Porto, Portugal may be known for its wine and port, but oenophiles aren’t the only ones who have fallen in love with this cozy northern city. Aside from booze, the second most popular city of Portugal has some of the best scenery in the country—and some of the best shopping, too: think idiosyncratic artwork, crafts, and handmade clothing. We’re fans of the hillside Yeatman Hotel, and we even dubbed Zé Bota one of the best restaurants in the world.
Here are the top places and things to do in Porto.
This ornate, 75-metre bell tower, which watches lovingly over the city of Porto, is arguably the city’s most iconic silhouette. It was opened in 1763 and is blessed with a beautiful barrage of Baroque motifs thanks to its Italian designer Nicolau Nasoni. Given its prominent position, you can get some amazing 360° views of the city from the top. However, you’ll have to climb 225 steps to get there.
Casa da Música:
A treasured modern addition to Porto’s cityscape, the Casa da Música is a concert hall that opened in 2005. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas oversaw the design along with high-tech scenography and acoustics firms.
This is one of the rare music venues that is also worth seeing when nobody’s playing.
You can go in for a tour of the 1,300-seater venue, which tore up the rulebook on auditorium design and has two walls composed entirely of glass.
On some days you’ll be able to hear the orchestra rehearsing. If that wets your appetite for high culture you can dress up in the evening to hear famous soloists and the Porto Symphony orchestra.
Crystal Palace Gardens:
When Googling this park, if you’re faced with a bunch of fiberglass dinosaurs, then you’re in the wrong Crystal Palace. Despite the lack of prehistoric models, these gardens are somewhat more exotic than what London has to offer. Not only does this verdant paradise have a maze of walkways, tree-lined waterways, sculptured topiary and a huge domed pavilion (all thanks to German landscape architect Emile David), but it overlooks the Douro River too. Well worth the hike up there.
Beaches of Porto, Portugal:
With all your attention drawn to the Douro and the Ribeira you might neglect Porto’s beaches in Portugal.
On a hot day you can dip your toes in the brisk Atlantic and clear your senses in the breeze.
If you want to include some of the outlying beaches a few minutes from the city you have at least 10 to choose from, many of which fly the Blue Flag every year.
The most convenient beach is Matosinhos. It is past the Parque de Cidade and has a massive bay that seems boundless when the tide is out.
If you’re happy to travel a little don’t rule out the town of Miramar. This holds a pretty 17th-century chapel on the rocks between its huge golden sandy beaches.