In this blog post, I’ll share my Porto insider tips with you. Last week we spent a girls weekend in Porto. And it turned out to be the perfect destination for such a trip. Because it is a pretty and quite a compact town, because the atmosphere is relaxed, because there are many cafés and pretty spots to chill outside in the sun, because you can do affordable wine tasting everywhere and …. And last but not least because of my favourite girls <3
Porto insider tips: Visit Vila Nova de Gaia (the other side of the Douro river)
Vila Nova de Gaia is the place on the other side of the Douro river when crossing the Ponte Dom Luis I bridge. It feels like it belongs to Porto, but it is actually another town. I liked this side of the river more than the Porto side. Porto side is very busy, crowded due to limited space at the banks of the river and the restaurants are very expensive. The Gaia side is a bit more spacious with many places to eat and terraces outside. There are also quite some benches and stairs along the river from where you can enjoy the view at Porto and chill in the sun.
In addition at this side of the river are all the port wine cellars – all of them offer wine tasting for similar prices (see next paragraphs for our favorite wine cellar Graham’s).
And don’t miss to go to the rooftop bar, 360° Terrace Lounge on a sunny day.
Porto insider tips: Sip a gin cocktail at 360° Terrace Lounge
This rooftop terrace is not very high (5th floor) but it still offers a great view at the Porto side, the bridge and the Douro river. On a sunny day, it might become very crowded up there, but it is a very cool atmosphere and perfect for a pre-dinner drink or for watching the sunset.
When we were there, there was even a famous Portuguese football player there having drinks with his friends (even if we, four „we-don’t-care-about-football“ girls, didn’t know or recognized him). So I guess it might deserve a place in the Porto insider tips list 😉
360° Rooftop terrace
Largo Miguel Bombarda, N.º23
4400 – 222 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Porto insider tips: Go to viewpoint Miradouro da Vitoria
This is an inconsiderable but beautiful viewpoint in the middle of Porto. It is located in a little side street and gives you a great view at Vila Nova de Gaia.
R. de São Bento da Vitória 11
4050-018 Porto, Portugal
Porto insider tips: Take part in a port wine tasting (at Graham’s)
When arriving in Porto you will see that it is all about Port wine. In Gaia, the other side of the river, all the wine cellars are located. This is where various kinds and various price ranges of port wine are stored and matures – it is not produced here in Porto. The grapes for the wine grow in the Douro valley, in the west of Porto and the wine is produced there.
But it is stored and matures in Porto due to the climate. The big wooden barrels keep their shape better in the humid cellars of the coast and this ensures that the barrels are not leaking. Whereas in the more dry climate of the Douro valley the wood of the barrels would dry out and the wine would run out after few months of storage.
If you want to do wine tasting you should definitely pick Graham’s wine cellar! Why? Because here you will taste 3 port wines, whereas in all other cellars you’ll be served only two. That was at least our main argument 😉
But Graham’s wine cellar turned out to be the perfect pick not only for that. It is not located at the banks of the river like all the other wine cellars, but a bit more up the hill which is overlooking Gaia and Porto. The walk from the bridge takes around 15 minutes but is very nice and you will have a great view from the top.
The wine cellar tour starts with a little movie showing how the wine is actually produced in the Douro valley (this made us want to go to the Douro valley for 1 or 2 nights so badly, it must be so romantic staying there in an isolated accommodation within the wine yards – read more about it in the next paragraph).
After the movie, there is a short guided tour through the wine cellars and some very interesting information about the production and storage of port wine (I promise it is not a super boring guided tour; it is short, efficient and full of interesting facts).
The tour finished with the actual wine tasting. It takes place in a very classy big room. The staff makes sure that you sit with your friends at one table which makes the wine tasting feel very familiar. Graham’s serves three Port wines to taste – most of the other wine cellars serve only two. You can take your time for the tasting and as it might happen with four girls drinking wine, we turned out to be the ones staying the longest and laughing the loudest – such a fun afternoon.
If you didn’t get enough port wine yet you can order some more at Graham’s beautiful terrace and enjoy the amazing view. The atmosphere there seems very private and it was not busy at all – big recommendation.
Rua do Agro 141
4400-281 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Porto insider tips: Spend one night in Douro Valley
This is not part of the Porto insider tips, but I really really want to give you this hint, as we missed out 🙁 During the wine tasting this lovely idea came to our minds when we saw where the port wine which is stored in the cellars of Porto is actually produced: the fertile Douro valley more west in the heartland of Portugal.
We are sure that staying one or two nights must be beautiful. Hiking through the wine yards during the day, tasting some more wine in the evenings and sleeping in a romantic apartment within the lush green wine yards must be magical. We didn’t plan that on our trip though. But our guide ad Graham’s wine cellar told us to stay in Pinhao or even further towards the heartland in the Douro valley.
Alright, back to the Porto insider tips.
Porto insider tips: Rent a bike and cycle to the sea
On the map, it looks like Porto is located at the sea which is not exactly the case. Porto centre is located at the Douro river which runs into the sea. The closest beach to Porto city centre is 3 kilometres away. There are a bus and a tram going there. But way better on a sunny day is renting a bicycle and cycle along the river till the sea and even further.
We rented electronic bikes at Porto, rent a bike and went on the south banks (Gaia side) of the river all the way to the coast, around 3 kilometres, and then further south to the Chapel of Senior da Pedra.
There is a perfect bikeway along the whole way and the scenery is very different. First, when arriving at the cost the sea is rough with many rocks and no sandy beach, after one or two kilometres the beaches start and the coast is formed by sand dunes – it feels a bit like at the Baltic sea there.
Unfortunately, it was a quite cold and windy day and we didn’t have the chance to swim or lie at the beach. There are a couple of beach clubs or beach bars along the way and very inviting for a stop.
This tour takes around 35 kilometres, which might be a bit exhausting for the one or other by normal bike, but by e-bike it was not a problem at all. We didn’t even have sore muscles the next day.
Chapel of Senior da Pedra
Alameda do Sr. da Pedra
4405-712 Gulpilhares, Portugal
Porto insider tips: Go to Madalena beach
We found this beach on our bike tour, and it was gorgeous because it is very spacious and overall because we found a very cool beach club there: Daikiri beach. They have a big sun terrace with lounge sofas as well as normal tables, serve delicious, surfer-inspired cuisine and mix good drinks. We chose this spot for a break of 2 hours before we cycled back to Porto.
It was even beautiful on a windy, cold day. So I’m sure it must be very relaxed there on a hot summer day.
Daikiri Lounge Bar
R. do Mar
4405-760 Madalena, Portugal
Porto insider tips: Visit the fishing village Afurada
Just 3 kilometres away from Porto – on the Gaia side of the river – is the little fishing village Sao Pedro de Afurada. We just had a little stop there on our bike tour to the coast but it looked very cute and worth a longer stop. Many people told us that this is the place to go and eat fish. It is for sure worth it to go for strolling around, enjoying a light sea breeze and the little harbour. You can even reach it by foot from Porto.
Wander around the city and discover alleys, tiles, and much more by foot
When you have been in Porto you will understand why all the people post selfies in front of facades of (mostly blue) tiles. Because they are everywhere in Porto and they are very beautiful and give a certain charm to Porto. This definitely doesn’t belong to real Porto insider tips, but for me it is so important to wander around a new place (instead of hard-core sightseeing) in order to feel the atmosphere and vibes of the place.
Don’t miss to just stroll through the streets, discover the shabby chick tiles facades, stylish cafés or check out Portuguese boutiques. Porto is absolutely a walking city. Most of the places can be reached by foot and due to the little streets and the narrow alleys in the Unesco protected historical quarter a car is not recommendable. Nor a bike – unless it is an electronic one – due to the hills.
Porto insider tips: Choose an air B’nB rather than a hotel
Last but not least we discovered that renting an Air B’nB with 4 people is way cheaper and way more comfortable than a hotel. Hotels seemed to be quite expensive and with Air BnB, we found many places – even with rooftop terraces (which was booked unfortunately during our stay) – which are way bigger, and more modern than hotels. We chose a 2 story apartment, recently renovated, with terrace, balcony and garden, with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a spacious living and cooking area. It turned out to be the perfect place to hang out and cook together after a long day out in Porto.
To sum up: Porto is a compact, very charming, shabby-chic town and perfects to wander around and half a relaxed weekend with your beloved ones. I hope you like my Porto insider tips? If you have more, drop me a comment and let me know about your personal Porto insider tips!
In love with Portugal? Then check out my article about the best sunset and sunrise spots at Algarve by clicking here.
Never stop exploring!
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