What not to miss in Oporto?
PERCHED ON THE steep banks of the River Douro, Porto is a fascinating and charming city—easy to love, hard to leave. With its bustling back streets, Gothic churches, riverside cafes, and its long-standing trade in port wine, every turn reveals a different layer of history.
The historic center, a warren of narrow medieval streets, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, while the modern airport and affluent beachside suburbs firmly point to the 21st century.
This isn’t a city to rush. A comfortable pair of hiking shoes is recommended, as there are some steep climbs, but one of the joys of Porto is its relative compactness. Ditch the car and wander through this ancient city, where boutique art galleries rub shoulders with antiquated bookshops and washing hangs across narrow streets.
At times Porto can feel a little run-down, but that’s part of its charm—as is strolling by the river, discovering a medieval square or sitting in a café watching the world go by.
DAY ONE // FRIDAY
7 p.m. Arrive at Porto’s small airport. There’s no need for a car here, so hop in a taxi and head straight to The Yeatman (doubles from €260 a night, Rua do Choupelo; the-yeatman-hotel.com ). Cut into the hillside on the southern bank of the Douro amid the city’s historic port wine lodges, this 82-room hotel offers spectacular views over the city and the double-deck Dom Luis Bridge. Owned by Taylor’s port wine shippers, it has a vinous feel.
8:30 p.m. After settling into your room and perhaps enjoying a glass of tawny port, order a light supper off the in-room dining menu and enjoy it on your balcony. If you’re in party mood, take a 10-minute taxi ride to the old part of the city. Here you’ll find three streets—Rua da Galerias de Paris, Cândido dos Reis and Conde de Vizela—full of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Slip into one and soak up Porto’s bohemian nighttime atmosphere.
11 p.m. Wander down to the Cais da Ribeira for a nocturnal stroll and a nightcap at one of the riverside bars on the Praça da Ribeira before going back to the hotel.
DAY TWO // SATURDAY
9:30 a.m. After a sumptuous breakfast at The Yeatman, head out the back entrance and walk down the hillside into the warren of narrow streets that drops you into the heart of port wine production. There are more than 50 port houses here; the aging and blending of port takes place in dusty warehouses known as lodges. Port is steeped in British influence, and as you make your way down to the waterside you’ll see names such as Taylor’s, Croft and Warre’s emblazoned across rooftops.
10 a.m. Once down by the river, catch a ride on the Gaia Cable Car from in front of Cais de Gaia market. (€5 each way, gaiacablecar.com ). The five-minute journey takes you above the port lodges and drops you near the top of the Dom Luis bridge, saving you the steep climb. Now you can walk across the upper level of the bridge, stopping for photographs along the way. Keep walking straight on toward the São Bento Train Station (Praça de Almeida Garrett). Built on the site of an old Benedictine monastery and completed in 1916, the station’s interior is well worth the hike. The entrance hall is decorated with 20,000 blue and white Portuguese tiles, with designs by the renowned tile painter Jorge Colaço depicting rural festivals, scenes of everyday life and the history of transportation.
11 a.m. Wind your way to Livraria Lello & Irmão (Rua das Carmelitas 144), arguably one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, and take a few minutes to browse the books. If you have the energy, climb the 240 steps up the Torre dos Clérigos (Rua São Filipe de Nery; torredosclerigos.pt ). At 75 meters high, the Baroque church tower offers some of the best views of the city.
12 p.m. Drop down to the waterfront and the Massarelos tram stop near Palácio de Cristal. Jump on Porto’s historic Tram Line 1, take a seat and watch the river whiz by as you make your way to the seaside suburb of Foz do Douro. portotramcitytour.pt
1 p.m. Get off the tram and take a stroll through the nearby Passeio Alegre Garden (Rua do Passeio Alegre). Refreshed from this lush urban oasis, it’s time to hail a taxi and head to O Gaveto (Rua Roberto Ivens 826; ogaveto.com ), a small, unpretentious restaurant in Matosinhos for a well-earned lunch. The fish at this popular lunchtime spot is fresh. To catch it, arrive as close to 1 p.m. as possible and book ahead.
3 p.m. After lunch, take another stroll along the beach, stopping to enjoy a glass of wine or slice of chocolate cake at Praia da Luz (Avenida Brasil; praiadaluz.pt ), soaking up some sun and sea air before returning to the hotel.
7 p.m. After a dip in the hotel pool, take the five-minute taxi ride across the bridge to Porto native Rui Paula ’s DOP (Largo de S. Domingos 18, ruipaula.com ). Situated in the heart of the city, in the Palácio das Artes, the restaurant specializes in local cuisine. Make sure to book well in advance as it’s a popular choice.
DAY THREE // SUNDAY
10 a.m. Act like a local, enjoying a late, light breakfast of coffee and bread at one of the local cafés. But don’t overdo it—lunch is just hours away.
11 a.m. Spend a quiet morning exploring the huddled port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia before making your way up the hill to Graham’s Port Lodge (Rua Rei Ramiro; grahams-port.com ). Book a guided tour of this working cellar with 2,000 casks of port and learn the history of this fascinating, sweet, nutty wine.
1 p.m. Eat lunch at Graham’s in-house restaurant, Vinum (Rua do Agro 141; vinumatgrahams.com ). Surrounded by more than 3,000 oak barrels, you’ll feel like you’re eating in a wine cellar. Take your time. Enjoy an aperitif of white port and tonic on the terrace overlooking the city before moving inside and enjoying one of Vinum’s hearty dishes matched with a Douro table wine.
3:30 p.m. After indulging at lunch, it’s time for a walk. Forget navigating down the steep hill; ask the restaurant to organize a taxi to take you straight to the country’s most important contemporary art collection, the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (Rua D. João de Castro 210; serralves.pt ). Here, you can while away the afternoon in an 18-hectare park with gardens, a farm and the impressive Art Deco Serralves Villa as well as the museum. Grab a light snack at the garden cafe—but keep an appetite for dinner.
7 p.m. Back at the hotel, you can relax, knowing that this evening you won’t need to leave again. Start with a glass of wine in Dick’s Bar, named after Taylor’s port producer Dick Yeatman. Time it right so you can watch the sun go down before moving on to the Michelin-starred Yeatman. Let the sommelier guide you through the Portuguese wine list.
DAY FOUR // MONDAY
9 a.m. Check out but leave your bags at the hotel. Walk to the quay, heading toward the Dom Luis Bridge. Look out for the flat-bottomed barcos rabelos boats laden with port casks. Although they’re are no longer used for transporting the wine, they remain a symbol of Portugal’s rich maritime tradition.
9:30 a.m. Crossing the bridge, head to Mercearia das Flores (Rua das Flores 110; merceariadasflores.com ). This cozy little deli, with wooden tables and chairs and homemade food, is a perfect breakfast spot.
11 a.m. Wander down the hill to the Cais da Ribeira—it’s time to explore the great Douro. From its source in Spain, the river flows for more than 900 kilometers to reach the Atlantic here. Hop on one of the numerous cruises available along the quay, most of which last around an hour.
12:15 p.m. Walk up the hill to the Majestic Café (Rua Santa Catarina 112; cafemajestic.com ), an ideal place for a pit-stop of French toast and coffee as you take in the Art Nouveau surroundings.
2 p.m. As you amble down the hill, you’ll have just enough time to visit the São Francisco Church (Rua do Infante Dom Henrique; ordemsaofrancisco.pt ). The Gothic exterior, dating back to the 1300s, is modest, but the Baroque interior is spellbinding, with more than 180 kg of gold covering its high altar.
3 p.m. Head to the airport, via the hotel to pick up your bags, hopefully laden with a few bottles of vintage port.
By: Wall Street Journal