Every year international travellers choose “European Best Destination”. The rating is conducted by the organization based in Brussels and developed to promote culture and tourism in Europe. The competition is fierce – over 260 picturesque locations across the old continent, all with rich cultural heritage and entertainment options. And yet, Porto has managed to be chosen European Best Destination in 2012, 2014 and in 2017. If the judges weren’t bribed with port wine, then there must be something special about this city. To solve the mystery, we have asked our official partner in Porto Feel Porto to tell us what the secret of this city is. With the help of Liliana Resende from Feel Porto, we have prepared the list of 6 reasons why you should visit Portugal’s second largest city this summer.
Porto’s exceptional architecture is not just limited to UNESCO-listed Ribeira district. Step back from the city center to discover charming buildings that are not even listed by the travel guides, and yet will make you want to grab your camera and take a photo of them immediately. Other have deservedly gained popularity like the book shop Livraria Lello, first opened in 1906. Take a look inside, to learn why it has been called the pearl of Art Nouveau interior design. Intricate, sculpted decorations and bookcases reach up to the ceiling that encloses the building with a stained-glass window. No wonder that some scenes from Harry Potter have been filmed here.
Tiles azulejos are characteristic of Porto architecture. It’s the first thing you notice on the facades of buildings, benches, fountains or floors. They add charm to grey facades that often haven’t been renovated for decades. Blue, green and yellow tiles dominate the landscape but you will also notice intricate geometric designs, flowers or even the whole illustrations , like on the walls of Sao Bento Railway Station. Don’t miss your train admiring the history of Portugal depicted on over 20 thousand tiles covering the walls of the station.
Hip locations off the touristic track
It’s no secret that economic recession has taken its toll on Porto. However, in the aftermath of the crisis, hotel rates and restaurant prices went down. Low rents and cheap flights have attracted entrepreneurs and creative minds looking for a cheap and inspiring place to settle down. They have left their mark on the city, opening artsy bars and restaurants, quirky design shops and galleries. The most well-known center of the artistic milieu is Rua de Miguel Bombarda. Take a stroll down the street and mingle with the crowd at the openings of new exhibitions, in the shops open till late and climatic cafes. For shopping, we recommend Centro Comercial Bombarda filled with independent shops selling everything from natural cosmetics to home décor items and vintage clothing.
The city for foodies
If you would like to feel like a Porto native, go to the oldest traditional market in town – Mercado do Bolhao to shop for fresh, local food. You can bargain best prices for the Francesinha ingredients that you can then prepare at home. You will hear this name a lot in Porto as it is considered the most popular local delicacy. However, it’s quite easy to make and consists of filling yet simple ingredients. It’s basically a sandwich – two toasts filled with meat, with baked cheese on top, served with hot thick tomato and beer sauce. If you don’t want to risk cooking a foreign dish on your own, you can make use of organized food experiences – cooking classes or guided food tours that will take you to the best local groceries.
The famous wine of Porto
Porto is famous for its fortified wine and the local Vinho Verde. Visitors have over 50 port wine cellars dispersed over the city to choose from. It’s a good idea to visit the Douro Valley for a wine tasting tour. The most popular destination is the scenic Pinhão village, located right in the heart of the wine growing region. In the local wine estates you can taste award-winning local varieties right from the barrels and learn about the wine production process from the winemakers themselves. You can also take a cruise along the Douro River in a small boat, sailing slowly down the river, soaking in the sun and admiring the views of the surrounding vineyards.
Vibrant night life and best restaurants
Porto is the city that makes you feel sorry if you stay home. Hundreds of charming restaurants, bars and cafes lure clients on every corner. It’s a hard choice to pick one out of a wide variety of options. Liliana Resende from Feel Porto recommends Abadia, Fish Fish, Cantina 32, Cantinho do Avilez, Flow or DOP. An absolute must on every tourist’s list is the Majestic Café. First opened in 1921, it has preserved the charm of la belle époque. Once you walk through the main doors, you feel as if you were taken back in time. For more contemporary entertainment, venture a night-out in a bar at Galeria de Paris street or in a club in Zona Industrial. In the summer don’t miss beach parties at Leça da Palmeira.
Special thanks to FeelPorto – our partner serviced apartments provider in Porto.