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Porto Travel Guide

by Nomadic Matt

Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, and the Ribeira district is its world heritage zone of winding streets and churches which have maintained that old-world feeling. The waterfront area is also very beautiful, and while Porto
lacks the same “wow!” factor of Lisbon, I think it’s a beautiful riverside city filled with lots of good food and wine. Considering the region is the birthplace of Port, the good wine makes total sense.

Typical Costs

Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost $14-17 USD, and a private room averages $65 USD for a double with private bathroom.

Budget hotel prices – Prices start from $50 USD per night for a double room, although $65-80 USD is more common.

Average cost of food – You can find snacks in bakeries for around $3 USD, light meals and sandwiches for around $8 USD, and fast food for around the same price. If you want sit-down meal with drinks, you’re looking at spending closer to $25 USD or more per a meal. Groceries will cost around $40 USD for a week’s worth of food. Prices tend to be higher than in other cities.

Transportation costs – A metro ticket costs $2.70 USD, while buses cost $2 USD for a single journey ticket.

Money Saving Tips

Eat francescinha – These huge, filling sandwiches are a Porto specialty and are a real bargain as they cost around $8 USD.

Avoid the taxis – Taxis are super expensive in Portugal, often adding fees for luggage and airport pick ups. Simply use the metro or bus system to go where you need to.

Get a metro pass – It’s cheaper to get a day ticket than to buy the metro tickets for a single journey.

Top Things to See and Do

Visit the Stock Exchange Palace – Construction began in 1842 and took three decades to complete. The palace and its cathedral showcase the Neoclassical architectural style. You will find lots of commemorations of Prince Henry the Navigator in Portugal and this site is no exception. You can see a statue of the prince of Portugal during 1300s and 1400s.

Drink Port at Vila Nova de Gaia – Porto is the home of port wine and a visit here would not be complete without visiting the port wine lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia.  You can learn about the history of port and its impact on the city in the Port Wine Museum.

See the exhibitions at Fundação Serralves – This is a contemporary art museum and park. The museum does not have any permanent collections, but rather several exhibitions that change throughout the year. The rest of the exhibitions can be found in the pink Art Deco “Casa de Serralves” on the grounds.

Take a boat trip on the Douro River – Take a boat trip up the Douro river, passing under the city’s bridges from Porto to Regua. Trips last 50-minutes, and are a a relaxing way to see the city.

Make a trip to Povoa de Varzim – The village of Povoa de Varzim is a small fishing town situated 30-km north of Porto. There is a newly-renovated casino in the northern end of the village, along with water slides, nightclubs, and beach side cafes.

Listen to live music at Casa da Música – This state of the art concert hall offers a number of performances which include local music and theater. A complete range of classical and jazz events takes place here. Most tickets cost under 25 euro and some performances are free.

Visit the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis – Another impressive art museum housed in the Neoclassical Palácio das Carrancas. This was Portugal’s first national museum, having been transformed into a museum for fine and decorative arts in 1940. Its best works date from the 19th century. One of the permanent collections is the gallery of works by Portuguese sculptor António Soares dos Reis, after whom the museum is named.

Wander the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal – This is a free garden in the centre of Porto with stunning landscaping and a high-domed pavilion. There is an avenue of lime trees, a pretty river to wander along, and you might even catch a concert or exhibition at one of the buildings.

Shop at Mercado do Bolhão – This quirky market is full to bursting with fresh food, including meat, fish, fruit and vegetables and bread. You can also buy flowers and crafts. Its variety makes for a fun morning, even for children.

Watch a football match – Pay a visit to Dragão Stadium to take in a football match. FC Porto’s fans are some of the most passionate in Europe, and they have huge rivalries with other Portuguese teams. FC Porto has won the World Club Championship and Champions League twice, and has also won the UEFA Cup.

Buy a book – If you’re running out of vacation reading material, there’s no better place to stock up than Porto. This city is home to a renowned, beautiful bookstore: Lello & Irmão. The store features a grand, red-carpeted staircase, stained-glass windows, and a neo-Gothic design.

Get lost in Rebeira – Porto’s old town is full of medieval streets, characteristic boats, charming cafés and neat architecture. Have some lunch and stay awhile.

Step inside São Francisco Church – From the outside, it looks like your run of the mill European church. Once inside, however, this Baroque and Gothic-style church will astonish you with its incredibly lavish decoration. Almost every inch of the place is covered in gold. Don’t miss it!

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