Bringing up Portugal in conversation to people that have been has almost always garnered a reaction of, "You have to go to Porto. You will love it."
Love it I did.
In reminiscing about my time in Porto, the thing that struck me the most is how friendly the people are. They really aren't subtle in their friendliness and it made me feel welcomed to their city.
While the people of Porto are very humble in their ability to speak English, not one single person I had a conversation with couldn't speak *at the very least* very conversational English. I still want to encourage anyone to try their best to take some Portuguese words and phrases home with them.
Where To Stay
This is where I stayed and it is the name of the metro stop. It's within easy walking distance of both the train station and bus station which are centrally located in the city. From the airport it would be a trip south into the city via the metro. Liberdade is slightly north of the central city. This particular area of the city is noticeably safe with easy access to the metro system and bus lines.
Translated into English this means, "Allies" and it's named in recognition of Portugal's alliance with the Allied Forces forces during World War I. This part of the city is the very central part of the city. It is one stop south of Liberdade. While in close proximity to Liberdade, staying in Liberdade might drop the price of your stay considerably. This is the touristy area of the city and you'll likely to be walking through this part of the city on multiple occasions. Here you'll find lots of hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops and important buildings to the city like the city government building.
This is the most centrally located district in Porto. This area encompasses the famous São Bento train station, shops, restaurants, and a beautiful church.
This is the main shopping area of Porto. You'll find everything you might possibly need within walking distance. There are several bus lines that go through this area as well as a combination of metro train lines.
This place is across from the famous porto wine winery called Taylor's Wine. If I'm not mistaken they are owned by the same company (I could be wrong but it appeared that way). This is a 5 star hotel in the Gaia region of Porto which is across the river from Porto but accessible by metro. It looks incredible from the hillside views of it I could get. It is here where the bougie of the bougiest stay, I must imagine. Walking to and from The Yeatman will require traversing a steep hillside.
Need To Know's
The Porto Card is the key to making your trip to Porto as uncomplicated as it could possibly get. With the Porto Card you get full and unlimited access to the metro train system and the bus system. It will even get you access to the Portuguese rail system that can take you as far as an hour outside the city of Porto. It does not get you access to trains to Lisbon.
Even beyond the public transportation, the Porto Card gets you discounts between 10 and 50 percent at select museums, wineries, restaurants, ice cream shops and so much more. It also comes with a handy map of the city that will show you the main tourist points and all the discounts you can get.
The Porto Card can be purchased at any tourist information booth throughout the city. When purchasing the card you have the choice between one to four days of use. You can also choose with transportation or without transportation. One day without transportation is €6 and four days with transportation is €33. You'll find that even the four day with transportation is well worth the price.
As mentioned above, the English ability in Porto is some of the best I have experienced around the world. That said, the Portuguese language has a lot of written similarities to Spanish. So if you have proficiency in Spanish, that will definitely be helpful in reading signs (most signs are also in English). The spoke aspect of Portuguese was impossible to figure out. The written aspect has similarities with Spanish but the spoken aspect is completely different.
More or less getting on the metro trains and the buses in Porto is a free for all. Some cultures show more restraints by lining up and queuing to get on buses and trains. In Porto, that is not the case. Don't feel bad having to butt in-front of people as they won't think twice about doing it to you if you're acting polite and queuing.
For how friendly the people of Porto are, this really took me by surprise and confused me. It's not like the public transportation is particularly crowded and this has to be done to get anywhere. Seoul, Madrid and Tokyo have much more crowded public transportation systems.
The São Bento train station has a bathroom that costs 50 cents to use. If you're in the area exploring and need to use the bathroom, keep this in mind for emergency situations. Make sure to keep coins at the ready!
São Bento Train Station
This is an absolute must when in Porto. The train station itself is truly a work of art. The blue tile murals on the wall of the train station depict famous events in Portugal's history. You'll notice that many people stop in this station to admire the beauty of such a place.
Sunset at Jardim do Moro
This park is located across the river from the central part of Porto. It's easily accessible by the metro line that goes across the famous Luis I Bridge. The views of the sunset down the river are really a sight to see. On a clear night, it is quite stunning.
Luis I Bridge
Walking across Porto's most iconic bridge at least once is a must. Made of steel and centrally located, it's hard to miss. The top level has crossings for the metro train line and has space for people to walk across. The lower part is for buses and cars. It also has space for people to walk across but the top part has the most Instagram worthy views.
This is the bookstore that inspired J.K. Rowling to write Harry Potter. It is most famous for it's iconic red painted staircase. To get access to this famous landmark, you need to book tickets on their website in advance. The entrance fee is just €5. If you purchase a book they return your entrance fee. Lello has books in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
St. Francis Church & The Skinny House
St. Francis is the most beautiful church in Porto. It is separated from another church of a different Catholic denomination by the skinniest house in Porto. It is also one of the skinniest houses in all the world. The house was used to house people working for or on St. Francis Church. Sometimes people who performed at the church also occupied the house while they were in town for their performance(s).
Porto Wine Tour & Tasting
If I'm not mistaken all Porto wineries have their own tour and tasting. I did mine at Taylor's which is across the river in Gaia. The displays were excellent and it was A LOT of information. You'll go through the displays at your own pace with an audio guide on a device you type in a number corresponding with the numbers on the displays and hold up to your ear. My recommendation is to do this after a good meal. It takes over an hour to get through the tour and to get there is a hike up a steep hillside.
Avenue Of The Allies
This is the most central district of Porto. It is also the most important district in Porto. Here you'll see the beautiful city government building at the northern end. Walking down to the southern part you'll see the Continental Hotel which I'd imagine is the most expensive hotel in the city. Throughout this district there are plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels. It is here where you'll find the hop-on-hop off tourist buses start their routes.
Other To Do's
This is the river area of the city. It mostly consists of restaurants. On a sunny and warm day it's a good place to hangout to eat and drink.
For €15 you can get on a boat that goes up and down the river. Something good to do on a warm and good weather day. The cruise will give you great views of the city's many bridges as well as a narration about the bridges. It's nice. It is worth it if you have the time but the things under my, "Must Do's" are more worth your time and money.
Avenue of the Allies McDonalds
This McDonalds used to be a famous cafe that went out of business several years ago. It was then that McDonalds purchased the vacancy and turned it into what has been described as the most beautiful McDonalds in the world. It is at the southern end of the Avenue of the Allies right by where the tourist buses start from.
Matosinhos Beach/Forte de São Francisco Xavier do Queijo
Matosinhos Beach is Porto's most famous beach. It is west of the city and can be reached via the 500 double decker public bus. Along the bus route is also a fort that protected the city from attack by sea. It's not a particularly large fort but worth stopping in to walk around if you are in the area. The views of the beach and the ocean is pretty wonderful here.
Walk Through Or Shopping In Bolhão District
This is the shopping district of Porto. It also has cafes, restaurants and lots of shops. The streets will likely be busy with shoppers.
Estadio do Dragão
Are you a sports lover? Are you a football lover? Then this if for you! The stadium can be accessed by the metro train. Once there you can buy a ticket to the museum and you can do a guided stadium tour. The tour guides speak Portuguese and English and they know a lot about the history of this storied football club (FC Porto) and the stadium.