I had little expectations when it came to visiting Porto, I'd heard lots of great things about the city but having visited Lisbon three times I wasn't sure if it would be able to rival my love for it's capital. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the rich culture, beautiful architecture and laid back nature of the city, our days were packed with eating, walking, shopping and more eating and I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer and could have easily and quite happily filled a week there. With that being said, Porto is a neatly sized city and we did manage to tick of a lot from our list of sees and dos, so whilst this is by no means a definitive guide to all the Porto has to offer I hope it whets your appetite for a city that is well worth a visit.
We stayed at the beautiful boutique hotel Rosa Et Al Townhouse and it was the perfect location for exploring the city by foot. It's situated in a really laid back, friendly neighbourhood surrounded by art galleries, vintage shops and concept stores and was only a short walk from the centre of Porto. The hotel has only seven rooms, all beautifully decorated in a traditional townhouse style with neutral yet homely decor and big comfy beds. The hotel also runs its own cafe and Saturday super club which guests can also enjoy and the reception area doubles as a shop selling home and kitchenwares as well as their own cookbook. We love staying here and can highly recommend it, if you do stay make sure to try their daily breakfast/brunch, best enjoyed in the sunny back garden.
Given Porto's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and to the major port and fishing towns of Matosinhos just north of the city, you wont be surprised to see seafood on most menus across the city, if you aren't a fan of fish you can still enjoy lots of the Portuguese specialities like the Francesinha sandwich, arguable the most famous dish in Porto, which is made up of bread, ham, sausages and steak, then covered with melted cheese with a fried egg on top!
The food scene in Porto is nothing short of excellent, suffice to say we didn't have a bad meal, or even a bad mouthful of food during our whole trip! Highlights for us were Prego sandwichs at Lereira which was recommended to me by the lovely @heybpresto, the place was rammed both times we visited (yes, it was so good we went twice) and full of locals, its not fancy but serves up the best traditional steak sarnie with garlic crisps. As well as a special dinner at Taberna Dos Mercadores, a charming little restaurant which seats only about 20 customers at a time and serves traditional dishes with a modern spin like whole salted sea bass (Robalo ao sa) which they set on fire as they serve it to you!
If you're staying in the city for a little while and have facilities to cook, the Bolhão Market boasts an array of local produce from meat, vegetables, cheese, fresh and frozen fish and the famous Portuguese tinned sardines. The market is currently being restored so the current set-up is temporary, nonetheless its a great place to wonder around taking in the food culture and chatting to the traders about their produce.
I was pleasantly surprised by the shopping in Porto, there were quite a few vintage shops as well as concept stores in the area we were staying in and if it wasn't for my easyjet handluggage allowance i would have bought a lot more than i did. Here are a list of some of the ones we visited:
Basically next door to where we were staying, Patch is a really cool store filled with a curated selection of vintage clothes, furniture & homewares.
An amazing interior design concept store literally 2 minutes from our hotel, worth a visit for the swoon-worthy furniture.
A print paradise! An independent gallery wall to wall with original prints, illustrations and books.
A bit of a snoopers paradise, we stumbled across this shop whilst taking a different route from our hotel down to the river. Loads of vintage dresses, plaid shirts, sunglasses and bags up for grabs, well worth a rummage as the prices were really good. We didn't get a chance to visit Cet Objet du Désir in the east of the city but read that its another vintage store well worth a visit.
A beautiful assault on the senses, this antique store is brimming with interior gems, from velvet sofas to rattan chairs my (imaginary) Porto flat would be filled with treasures from this place.
Sustainable fashion store, showcasing ethically handmade Portuguese produce by independent brands - from linen shirts, to cushion covers, crockery and wicker basket bags I wanted to buy everything!
As well as eating and shopping there are so many great sights to be seen in Porto and everywhere is accessible on foot, the city has amazing architecture and the Chapel of Souls and Igerja dos Carmelitas are must-sees for the traditional Portuguese blue tiles. We didn't get a chance to visit the stunning Livraria Lello which i'm saving for the next trip, but the famous bookshop is rumoured to be the inspiration for Harry Potter as J. K. Rowling lived in the city whilst writing them and was a frequent visitor. Situated right next to Livaria Lello is Base Porto, a bar set in a really pretty rooftop garden. It had a very chilled vibe with big cushions and benches set amongst olive trees and is the perfect place to sit on one of the warm evenings to watch the sunset.
As well as exploring the city itself we also took a day trip on foot to neighbouring seaside town of Foz. The journey takes about an hour and you walk right along the river all the way, if you don't fancy walking it you can easily rent bikes or get one of the old school trams (or uber) there. Foz is a super cute town, really laid back with a short-ish promenade of shops and a long stretch of atlantic coast, it turned a bit cloudy as we arrived there so we didn't sit on the beach but I can imagine its the perfect escape from the hot city in the summer.