Porto: 3 Days Of Fresh Air And Unique Culture
CRAWL GALERIA’S BARS – On weekends, drinkers spill out onto the streets in this busy nightlife hub in Bolhao. Ask a tripeiro (Porto resident) where the party is at and chances are they’ll direct you to Galeria, centred around Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Candido dos Reis. Offbeat bars rule here: try the gin house, champagne bar and artsy cafes and linger for chilled out DJ beats if the mood takes.
DIVE INTO THE LOCAL FOOD SCENE – Quality produce, wines from the Douro Valley and seafood hauled from Porto’s Atlantic doorstep have all contributed to the city’s growing reputation as a top-class food destination. Take a half-day tour with Taste Porto Tours, which includes a visit to the 19th-century market hall, Mercado do Bolhao, where traders hawk regional specialities.
WANDER ANCIENT RIBEIRA – Ribeira is Porto’s biggest heart-stealer, with its maze of medieval alleys and stairways zigzagging down to the Rio Douro and a riverfront promenade, the Cais da Ribeira. It’s home to two lovely churches: hilltop Se (cathedral), with a Baroque altarpiece exquisitely wrought in silver; and Igreja de Sao Francisco, where cherubs and sober monks are smothered in gold leaf.
ADM IRE PORTO’S AZULEJO ART – Azulejo tiles are a trademark of Portuguese craftsmanship that date back hundreds of years and greet you on most street corners in Porto. The best display is in the Sao Bento train station, a veritable ode to azulejo art. The friezes here were designed by Jorge Colaco in 1930 and vividly spell out events in Portuguese history (Praţa Almeida Garret).
CYCLE TO BEACHSIDE FOZDO DOURO – Away from the tourist scene, Porto’s western beach suburb of Foz do Douro moves to its own relaxed beat. In summer, beach bars hum with bronzed locals and the seaside esplanade is made for strolling. It’s possible to pedal straight to the beach from Ribeira along the banks of the Douro on a rental bike. L&L offers reliable cycles and helmets, locks and maps.
FINE DINING WITH AN ATLANTIC VIEW – Foz do Douro has some of Porto’s best restaurants, including culinary tour de force Boa Nova Tea House. Magnificent views unfold from its deck, perched cliffside above the Atlantic Ocean just north of Foz. Local star chef Rui Paula creates winning fish and seafood dishes, such as crab and codfish. Reserve ahead.
CRUISE THE DOURO – There’s no better way to survey Porto than from the deck of a river boat. Douro Azul runs scenic tours on colourful barcos rabelos – flat-bottomed boats that were once used to transport port wine from the vineyards. Its ‘6 bridges’ cruise is a 50-minute jaunt from Cais de Ribeira, passing Ribeira’s pastel houses and Vila Nova de Gaia’s grand lodges.
TASTE PORT IN VILA NOVA DE GAIA – Vila Nova de Gaia takes you back to the 17th-century beginnings of port-wine production, when British merchants transformed this wine into the post-dinner drink of choice. Many of the port lodges still operate, and offer tours and tastings. Taylor’s is a good bet; also don’t miss the 360° Terrace Lounge for port-sipping with a view.
EXPLORE PORTO’S JEWISH QUARTER – Pretty tiled houses, timewarp bars and family taverns line the narrow streets in Porto’s 14th-century judiaria (Jewish quarter). Centred around the Rua de Sao Bento da Vitoria in the Miragaia district, it’s an atmospheric place to wander. Standing sentinel is an 18th-century former prison that hosts the Centro Portugues de Fotografia.