A local’s guide to Porto

Why haven’t I written about my lovely hometown Porto before? Well, it’s time! Here’s my travel guide to help you explore Porto.

The pandemic made me understand how important it is to appreciate where we come from. I took for granted coming to Porto from the UK every 1-2 months, and it was a struggle not being able to do it for a year and a half. It was always special to return to my roots, but now it has definitely a different taste. 

Where should I start?
Porto is undoubtedly my favorite city, and it’s easy to see why: vibrant with color, friendly locals, delectable food, and the most stunning sunsets. While the weather is generally pleasant, it’s advisable to check the forecast before your trip, as occasional heavy rainfall is common. I suggest allocating a minimum of three days to discover the city and its attractions, making a weekend getaway an ideal choice.

The city has a bus and metro network that works from the suburbs to the city centre. You can get the metro at the airport and it takes you 30 minutes to get to the Trindade metro station, right on the city centre. More info on timetables and prices here.

Unfortunately, I’m not the best person to offer advice on accommodations since I stay at my family’s house when in the city. Nevertheless, I can recommend the best zones, in my opinion: Campanhã, Bonfim, and Bolhão. There are a lot of nice Airbnb’s and hotels on booking.com.

Another way of travelling around the city is by Uber or Bolt. They offer very cheap prices. There is also Bird scooters.

Start by exploring the heart of the city. Exit the metro at Bolhão station. As you exit, you can see the beautiful Capela das Almas with the typical portuguese azulejos .Wondering what azulejos are? They are glazed blue ceramic tiles scattered throughout Portugal. Influenced by the Moorish, we’ve given them a unique touch with our characteristic blue and white palette. You can then visit Mercado do Bolhão, where you will find amazing typical Portuguese food. There are a few stalls were you can try different wines, including Port, and cheese at Queijaria do Bolhão. An amazing combination!

Take a walk through the traditional food shops along Rua Formosa, like Pérola do Bolhão and Comer e Chorar por Mais. Don’t forget to pause at Manteigaria and indulge in a pastel de nata paired with an espresso. You can thank me later.

Take a stroll along Rua de Santa Catarina, the main shopping street, heading towards Batalha. Once there, consider making a brief detour to Guindalense Futebol Clube for a refreshing beer and a hot dog (cachorrinho) accompanied by fries. Enjoy the scenic views of the Douro River, making it my favorite spot!

Walk to Passeio das Fontainhas for an amazing viewpoint over the river and the bridges. You can then visit the Cathedral and enjoy the beautiful views from the balcony. Get lost in the streets of , such as Rua da Pena Ventosa and Rua de Sant’Ana.

Afterwards, you have the option to walk across D. Luiz Bridge to Gaia and savor the picturesque views. Over there, witness the sunset from Jardim do Morro and Serra do Pilar. On Fridays and Saturdays, they often host sunset sessions, offering a chance to try a Port Tonic—white port wine with tonic water. Feel free to bring your own booze as well.

Be sure to venture into Ribeira, the heart of Porto, particularly the narrow back alleys. They exude a distinct charm and are steeped in rich history.

You can then walk your way back towards Avenida dos Aliados, the main square, where you will find the city hall and the blue Porto sign. Next, make sure to visit São Bento train station, where you can marvel at the stunning display of 20,000 tiles.
Continue your journey along Rua das Flores, Porto’s most elegant street, and proceed to Largo São Domingos, where you can enjoy a coffee or a drink. You are now next to Palácio da Bolsa, also known as the Commercial Palace. It is highly recommended to explore, especially for the breathtaking Arab Room. Ensure you make a reservation a few days in advance, as it tends to sell out.

Igreja de São Francisco, a remarkable Gothic church adorned in gold leaf, stands as one of Portugal’s finest. Following your visit, consider walking, biking, riding a scooter, or taking the 500 double-deck bus to Foz, where the beach awaits. Surprisingly, even during winter, you’ll find people sunbathing (the photo below was taken in late February). This is the best sightseeing option, as you only need 1 Z2 trip added onto your andante card (or you can pay contactless). Lapa Lapa offers a fantastic opportunity to unwind, enjoy a drink, or savor a meal while relishing yet another captivating sunset (I do have a soft spot for sunsets, can you tell?).

Additionally, you have the option to stroll uphill and make a stop at Torre dos Clérigos (I haven’t climbed the tower myself, so I can’t provide advice on that). Take a moment to relax at Jardim das Oliveiras and capture a photo of the charming Casa Oriental. Continue your walk to Praça dos Leões, where you can admire the expansive wall of azulejos at Carmelitas Church. Treat yourself to a croissant or other delectable pastries from Padaria Ribeiro or an eclair from Leitaria da Quinta do Paço. From there, it’s a convenient journey to Jardim da Cordoaria, followed by Passeio das Virtudes and Jardim das Virtudes – one of my favorite spots in Porto. During the weekends, it’s common to find people partying during sunset in the area.

If you are into modern art, the Serralves Museum and Gardens is the place to go. You can also visit Casa da Música, our concert hall, or even listen to a concert. You can get a ticket combo for Serralves and Casa da Música.

Porto is a city full of lovely gardens. Magnolias and camellias bloom in mid-late February, Jacarandas in May, and the city just gets prettier.

If you like wine, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in wine tasting at the Port wine cellars located in Gaia, on the opposite side of the river. While several are owned by the British and the Dutch, I recommend exploring those still owned by locals, such as Porto Ferreira and Poças. Personally, I had a delightful experience at Poças. It’s worth noting that visiting the Port wine cellars used to be free during my university days, but due to the growing tourism, this is no longer the case.

If you are a fan of wine and you have a few days to spare, head up to the Douro Valley region and stay in one of the marvelous wine farmyards. I definitely recommend Quinta do Ventozelo and Quinta de S. Bernardo.

When in Porto, you should try our specialties: francesinha (steak sandwich with cheese on top covered with a decadent sauce), bifana and caldo verde (pork sandwich and collard greens soup), cachorrinho (hot dog with cheese and francesinha sauce), prego no pão (steak sandwich), tripas à moda do Porto (pork trip stew with beans), natas or pastel de nata (custard tart) and the best fresh fish and seafood. Something you should know about my hometown is that the food is amazing! I don’t even know where to start, but will suggest my favourite places.

Where to eat:

  • First, let’s start with breakfast. A typical breakfast in Porto consists of a croissant with cheese and ham and an Ucal (chocolate milk). You can add an expresso coffee to that. You will find the best croissants at Padaria Ribeiro or Chicana.
  • Nova Era, for cheap traditional Portuguese cuisine – make sure to try their Filetes de Pescada with salada russa, which is our type of fish & chips. They also have an amazing steak called posta and other traditional dishes.
  • Gazela and Guindalense Futebol Clube for the best cachorrinhos (Guindalense has my favourite view of Porto!)
  • A Cozinha do Manel for proper traditional food – try their costela mendinha (roasted tender ribs) and cabrito (baby lamb)
  • Casa Guedes for the best pork shank sandwiches
  • O Astro Cervejaria, right next to the main train station, Campanhã, for the best caldo verde and bifanas (bargain)
  • Casa dos Presuntos “Xico” for the best cured ham sandwiches (also a bargain)
  • Curb Burgers for the best burgers – take away only
  • Portucale for amazing high views of Porto, in a vintage setting, with amazing dishes, such as seabass with banana. They do a very affordable lunch menu.
  • Subenshi and Ikeda are my favourite sushi places in Porto. Subenshi usually offers a lunch menu during the week. Ikeda has the best tuna tartar!
  • For vegan and vegetarian options, I recommend Fava Tonka (especially the week lunch menu), Seiva, Terrárea, and O Porto dos Gatos, which is also a cat café.
  • If you are into fine dining, I can’t recommend Euskalduna Studio enough, by Chef Vasco Coelho Santos. It was one of the best fine dining experiences I had so far. If you want to still try what Chef Vasco has to offer but this is out of your budget, try Semea by Euskalduna. Make yourself a favour and try one of their rices and for desert the rabanada (french toast) with queijo da serra (goat’s cheese) ice cream. It never disappoints!

I guess you can now tell that I also love food…

Indeed, Porto offers an abundance of experiences and dining options. These recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg, but they certainly capture the essence of the city. I hope you find Porto as enchanting as I do. After all, Porto is home to me.

Be sure to plan your trip to Porto and enjoy all the unique delights the city has to offer!


Mafalda Sousa


4 responses to “A local’s guide to Porto”

  1. Bárbara avatar

    Tenho muito que ver ainda! Principalmente… comer 🙈

    1. magrifas avatar

      Vai com tudo! Eheheh 🔥

  2. Patricia salvador avatar
    Patricia salvador

    Thanks for the tips!!

    1. magrifas avatar

      You are very welcome! ❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *