How to spend one day in Porto, Portugal
One day itinerary for Porto
Bursting with history, stunning architecture, year-round sunny climes and some of the best hidden culinary gems, it’s easy to see why Porto was crowned Europe’s top destination in 2017.
The best part about this incredible city is that it’s one of the most affordable places I’ve visited for a city break; you can spend one day in Porto for under €60.
1. Wander through Ribeira
The Ribeira neighborhood is Porto’s old town and one of the things that makes city really special and quintessentially European. The cobbled, narrow (very steep!) streets are full of tiny traditional eateries, lively bars and beautiful historic buildings.
Walk from the river right up to to the top of the the stairs, then around the same level as the Luigi bridge, stop and turn around. You have a magical view looking over the rooftops and multi coloured buildings, some covered in incredible tile work and suddenly the city seems peaceful and calm.
2. Get a bike and cycle along the Duoro River
Bike rental is super accessible in Porto and one of the best ways to see the city. There’s a cycle route which takes you all along the Duoro river right out to the beach, with plenty of coffee shops and small bars to grab a quick cerveja preta (small bottle of beer). A stop at these cafes along the river is the best way to chill, people watch and absorb the Porto way of life.
Most shops will give you the option to have a normal bike or go electric. If you’re feeling daring and plan on taking your bike around some of the steeper inner streets, I’d definitely advise on the latter!
3. Grab lunch at Escondidinho do Barredo
If you don’t have much time in Porto, make sure that this spot is on the agenda – you will not regret it! It’s a traditional portuguese restaurant run by three sisters, serving some of the best small plates I’ve ever eaten – a big statement, I know!
Be warned: despite what Google says, this place doesn’t tend to open until around 1.30pm to 2:00pm and if you get there earlier, you’ll probably end up walking around for twenty minutes trying to figure out where it is! The restaurant is quite literally a hole in the wall,so you’d be forgiven for completely missing it when the front door is closed.
I tried to visit this spot on the first day of my trip and bumped into lots of other hangry tourists who were also frantically looking at their phones trying to figure out why their Google Maps was playing up at such a crucial time (okay, maybe just me…).
Once the doors do open the queues can leave you waiting anywhere up to an hour, but be patient and persevere – it’s totally worth it.
The host will suggest around five dishes from the menu and my advice is just to say ‘yes’ to absolutely everything. The menu is extensive, so something for all tastes, but the absolute must-haves are dressed sardines, deep fried bacalhau in batter (a salted cod speciality that’s HUGE in Portugal) and the chopped octopus salad (there aren’t words to describe how incredibly delicious this was).
4. Get some Pasteis de Nata from Fabrica
Everyone thinks Lisbon is the only place to sample Portugal’s famous pastry but Fabrica definitely gives it a run for its money. Much like the famous cafe in Belem, this Nata factory bakes the gooey custard tarts from fresh right in front of you.
The dreamy tarts are dangerously priced at €1 a pop and there are some other great deals which include glass of port, a coffee and a savoury pastry, all for under €5.
5. Sample Port at Kopke
It only took me 27 years to learn that Port came from Porto (send help). As it turns out, the Douro river is adorned with some of the city’s oldest port caves and cellars.
We stopped by the Kopke Wine House for a little tipple in the shop. Sadly, the last wine tour of the day was fully booked when we arrived so I’d advise you give them a ring a few weeks in advance to secure your place.
If you end up having late-night drinks or dinner by the northside of the river, you’ll be able to get a great shot of all the port cave light signs.
6. Walk along the Luis I Bridge
Porto’s harbour is one of the most photogenic and the best place to get your money shot is at the top of the Luis bridge. On one side you’ve got the port wine caves of Vila Nova de Gaia and on the other you can see the hustle and bustle of tourists walking through the Ribeira district.
7. Get dinner at Bacalhau
If you’re a fish-lover like me, I’d highly recommend booking dinner at Bacalhau, a contemporary eatery located right next to the river specialising in – you guessed it – different Bacalhau dishes. The restaurant is pretty small with only a handful of tables inside and outside, so they tend to get booked up pretty quickly. The setting is really romantic and the food is super tasty; we went for the Bisaro pork sausage, the Bacalhau with egg and onion, the roast beef, and for dessert, the fritter with custard and cookie.
If I went back I would definitely try the grilled octopus with sweet potato next time – head to Bacalhau’s instagram to see why.
Transport in Porto
We had less than 48 hours in the city so jumped in Ubers into town each day to make the most of our time. This set us back less than €6 each way for a 10 minute journey. Ubers tended to be slightly cheaper than normal taxis.
How much I spent in a day in Porto
Cycle Ride – from Bluedragon City Tours. €8 for two hours per person
Lunch – €30 for two including a litre of wine
Small beer + bottled water – €2.58 for two (I know)
2 x pastries + port – €3.50
Dinner – €63 for two including wine
Total – €57.49 per person
Where to stay
We were lucky enough to stay in the Porto Palacio Congress Hotel and Spa thanks to our amazing groomsmen who sorted out our trip as a wedding gift (shout out to you, lovely boys).
The cost for two nights in one of the executive suites was around £240 so a little more bouji than we’d normally go for but a great spot (the staff were super helpful and friendly).
My trip highlights
Walking around the windy, cobbled streets away from the hustle and bustle of the river was one of my main highlights because the city has a really warm, friendly vibe but the residential areas are much quieter and more intimate than the city centre. My favourite memories of this trip are stumbling across interactions between friends and families, having conversations from the the top of a building to the street.
The absolute highlight for me though has got to be lunch at Escondidinho da Barrido. It was the cheapest and most delicious meal we had on the entire trip. Read the Google reviews and believe the hype!
When it comes to weather, food and value for money, Porto really does have it all. We saw quite a lot in the very short time we were but there’s so much more we wanted to see if we had more time – every corner you turn reveals a different side to this amazing city.