Portugal’s second largest city after Lisboa, Oporto casually sits right atop the River Douro where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is a largely industrial city, with a packed city center full of medieval architecture and a healthy mix of museums. Oporto shares a friendly street layout with plenty of narrow streets and balconies to apartments looming overhead. Oporto is legendary for its port wine, which is carefully prepared for years in the Vila Nova de Gaia district. The city is also in close proximity to a thriving maritime industry, with coastal fishing villages scattered throughout. Seafood restaurants are a fixture here, and an easy scenic cruise can be had as well down the Douro River to view the city in its entire splendor.
Getting To / Reaching the City:
Oporto is served by Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport, also known as Porto Airport. Getting around Porto is very easy, with a mix of trams, metros, and taxis. It is recommended that you do not rent a car, as Porto consists of one way streets that are hard to navigate. Visit www.metrodoporto.pt, www.stcp.pt, and www.cp.pt for more information on schedules and routes.
Sights You Can’t Miss:
- Solar Vinho do Porto: The port wine capital of the city. Located in the Quinta de Macieirinha, this friendly villa contains thousands of port wine samples produced in the region for everyone to try out. There is a tasting room with a professional staff of employees ready to train you on all things wine along with tours showing the entire process of producing wine. In the Solar Vinho do Porto is a nondescript museum with a few paintings and 18th century furniture pieces as well.
- Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis: Opened in 1840, this famous art gallery is dedicated to one of the most popular sculptors of all-time, Soares dos Reis, who was born in the same city. It holds a massive collection of works from the Flemish, Italian, and Dutch breeds along with 19th century Portuguese works, including niche exhibits on everything from furniture to glassware. Admission is 3 euros and it is free on Sundays.
- Igreja de Sao Francisco: The Church of Sao Francisco (St. Frances) goes all the way back to 1383 and has a modest appearance from the exterior. However, its interior is another story with a Baroque style and massive pillars and columns full of shaped animals and fruit cups. The church is topped off with large Gothic marble arches that head skyward.
- Vila Nova de Gaia: This is an actual suburb of Porto and lies on the outskirts of the city, going south along the Douro River. More than 40 wine companies establish their headquarters here, with many of them welcoming visitors for wine tasting exhibitions and tours. Some of the finest wine companies in the region includes Raylors and Sandemans. The Vila Nova de Gaia also has a 16th century monastery where the Duke of Wellington planned an assault against the French in the early 1800s.
Where to Stay in Porto:
- Infante de Sagres – Known for its long list of high class clientele that include royalty, this is one of the most luxurious hotels in Porto, with suites decorated by some of the finest baroque representatives. There is a restaurant, bar, and laundry service available. Expect to pay up to 130 euro for a double and up to 1000 euro for a suite depending on the season.
- Pestana Porto Hotel – This hotel consists if 11 building, each up to 400 years old. Typical hotel furniture includes granite and stone bathrooms that scream class! Prices are up to 165 for a single room and 250 for a suite, depending on the season.
- Porto Palacio Hotel – Rooms here are up to 220 euro for a double and 360 for a suite.
Suggested 2 Day Porto Itinerary:
- Day 1: Walking Tour of the City – Hit Terreiro de Se square, hit the back streets of Rua de Dom Hugo, and take a general stroll through the city visiting the Rihiera district and the Casa Museu de Guerra Junqueiro.
- Day 2: Jardim do Palacio de Cristal: The equivalent of Retiro Park in Madrid, the Jardim do Palacio de Cristal is a beautiful park with perfectly manicured green lawns, a dazzling array of tree and plant life, and plenty of shaded areas. Right in the middle is a domed pavilion which doubles up as a sporting center. There are plenty of fairs to enjoy in the summer. Just a short walk away is the Solar do Vinho de Porto as well where you could sample wines to your heart’s content. For the perfect picnic during a long day of walking, this is the place to be.