City Break: Porto

By Amanda Wowk

December 07, 2022

City break (noun): a short holiday spent in a city, such as when on business travel.

Before there was bleisure travel, there was the city break—the short space of leisure time that grants you access to the cultural and culinary amenities that big cities offer. In this series from TripIt, we explore some of the world’s best cities for planning a quick getaway or extending a work trip.

Here are our tips for making the most of your city break in Porto, Portugal. 

Where to fly in

Porto Airport (OPO) is the main airport serving the city. It’s located about 19 kilometers, or 12 miles, north of the city center. 

Once on the ground, travelers have myriad public transit options for continuing on to their final destination, including the Metro, bus, and shuttle. For example, if your hotel or vacation rental is located in the city center, you can take the Metro Line E (Purple) to get from the airport to the center of Porto in about 30 minutes. 

Alternatively, cabs and ride shares are also available from OPO.

Where to stay during your city break

Speaking of hotels in Porto, PortoBay Flores is a first-time visitor’s dream—that is, the hotel is centrally located with easy access to city attractions, as well as shops, restaurants, and cafes. The hotel also offers amenities such as an indoor pool, on-site dining, and a spa. 

The 16-room Exmo. Hotel, located right along the banks of the Douro River, was once an industrial space. Now, it’s home to a design-forward—and fun!—place to stay during your city break. Bonus: You won’t have far to venture to experience the city’s art; the hotel displays local artists’ work throughout. 

The Yeatman, located across the river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia, is designed for the wine tourist. From its location near to the Port wine cellars to its decanter-shaped pool, you’ll be in viticulture heaven. Plus, the hotel is home to a two Michelin-starred restaurant. (Hint: More on where to eat in Porto, below.) 

After more budget-friendly digs? Both The Poets Inn, a literature-themed guesthouse, and Porto Spot Hostel, a traditional hostel with both private rooms and shared dorms, offer comfortable accommodations at wallet-friendly prices. 

Vacation rentals, like those booked through Airbnb, are also available in Porto.

How to get around

Part of Porto’s charm is its easy walkability. Plan accordingly by packing comfortable shoes for walking from place to place. 

When walking isn’t feasible or desirable, Porto offers myriad public transit options, including six Metro lines, a bus system, and trams.  

Thinking about exploring Porto on two wheels? You have several micromobility options for getting around, including bike- and scooter-sharing programs provided by Bird, Circ, and Hive (via the FREE NOW app). 

Uber is also available in Porto.

Tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. For example, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat, below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table. You can find Navigator within your plan details screens. 

If you plan to travel outside Porto to other cities in Portugal (e.g., Lisbon), you have several options to do so, but perhaps the most cost-effective and eco-friendly option is via Comboios de Portugal train. If you choose to do this, I would definitely recommend booking in advance, and taking the Alfa Pendular (versus the Intercidades) as it’s a high-speed train (i.e., fewer stops) and offers a more comfortable, modern cabin. 

Where to eat

Only have a couple days in Porto? I have your dinner plans sorted: Head to Elebê Entreparedes for trendy Portuguese dishes in a magical setting your first night, and A Despensa for exquisite Italian cuisine the next. And for both dining experiences, be sure to book reservations in advance. 

Have more time to dine in Porto? Tia Tia offers creative twists on traditional Portuguese cuisine and a selection of natural wines; O Buraco serves up traditional dishes in an inviting setting; or if you want a Michelin-star dining experience, head to The Yeatman Hotel Gastronomic Restaurant

Michelin stars not in your Porto plans? Venture to Mercado Bom Sucesso, an indoor market with lots of casual dining options; or, Mercado do Bolhão for a traditional farmers market vibe. 

Tip: When possible, book restaurant reservations in advance. Download an app like The Fork to make booking (and searching for) reservations easy. Then, forward your reservation confirmation(s) to TripIt to keep all your bookings in one place. 

What to do on your city break

If you’re planning a trip to Porto, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with its main export: Port wine. But here’s a little tip: the Port wine cellars are actually located immediately across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. Don’t worry—they’re an easy walk or tram ride across the bridge. 

Once across the bridge in Gaia, you’ll have myriad Port wine cellars to choose from. My pick? Head to Taylor Fladgate; opt for the cellar tour (or not)—then enjoy a Port wine tasting (and a cheeseboard) in their picturesque rose garden.

Want to sample wine at the source? Book a wine tasting day tour in the Douro Valley—it’s where Port wine comes from, as well as many other delectable Portuguese wines.  

Beyond wine, Porto is a beautiful city to explore on foot—but it is very hilly. If you’d like to see the major sights—including the city’s many miradouros, or viewpoints—consider an eBike tour with Ciclo eBikes. A tour with a local guide is always a great way to get to know a city, and an eBike takes away the worry of having to hike up and down (and up, and down). You can also rent eBikes from the shop to explore on your own. 

So, what sights are a must-see in Porto? For starters, the beautiful São Bento railway station is a showcase of the country’s famed azulejos—that is, the colorful tiles that adorn buildings, churches, and yes, train stations. This particular station was built in 1900, and it’s a sight to behold, even if you’re not there to catch a train. 

You can also climb the Clérigos Tower for an unparalleled view of the city; visit Igreja de São Francisco, the church that’s Gothic on the outside and gold-laden on the inside; or traverse the city’s peaceful parks, including the Jardim do Morro, Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, and Parque da Cidade. 

Not one to visit the must-see sights? I feel you. Porto is also the perfect place for wandering through its winding streets, snapping photos of its interesting street art and architecture, and sitting along the riverfront with a glass of local wine. Saúde!

Note: As destinations reopen around the world, be sure to consult and adhere to all local guidelines and travel restrictions, as they vary widely and will continue to change. One way to stay on top of changing guidelines is to consult the COVID-19 travel guidance feature in the TripIt app for destination-specific information, including testing and vaccination requirements, current infection rates, quarantine rules upon arrival, and other information you need to know before visiting the area.