This blog post was updated on October 11, 2018.
At the mouth of the River Douro in Portugal, it appears a child’s crayon box has exploded. Rusty reds, mustard yellows, royal blues and tempting shades of turquoise adorn the crumbling buildings of Porto.
Porto may come second to Lisbon in terms of visitors and population, but the northern city has a whole crayon box of options for travelers to explore.
From the historic Ribeira district with its cluttered balconies to the tiled churches around nearly every corner, Porto presents a satisfying gulp of more than just its signature drink.
If you are planning a trip to Portugal, don’t short change Porto. While the experiences in the city abound, here are a few musts for the first timer.
Climb to the top of Torre Dos Clérigos—For a bird’s eye view of classic Portuguese red-tiled roofs, Torre Dos Clérigos is the only place to go in Porto. While the work of an Italian, architect Nasoni, the baroque tower is a fixture in the city. It began its days as a look out tower for ships. One lucky duck would take in the view while guiding ships into Porto. Completed in 1763, Torre Dos Clérigos glows at night, but its views by day allow you to see the good, the greater and the great of Porto. Just be prepared to walk up over 200 steps to a height of 76 meters.
Peek in Mercado do Bolhão—The two-tiered market in the heart of Porto is a standout for its 19th century wrought iron composition. Upon closer inspection, the building holding the market is just the beginning. Here you will find everything and the kitchen sink up for sale. Fish vendors screech their catch of the day in hopes you are hungry. It is a noisy, chaotic, yet peaceful scene at the same time. Foreigners may have to plug their noses as they walk past the salt cod, but you can take in the smells of Mercado do Bolhão in other means. This is a cultural whiff of Porto’s buying and selling, and screeching.
Walk across Ponte de Dom Luís I—If you are still view hungry, you can walk across Ponte de Dom Luís I, perhaps Porto’s most famous double decker bridge. The bridge connects Porto to its nosy neighbor, Vila Nova de Gaia. The two towns sit so close to each other, you probably think you are still in Porto once crossing over from the city’s Ribeira district. Created by a student of Gustave Eiffel, Ponte de Dom Luís I might even lend a show in summer time. Teens take to the bridge to drive into the cool Douro, much to the headshake of Porto’s older generations.
Sip on a Port Wine—After a long day of sightseeing in Porto, there is no better way to unwind than with the city’s signature drink. Port wine production stemmed from the area, rising in popularity by the mid 18th century. The largest concentration of port wine bottlers and exporters can be found in Vila Nova de Gaia, just opposite Porto on the River Douro. Tours and tastings are given for those that love the taste of the sweet, rich wine. If you aren’t a fan of Porto’s cocktail, at least give a tawny port or vintage port a sip while in the city. After all, you will be able to boast you had port in Porto.
Have you been to Porto? What is your favorite experience in the city?