Magical Porto, Portugal


If you plan a short trip to Portugal, you will be faced with the inevitable question: Porto or Lisbon? Doing our research for the trip, we found out that it's not an easy question to answer. There are so many opinions on both cities. And in the end, it is probably best to visit both (like we did). While this post is focused on Porto, you can read more about Lisbon on our dedicated blog post.

So is there a difference between cities? We think yes.

Lisbon has a more hipsterish vibe and newer architecture. Porto feels cozier and it still has a lot of very old buildings, spread among small, hilly streets. But at the same time, you can find many cafes, bars, and restaurants with a modern vibe. On almost every corner you will find a church covered in beautiful, blue tiles. Like Lisbon, the city is split in two by a river. On one side is the main city, while on the south side (called Vila Nova de Gaia) you will find a multitude of Port wine distilleries.

Our tip: Visit at least one Port wine distillery and take a tour around the cellars. Understanding the process and the history behind the production will allow you to have a better appreciation of the wines.

Since we arrived in Porto on Christmas day, we have decided to have our Christmas dinner at one of the distilleries. Our choice was the restaurant Vinum, at Graham distillery, with an amazing view of the city. We have spent the rest of the days strolling along the narrow streets of the old city and enjoying late evening walks along the Ribeira. We also had a one day trip to the ocean side, in Foz do Douro. It's a half-hour trip by an old tram, which makes the trip so much more fun and authentic. And since the weather was very nice, it felt more like a summer day on the seaside, than a winter day at the end of December.

Our tip: Visit one of the craft ateliers and see artists painting the authentic Portuguese tiles. We were at Prometeu Artesanto, on R. de Alexandre Herculano.

If you need some inspiration for your next trip to Porto, here is a list of places that we can recommend:

  • Taylor, Croft - the two distilleries that we have visited in Porto
  • Vinum restaurant
  • Zenith, O Diplomata, Noshi Coffee - great places for breakfast or brunch
  • Typographia Progresso - great Portuguese food
  • Gazela Entreparedes - try Cachorrinhos, typical local hot dog
  • The Best Chocolate Cake in the World - excellent chocolate cake in Foz do Douro
  • Prometheus Artesanto - craft atelier
  • Mayor's Apartments - our Airbnb place, with great location to explore the city
  • "Any Portuguese town looks like a superstitious bride’s finery – something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue."

    - Mary McCarthy -