My hubs and I just got back from a magical week in Porto, Portugal. I highly recommend visiting, but thought it helpful to share a few of my top tips for traveling to Porto as what makes it so special, also can provide some challenges. So, let’s get to it!
Tip #1 – Plan, plan, plan!
I am, obviously, an advocate for planning before any travels. I just think it makes for a better, more intentional, experience. This does not mean to plan out every second and be super rigid once you’re there, however, it does mean less stress! Having an idea of what you want to do and where you want to eat, and so on means you can make the most of your precious time in a new city. Porto is a perfect example of this because space is TINY there.
I am used to making dinner reservations, but many places required a lunch reservation as well. Being that it is such a compact city and historically quite old – spaces literally only have room for a handful of tables! This also completely adds to the charm so if you can be on top of your reservations it will mean you get to do and experience everything you want.
I am a foodie so eating well when I travel is a must and completely elevates my experience. I LOVED the food in Porto, but I also put a lot of thought and planning into it. It definitely pays off!
A few of our favorite restaurants, Farinha, Viva Creative Kitchen and Epoca, did not take reservations. So, those we could wing, but we did show up when they opened to ensure that we would get a table. This made a HUGE difference! Many people were later turned away.
And, of course Guide Architect Luzia has curated a fantastic Wild Bum Guide to help with additional planning.
Tip #2 – Pack layers (and tennis shoes!)
We visited in April – so that is, of course, an unpredictable season. Yet the locals did say that no matter what month, the weather can be quite sporadic. A few days were lovely and warm. The sun was surprisingly strong (bring sunscreen!), while other days were rainy and quite chilly. So, as challenging as it can be to pack for this type of climate, we were happy that we had layers.
Rain jacket, leather coat, sport coat and scarves helped quite a bit. Cardigan sweaters layered over a tee, so I could take it off when the sun shined through.
I also purchased a cute backpack so that I could throw my layers in throughout the day.
The last tip I will give regarding packing – tennis shoes!! I did bring a pair of comfortable pumps that I wore out a few nights. But, truly – I could have packed one pair of Vejas and called it good. The streets are cobblestone and people where tennis shoes all day long. We walked SO MUCH so just be sure that they are truly comfortable or already broken in.
Tip #3 – Get out of the city
Expect the town of Porto to be very busy. Even in April the crowds were heavy. So, we really enjoyed getting out of the city a few of our days there. Booking a tour with Lab Portugal was such a highlight. Francisco, the owner, is fantastic. And, the Douro Valley is out of this world gorgeous. He also offers other tours if wine isn’t your thing. But, seeing this region of the country is pretty unique and special. There are other historic towns to visit, even if you just went to one winery.
In town – but, the opposite direction of the very touristy areas you will find the stunning and serene Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. In my opinion, this is a must visit. So so beautiful and peaceful. There are stunning views of the city!
And, lastly – we took an Uber to the coast and had the best day lounging on the beach. We got dropped off at The Capela do Senhor da Pedra and walked the beach boardwalk for a good 30-40 minutes. It felt like a very local experience. The boardwalk is gorgeous. We ate lunch at Restaurante Zizi – right on the water. Going back to tip #1 – MAKE A RESERVATION! Even here, the spaces are very tiny. It was delicious and such a fun experience.
Tip #4 – Be open to trying new foods
Eating at some of the most inventive and unique restaurants in the city – we had to be a little adventurous and darn, did it pay off. I am still dreaming of our meals! The gastronomic experience at The Yeatman was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Even at Chama, you do not order off a menu! They bring everything out as a surprise. It is so fun. The great news at both is that you can let them know of any food restrictions and they will absolutely accommodate. Everything is that fresh and thoughtful that they are willing to pivot.
Trying the local pastry, Pastel de Nata, was so yummy. Go to Manteigaria!
At Restaurante Zizi, it was recommended to try the local Seafood Rice. You can find this throughout Porto. As well as the Codfish Cakes.
Porto is a magical place. And, while quite full of tourists, you can find unique and hidden gems, as well as more local experiences, with the right amount of preparation, thought and planning. I also really enjoyed the fact that we had six full days there so we did not feel rushed and we could explore beyond the more touristy spots.
Uber is super accessible there. While we walked everywhere, there are a few places, like the coast, that do require transportation. Just make sure you have an international phone plan so you can get on the Uber app!
If you’re considering a visit to Porto – please reach out anytime. There’s nothing I love chatting about more.
Happy + safe #wildbumming!