You’ve got two days in Porto. The good thing is: you need about two hours to see the main sights – you may think you’ll be running around to see the city, but by the third and fourth hour, you’ll start finding yourself doing laps. Porto is relatively small, with its city center only totaling around 300,000 residents. It’s a well-known Portuguese city that’s even been deemed by many legit travel sites as the next big thing in Europe (I feel like that’s everywhere), but to me, it still totally feels like a small town.
Although I did spend more than two days in Porto, I think you can get a good feel of the city even if that’s all you’ve got. If you’ve got more, don’t worry; you can go slower and do even more. For example, I drank dupla pingados at one of Porto’s oldest cafés, Café Progresso. I danced at well-known clubs along Galerías de Paris and had more low-key nights at Café Candelabro. I did my grocery shopping in tiny supermakets like Mini Preço and experienced the Walmart-like megastores like Jumbo. These were things that happened in my few days in Porto, but if you’ve only got 48 hours, here are my recommendations:
Walk the Luis Bridge
The Dom Luis Bridge towers over the Douro river, offering picturesque views of Porto’s orange rooftops. The top level is closed off to cars, so you’re free to walk about the bridge as you like (but do watch out for the tram). You can spend hours up there
spying people-watching from your bird’s eye view down into the alleyways and gritty staircases.
Eat the vegetarian buffet at A Cultura Dos Sabores
Anytime I am able to find vegetarian food abroad, I’m a happy traveler. This vegetarian restaurant opens at 12pm and works buffet-style for €8.95, where you can pick from the cold bar – salads, vegetables, hummus and chips – or the hot bar, where you’ll find seitan skewers, tofu scrambles, soy patties, rice and beans, etc. I had three plates, enough said.
Take in the view from Passeio das Virtudes and Miradouro da Vitoria
Porto is a walkable city, that is, if you’re ok with walking up a thousand hills. The best part aside from the glute workout? The streets and alleyways that unexpectedly open up to views over the city. The view from Passeio das Virtudes was the best in the city center.
Keep an eye out for Portuguese tiles around the city
Knowing about the Portuguese azulejo is the first step to becoming Portuguese. These ceramic blue tiles, although not a Portuguese invention, can be seen throughout the entire country of Portugal and have been the preferred design choice for centuries. Not that you know about them, you’ll start seeing them tiled everywhere – outside of buildings, inside of buildings, on coffee mugs, at the Carmo Church, at the São Bento train station, at the Santa Catarina Chapel – they’re EVERYWHERE in Porto. Good thing they’re beautiful.
Stop by the Centro Português de Fotografia
Ok, my experience at the Portuguese Center of Photography was a bit bizarre – as I think everyone’s was during this specific exhibition where digital naked bodies were tied up and sent through a paper shredder while the screams of the same digital naked bodies fighting demons from another room permeated the large, dark rooms of this former prison. You can’t make this stuff up. Let me just say: it was free, and in the city center.
Rota do Cha
I’m not a tea person, but I can be if all tea shops looked like this one. Rota do Cha offers over 300 varieties of tea, according to their website, although their menu only shows about 200 (haha). If you know nothing about tea (me), you may feel a bit overwhelmed when first walking in, if not from the selection of teas from all around the world, then from the various rooms you can sit in to enjoy your tea. Imagine sitting down for a tea in your Portuguese grandmother’s mansion. That place is Rota do Cha.
How did you spend two days in Porto?