Anna's Top 10 Things To Do in Porto

1. Visit the Casa da Musica

A trip to Rem Koolhaas' Casa da Musica should be at the tippy top of every itinerary, especially if you are a music lover, an architecture lover, or both. I highly recommend taking a guided tour to visit the many smaller rooms inside, such as the 'VIP room', which is an incredible combination of angular concrete and traditional hand-painted tiles. The main concert hall, or Sala Suggia, is just wonderful (see pic below).

Guided tours run twice a day in English (11am & 4pm) and cost 7.50 per person.

More info: http://www.casadamusica.com/en/

Exterior. Photo by Anna Harding.

Exterior. Photo by Anna Harding.

Concert Hall Interior. Photo by Anna Harding.

Concert Hall Interior. Photo by Anna Harding.

2. Enjoy a drink on the Espaço Porto Cruz Terrace Bar 

Day or night, this is the perfect place to unwind for an hour or so to enjoy the spectacular views. This gem of a bar is located over the Dom Luis bridge and is surrounded by Port houses, so is in the perfect spot to take a break. The port, gin, beer and lemonade are all good. I checked especially for you. 

The view at night. Photo by Anna Harding.

The view at night. Photo by Anna Harding.

3. Marvel at the traditional tiles at São Bento train station

This must be the most impressive train station in the world, right? The decorative tiles (called azulejo) that cover the walls are painted to depict the history of Portugal. The murals represent epic events, battles and conquests from the 12-15th century, as well as scenes of everyday life. This really is a must-see! 

Station Interior. Photo by Anna Harding.

Station Interior. Photo by Anna Harding.

4. Enjoy views over town from the cable car

This cable car is a fairly new attraction for Porto and it is a great way to pass over the rooftops to the Jardim de Morro, with a spectacular view down the Douro river. Perfectly positioned at the top of the cable car is café/bar Esplanada which is the perfect place to enjoy a beer, especially if (like me) you need something to steady the nerves after your cable car experience. 

 

5. Eat Francesinha

This is a Portuguese sandwich, not dissimilar to a Croque Monsieur. But with more cheese. So. Much. Cheese. And more meat - all the meat. With chips. Mmmmm chips! All served with a spicy, beery sauce! OM NOM NOM. 

 

6. Visit the Igreja de São Francisco

This Gothic church is impressive from the outside, but it is the phenomenally opulent Baroque interior that will really blow you away. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered in 'Talha Dourada' - intricate wooden carvings gilt with gold leaf. Unfortunately you can't take photos inside so you'll have to take my word when I say that it's worth popping in! You can also visit the catacombs, which i'd recommend. 

Igreja de São Francisco. Photo by Anna Harding

Igreja de São Francisco. Photo by Anna Harding

7. Browse the shelves for books at Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello. Photo by Anna Harding.

Livraria Lello. Photo by Anna Harding.

Once upon a time in the nineties you could have found J.K Rowling browsing the books at the Livraria Lello, whose flight of stairs is rumoured to have been the inspiration for the moving staircases at Hogwarts! Nowadays you have to buy a ticket to visit the bookshop, but the Art Nouveau interior is really spectacular and well worth the fee. Plus, if you decide to take something home with you, the staff will discount the ticket price from your purchase. 

 

8. Walk over the Dom Luis bridge

Pedestrians can walk over this impressive bridge on two levels, alongside cars on the bottom and the metro at the top. The lower route is the best way to get from the old part of town to Vila Nova de Gaia, where you will find the many port houses, the bottom of the cable car and the Espaço Porto Cruz Terrace Bar. The top deck is the ideal route to take you back into town from the Jardim de Morro. 

9. Get lost!

Like so many European cities, getting lost in Porto's steep, narrow streets can be a delightful way to spend an afternoon. Stumble upon hidden cafés, dream of conserving the crumbling tiled exteriors and make friends with the local feline population - it's all good. 

Porto streets. Photo by Anna Harding.

Porto streets. Photo by Anna Harding.

10. Drink Port for breakfast at the House Ribeira Hotel

Yes, you heard me right - port for breakfast! I'm pretty confident that this is just for the tourists, but hey - when in Rome. If boozy breakfasts aren't for you, I'd still recommend booking a room at this stylish hotel. The rooms are modern with high ceilings and comfy beds. To avoid any awkward surprises, make sure you are comfortable with your roommate - the toilet doors are made of glass. Request a room with a street view, where you can see the river at the end of the road and beautiful traditional tiled buildings in every direction.

Hotel info and booking here