Portugal’s northern city of Porto draws in visitors with old-world charm. Rows of slender buildings cram along narrow cobbled streets, and locals sit alfresco, sipping espresso and Douro Valley vino.
The city is small enough to highlight-hop in a couple of days, but intricate enough to explore for weeks, so to kick-start your exploration, here are some of the best things to do in Porto.
The 76m-high Torre dos Clérigos, designed by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni in the 1700s, is Porto’s emblematic landmark.
Visitors can climb the baroque tower’s 225 steps to enjoy far-reaching city views from the top, however those with claustrophobic tendencies best stay on the ground.
Aside from the climb there is the option to visit the adjoining church, where a free pipe organ concert takes place every day at noon, or kick back on the lawn of the adjacent Jardim das Oliveiras.
Eat a Francesinha
Porto’s signature dish is the Francesinha. Ham, sausage and steak are layered between slices of white bread before being enfolded in cheese, drowned in a spiced tomato sauce, and sided with fries.
The resultant monster calls for a knife and fork, and a Super Bock beer to cut through the grease. Café Santiago is oft touted as one of Porto’s best places to try the Francesinha.
Enjoy a port tasting
Portugal’s famous port lodges are (due to a technicality), located in Porto’s cross-river city Vila Nova de Gaia. But it's easily reached by a stroll or metro ride across the iconic Dom Luís bridge.
Tour and taste at cellars such as Ramos Pinto, Graham’s or Taylor’s, with the latter offering views of the Douro River from its rooftop terrace. By the river, Porto Cruz offers a more modern take.
This bar and tasting house hosts summer sessions in its rooftop lounge by day and glows blue neon by night. Saddle up with a Porto tonico (Porto’s spin on a G&T) to slip into the city’s groove.
Portuguese design is epitomised by walls of colourful tiles (azulejos), most traditionally adorned with repetitive, intricate patterns or big blue and white murals.
Some of the most impressive can be found: inside the São Bento train station; on the sides of Capela das Almas, found on Porto’s main commercial strip, Rua de Santa Catarina; and on Igreja do Carmo.