Portugal is one of our favorite destinations. This beautiful country has fantastic beaches, mountains and valleys, cities and nightlife, culture and cuisine.
On our last trip we decided to spend 4 nights in Porto and the surrounding area, and we had such a great time! Here are some tips for what to do in Portugal’s second largest city, particularly if you’re a wino like we are 🍷😁
1. Stay in Vila Nova de Gaia
We stayed in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is actually across the Douro River from Porto. We found the views of Porto from this side of the river to be more spectacular. Also, Gaia is where the port cellars are located, so it’s a good base for exploring the many offerings of fortified wine. Gaia also has some beautiful parks and beaches and a great pathway along the river.
We found the riverfront restaurants to be more inviting on the Gaia side and less hectic than the ones across the river in Ribeira.
We stayed at a lovely Airbnb with a stunning view of the famous Dom Luis I Bridge.
2. Wander the streets of Porto
Porto is a lovely city for wandering. Check out the beautiful blue and white tiles at São Bento train station, Capela das Almas and the Porto Cathedral. Enjoy a pastel de nata and coffee at a cafe with a park view. Get a spicy, cheesy, delicious hot dog and wash it down with a cold beer at Gazela Cachorrinhos da Batalha. You can also check out the Livraria Lello bookshop, made famous by J.K. Rowling, but we didn’t feel like buying tickets and waiting in line.
3. Taste the Port Wine
You will find many wonderful wine cellars on the Gaia side. We opted to do a tour with Graham’s Port Lodge, which is at the top of a hill and offers amazing views of Porto. The tour is informative, and the tasting afterwards was in a lovely little area.
If you purchase the premium tasting, you get to enjoy the wines in a special room. Save some room for a glass of wine and some appetizers on the terrace, which is located outside of the gift shop.
We accidentally ordered too many tastings so we weren’t able to continue on to enjoy the terrace! The 20 and 40 year tawnies were our favorites (yes, we’re pretty much both of one mind when it comes to taste).
4. Day drink on the Douro River
One port cellar tour was enough for us. On another day, we enjoyed the atmosphere on the patio outside of Sandeman on the river. While you can tour the inside of Sandeman, we opted to get a bottle of vinho verde to sip on the patio while people-watching and listening to street performers.
We also stopped at a nearby restaurant for some delicious olives, cold muscles and other small plates.
5. Walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge
No trip to Porto would be complete without walking across the upper deck of Ponte de Dom Luís I. We took the Gaia cable car to the top and walked over to Porto. The views from the bridge are just as spectacular as the views of the bridge!
6. Explore the Douro Valley
Sometimes you have to get out of the city to truly explore a region. We spent our last 24 hours in the Douro Valley. First, we hopped an Uber to the airport and rented a car. Then we drove the white-knuckled roads to a quinta where we spent the night.
We originally only had a short time in Porto, but when we extended our trip to 4 nights (at the last minute) we added a stay at Quita de la Rosa, a family owned wine house in Pinhão. The property was so lovely and tranquil and the people were so friendly—we wish we had one more night!
The wines at Quinta de la Rosa were delicious (excellent reds and whites in addition to fortified wines) and the restaurant, Cozinha da Clara, rivaled the very best of meals we had in France the week before.
Our room was so comfortable and the views of the Douro River added the perfect backdrop and ambiance to the experience. If we had more time we would’ve done a tour of the property and a tasting. Quinta de la Rosa is definitely a spot we want to revisit.
Pro tip: When driving to Pinhão, we found it easier to go through Peso da Régua and hop on the N222. On the way back we took the N323/N322 and there were some pretty intense curves and turns and drop offs!!!!
We love Portugal. It’s very easy to catch a direct flight to Lisbon from the eastern U.S. and then hop on Ryan Air, TAP Portugal or a train to explore from there. The country is so easy to navigate on your own, and if you want a local guide to show you the best places to eat or the most popular sites, we highly recommend booking through WithLocals, particularly in Lisbon and Porto.
What’s your favorite spot in Porto? Let us know in the comments.