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What to See
Church Of Lapa
King Pedro IV of Portugal is one of the many romantic Portuguese leaders who loved the phrase, “my heart is in Porto.” But this guy took it one step further. One of his final, dying wishes was that his heart be removed from his body and shipped back to Porto. It remains here to date in the Church of Lapa, preserved in a jar, and open for viewing.
Clerigos Church Tower
The Clerigos Church Tower is the beautiful baroque bell tower that is one of the icons of Porto. For 2 Euro you can enter the tower and climb the 225 steps to the top. The view is amazing! A must do for Porto.
Jardim Do Morro
Pack a lunch, walk across the top of Ponte Dom Luis I and sit on the lawn at Jardim do Morro. It was almost empty around lunch time while the riverfront down below was packed. You get a birds eye view of the city and can watch the boats go by while sitting comfortably on the lawn. Worth it if you want to relax and enjoy the view away from the crowds.
Lello Tread Book Store
The Lello Tread book store in Porto is like something you see in a dream. I was told this bookstore served as inspiration for the Harry Potter series of books. I haven’t seen Harry Potter, but wow, this is an awe-inspiring book store. They don’t let you take photos (unless you're sneaky), and it is always crowded. I’d love to be able to go to it when it was empty and have it all to myself; truly breathtaking. Go there and see it and maybe buy a book.
What to Do
Fundacao De Serralves
Check out these amazing gardens and the contemporary art museum on Sunday morning when it's free between 10 am and 1:30pm. A little far from the city center but there are buses that make it easily accessible. The rose garden is incredible and so tranquil. There are cows and donkeys free ranging, a lake, incredible fountains and lots of small alcoves to sit in the shade. You can easily make it a day by stopping here before heading further down Av. da Boavista to the beach.
Port Wine Tasting
For 10 Euro you can get a full tour of port wine. This is a must. I mean, you are in Porto. You’ll get to taste the different types, be schooled on what to look for in identifying quality of port wine, and you’ll learn how to pair port with different types of food. Bottles are reasonably priced for you to take away. Porto Com Arte is one of the more affordable port wine tasting rooms I’ve found. It’s located just up the street from the Sao Bento train station. Head uphill on Praca da Liberdade, take a left on Largo Loios, and Porto Com Arte will be on your left. The tasting room is upstairs.
What to Eat
There are only two beers in Portugal that matter, Super Bock and Sagres. Super Bock is brewed in (or around) Porto and is the ONLY beer that respectable people from Porto drink. Sagres is the beer of Lisbon. Do not order Sagres in Porto!
Where to Party
On Friday and Saturday evenings, before the pub crawls, bars, and discos get going, you can find a ton of locals and students getting their pre-drink on in the square outside the old university building. Join them with a oversized bottle of Super Bock as you prepare for your night out. Or, if you want an even more authentic experience, you can ‘baptize’ yourself in the fountain as all incoming freshman are forced to do, along with other hazing activities. The fountain is rumored contain more than just water. This square goes by many names, including Student Square, Praca de Gomez Texeira, Piolo Square, and Flea Square. It is located at Rua Carmo and Rua Dr. Ferreira da Silva.
Festivals & Events
Saint John Festival
If you are anywhere near the vicinity of Portugal around the month of June, you need to get your butt to Porto for the St. John Festival on June 23rd. It is an all day event where every street in the city turns into a giant party with an overabundance of wine and Super Bock beer, coupled with meats and sardines being barbequed in the street. Flaming balloons are shot into the sky along with fireworks. In some parts of the city, you’ll find people bopping each other on the head with squeaky-toy hammers. Head to the main Praca da Liberdade on Avenida Dos Aliados for more young people partying, or down to the riverside for more traditional festivities.
Where to Shop
Arts & Handicrafts
On Saturday afternoons you can find the Portobello Fair in the Praca de Carlos Alberto (Rua de Cedofeita & Rua das Oliveriras). Here you’ll find handicrafts that are more unique than most of the shops around town. It’s a small market with maybe 15 vendors at most. Music is often being played here at night and there’s some great cafe’s where you can grab a coffee and a conversation.
What to Avoid
For whatever reason, the entire city of Porto feels like they have to continually remind you how much better their city is than Lisbon. I get it, I’m from Houston and we hate Dallas just the same. But the intensity for which they try and prop themselves up over their big brother capital city does wear on you. If you want to get on a Porto’s good side, put down Lisbon.