When planning my trip to Porto, Portugal, I arbitrarily picked four days because I couldn’t find concrete information online regarding how long to spend there. Porto is a beautiful city but, as I soon discovered, four days there was a bit too long.
So! Here’s some concrete information online to tell you that, if you visit Porto, two days is plenty. Here are some things to do in Porto that will comfortably fill up a two-day stay.
1. Visit the Mercado do Bolhão
Porto is filled with beautiful buildings and monuments – like, even the train stations are pretty – and the Mercado do Bolhão is no exception.
This picturesque outdoor market is a great place to buy fruit, vegetables, souvenirs, and of course, port, the dessert wine for which Porto is known.
One can also have lunch at one of the little restaurants on the ground floor of the market – roughly €6 – but I opted to take a little picnic of bread, cheese, olives and little bottles of port with me to the beach.
2. Visit the bookstore that inspired Harry Potter
Any Harry Potter fans in the house? Then you have to visit Porto and see Livaria Lello. Built in the early 1900s and known as one of ‘world’s most beautiful bookstores’, it boasts a majestic arched ceiling and a Hogwarts-esque staircase, and is where J.K. Rowling did much of her writing whilst she was living and teaching in Porto in the early 1990s. After seeing the Harry Potter movies, some say that it was also the inspiration for the bookstore Flourish and Blotts Booksellers.
The bookstore costs €3 to enter, and is open from 10am until 7.30pm on weekdays and 10am until 7pm on weekends. There may be a queue to enter, as it’s very popular.
3. Tour an 18th century church/see an amazing view
Located a three-minute walk from Livraria Lello, no Porto guide would be complete without Igreja dos Clérigos – ‘Church of the Clergymen’ – features stunning gold-plated 18th century architecture. It costs €6 to enter the church and go up into its adjoining bell tower (“Torre de los Clerigos”), from which you can look out and see a beautiful view of the city.
4. Walk to/along Porto’s iconic bridges
Porto is home to six bridges: Ponte de Porto Cavalos, Ponte do Freixo, Ponte de São João, Ponte da Arrábida, Ponte Maria Pia, and Ponte D. Luís I. (Ponte means bridge in Portuguese, in case you couldn’t tell).
Ponte D. Luís I arches over the Douro River and connects Porto to the neighbouring city of Vila Nova de Gaia, which sits on the other side of the river and is lined by wineries. One could start the day in Porto, walk across the Ponte D. Luís I and end up sampling port by the river. Which brings us to…
5. Go port tasting
Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia both have no shortage of wineries at which to go port tasting. One could easily go on a port bar crawl of sorts, and hit several wineries in the space of a day, but one would probably have to have a healthy budget in order to do so. I went to Casa Kopke, which I liked, because you can opt to taste one port or wine for as little as €2.50. For €17 (per person), you can try four glasses of wine/port along with chocolate pairings. Hard to say no to that.
6. Eat Portuguese food
A francesinha is essentially a meat lover’s paradise – it’s an enormous sandwich filled with a layered stack of ham, steak, sausage, linguiça (smoke cured pork sausage), cheese, and usually an egg. The entire thing is then drenched in a beer-based sauce. I know, right?
Being a vegetarian, I mostly ate a tosta mista when I ate out in Porto. This is essentially a cheese toastie with various vegetables in it. Traditionally, it’s just cheese and ham, but everywhere I ate offered a version that was just cheese and various vegetables.
Porto’s streets are also filled with eye-catching graffiti and unique art installations, making it a great city to just walk around in and observe. Take a couple of days to visit Porto and you won’t regret it.
You can find Jessica on her blog, www.readyjessgo.com or her Instagram, instagram.com/readyjessgo.