763, the tower stretches up for 76 meters. A beautiful church is attached to this bell tower, and it's also well worth a visit. For some sun, sea and sand, head to the beach at Matosinhos. This is one of the best places around Porto to enjoy golden sands, swimming and surfing. Numerous surf shops have set up along the seafront and offer equipment rental and lessons. So if you feel like catching your first wave then Matosinhos is a great choice.
Tell me about one of the main attractions in Porto?
Well, one of the most popular things to do while in Porto is to take one of the river boat tours from Cais da Ribeira. Along the Douro river, Porto sports six stunning bridges, and the tours tend to focus on these bridges as well as taking in Gaia and other areas of the city. While on board you’ll get plenty of information from the guides – and on a sunny day, there’s no better way of seeing some of the city’s most famous sights.

Going out in Porto

The Ponte Luis I at night
Anything else I need to know?
The nightlife in Porto doesn’t really get going until the bars start to open up around 10.30pm, so don’t worry if everywhere is a bit quiet until then as it’ll pick up and then stay going well into the small hours of the morning.
Do I need to carry my ID with me when going out?
It’s a good idea to have something with you, although it’s more than likely that you won’t be asked to show it at all.
Where are most of the bars found?
Some of the main areas to check out if you’re looking for somewhere to drink in the city include the Boavista area around the Casa da Música, along the seafront in Foz do Douro, and at the quayside plus in the myriad of small streets throughout Ribeira.
Where would you recommend?
Plano B at Rua Cândido dos Reis 30 gives you a real taste of Porto’s boho chic scene. From its long entrance hall to the giant red curtains at the door, this bar oozes artsy class. As well as a bar it operates as an art gallery and a live music venue, and posters lining the hall advertise upcoming shows. You’ll find lots of places to sit from the tables scattered in front of the L-shaped bar to the mismatched yet comfy couched in the entrance hall. A huge selection of alcoholic drinks, coffees and more are served up by the friendly bar staff, and prices are pretty reasonable, too. Elsewhere, with its amazing location and wide selection of drinks, Praia da Luz on Avenida do Brasil is one of the most popular beachside bars in Foz do Douro. This trendy bar, complete with couches, funky deck chairs and numerous sun umbrellas, offers a great choice of tasty cocktails to sip while watching the waves roll in. If you’re looking for somewhere with room to move, head to Triplex on Avenida de Boavista. Found inside a sprawling townhouse, this bar-and-restaurant complex is an incredibly popular nightspot. The bar section takes up a number of different rooms on the first floor. Guest DJs provide the music here almost every night. Popular with a younger crowd, Triplex offers a wide variety of reasonably priced drinks, from cocktails to locally produced port wines. Out back, you'll find the bar's garden, perfect for enjoying a drink on a warm summer night.

Eating Out in Porto

Francesinha, a local speciality
Anything else I need to know?
While you’re in Porto you should definitely sample a Francesinha. This local speciality is one of the city’s favourite fast foods and snacks. A filling sandwich, the Francesinha is most typically made from two slices of bread along with steak, linguiça (a type of sausage) and ham, all covered in melted cheese and then doused in a secret sauce, which usually includes tomatoes and beer. Other variations on the sandwich use seafood, chicken or vegetables instead of all the meat.
Any places you’d recommend?
For breakfast, check out that Terrace Arts Café on Rua Fernandes Tomas. It’s in a great spot, very close to the Trindade metro station, and offers a varied menu of sweet and savoury options like baguettes and pastries. Breakfast specials such as coffee and a croissant are available at incredibly low prices. Sandwiches, salads, quiche and more are all really reasonably priced here, too, making it a top spot for lunch or a snack. Service is quick and friendly, and the wait staff offer to explain anything on the Portuguese menu. From great food to a funky interior (the black light fixtures look like UFOs), this café is a great choice. If you want a snack or just somewhere to sit with a drink after exhausting yourself (and your wallet) along Porto’s main shopping stretch, check out Confeiteria Mengos on Rua de Santa Catarina. This popular spot serves cakes, pastries and sweets of all kinds, along with coffees, juices, alcoholic drinks and snacks such as salads, omelettes and the ever-popular Francesinha. Prices are really reasonable and lots of seating is available both inside and outside. Beside the Praça da Cordoaria, you’ll find the Chic Dream restaurant on Campo Mártires da Pátria. This funky little restaurant has seating both inside and outside, and an English language menu is available. You get a basket of tasty fresh bread once you’re seated, which you can nibble on while choosing from the great selection of dishes on the menu, including the popular local codfish speciality. If you’re looking to save a few euro, there’s a great-value set meal for two.
Are international cuisines well represented?
They are, indeed! Porto boasts Japanese, Indian, Italian restaurants and more. Many restaurants offer a mix of tasty dishes inspired by international cuisine.
Where is the best selection of restaurants in the city?
There isn’t one main area; however, as stated above you will come across a number of places to eat in Ribeira. Foz do Douro is another good area to check out, and some great restaurants and cafés can also be found around the Praça da Cordoaria.
Is it expensive to eat out in Porto?
No! It’s actually really good value to eat out here, especially if you stick to the less touristy areas. Even at the string of restaurants along the quay at Ribeira, you’ll be able to find some good value meal offers. If you go little further afield, you can find small family-run establishments offering cheap local fare.

Transport in Porto

A metro train crossing the Ponte Luis I
Will I need to use public transport at all?
You will. Porto’s quite a hilly city and on hot days getting around on the metro or bus is preferable to wandering about on foot.
How many different modes of public transport are there in Porto?
A few! For example, there’s the extensive metro system which is being added to all the time. Cheap and quick, it operates on five different lines and visits approximately 68 different stations. These lines run criss-cross Porto, connecting many of the city’s main attractions and popular neighbourhoods. If you’re looking to get from Ribeira to the area around São Bento station, you can use the scenic funicular service. It’s a quick and easy alternative to navigating the streets on foot. Along with all this, an extensive network of buses operates between Porto and the neighbouring towns, as well as throughout the city itself.

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  • Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2009
  • Comments: 0
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