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How to spend the perfect 48 hours in Porto

·5-min read
 (Photo by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash)
(Photo by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash)

For years it has been in Lisbon's shadow, but now, Porto, with its colourful buildings decorated with pretty azulejos and growing scene of hipster bars and restaurants, is a popular city break destination in its own right.

The city has a superb selection of Airbnbs which are very reasonably priced, starting at around £40 a night, while for those with a bigger budget, you'd be hard pushed to find better views of Porto than at the Yeatman.

So, how to make the most of this fantastic city? Here is a guide to having the perfect 48 hours there and, naturally, it involves lots of eating and drinking...

Day one

You've arrived in Porto, caught the train from the airport and the sun is shining – well hopefully, it didn't for us, in fact it poured down for the first 24 hours, but we still loved our stay.

Once you've dropped your bags off, head to one of Porto's no-frills tabernas, where you can dine alongside locals and enjoy authentic Portuguese home-cooking that will set you up for an afternoon of wandering the city's ramshackle hilly streets.

These restaurants are often brightly lit and don't be surprised if there's a TV screen in the corner, but they're a great way to sample local specialities at reasonable prices, such as the "Tripas a moda do Porto," a tripe dish of several meats and beans. We liked Restaurante Irmãos Linos, Taberna de Santo António is also great.

Colourful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles) adorn the façades of Porto's buildings (Photo by Diego Garcíaon Unsplash)Photo by Diego García on Unsplash
Colourful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles) adorn the façades of Porto's buildings (Photo by Diego Garcíaon Unsplash)Photo by Diego García on Unsplash

Once you've refuelled, amble along the winding streets, admiring the colourful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles) that adorn the façades of Porto's buildings and boutique shops. Poke your head around the Livraria Lello, a famous bookshop, and be sure to take a selfie on the ornate wooden staircase.

Livraria LelloPhoto by Val Vesa on Unsplash
Livraria LelloPhoto by Val Vesa on Unsplash

Stop by the Touriga Vinhos de Portugal, a wine shop which specialises in local wines from small producers. Charming Davide will happily talk you through your Douros and also offers tastings – if you really take a shine to the local velvety red, you can have some shipped home from this shop. Stock up on a few bottles for your Airbnb, they'll come in handy later.

Make your way down to the picture-perfect waterfront, Cais da Ribeira, which is lined with restaurants and tascas. It feels a little more touristy down here, but it nonetheless makes for a great pit stop. People watch and eye up the Dom Luis I bridge over a vinho verde.

Cais da Ribeira waterfrontPhoto by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash
Cais da Ribeira waterfrontPhoto by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash

Once you've had your fill of wandering, head back and freshen up. It's time to get your gladrags on and head out for some petiscos (the Portuguese equivalent to tapas) at Cantina 32, but be sure to call in advance. Set on the pedestrianised Rua das Flores, this restaurant draws the cool crew with its Instagrammable industrial-chic interiors.

After a busy first day of indulgence you're probably just about ready for bed, but if you have the stamina, head on for cocktails at either Baixa Bar or The Gin House to sample Downtown Porto's growing nightlife for yourself.

Day two

São Bento railway stationPhoto by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash
São Bento railway stationPhoto by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

Begin the day by marvelling at the magnificent azulejos mounted on the walls at the São Bento railway station, there are around 20,000 of them. Then head on for a belly-busting francesinha, at Café Santiago, which is thought to serve the best in town.

The francesinha is said to have hangover-curing powers, so if you got tucked into the port last night, this should sort you out. It consists of hunks of bread, cured ham, Portuguese sausage and steak drenched in melted cheese and a special sauce, topped with a fried egg – don’t bother wondering about the calories.

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Now it's time to walk it off and check out the port cellars on the other side of the Douro in Gaia. Take your time crossing the famous double-decker Dom Luis I bridge.

The famous double-decker Dom Luis I bridgePhoto by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash
The famous double-decker Dom Luis I bridgePhoto by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

Don't forget to stop to take photos of the picturesque terracotta rooftops and colourful fronts of Porto at the other side.

Photo by Everaldo Coelho on Unsplash
Photo by Everaldo Coelho on Unsplash

Taylor's is probably the most famous of the port lodges, meanwhile Caves Ferreira is the only large port house to have remained in Portuguese hands.

Once you've toured the caves, tuck into a tasting. Make the most of the terrace at Taylor's from where you can enjoy more incredible views of Porto.

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If you fancy it, work up an appetite by continuing along the riverside until you get to the charming fishing village of São Pedro da Afruda, about a 45-minute walk (you can catch a boat back to Porto). Grab a pastel de nata at one of the padarias or opt for sumptuous fresh sardines and breams barbecued on an outdoor grill at Taberna São Pedro.

Another excellent spot for outdoor grilled seafood is on Rua Heróis de França in Matosinhos on the opposite side of the Douro.

You'll probably need to head back to chill out for a bit at this stage before you start your evening with sundowners in the form of the best porto tonicos, or P&Ts, at Aduela Taberna Bar. If you're still full up from your fish lunch, this place is perfect for some light bites.

But if you're a meatlover and fancy ending your trip on a high, head to the steakhouse at Reitoria for some of the finest cuts of steak in the city - you won't be disappointed.

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Click through the gallery at the top for more must-see sites in Porto.