Identifying the 10 things you absolutely must do while in Porto is no easy task, but we are brave warriors here at In Your Pocket, intrepid explorers that are happy to sacrifice long term health in favour of eating as many Francesinha sandwiches as possible. This is your Porto check-list.
Eat as many Francesinha sandwiches as possible
Of course by ‘as many as possible’ we generally mean ‘one’, because this might just be the most filling sandwich on the planet. It is the absolute must-eat in Porto, although those on a health-kick might want to avoid it. Bread, an A-Z of pork, melted cheese, beer sauce and fries. It is very much a ‘died and gone to heaven’ sort of thing.
Read a book or two
Porto is home to the world’s most beautiful bookshop, the quite tremendous Livraria Lello. Thousands descend upon this store on a daily basis in search of Instagram opportunities, so buck the trend and pay the shop a visit for its original purpose — literature. Portugal has a proud history of the written word and this is the perfect place to explore that.
Cross the bridge
‘Cross the bridge’ might sound a little pedestrian, but there is nothing boring about the Luís I Bridge. One of the great feats of engineering in Europe, this double-decker delight is a picturesque pearler that looks as good in photos as the views are from its top deck. Cross the bridge and head towards Foz, or simply gawp at the beauty from afar.
Climb the tower
Clérigos Church is one of the most popular attractions in Porto, but it is the church tower that really excites. Arguably the city’s most iconic structure, the tower stretches some 75 metres high into the sky and is visible from all over the place, and we’re all sorts of thankful for that. Clamber your way up the 240 steps and have your breath taken away in more ways than one.
Get a train to anywhere
Obviously you should have a destination in mind, but a trip to São Bento railway station is another must in Porto. We’re going to go ahead and call it the most beautiful train station in Europe, and we defy anyone to tell us we’re wrong. The walls of São Bento are covered in stunning azulejos, telling a mass of stories that are as engaging to read as they are beautiful to gawp at.
A spot of church-hopping
Porto has plenty of gorgeous churches, many of which are covered in the aforementioned blue azulejos. You’re never far from a beautiful house of worship in this city, and jumping from one to the next is a great way to explore the town. Be sure to check out the city’s cathedral, along with the stunning Chapel of Souls, the churches of Carmo & Carmelitos, the Church of São Francisco and all the rest.
Roll down the river
Porto can’t exist without the Douro river, and the waterway remains as beautiful today as it has been practical for millennia. Taking a river tour is a great way to get to know the river, getting yourself some stunning views of the city banks as you do.
Watch the sun go down with port in hand
Port is an integral part of Porto’s culture and you’ll find no shortage of places to drink the stuff in town. Our vote goes to Espaço Porto Cruz, a five-story building that is practically a museum to the stuff, from the fascinating cellars to the rooftop bar. The latter is a great place to watch the sun go down while surrounded by some seriously beautiful people.
Or watch it from the gardens
If drinking port isn’t your thing, consider heading the Crystal Palace gardens for that romantic sunset. The Jardims do Palácio de Cristal are our favourite gardens in the city and it isn’t difficult to see why — a verdant maze of greenery punctuated by engaging museums and views as far as the eye can see. The sunsets are stunning, the sunrises just as good.
Ribeira is Porto’s most exciting neighbourhood. The riverside quarter has seen its fair share of history over the centuries and it remains every bit as vibrant today as it was back in the day, complete with manic bars and cooler-than-cats cafes. This is the Porto of photographic legend, the heart and soul of a city that redefines the term. Come rain or shine, Ribeira is the place to be.
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