Spend a day in Porto: planned by a local

Story by: Ani Vardanyan     Date: 20 October 2020    Image by: Unsplash | Everaldo Coelho

5 minutes reading time Portugal

Let’s get one thing right. Porto has quite a different vibe from Lisbon. If you are looking for a beautiful European city with fewer tourists around, Porto is the answer. The views, the cultural sights, the food, the nightlife: everything is here. This article is a detailed guide for your one-day trip to this beautiful city.

São Bento Station

You know that the city is full of culture when you experience it from the moment you arrive. São Bento Railway Station shines with its architectural style. It has been a working railway station for over 100 years. Initially, it was a monastery that was destroyed by fire. Later it was rebuilt and used as a convent. And finally, after 13 years of construction, it has become the station that we know. São Bento is also famous for its azulejos, which are ornamental ceramic tiles, usually with white and blue colors. In this station, you can see artwork made by azulejos showcasing various historical moments of Portuguese history. So, you can nurture your cultural and historical needs before grabbing a typical Portuguese breakfast.

Café Majestic

What will happen if you mix history, culture, and great food? The answer is Café Majestic. It is just a 5-minute walk from the railway station. Café Majestic has always been a go-to place since 1921. Its interior is a time-travel machine into La Belle Époque. From the cafe’s opening date till now, it has been a meeting place for writers, politicians, and various artists. As for your breakfast, you should try some coffee with milk (Galão) with a sandwich – bread toast. If you are looking for something sweet, you should consider a couple of Pasteis de Nata. Don’t forget to cover them with sugar powder and cinnamon! These will cost you around 14-20 euros per person. In case you are looking for a budget version, I advise you to visit A Sandeira do Porto, which is also nearby the railway station.

Sé do Porto

Porto Cathedral or Sé do Porto in Portuguese, is one of the most important cultural attractions to visit. It dates back to the 12th century, has been renovated several times throughout the ages. As a result, the cathedral’s architecture has become a mixture of Baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic styles. Nowadays, it is serving both as a church and a museum. Opening hours are from 9 am to 6:30 pm in summer. During winter it closes at 5:30 pm. The ticket to the cathedral costs 3 euros. Here you can also find beautiful azuleijo on the walls depicting the Virgin Mary’s life. In addition to that, you can enjoy the view of the Douro river and the wine cellars from the cathedral’s square.

Ribeira

In the same square, you have a flight of stairs going down that takes you on a zigzaggy voyage downhill through the heart of Porto. Just in 7 minutes, you will arrive at Ribeira. It is a top attraction of Porto city. The name itself means riverside. Here you can find one of the most picturesque sights in Portugal. The colorful, old-style houses of Porto standing side by side. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Many attractions are worth trying here.

  • Have a walk along the riverside
  • Check out the view from the D. Luís I Bridge
  • Have a drink at one of the numerous cafes (2-5 euros)
  • Enjoy the view over the city from the bridge’s lift (2.50 euros)
  • Try Six Bridges Cruise from Porto (from 15 euros)

Café Santiago

Lunchtime! Do you want to try one of the best flavors in Europe? Then I advise you to eat the famous Francesinha. The name means Little French Girl in Portuguese. It contains toasted bread, different types of meat, cheese all over the place, and a fried egg on top. All of this is coming in a special sauce and fries on the side. Now, you might be a bit tired and hungry, I know, but you need to walk some 15 minutes to get to the Café Santiago. It is one of the best places to eat Francesinhas in Porto, founded in 1959. A small tip from me: try to get there around 3 pm. At that time everyone usually finishes their lunch, and you won’t have to wait for a long time to get a table. A classic Francesinha will cost you around 15 euros, including a soft drink and coffee.

Livraria Lello

The next step is the Lello Bookstore or Livraria Lello in Portuguese. You will need to walk only for 15 minutes from the café to get there. This bookstore is known as one of the best and the most beautiful bookstores in the world. The atmosphere and the interior are magical. If you are a Harry Potter fan, then you shouldn’t miss this opportunity! This library, opened in 1906, carries the name of the founders: the Lello brothers. Back in the 20th century, this place was the center of Porto’s cultural life and information flow. There is an entrance fee of 5 euros, which serves as a voucher to buy books from the store. Though, you might have to wait in line to get your ticket. You can also purchase the tickets online from the library’s official website.

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is a great place to relax and enjoy a set of panoramic views. You will need to walk for 12 minutes from the library to get here. The park dates back to the end of the 19th century. Here you can visit several themed gardens and the Romantic Museum, which is a 19th-century aristocratic house.

Nightlife

Porto’s nightlife is very vibrant, and you will find many things to do. Here are several suggestions:

  • Visit viewpoints: Vitória, The Garden of Virtudes
  • Go to bars: Base, Capela Incomum
  • Dance: Plano B, Rádio Bar
  • Enjoy Jazz&Blues: Mirajazz, Casa do Livro
  • Check out Port wine cellars: Caves Ferreira, Sandeman
  • Have dinner while listening to Fado*: Mal Cozinhado, Café Guarany

*Fado is traditional Portuguese music.

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