We’ve consistently read that Porto is one of Europe’s most underrated cities, and it’s easy to see why people have such an affinity towards this ancient and gorgeous city. The entire city is variations of hills, so be sure not to rush and mind the cobblestone when it’s wet out. Advice I certainly wish I had taken as I slipped and fell five or six feet forward while holding a hot coffee at seven in the morning. I was rushing to get on a boat cruise and was worried I might have had to repurchase another ticket for later that day. Some kind men on bikes stopped to help me and I managed to get a cab back to our Airbnb. We also learned how affordable cabs are in Porto! The rest of the week I ended up using a cane as my left foot was sprained. Lesson learned, don’t rush! Especially In a city that has such a laid back approach as Porto.
Livraria Lello is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and frequently rated as one of the best bookstores in the world. It has ancient charm, splendid mouldings, stained glass and one of the most intricate and unique staircases in the world. Rumour has it that J.K Rowling was inspired by its beauty as it helped her come up with the idea for the staircases in Harry Potter. Rowling lived in Porto for 10 years while working as an English teacher. There is a 5 euro entrance fee, which they will deduct from any purchases you make.
Another highlight for us was walking along the Duroro river at night and sipping Moroccan Mint Tea at Sahara. The lounge is built into the sea wall and is equally beautiful inside and outside. Many people opted for the outside lounge chairs to sip their drinks and smoke shisha.
The wineries across the river provided a perfect backdrop to our evening. A popular activity is to sample the wine and explore the caves during the day. There is plenty to choose from, but our favourite was Sandeman!
Eating on a budget: Food is very affordable at most grocery stores. Our favourite was Mini Preco, which had litres of wine from .90 € each! We could have easily bought an entire week of groceries for around €30-40 for two people. The restaurants are seafood heavy, but we did manage to find some vegetarian options. Compared to many European cities we’ve visited, we felt like our money in Porto lasted a longer than we expected.
Getting an Airbnb isn’t necessary, but they are roughly half the cost of a hotel per night and often include a ton of perks – like ours that had a private rooftop balcony.
Be sure to check out the Sao Bento train station even if you don’t plan on taking a train! There’s beautiful tiles throughout. If you’re looking to split up your trip and time in Portugal, Sao Bento has several trains to other cities. It’s roughly 3 hours to Lisbon and will cost you around €30-40 per person (one way). The best part of the train is that it has free WiFi!