Porto in two days
From tradition to modernity, from declining neighbourhoods to vibrant shores, from wineries to shops, it’s the perfect city to get to know in two days, while still wanting to come back.
There are many aspect to Porto. There is the Porto of tradition, where time has stood still, with walls peeled away by the ravages of time, of tiled temples, of the smell of wine filtering through winery walls. But there is also modern Porto, a place of modern architecture that’s filled with the voices of young people shaking up the nights like flashes of lightning. And there is also the Porto of neighbourhoods and daily lives, and there’s a Porto for shopping. It’s just a city, but it’s much more than a city. It’s perfect to explore in two days and can be visited from just 4,500 Avios each way. And you’ll want to return. Just as there is a real Porto that you can walk around, eat in and smell, there is a Porto filled with legends – where fado was born on its docks as songs bidding farewell to the fishermen who were leaving, filled with a wistful melancholy that nowadays leaves a patina on almost every corner of the city.
1 The Porto of churches
Without a doubt, the Baroque Clerigos Church and Clerigos Tower deserve a visit. Especially because, after having climbed its 75m – that’s 225 stairs – you can enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the city. What’s more, from here it takes but a few minutes to reach São Bento Station, which dates back to the early 20th century and is famous for its tiled walls.
The city’s cathedral, known as Sé, dates from the 12th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Porto. Located in the Batalha district, it’s also the largest religious building. In the cathedral’s square just opposite, there is a column – now decorative – that is a reminder of the city’s long past and a time when it was used for hanging criminals. There are two other churches worthy of a visitor’s attention. The Igreja de Santo Ildefonso – whose façade is also decorated with tiles – sits in Batalha Square, from where parts of the wall that surrounded the city can still be seen. The other is Igreja de São Francisco, which is beautiful both inside and out due to its gilded carvings.
2 From neighbourhood to neighbourhood
Visiting Porto is – above all – about strolling and getting to know its neighbourhoods. Visit Bairro do Barredo, with its alleyways and stairways that go up and down the city’s hills, to experience its real heart. Decaying façades, balconies with clothing hung like flags flying from masts, the mixture of the smells of the streets and the ones coming from the houses... this is the essence of the city. While strolling, be sure to visit the Torre do Barredo and its stairs – the Escadas do Barredo, which lead from the high part of the neighbourhood to the river. Once you’ve reached the bottom, you’ll be at Ribeira, the bank of the River Douro, from where you can see some of the six bridges that cross the city. The most famous is the iconic Luiz I Bridge, the work of Théophile Seyrig, a business partner of Gustave Eiffel. Ribeira is part of the World Heritage Site area of Porto, along with its Historic Centre, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar. It is the best place for an evening stroll. If you cross the bridge, you can continue your stroll in Vila Nova de Gaia along its Cais de Gaia dock, one of the liveliest areas, or visit Porto’s traditional wine cellars, all located on this side of the river. The wine barrels are loaded here for export.
3 The new Porto
There are three places that must be explored in modern Porto. The first is the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. Located on the city’s outskirts near the Foz area, it brings together contemporary art and architecture and is the most notable example of the Art Deco style. In the park where it is located, visitors can enjoy a 250-meter-long Treetop Walk designed by architect Carlos Castanheira. The second is Casa da Música, designed by the prestigious Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. In its 15 years of existence, it has become another of the city’s icons. The third is WOW (World Of Wine), a unique cultural and leisure complex that pays tribute to wine in Vilanova de Gaia, on the other side of the Douro.
4 Porto of shopping
Just as the city itself is not just a single city, there is no single Porto of shopping. Outside the Mercado do Bolhão – dating from the early 19th century and currently closed for refurbishment– are A Pérola do Bolhão, a food shop with an Art Nouveau exterior and Confeitaria do Bolhão, the perfect place for those with a sweet tooth. The most famous shopping street is Rua de Santa Catarina. Its kilometre-and-a-half length is home to traditional shops and international chain stores. There are also options such as the charming Majestic café. Lastly, take in two famous city sights: Lello & Irmão, one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops; and Armazém in the Miragaia area, which sells antiques and vintage items, much like the old-style cabinets of curiosities.