colourful buildings in city and tram on the move
How to spend a weekend in Porto

How To Spend a Weekend in Porto

Porto is a delightful, small city filled with stunning architecture, a thriving foodie scene, beautiful bridges spanning the great Douro river and plenty of art and culture to keep you occupied for a few days.

Portugal’s second city is easily accessible and well served by budget airlines from all over Europe. In terms of budget, it’s easy on the wallet, and you can have a fun-filled weekend away without breaking the bank. A weekend in Porto is a must-do! 

colourful buildings in city and tram on the move
How to spend a weekend in Porto

I went to Porto with no preconceptions about the city and was pleasantly surprised. Porto is an ancient city with colourful tile-clad buildings, and a long history and provenance of providing the world with its delicious fortified wine, Port, produced in the nearby Douro Valley.

river with large bridge in background and boats moored in the front
The Douro River, Porto
Porto Skyline
Porto Skyline
Vineyards with river running through valley
Douro Valley Vineyards

How To Spend A Weekend in Porto

Take a Day Trip to the Douro Valley

The Douro Valley is about an hour away by car so we had a relatively civilised morning call to assemble at the front of the hotel for our small group tour to the vineyards.

As Porto is a small city you come out into the countryside in no time. The roads out there appear to be new and weave quickly through the hills towards the infamous wine region.

coral coloured building with old boat outside
Museu do Douro, Portugal

Museu do Douro

The first stop was the Museu do Douro, the Douro Museum which celebrates the wine region. It’s a fab new museum that shares the history and culture of this region in a fun and interactive way. It includes a wall of port bottles and a special sniffing area for testing the aromas of different types of port.

I was a big fan of the sniff exhibit.

More information here.

small cobbled street with colourful buildings
Tasca de Quinta

Tasca de Quinta

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch at one of the loveliest restaurants I’ve been to on my travels. Tasca de Quinta is located just around the corner from the museum and is a delightfully quaint spot for food.

Added to the charm of rustic tablecloths is a menu handwritten in a notebook. The place oozes casual chic.

We were treated to a feast of Portuguese dishes, each one full of strong flavours and textures. Just look at the photos below and you’ll see what I mean.

Seafood Dish
Seafood Dish

 

Portuguese bowl of food
Portuguese cuisine
birds eye view of bread and wine
Appetisers
Apple Strudel
Apple Strudel

Pinhao

With bellies full of delicious food and wine we hopped back in the car to be whizzed off to our next destination, Pinhao. This small town on the river has one of the prettiest train stations I’ve ever seen.

portuguese blue and white tiles
Portuguese blue and white tiles

The Portuguese sure like their blue and white tiles! But it was not for the trains for which we were here. We were off on a boat trip along the Douro river.

There has to be something rather indulgent about pottering down a river on a traditional Rabelo boat with boat company Magnifico Douro. The trip is all about sipping port, gazing out over vineyards, and soaking up the afternoon sun. ’twas rather glorious.

boat in the river
Boat tour on the Douro river

Quinta Do Seixo

Our final stop for the day was another short drive away at The Sandeman vineyard called Quinta Do Seixo. The landscape here was incredible. We drove up a steep single-track road to the winery and gazed out over the valley, river and vineyards.

beautiful country house on top of the hill of vineyards
Quinta do Sandeman

It was the end of the day so we were treated to a beautiful sunset as we embarked on a short tour around the winery learning more about the process of making port before sampling three of their own offerings.

Several glasses of port down (the tawny was my favourite if you were wondering) I was ready for the drive back to Porto. Bellies and hearts were feeling super happy marvelling at the sunset over the vineyards on our road trip back to the city.

Glasses of different port lined up for tasting
Sandeman port-tasting
woman holds a glass of port whilst smiling
Port-tasting in the Douro Valley
sunset over Douro river
sunset over Douro river

Foodie Walking Tour

Tour group Porto
Tour group Porto

The folks at AtWill tours are pretty keen on the foodie tour, so I was looking forward to this one. It’s around a 4-hour tour.

The first stop was for Kale and Potato Soup (Caldo Verde) in an unassuming restaurant near the famous blue and white tiled train station (definitely stop in there for a look at one of the prettiest terminals in the world – see above!).

Pale green soup and glass of white wine
Portuguese soup

The owners of the restaurant were super enthusiastic and I’m sure they would have loved to have us stay there all afternoon.

We were served a generous glass of white wine to wash down the soup, not that we need much help, it was delicious.

Porto street art
Porto street art
Porto street art
Porto street art
Porto street art
Porto street art

Feeling satiated we trekked up the steep hill towards our next stop passing loads of stunning street art along the way. Apparently, this is where some of the local urban artists practice their work.

The next food sampling session was in a football-poster-laden petiscos stop. We were served fish cake with rye bread, washed down with green wine.

cobbled street with old buildings
restaurante casa pereira
Fish cake and green wine
Fish cake and green wine

This stuff totally felt like picnic kind of food. The fish cake (Patanisca), is made with salted cod, mild yet filling. The rye bread offered a tangy contrast. And the green wine … well, that was a first for me and I am hooked. I need to get myself more of that for the summer months!

Porto church
Porto church
Portuguese sausage
Portuguese sausage

Just a short walk up the road, past some beautiful old buildings, we came to a large square surrounded by some restaurants. We headed to one small offering which was located in the basement of a building.

There we tried the infamous Jewish-style pork sausage (Alheira) that our hosts had been raving about. Unusually this sausage was served with crisps. Not that I was complaining, we were now washing it down with a jug of rose wine and I was welcoming of the extra salty goodness.

Porto food tour
Cured ham, codfish and chickpea salad, octopus salad.

The next stop was probably my favourite of the bunch. A rather contemporary-looking place with a bar decorated with hanging hams, this place served the most exquisite cured ham, along with a plate of codfish and chickpea salad, and octopus salad. Again, we enjoyed this with a refreshing glass of rose wine.

By this point, the wine was certainly going to my head so I ordered some water. Little did I know that there is a local cultural custom/tradition of ridiculing those who order water instead of booze. In this particular establishment, the server walks to a bell carefully nailed to the wall by the bar and she bashes it with her fist for every order of water that is made. I found this rather delightful and cheered! My companion was mortified! Either way, it was certainly an experience.

Portuguese pastries
Portuguese pastries

Our final foodie stop of the day was for a much-needed coffee and pastries break. It’s not so easy to order anything other than espresso in Porto. I just managed to get some milk to go with mine (I’m generally a flat white kinda girl) but with a stash of sweet baked goods and a table on the street, I was as happy as can be.

Beach, Tram and Shopping

You could fill your weekend just with the activities I’ve mentioned above. But if you do have time and fancy something different I’d recommend getting down to the beach area of Porto for a spot of relaxation.

Old tram coming through avenue of trees
Porto Tram

The tram is a gorgeous retro number that runs between the historic downtown area and the beachfront, as well as a couple of other routes. It’s a fun way to get around and something rather nostalgic about pulling the cord to stop the tram when you get off.

Inside a vintage shop
Porto Vintage Shop

If you are in the mood for retail therapy you will have plenty of opportunities to spend. I loved Armazém, an antique/fashion/art gallery warehouse space with a bar out the front. It’s repurposed port and wine warehouse and looks like a rather hip place to be.

woman stands in front of huge street art mural
Exploring Porto
Porto city architecture
Porto city architecture

I’d also recommend donning your walking shoes and taking a stroll around the downtown, old city. The architecture is gorgeous, and the area is growing with cafes and shops, plus it’s pretty buzzing to just chill out down by the riverfront.

If you’re interested in street art there are some really cool pieces throughout the city. Even though we were on a foodie tour I loved stumbling across some truly creative pieces.

View across Porto river Douro
View across Porto river Douro
line of people outside old bookshop
Livraria Lello Porto

Finally, if you’re a Harry Potter fan you might want to join the queue at this bookshop, the Livraria Lello has a sumptuous interior and is rumoured to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts library.

Porto cathedral
Porto cathedral

Porto Information

Flights to Porto – Flights from all major UK airports to Porto. I flew with Ryanair and Easyjet on my trip.

Stay at – I stayed at Ipanema Park Hotel.

Best time to visit – the weather is good most of the year but I’d recommend shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) to avoid the crowds and still enjoy some warmer weather.

Tours – I went on the bespoke day tours with AtWill who offer a range of intimate tours in the area.

Have a great weekend in Porto!

I visited Porto in April 2017.