The alluring appeal of Porto, Portugal

In Europe, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Portugal, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Never lose your welcoming charm.

When planning our Portuguese road trip, Porto was always at the top of our list. We’d visited Lisbon as a mini-break last year and immediately knew Porto was a must.

Looking over Porto from the best viewpoint, Portugal

A former colleague of mine, who has a Portuguese husband, had stayed in Porto on many occasions & really couldn’t believe that Gary and I hadn’t previously visited, knowing the type of cultural breaks we enjoy. So, armed with her advice, we were off to discover Porto.

There is so much to see & do in Porto, where shall we start?

Intriguing city

Like most ancient cities, the best way to find all those little gems of everyday life is to take a stroll around.

The Portuguese architecture is so appealing, little wrought iron balconies clinging to the side of colourful tiled homes. And ladies peering out from their windows, chatting over their washing, hanging between them.

Ladies in the street, Porto, Portugal
The balconies of Porto, Porto, Portugal
The lanes of Porto, Porto, Portugal

Porto feels like a very proud city and loved by its locals.

Get together

We found that a good place to start was at Praça da Liberdade, this is a lovely bustling square where friends and families congregate, and it’s surrounded by some very elegant buildings.

The Town Hall, Porto, Portugal
The architecture around Porto, Porto, Portugal

Step inside

A short wander from the square, and you’ll notice Porto’s São Bento train station, even if you’re not catching a train poke your nose into the entrance hall and take a look at the wonderful azulejo.

The lobby of São Bento train station, Porto, Portugal

The tiles are amazing and depict some of Portugal’s historical past.

The ticket office of São Bento train station, Porto, Portugal

Did you know?

That the Historic Centre of Porto has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

Make the climb

One of Porto’s most important buildings and one of its oldest, is Sé do Porto. The Romanesque cathedral was completed in 1737 and sits high above the city.

The courtyard of the Cathedral, Porto, Portugal

Within the cathedral is a peaceful Gothic cloister, which if you climb above and wander around the top you’ll see the blue & white Baroque azulejos, which were added from 1729 -1731.

Above the cloisters of the Cathedral, Porto, Portugal

We saved money here by using the Porto Card.

Take ‘em to the bridge

One of the most iconic views in Porto must be the Dom Luís I Bridge. The double deck iron bridge spans high above the Douro River, and it’s a fantastic sight.

The Luís I Bridge - Ponte Luís I, Porto, Portugal

Built in five years between 1881 & 1886, the top level is now used by metro trams and pedestrians, and the lower level is used by general traffic and pedestrians.

The Dom Luís I Bridge, from a different angle, Porto, Portugal

You must take a walk across to the Gaia side of the river, to appreciate the impressive view back over Porto.

Why not?

Start creating your own Portuguese adventure and discover its historical colourful towns and cities for yourself, easyJet & British Airways are just a couple of options.

Keep Climbing

Just that little bit more of a climb & you’ll reach the former Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, which was built in the 16th century and forms part of Porto’s UNESCO site.

Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, Porto, Portugal

From this viewpoint, you’ll also grab a shot of Dom Luís I Bridge, from a different angle.

A view across Porto, Portugal

Soaring Above

Now you’ll definitely want to stay on the Gaia side of the Douro & head down to the river edge below. However, do you stroll down or take the Gaia cable car which opened in 2011….mmmm, well we actually did both. (there’s a saving with your Porto Card).

The cable car over the city, Porto, Portugal

The cable car gives you a great view across the Douro, while slowly crossing the red rooftops of the Port cellars below.

Taking the cable car down, Porto, Portugal


Once at the bottom jump off and take a stroll along the shores of the Douro and see the lovely Rabelo boats.

These flat-bottomed wooden boats are so synonymous with Porto. They were used to transport Port Wine, from the Douro Valley vineyards into Porto. This type of cargo boat is unique to the Douro region.

Rabelo boats moored up, Porto, Portugal
Rabelo boats, with the city in the background, Porto, Portugal

Tempted to?

Discover more of historic Portugal and tour its picturesque countryside around the Douro Valley or even head south to the Algarve coastline. You can do it all on a road trip, SIXT car hire cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Decision Time

So, which Port house do you choose to take a tour in?
Don’t rush, sit back, relax & sample a few tipples. We had a little taster of five Ports with Quinta do Noval.

A selections of ports in Porto, Portugal

We had a stroll a bit further along and considered Taylor’s, Ferreira, Dow & Graham’s however, we decided to take a cellar tour with Sandeman.

Enter the Sandeman, Porto, Portugal

You have the option of different types of tours, although the Classic Tour was the only one available that afternoon. It lasts about 1 hour and includes a guided tour through the cellar, a movie on the background of Sandeman & a couple of Ports to enjoy at the end.

The cellars of Sandeman Port house, Porto, Portugal

We saved 30% each off the tour price by using the Porto Card (percentage varies seasonally)

A little detour

Prior to heading back across the river, we decided to take a little stroll around Gaia & we came across some incredible street art including a 3D rabbit.

Recycled Rabbit, Porto, Portugal

It had to be done

To return back to the Porto side of the river we chose the more sedate option of the Douro River Taxi (and to save my legs) it costs €3 for an adult single ticket.

The view over to Gaia, Porto, Portugal

A wander along the Ribeira is a must, even though at times it may be busy there is a bustling, friendly atmosphere day and night.

The balconies along the Ribeira, Porto, Portugal

Just a façade

There are some beautifully ornate churches around Porto; it’s amazing, and that’s just the décor on the outside.

Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, Porto, Portugal

Head to Praça de Gomes Teixeira to see Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, two churches built next to each other one for nuns and one for monks. All that separates them is a 1 metre wide house.

The Fonte dos Leões in front of the Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, Porto, Portugal

Here are just a few to spot on your wanderings.

Church of St Nicholas, Porto, Portugal
Church of Evangelica, Porto, Portugal
The Chapel of Souls, Porto, Portugal
The Clérigos Tower, Porto, Portugal
Monument Church Of St Francis, Porto, Portugal

Have a rest

If you fancy taking the weight off your feet jump on one of Porto’s Heritage Trams. Route 22 is a circular route and takes you through some of Porto’s popular spots.

The Heritage tram, Porto, Portugal

Or if a little bit of elegance is the order of the day, head to the Majestic café, full of Art Nouveau character and charm.

The interior of the Majestic café , Porto, Portugal
Port in the Majestic café, Porto, Portugal

Stunning Architecture

All around Porto are some incredible styles of different architecture, Gary & I particularly love the Art Nouveau & Art Deco eras, and Porto isn’t short on examples of these.

Art Deco style garage, Porto, Portugal
Art Nouveau beauty, Porto, Portugal
The exterior of Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Art Deco glory, Porto, Portugal


Arrive early or late to visit Livraria Lello, Porto’s famous bookstore. The queues are long, and you must buy a €5 voucher from a shop close by. The voucher can be redeemed against a book purchase.

Where we ate

We had a couple of food recommendations from a friend of mine, luckily, she knew we weren’t vegetarian.
The first dish she said we should try is the dish native to Porto, and that’s the Francesinha, this is certainly not a dish to choose if you just want a light snack.

It’s fundamentally a sandwich, however, inside is ham, smoked sausage, regular sausage, steak, cheese then a tomato & beer sauce. If you’re feeling hungry, you can also add an egg (we didn’t)
My friend’s Portuguese husband said Café Santiago serves the best in town.

Café Santiago for  the best Francesinha, Porto, Portugal

The second dish recommended to us was suckling pig, not obviously to everyone’s liking, but we certainly enjoyed it, along with a glass or two of vinho verde.

The restaurant to find this dish was at Casa Ribeiro.

Suckling Pig, Porto, Portugal

Where we stayed

Our accommodation for the three nights we were in Porto, was in an apartment named ‘Bragas Cozy Apartment’. Only about a 10-minute walk to the town, it had all your essential facilities and also its own underground parking space.

Inspired to visit Porto?

Explore the streets of Porto or while away some time enjoying a glass of Port by the Douro River. Porto has so much to offer.

For further information on things to see and do in Northern Portugal, take a browse around Visit Porto & The North local tourist website.

Why not checkout the latest deals on Booking.Com?
The alluring appeal of Porto, Portugal

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Have You?

Visited Portugal and discovered any towns or cities that you really want to share with us, as we can’t wait to start planning our next road trip?

About the Author


Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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