Versatile Porto: what not to miss?

Sea breeze, authentic houses, centuries-old streets, choice between large or intimate beaches and, of course, good-humored Portuguese. So in a nutshell why Porto is a fine city to immerse yourself in for at least three full days. Before I tell about Porto, briefly about who I was here with. I love to travel, okay that’s an understatement, haha. And I also like to do that with different people. Not only with boyfriend Sander, but also alone or with girlfriends.

After all, girlfriends have known me even longer than Sander – they know so much and I find that valuable. All of us. That’s why we regularly go away for a long weekend. Just us girls. Delicious! We never lack conversation material so we did not run out of things to talk about during our trip in Porto.

What made this vacation completely special is that, after two girlfriends went home, Sander came. One of my friends also stayed in Porto and her boyfriend also came to see her. Too cozy! For Sander and me, though, it was necessary to work during our Porto work/holiday trip. So this was also our first real collaborative digital nomad trip as it is so nicely called then. That meant getting up early, eating breakfast, crawling behind the laptop and then working for four hours. Laptop shut and hupsakee into the sun!

Anyway, Porto, then. What can you do there? Well, plenty I can tell you! I ended up being here for just under two weeks, so I was able to do quite a bit of research 😉.

Tip for the chilly among us: the weather

First, the weather. The weather in Porto is quite variable. In the morning, you don’t usually have to expect bright blue skies. Certainly not in the early or late season. But it usually clears up completely and then the sun shines beautifully! It does cool off quickly in May, June and September because of the Atlantic Ocean. So really do bring a jacket and a thick cardigan. Especially if you’re a cold-hearted person like me. Fortunately, the temperature during the day (in September) is pleasant – about 21 to 25 degrees.

Well Vino Verde! That’s really tasty. For three to four euros you have a good bottle from the supermarket. Do.

Porto Ribeira

Wandering around the old town of Ribeira

Located on the Douro River, downtown Ribeira is, in a word, fantastic. Cute streets, beautiful houses and it’s just really nice to walk around here. Also, be sure to cross the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia for a nice view of the banks of the old town.

Vila Nova de Gaia (the new Porto) is also home to several porthouses. You can also go inside many and take a peek. Some have roof terraces where you can sit and sip a glass of port. I don’t like it much, so no port for me. Well Vino Verde! That’s really tasty. For three to four euros you have a good bottle from the supermarket. So do.

During your walking tour in Ribeira, you will come across several cathedrals, beautiful monuments and buildings. For example, I really liked the São Bento station and
Cathedral Sé is one of Porto’s oldest monuments. Sé sits on the (how surprising) Terreiro da Sé. Descend through the small streets to get back to the waterfront. Very nice! Personally, I did not find Sé as beautiful on the outside as the 18-century Igreja do Carmo Cathedral. The colors of the Igreja do Carmo! Those blue tiles (azulejos) are really fantastic.

There are many more beautiful cathedrals and monuments in Porto. For example, also check out Majestic café. Lots of old details AND (unfortunately) incredibly expensive and crowded. Better to do a coffee somewhere else. Speaking of food and drink, in Porto you can eat delicious and good vegetarian and vegan food!

Can you eat delicious vegetarian and vegan food in Porto?

As you stroll through the old town, you will naturally get hungry. Walking around with a rattling belly is no fun, so….foodtime! You can find plenty of vegetarian and vegan food in Porto. Vegetarian goes pretty well anyway, but when you eat vegan like I do, it’s a little trickier but certainly not impossible. We had fantastic food at, for example, Em Carne Viva near Casa de Música. No need to search, I have listed all the tips in this blog on where to eat vegetarian and vegan Porto.

Dutch pride Casa de Música

This beautiful modern building, designed by Dutchman Rem Koolhaas, was near the apartment we stayed in. The apartment belongs to a Portuguese friend of my friend. It’s so nice when you can actually stay in a local’s house.

Anyway, Casa de Música, then. Of course, you can get guided tours. Those are really worthwhile, by the way. After all, there is a lot of narration. Would you like a tour? In any case, make sure you take the early tours – as when you go later in the day it is very crowded.

Another fun thing about Casa de Música: free concerts. In fact, Casa de Música regularly holds free concerts on Friday nights. Super fun! It’s outside then (put on a warm coat or vest when you go in September! It cools off considerably) and you may just attend this for free. For example, we visited Palco Super Bock JP Simoes.

But there is also plenty happening in Porto’s large central square. So we suddenly found ourselves at a beautiful classical concert in the main square near São Bento train station, completely free!

Jardim Botanico

Sitting quietly in nature is also possible in Porto. I really came to rest in this botanical garden: Jardim Botanico with lots of cacti and beautifully landscaped gardens. It’s not that big, just nice to sit and enjoy for a while.

Sunbathing and relaxing on the beach in Foz

Fancy the beach? That’s the good thing about Porto, because in 30 minutes you can be on the beach from the city center. That’s different from Lisbon! How then? An old tramway takes you to Foz do Dour. Here you have beautiful beaches where it can also be crowded, but worth it when you like to sit with your butt in the sand. There are also plenty of nice beach bars. We enjoyed the sun AND the view at Praia da Luz . Going back is also fine by bus. Praia de Luz to Casa de Música catch bus 203 (also stops at museum Severralees).

I did not venture into the – in my eyes – icy (yes I can exaggerate) water

Extraordinary beachfront pool in Matosinhos

If you’re in Porto, you also can’t leave without visiting Piscina des Marés in Matosinhos. Piscina des Marés was designed by the famous architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. This saltwater pool is not very big but the view is beautiful. There is also a small pool for children to play in, for example. The pool borders the sea and gives a distinct feeling. When we were there, the water was freezing cold (early September), but still doable, according to my friends. I did not venture into the – in my eyes – icy (yes I can exaggerate) water. So I stayed on my towel – catching the sun rays that were there. I’m not really a water rat anyway. So a punishment it was not.

When you go to the pool, check carefully what time you go because they work with two rates. Full-day and half-day and these are also divided into time slots. You can do a half-day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. We paid four euros per person for a half-day. There is a small kiosk where you can get drinks.

The changing rooms are somewhat separate, we as tall Dutch women stood out quite a bit. So a hilarious moment was when we were changing clothes after our pool adventure and suddenly there were 30 people standing there. All people involved in cork and had a tour in Porto, it turned out later. Of course, the pool could not be missing from that list. Very nice all around, but we found it a bit uncomfortable that everyone could see inside like that. Screaming with laughter, I quickly changed clothes. In the end, the organizer of the “tour” turned out to be a Dutchman, and business cards were even exchanged. Always keep networking huh?

How do you get to Piscina des Marés?

From Porto center, take the blue line: Senhor de Matoshinos. Just stay seated until the last stop. There you get off and walk across the bridge. Turn left at the traffic circle and keep going straight. At the beach walk to the right and there you will automatically see the pool in the distance.

Don’t want to go to a pool? You can also have a great time on the beach at Matosinhos. I would only then choose the beach on the side where the pool is also located. Is a little calmer and more relaxed.

Can you do some nice shopping in Porto?

Do you like to shop? Go to one of the streets in the center, here you will find plenty of stores or if you want to go to the department store El Corte Inglés (Sander has a habit of wanting to store only abroad), take metro D and get off at João de Deus. They are open until late.

Slightly more authentic is (okay okay, also touristy 😉 ) Mercado Bolhao. This indoor market is full of stalls with trinkets but also delicious fruit. Nice to walk through.

Where you should definitely check out is Armazém. With all the fun second-hand stuff in a warehouse. They also have a cool terrace.

Fun day trips from Porto

Tired of Porto for a while (no, you can’t!) or just want to see more of the area? Porto has an excellent train network. Therefore, it is very easy to go to another city.

From a great height: Guimarães

This beautiful town is about an hour to an hour and a half by train from Porto São Bento train station. The trains run just fine on time. You get on and get off in no time in Guimarães. Travel is done with a special rail card that you can simply buy at the vending machines. Don’t throw it away because you can reload it for another visit. It’s a little puzzling the first time how it works, so come a little early so you don’t have to stress at the ticket machine.

When you arrive here you can enjoy wandering through all the small streets, beautiful squares and unusual buildings. But also be sure to go to the cable car (Telefonico) and go up. When we were there there was a festival going on so it was a busy place. Stalls with food everywhere and people sitting on rugs in the park. Super cozy!

Ancient history in Braga

Together with Sander, I went for a day trip to the city of Braga – an hour by train. Braga has an ancient history, and you can see it in the city itself. In fact, it was once the capital of Galicia, the Spanish Roman Empire. In 2017, you will see particularly distinctive buildings and refurbished facades.

It is somewhat touristy, but that also makes for good places to eat. Because we had a really delicious lunch at Hibiscus. This restaurant works with a buffet (which Sander hates, by the way, but for this time he made an exception) and almost everything was vegan. And good for your wallet, because you pay fifteen euros for two people, and that includes unlimited tea. You are allowed one scoop at this point. And the signs are hefty! So a super good deal. Moreover, you can also sit outside in the garden. There is still a lot of potential here to make it a little more cozy, but at least you can sit outside!

In short, an excellent day out!

Tourist Aveiro

One Wednesday, we thought, let’s go to Aveiro now too. It is known as the Venice of Portugal. Full of anticipation, our hearts were beating as we set out on the train again. Once we arrived, it was a bit of searching where the center was. We ended up in some cute cute streets, but not very special. Finally, we arrived at “the Venice.

We visited Venice together a few years ago and well….what can you say. Aveiro is not remotely like Venice. And that’s putting it mildly. The only similarity is that there are those gondolas, just like in Venice.

It is quite touristy (though of course Venice is, too) and at the main square, tourist buses drove back and forth. However, there is a very nice lunch spot with vegan and vega options in Aveiro called Biscoito. You can find Biscoito at Rua D. Jorge Lencastre, 7. The building is super photogenic and we ate delicious vegan burgers there. To be perfectly honest, we found this to be the highlight of Aveiro. If you are in Porto and want a nice day out of Porto, I do not recommend Aveiro. Rather, go to Braga or Guimarães. Also touristy, but much more to see!

Useful transportation links:

The train

The Metro

Read more about Portugal:

Prefer to go elsewhere in Europe? Consider: