Porto is a small city (about 240,000 people) on the banks of the Douro River about 300 kilometers north of Lisbon. It’s best known as the place where Portugal’s most famous export – port wine – comes from, even though the wine cellars are actually across the river in a town called Vila Nova de Gaia. Though it’s long been an industrial and commercial city, it now also relies heavily on the tourism industry. The historic center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to get there
Porto has an international airport, though most flights from the US will arrive in Lisbon. The train ride from Lisbon to Porto takes about three hours and costs around 30 euros. Many European carriers, including budget carriers like EasyJet offer connections between Porto and Madrid or other major European cities.
>> Learn about getting around in Porto
Weather and temperatures
The climate of Porto is semi-Mediterranean climate; summer temperatures are generally in the high 70′s to low 80′s ºF (24-30ºF) while winters, which tend to be mild and humid, rarely dip below 40 ºF (4ºC).
Things to do
While port-tasting is the main attraction in Porto, the city offers plenty more to see and do to keep you busy for two to three days. With several art and history museums, a great shopping district, and multiple options for day trips, you could go all day without setting foot in a port cellar…if you wanted to.
Where to stay
Porto offers a range of accommodations, from cheap and basic hostels and guesthouse accommodation to mid-range hotels to the luxury hotels like the wine-themed Yeatman Hotel, which sits on the top of a hill on the Vila Nova de Gaia side. When choosing where to stay, consider what you plan to do on your trip. If you’ll mostly be exploring the sights of Porto, stay in the city center. If your trip is focused on visiting the port houses, opt for the Gaia side where all the cellars are located.
Tips for visiting
- Don’t bother renting a car for your trip to Porto. In fact, avoid it if you can. Parking is hard to find and the streets are narrow and confusing. Public transport is easy to use and taxis are inexpensive. If you’ll need a car for your next destination, pick it up on your way out of the city.
- Bring good walking shoes. Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are both very hilly, with cobblestone streets that can be hard on your feet. Be prepared to do a lot of walking, much of it uphill.
- Learn a few words of Portuguese (like hello, how much, and thank you) and resist the urge to speak Spanish. Though you may be understood, you’ll likely be reminded of the fact that you are not in Spain.
Photo by b00nj