In many ways, Porto is to Portugal what Glasgow is to Scotland. Sure it might not be as romantic and glamourous as the much more popular city of Lisbon and it may even seem a little more dangerous but, for me at least, it seems to have more teeth. A little bit rougher around the edges than Lisbon, Porto still has a mountain of character. The city sits on a plateau over an impressive river valley and finds itself at somewhat of a cultural crossroads. As was the case in Glasgow, I felt like Porto fit my style really nicely. A little bit edgy, a little bit artsy, teeming with great photo opportunities and almost completely void of the usual European tourist crowds.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 35-50 Euros
Things to do in Porto
On the surface, it looks like there is much less to do in Porto than Lisbon, but the truth is it just takes a bit more digging. I’m sure you’ll find yourselves quite occupied with the city for at least a couple days.
- The River and Bridge: This is perhaps the most beautiful urban space in Portugal and is well worth some photos. There is a cable car that goes from the top of the hill to the bottom where there are a number of restaurants. However, I recommend a wander down the hill through the narrow streets to get there instead.
- Torre dos Clerigos: It costs a couple Euros, but the views from the top of this tower are absolutely stunning and worth every step on the way up.
- Museums: I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the museums, but I love port wine so I made sure to visit the Port Wine Museum which was decent, but a little boring. I also took a quick wander around the Contemporary Art Museum which was actually really good.
- Port Wine Tour: There are plenty of places that offer a tour, but the most highly recommended in town is probably Taylor’s (since it’s free).
- The Beach: Just outside of town you’ll find Foz do Douro which is a nice beach. On weekends in the summer it is packed, but in the off-season you might have most of it to yourself.
Where to Eat in Porto
Wherever you eat in Porto you have to try the local dish which is called Francesinha and is basically French fries covered in cheese, meat and potentially some different meats. As a Canadian who loves poutine, it’s a favourite of mine for sure. As the people at Rivoli Cinema Hostel to show you the best in town and believe me they will. You should also try the local port and green wine.
- Aviz Café: For me this was the best Francesinha in town and also really well priced. Grab a seat on the street and enjoy with some green wine.
- A Tasca: This is basically right on the Marina. It’s a little bit on the pricey side but for the location and quality it’s well worth the price. I spent about 20 Euros for a meal and a beer.
Where to Stay in Porto
I stayed in the Rivoli Cinema Hostel which is almost a bit of an attraction in itself. Each room is designed after a movie and the atmosphere is great. The location is also really good. I highly recommend it.
For a list of the other hostels in Porto check out the hostelbookers.com page here: http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/portugal/porto/
Getting out of Town
Porto is likely the most poorly connected city in Europe due to the geography. To get anywhere via the train you have to get to Lisbon and then on to Madrid. If you’re time and budget is limited you’re much better off flying at least one way in or out of town, otherwise you’ll have to re-trace your steps.
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