Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, has a rich history, places to see, azulejo tiles, port wine, and great food. Its manageable size makes it easy to visit most of the main sights in a weekend. It’s also the perfect jumping off point to explore the Douro Valley and vinho verde wine region. Ahead, a guide to the hotels, restaurants, shops, and things to do during a weekend in Porto.
Where to Stay
For luxurious accommodations in the centre of it all, it’s hard to beat Maison Albar Hotels – Le Monumental Palace. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the property exudes art deco style with plush rooms and suites, gourmet restaurants, and a soothing spa. Be sure to book a massage and spend some time relaxing by the indoor pool. For a tranquil stay removed from the bustle of the city, Vila Foz Hotel & Spa offers a fantastic respite. Housed in one of the stately 19th-century mansions in Foz do Douro, where wealthy families built their summer homes overlooking the Atlantic, this Design Hotels member marries the mansion’s historic details with sleek, modern style. It has a Michelin-star restaurant and a more casual bistro beloved by locals, as well as a tranquil spa.
Where to Eat & Drink
Porto has a wealth of dining options, from casual cafés to elegant temples of gourmet cuisine. The belle époque Majestic Café is a Porto institution worth visiting to soak up the historic atmosphere while sipping coffee and savouring a slice of cake or pastel de nata. For a hearty lunch or dinner, one of the local specialties is the francesinha—a gut-busting sandwich with steak and sausage, cheese melted on top, and a secret sauce poured over it. Brasão Bistro, which has three locations in Porto, makes a great one as well as a vegetarian version. For a more refined meal, head to the Yeatman Hotel, whose two-Michelin-star restaurant is one of the best in town. If you can’t get in, the hotel’s casual restaurant, the Orangerie, is a fabulous alternative. Order the cataplana, a traditional Portuguese seafood stew.
What to Do
There are plenty of places to admire azulejos—traditional hand-painted Portuguese tiles—including Porto Cathedral, Igreja do Carmo, and Estação de São Bento, one of the world’s most beautiful train stations. When the weather is nice, a stroll along the riverfront, which is lined with restaurants and bars, is a great way to spend the day. In Vila Nova de Gaia, you’ll find the historic port wine cellars, like Graham’s Lodge, where the British Royal Family’s port wine is aged. A guide will explain the differences between ruby, tawny, and vintage port, take you to see the barrels and bottles aging, and then bring you to a the tasting room to sample a selection of port wines.
Where to Shop
Rua das Flores, historically one of the city’s most important streets, where nobles and bourgeois families built their manor houses, is lined with shops selling artisanal goods. Stop by Claus Porto for scented soaps and lotions in belle époque–inspired packaging so beautiful you’ll want to frame it. Nearby, you’ll find MUD (Manufacture Under Design), a shop selling unusual leather-and-wood bags and other items made by local artisans. Panamar Concept Store sells chic clothing, accessories, home decor, and foods. The famous Livraria Lello, with the red staircase that supposedly inspired the Harry Potter books, it’s so popular there’s often a line to get in, so go early.