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Your opinion of Porto

We are thinking of visiting Porto this spring but are not sure if there are enough attractions there to justify 3 nights there.
We will be coming from Lisbon.
We usually don't do more than 1 church and 1 art museum per city.
I'm not into visiting big parks but would consider going to one if DW wants it.

What was your experience in Porto?
Was it similar to Lisbon?
In what area did you stayed?
Where did you lodge?

Thanks for you replies.

Posted by
5001 posts

No, Porto is not like Lisbon and I recommend that you visit. It had a reputation as a grittier area but that has changed. The river flows by the city dividing it from Vila Nova de Gaia , where the Port houses are located. The area next to the river in Porto is a nice place to hang out and is filled with restaurants.
We visited the historic stock exchange building and took a day cruise including lunch East on the Douro River.
We stayed at The Hotel Infante de Sagres which was very nice and had excellent service.

Posted by
160 posts

We will have done 4 nights by tomorrow and like it a lot. Staying in Ribeira. City center looks like it has possibilities. Some chains coming in (Starbucks, for example) but haven't pushed out the locals yet. Porto is smaller, more intimate, easier to get around than Lisbon (if you like walking as we do it helps). Haven't ridden trams yet but from what I've seen, as opposed to Lisbon you can get in and get a seat.

We did take a day for a cruise up the duoro, return by rail. Well organized, much better than expected, china, silverware and a bottle of wine for lunch

Posted by
839 posts

There is definitely enough to keep you busy for three nights - which is really only two days. It’s still Portugal but has a lot of differences from Lisbon.

A food tour is a nice way to see the city while trying some of the food and wine. A trip across the river to Gaia is very fun. Some of the port lodges have regular wine, if you’re not port fans. Take the bus or metro out to Matosinhos for lovely grilled fish. Take a short cruise on the Douro or take the train.

I’ve stayed both close to river and quite a bit inland from the river. The river area is much preferred.

Porto is quite lovely and very much worth your time.

Posted by
135 posts

Hi Nestor!

It depends a lot on what kind of things you consider attractions. Maybe I can tell you some different things you may visit while in Porto, and you decide if they seem interesting to you.

My experience in Porto: well, I lived here almost all my life, was born here.
Lisbon: Lived there for one year. Completely different. Lisbon is white, Porto is grey. Lisbon has a bright light, Porto seems almost allways foggy! Lisbon has Fado, Porto does not (well, now it does, for tourists).

Things people usually don't do when they come to visit:

  • take the metro to 24 de Agosto, visit the water "coffret" found there a few years ago (due to the construction of the metro station), walk to the end of the street and visit the garden of SMAS (SMAS is the water company), great views over the river, and 15 old fountains were moved there, they have no use anymore as water come on pipes, they are beautifull.
  • Take bus 508 or 601 and leave at Carvalhido. Admire the beautifull tile wall of Carvalhido chapel, with a clock in one of the towers, and the cardinal points on the other. Cross the street to the garden and look at the "cross" there, from the 18th century, an homage to the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela (this is part of the portuguese "camiño"). Then walk a litle bit further and visit the biggest iberian labyrinth. To enter there you cross a "gate" in stone designed by the same guy (Nasoni) who did the Clérigos Tower. Then return and have a "Francesinha" at the restaurant named "Rio de Janeiro" - one the bests in town.
  • take tram nr 1 (or bus 500) to "Passeio Alegre". It's a garden in Foz, where the river meets the ocean. Admire the lighthouses, but if the waves are big, keep a distance. Have a coffee at "chalé Suiço", in the garden, and admire the parrots over the trees and the ducks in the lake. Visit the toillet (even if you don't need to), you must pay 2 euros to the lady in charge. The sink and all the other things are hand painted in blue and gold, really nice! Walk a litle bit direction city centre, left the garden admiring the 2 columns also designed by the same guy, Nasoni. After 200 or 300 meters take the boat "Flor de Gás" (1,75 eur each ticket") to the other side of the river, Afurada. Nice fishing village. See the old men patching up the fishing nets, and the women washing clothes in the communitary sink (yes, they have washing machines at home, but this is their facebook, twitter, whatever). Have a nice meal of fresh grilled fish. If you are in the mood, walk a litle in the nature reserve and see the lovely herons.
  • You would like to see the city from above, but you don't want to climb the 225 steps of Clérigos tower? Make a visit to the D. Henrique Hotel bar. It's on the 18th floor. They have 2 lifts. Orange juice is made of real oranges, and "Alexander nr 1" is great. Or just ask for a glass of Port wine.

Porto is very hilly. It already was at the end of 19th century, so it was decided to build lifts in some of the worst places. Exactly where the funicular (the modern one) is now, there was another one, the first of many that were going to be built in the city. Unfortunately an accident occured, and projects were abandoned. The old machine house is still there.

The old wall: You can walk over it if you enter the gardens of Igreja de Santa Clara (in front of the funicular, upper side). But you can also still see a wall door inside the coffee shop "Porta do Olival", next to "Torre dos Clérigos". Or you can have dinner over a tower of the old wall at restaurant "O Torreão" (expensive and not very good food...). Or you can see that tower, and a part of the wall, at restaurant "Caraças". Unexpensive, very good food, familiar (mother in the kitchen, grandmother at the grill, girls serving at the tables), only 2 dishes and 4 desserts. You eat what is fresh that day.

Hope this helps. Helena.

Posted by
419 posts

Thank you Helena Andrade.
That was useful information.

What would you recommend for old/historic structures besides the wall, museums and charming streets?

Posted by
135 posts

The old jewish neighborhood. Before the wall was built, and jewish were invited to live inside the wall by the King, they kived in a different neighborhood that is still now called "Monte dos Judeus", (Jewinsh mountain). It is Westerner old Porto, tte main street there is "Rua da Bandeirinha", where you can find not only the the poor "Mormaids house" (Lot's of tales around") but also the old stairs and the place where peolple in general would put a flag to advise ships there were no diseases in town.

Posted by
2 posts

I really liked Lisbon and found it beautiful. There was a lot to do, but I never relaxed because it was so crowded. When I made it to Porto, I absolutely fell in love with the country. There was so much to discover there. The riverfront area is breathtaking and both sides have a lot to offer in terms of restaurants, port wine tours and tastings, boat rides, street performers, etc. The best part was finding something you didn't expect like a street that looked run-down at first glance, but actually was being revitalized and had some trendy little restaurants and shops mixed in. I ended up having some flexibility in my schedule and stayed in Porto five nights and did two day trips from there (Guimere/Bragga, Fatima/Coinbra).

Posted by
2118 posts

Nestor, I enjoyed Porto, and spent 6 nights there. But, I did not remain in Porto for all that time. I took three day trips, either group tours by van, into the more rural areas of Northern Portugal, visiting sites, farms, wineries, etc. Also one day trip by train, on my own, to Guimaraes, celebrated as the birthplace of Portugal. I had already visited the Douro Valley on the way to Porto, but that is another popular day trip, or overnight trip, using some combination of boat, bus, train or car.

Posted by
3346 posts

We loved Porto and spent three nights there after our Douro River cruise.

We stated in the best B&B we have ever stayed in. It is the InPatio Guesthouse in a great location not far from the riverfront.

Book early, it only had five rooms.

Posted by
74 posts

Spent 3 nights in Porto last June, including a Douro valley day tour; wish I had stayed in Porto a little longer. Also wish I had had Helena's list! I really enjoyed a street art walking tour that covered a number of different city neighborhoods. It was from At Will Tours, but other agencies offer them as well. Kind of glad I did not stay in Ribeira because that area seemed much more touristy. I stayed a short walk further up (at Maison Nos B&B) in what I think is called the Vitoria neighborhood within the Miragaia area.

Porto's Tile Bank (or Banco de Materials) is but one example of a quirky non-museum visit. It is a repository of hand-painted building facade tiles and some other architectural decoration, historical to modern, arranged by century, in drawers one may open and browse. My (limited) understanding is that people restoring old buildings can make contributions and withdrawals. It is located in one of the many charming plazas.

Posted by
135 posts

Cd in Dc my list was cut when I reach 4000. I had a lot more to add. One of the things, the Bank of Materials. It is exactly what you described: if you don't need, you give them! If you need just go there and take. Tiles, iron old things, wood old things, if you are rebuilting a thing, and you need the original pieces, just go there. Great, isn't it?

The beautifull litle square is called Carlos Alberto, following Carlos Alberto from Sardinia, "last king of Italy" (more or less...) that was a refugee in Porto. He lived there for a month, where now is the Bank of Materials. Then he moved to "Quinta da Macieirinha", to the house where is now the "Romantic museum", and is bedroom, personal things, etc, are still there to be seen. Unfortunately he lived shortly and died not long after arriving to Porto. His sister built a chapel on his honour at the Cristal Palace Gardens.