A long weekend in Porto: Our essential travel guide

Words by
Charlotte McManus

22nd May 2018

Porto is famous for its medieval heart and signature tipple, yet Portugal’s second city is also buzzing with places to eat, drink, shop and party

Once overlooked for its showier sister Lisbon, the vibrant Portuguese metropolis of Porto is fast becoming one of Europe’s hottest city break destinations. With a thriving arts scene, countless eateries and a picture-perfect setting on the hilly banks of the Douro river, there is plenty to appeal to everyone. Lose yourself amongst the winding streets, populated with pretty azulejo tile buildings (and many a bar serving port). 


SLEEP Porto’s scenic riverside is a popular spot for stylish hotels. In a restored 18th-century palace a couple of miles outside the city centre, Pestana Palácio do Freixo (pestana.com/en/hotel/freixo-palace; rooms from €219) has relaxing gardens, two pools, a waterfront promenade and sun-filled terraces. Away from the baroque communal areas are elegantly understated rooms — a Superior or Suite ensures sight of the Douro river. 

For a loftier view, The Yeatman (the-yeatman-hotel.com; rooms from €185) is perched on a hill amongst the famous port wine lodges. This airy, beautifully designed hotel is themed around the grape and includes tastings, seminars and wine dinners, as well as merlot wraps and wine-extract barrel bath immersions at the award-winning Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa. 

For an exclusive feel, Rosa et Al Townhouse (rosaetal.com; suites
from €118) on trendy Rua do Rosário has just seven airy veranda suites. Wooden flooring, soft lighting, minimal furniture, in-room spa treatments and New Age therapies make it easy to find Zen in the city. Food and drink can be ordered to suit. On-site art exhibitions, cooking classes and retreat experiences add something a little different to your stay. 

Rosa townhouse
The airy restaurant at Rosa et Al Townhouse, which also offers cooking classes

EAT & DRINK After enjoying an autumnal stroll along the shore, enjoy a laid back lunch at beachside restaurant Praia da Luz (praiadaluz.pt). Its simple wood-and-steel structure features floor-to-ceiling windows for unparalleled views of the Atlantic, while dishes include fresh oysters, octopus stew and roasted lobster presented with a delicate touch. 

It would be remiss while visiting the city not to try one of Portugal’s signature pastries. Traditional pastelerias (pastry shops) can be found on almost every street, but Padaria Ribeiro (padariaribeiro.com) is one of the best. Pop in for a sticky egg custard pastel de nata

On Rua dos Caldeireiros, All in Porto Wines & Foodies is the buzzy new sister restaurant to nearby All in Porto (facebook.com/allinporto), with colourful local art, hearty Portuguese cuisine and a 200-strong wine offering. Tapas and charcuterie platters are ideal for groups, though its linguine negro com enchidos (black linguine with sausages) and codfish timbale with chickpea mashed potato might prove too good to share. 

All plush chairs and crisp linens, The Yeatman’s Restaurant (the-yeatman-hotel.com/en/food) is the only eatery in the city to carry two Michelin stars. Dress smartly and indulge in one of chef Ricardo Costa’s three inspired tasting menus, which change frequently, but typically showcase exquisitely presented Portuguese fish and regional specialities. 

Yeatman food
One of the tasty dishes showcasing Portuguese fish at The Yeatman's Restaurant

DRINK If travelling in early autumn, head to BASE (baseporto.com), an open-air garden project in the heart of the city. Relax among the olive trees with some vinho verde and admire nearby Clérigos Tower. Or enjoy a sunset view from one of Porto’s numerous rooftop bars. Porto Palacio Hotel’s slick VIP Lounge (shotels.pt/restauranteviploungebar), 19 floors up, offers seating inside and out, along with more than 200 whiskeys. 17° Bar (decimosetimo.pt) specialises in cocktails; its Porto Flip, combining brandy, tawny port, egg yolk and nutmeg, is sure to make an impression. 

Come nightfall, rub shoulders with Porto’s young and hip at Maus Hábitos (maushabitos.com), aka “Bad Habits”, on Rua Passos Manuel. Art exhibits come together with live bands and DJs to create one of Porto’s coolest haunts, accompanied by a well-stocked drinks menu; the house cocktail, made with passion fruit liqueur, vodka and fruity notes, is a must. And soak up the boho-chic vibes with a cocktail at the eclectically designed Plano B (planobporto.com) before heading downstairs to dance till dawn. 

Piano B
The laid back café at the boho-chic Plano B

DO Many boutiques in Porto offer quirky pieces by creative designers. At Lobo Taste, you’ll find fresh takes on traditional pieces such as colourful weaves, jaunty hats and sunglasses made by hand. In the Ribeira district, Portosigns (portosigns.pt) has both “Tradition” and “Innovation” areas; highlights include painted lamps and accessories made from Portugal’s signature cork. Elsewhere, A Vida Portuguesa (avidaportuguesa.com) is a haven for vintage-inspired finds, from clothing and jewellery to textiles. 

At Mercado do Bolhão, one of Porto’s most historic markets, discover food and flower stalls, casual eateries for rustic local dishes and a charming vinho bar tucked away among stalls groaning with ceramic souvenirs. 

Lose an afternoon wandering the aromatic cellars of the city’s port houses on the Douro’s south bank. All the big names are here, from Offley and Cálem to Burmester, but Taylor’s (taylor.pt) at Vila Nova de Gaia is especially worth a visit. With a rich history dating back to 1692, there’s much to learn on an audio-guided tour, which concludes in the beautiful tasting room, surrounded by immaculate gardens with wandering peacocks. 

port house
The attractive courtyard at historic port house Taylor's

British Airways (ba.com) flies to Porto daily from London. Prices start at £35 each way