Portugal’s second largest city, Porto has much to offer the visitor, from fascinating architecture to modern art, sea views to street markets. At just over 2 hours flight time from London you can explore this coastal city in a long weekend, or stay longer to fully immerse yourself in its charms.
The Old Town
The medieval architecture of Porto’s Old Town is beautiful and fascinating. Tangles of alleyways and rough-hewn houses crowd the centre of the city, making strolling a feast for the eyes. At the centre, perched on a hilltop is the cathedral, first built as far back as the 12th century.
Tucked into the Old Town is the city’s lively market in a partially covered building. The Mercado do Bolhao offers everything from fresh bread and fruit to crafts, clothes and knick-knacks. You should be perfectly safe, but as in any crowded area, keep your wits about you for pickpockets (organising holiday insurance before you go can give you peace of mind should anything go astray).
The Museu de Arte Contemporanea is one of the best galleries in Portugal. It’s collection dates from the 1960s to the present day, and it also plays host to a revolving roster of exhibitions from some of the world’s most cutting edge artists. The building itself is a striking whitewashed modernist construction, as well.
A lovely free activity is to explore the Ribiera, the waterfront district of Porto. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this locale has a unique charm, with old buildings reaching down to the water, and cosy restaurants tucked among the street. Arguably the best place to view the city is from Dom Luis Bridge. There are free walkways across the span of the bridge enabling you to get a bird’s eye view of the ancient area.
Porto is well stocked for interesting museums. Alongside art galleries large and small are museums devoted to the history of port (the fortified wine Portugal is rightly famed for), photography and even trams. In addition, as an added bonus, all museums in the city are free to visit on a Sunday.
Porto is a very green city, with leafy suburbs and well-appointed parks. The Jardim do Palacio de Cristal is one of the best with stunning flowerbeds and many peacocks strutting around. The Parque da Cidade, which borders the Atlantic Ocean, is also a good place for a stroll.