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Starter Pack: 24 hours in Porto, Portugal’s forgotten gem

There's a lot to love about Portugal's second largest city

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Almost every Aussie I know that has gallivanted through Europe on their #eurotrip failed to make Porto one of their destinations. Lisbon sees a lot of popularity, making it bigger, and richer, and more attractive to the contemplative tourist. Porto, on the other hand, is like Lisbon’s less-popular older sister, the kind that you hear their sibling trash-talking all the time, and then you meet her in a club bathroom when you’re wasted as fuck, and now you’re best mates. Yep, that’s Porto. Spend some time in this city and you’ll leave wondering why you ever thought she was less cool than Lisbon.

01. 8am: Padaria Ribeiro

You’re in for a big day, so make sure you don’t forget your coffee fix in the morning. This bakery-turned-cafe is a hotspot in downtown Porto, with queues often trailing out the door. The bakery boasts a delicious range of pastries, breads, and cakes. If you’re a bit hungrier than that, worry not, Ribeiro also offers a menu with more hearty options like burgers, lasagna, soup, and sandwiches.

02. 9am: Ponte de Dom Luís I

Now that you’re nice and energised, time to get to Porto’s most popular tourist attraction – Dom Luís I Bridge. Built back in 1886, the famous bridge was designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel Tower (obvs). The bridge stretches across the Douro River, which gives you a great opportunity to take in the amazing views over the water, and see the beautiful city sprawling up the hilly terrain. Don’t spend all your time up there on the top though, take some time to go and look at the bridge from ground-level so you can really see the details of the ironwork. Now that you’re down there – there’s no excuse not to grab a beer at one of the many cafes that line the river. No, it being 9am is not an excuse.

03. 10am: Get up the hill

#funicular #oporto

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Now that you’ve had a beer and you’re already fairly buzzed at 10am (I hope), it’s time to climb up that hill and see what else the city has to offer. In order to avoid the embarrassment of creating a substantial sweat reserve in your lower back, I suggest taking the Funicular dos Guindais up the side of the hill for €2.50. You can find the entrance to the rail on the east side of the bridge.

 

04. 10.30am: The old tram

Just outside the exit of the vertical rail, there is a tram stop for the famous old tram routes in the city. These trams are unlike your junkie-packed ride on the 86. Although it’s always fun to watch a moustached lady have a full-blown argument with herself – it’s also nice to be on a tram with beautiful vintage finishings and less pre-mix Jack and Coke rivers running down the aisle.

05. 11am: Shopping

If you somehow have enough money to blow on shopping (v jealous), then hop off the tram near Rua de Santa Catarina. This is your one-stop destination for all your shopping needs. You’ve got all your big brands as well as street vendors, and you can find smaller businesses along the side streets too. If you’re here in the colder months, you’ll see small plumes of smoke coming from street corners along the mall – these are the roasted chestnut street vendors. This is a popular delicacy in Portugal during the cooler months.

06. 12:30pm: Restaurante O Buraco

Hungry yet? Good. From the shopping strip, it’s a quick walk up to Restaurante O Buraco. This restaurant is a popular spot for locals to dine. That’s because it’s cheap and delicious. Obviously. Is there any other criteria for a good restaurant, anyway? Traditional Portuguese food includes a lot of fish, pork, and beef, as well as rice and various other carbs. If that’s your thing, then you’ll be very happy at Buraco.

07. 1:30pm: Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

If you’re up for a walk, you can take a half-hour stroll over to Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (literal translation: Crystal Palace Gardens). These gardens are indescribable. They sit on a hill overlooking the river, so not only does the place have breathtakingly beautiful views but the actual gardens are extravagant. Coming into the main entrance, you’re greeted by a giant UFO-like dome where they often hold events such as book fairs. Around the gardens you’ll find beautiful everything—peacocks, architecture, palm trees, fountains, lookouts. This place will make you feel like you’re trespassing on royal property. A perfect place to light up a joint, relax, and take in the stunning scenery.

08. Don’t forget to stop and admire the tile-work

If you haven’t noticed already, most of the buildings are adorned with tiles containing intricate patterns. Be sure to stop and look at the churches which have giant murals painted on the tiles.

09. 3pm: Casa da Música

From the gardens, it’s about a 15 minute walk to the Casa da Música. This is a really famous concert hall, and although you might not have any orchestral concerts on your agenda, the architecture is a must-see. The nine-storey masterpiece was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. And if you’re travelling with a board, the hilly pavement and general architectural beauty makes for one of the more interesting skate spots in Porto.

010. 5pm: Museu Serralves

Your next visually appealing destination is just a short taxi ride away. The Museu Serralves is definitely not one to be missed. This is the most visited museum in Portugal – the property contains a contemporary art museum, a villa, and massive gardens. The villa (Casa de Serralves) is a truly astounding example of Streamline Moderne architecture – think mid-century retro vibes. This place is abundant with photo ops.

011. 8pm: Restaurante Casa D`oro

Ok, Serralves is closed now, the sun is going down. Time to get dinner. Restaurante Casa D`oro is another quick cab ride away. What better place to eat than over the Douro River looking out to the ocean as the sun sets with a view of Porto behind you? Casa D`oro isn’t all just nice views and location but it’s also the perfect spot to indulge in a pizza and beer on the rooftop deck.

012. 10pm: Café au Lait

Your day is coming to a close, and the alcoholic inside of you is probably screaming. Cafe au Lait is a small bar located in the downtown district. The bar is a people-pleaser – cheap drinks, free entry, and good music. A great place to pre-game before you hit the club.

013. 12am: Passos Manuel

Paula Rego – histórias e segredos

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Finish off your night at Passos Manuel. With similar pros as Café au Lait, you can ride out the rest of your night on cheap beers and a choice of the upstairs bar, which is more relaxed and includes a small maze of someone-probably-got-fingered-here booths. And downstairs you can enjoy dancing in a smaller, less-sweaty version of The Mercat (RIP). Bonus points if you catch the 65-year-old owner playing a DJ set.