Typically, I’m not one to jump into a trip without a plan. I research, make list of places to go, and – if it’s a shorter trip – even try to create a loose itinerary (with room for wandering and getting lost) whenever possible.
Our 48 Hours in Porto, however, was not that. Rather, we landed in the city by train from Lisbon without much of a plan other than our lodging. With so much to see in this surprisingly full city, I hope my Porto travel guide will help you to plan better than we did!
The view from our super simple but cozy Airbnb on the waterfront. We chose the location strictly for the fact that we wanted to be by the water and it was an easy cab ride from the train station.
Arriving in the late afternoon by train from Lisbon, and still mildly jet-lagged, we took our the first few hours of our time in Porto to just roam and enjoy the sunshine while getting our bearings. To be fair, our 48 hours was more like 72 – I’m only counting the two full days we had to explore the city, but we did stay three nights.
If you happen to do the same, I suggest a long walk along the waterfront from the North bank to the South bank for this view!
The Luís I Bridge crosses the Douro River – on the right is where we stayed in the Ribeira neighborhood. On the left is the Gaia neighborhood where many of the port tasting rooms are located. The view from the bridge is – as you can see – pretty amazing to catch as the sun sets!
We settled on an easy spot for dinner – Cantinho do Avillez – a lively restaurant that locals and tourists alike seem to enjoy. I loved the relaxed atmosphere and the welcoming staff – it was a good pick for our first evening in the city.
Now, since we didn’t really have a plan in Porto, we ended up roaming a lot and got really lucky discovering this resource: Porto Fashion Makers. If you are taking a trip there, I highly suggest using this as a go-to for recommendations! I actually picked up their map the first day we were there and it led us to some fantastic independent shops and hidden gems that I’m about to share with you now.
Day One: The Baixa Neighborhood
Don’t bother trying to find a big breakfast in Porto – like most European cities, pastries and an espresso are what the locals prefer. Plus, with a short itinerary, we opted to skip a long brunch (see this list here for suggestions though!).
I like to hit the tourist spots early in the morning whenever possible, so we started the day by heading up to the Porto Cathedral where you get a nice view of the city and a little history. From there, we wandered through the main streets making our way to A Vida Portuguesa which is a must for shopping. (Tip: There are several of these located in Lisbon too, so if you’re planning on visiting both cities, you can decide which location you’d rather include in your itinerary!).
On the way there, we ran into two favorite stops – Chocolateria Equador and The Coffee Room. Basically two of my three favorite vices (wine being the third). You better believe I stocked up on these beautifully wrapped bars!
After that, a jaunt over to Cafe Majestic which is one of those tourist spots that you just can’t miss because it’s that beautiful. Apparently I only took photos of the ceiling while I was there, but you get the idea. It’s full of elaborate detail and makes you feel fancy. There is plenty of shopping on the main streets between all of these spots, so you can take your time popping in and out of places while getting to know the city.
On the way back to our Airbnb, we wandered back through on the Rua das Flores where we discovered a few smaller shops including 43 Branco which has a curated selection of local goods perfect for a few souvenirs. At the end of the street is a cluster of restaurants that all came recommended for dinner: Restaurante Traca, The Restaurant at A.S. 1829 and Restaurant DOP.
Day 2: Cedofeita Neighborhood
Our second day in Porto was by far my favorite. We headed into a different area that reminded me of many cities I’ve visited where you can tell that an older neighborhood has been revived by young artists and entrepreneurs. These spaces are my jam, and I could have easily spent more time here, exploring every little side street!
Since we were there in February, we skipped the Crystal Palace Gardens, but the grounds and nearby Museum Soares dos Reis seem worth a stroll. From there, head just a bit north and wander the streets housing some of my favorite finds of the trip.
Rota do Chá might be the loveliest tea café and shop I’ve ever encountered. With a huge menu and a sunny patio you’re totally transported (more on this in a separate post!).
Many small stores are hidden in the neighboring streets. I’d recommend taking your time exploring them all or doing a bit more research to seek out favorites that may appeal to you! Another great find for me was O! Galeria – a quirky gallery that had beautiful prints lining every square inch.
My final favorite was Coracao Alecrim, shop bursting with beautiful new and vintage home goods as well as some select clothing and accessories. I wanted to bring everything home. See that sequined placemat? Yep, that’s mine now. I also bought a lovely little platter, but that was all I could manage as I had just come from Morocco and and had already loaded up on other ceramic goodies.
If all this shopping has worked up your appetite, Mondo Deli is somewhat close and perfect for a long lunch before making your way back to the hotel.
The day before when we had wandered through our neighborhood a bit we happened upon a restaurant by the name of Adega Sao Nicolau that was down one of those small winding side streets that looks like it will have absolutely nothing there but ends up being the best decision you ever made because this meal was amazing.
I’m pretty sure Jason hates this photo but it’s the only one I have and I had to share with you the inside of this cave-like spot. It was incredibly intimate, insanely delicious, and happened to be the night we got engaged so that made it even better. Of course, I sat through dinner like a dummy who had no clue what was about to happen.
I wanted a nightcap so we wandered down to the water, and happened upon RIB – my kind of restaurant, given the decor! We saddled up to the bar for a drink, and the bartender made us Old Fashioneds, made with gin aged in Port barrels as a substitute for whiskey. Deeeeeelish. You better believe we bought a bottle of that gin before heading home.
And it was after that drink, as we walked along the Duoro River that my boo proposed. Awwww. So, yes, I think it’s safe to say that Porto holds a place in both our hearts now!
Day 3: The Ribeiera
Like I said in the beginning of this post: we didn’t plan very well. If we had, we would have noted that the Palacio Da Bolsa was closed on Sunday – the day we had allotted for visiting a few spots near our Airbnb before hopping our train. The interior is supposed to be spectacular. We did make it into the nearby Gothic church of St. Francis. And, if I had known about it, I surely would have made the quick jaunt over to Armazem – a new open concept warehouse that seems rather hit or miss but probably worth a walk through.
A few other noteworthy spots:
If you have time to get a little further out of town, the Foz neighborhood is supposed to be quite lovely, plus it has one of the most stunning views from a restaurant I’ve ever seen at Boa Nova which looks like it’s built into the rocks.