This article was produced by National Geographic Traveler (UK).
8am: Coffee with the locals
Do as most locals do and start the day with an espresso, often taken at one of the many terraces in the city. Older generations call it cimbalino, after the high-pressure Italian La Cimbali coffee machines that were used to make it. Alternatively, try a meia de leite (coffee with milk) with arrufada, a puffy cake that looks a bit like a bread roll. The staff at Ribermel, a venerable cafe near the Porto Cathedral, recommend eating it with butter in the middle.
10 am: Look for paperbacks
Join the queue at one of the most famous and beautiful bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello. A mix of Gothic Revival, Art Deco and Art Nouveau, the glorious façade and interior have been given a facelift. The big draw here is the majestic staircase, which appears to have been carved out of wood, but is actually painted concrete and plaster. For many years, Harry Potter fans believed it was the inspiration for the Hogwarts castle staircase, but wizarding school creator author JK Rowling claims she has never been in the shop, despite having lived some time in the city. Admission is €5 (£4.25), which is deducted from the purchase of any book.
12:00: go to the market
Porto’s tiny luxury grocery stores located around the old Bolhão Market (currently undergoing renovations) are a joy to behold. They are worth visiting not only for their often stunning window displays, but also for their time-honoured interiors and their variety of products from all over Portugal (and the countries it conquered during the Discoveries). Look for A Pérola do Bolhão and Casa Chinesa; the latter dates from 1938 and has an antique marble counter and shelves packed with products.
1:00 PM: Head to the tower
Take a tour of the Baroque-inspired Clérigos Church (once home to the charitable Clérigos Brotherhood) and Casa da Irmandade museum, then climb the 225 steps of the Clérigos Tower for panoramic views of Porto and across the river to Vila Nova de Gaia. Once the tallest structure in Portugal, the 250-foot tower is the perfect place to get your bearings, whether from its top or when looking for a landmark to guide you as you explore on foot.
2:00 PM: Hunt for the best hot dog in town
The city may be famous for its francesinha, an extravagant sandwich stuffed with meats and slathered in a hot tomato and beer sauce, but it’s not for everyone. A highly recommended alternative is a cachorrinho, an award-winning hot dog that has been served at the Gazela snack bar for more than 50 years. The sausage is grilled and stuffed into a baguette with butter, flamengo cheese (similar to edam) and a ‘secret’ hot sauce before being flattened on a griddle and then cut into bite-sized pieces. The fries are also delicious: hand cut and crispy. Do as the locals do and order a small Super Bock (a Port lager); It may seem like a false economy, but you’ll soon realize that you prefer your beer cold, so one glass after another is better than a pint that runs out quickly. warm up There are two Gazelas, but the original one, in Travessa Cima de Vila, is the one you are looking for. See if you can pull up a stool at the marble counter and watch your hot dog being made.
3:00 PM: Visit a gallery
Explore some art at the Museu da Misericórdia do Porto in Ribeira, the historic center. Alternatively, head to the beautiful Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. Scheduled here through July 9, 2022, is an exhibition by Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei reflecting his concerns about deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It includes a work called Pequi Tree, a 30-meter-high iron tree created in Brazil that has been installed in Serralves Park. According to the curators, it is witness to ‘the disappearance of the harmonious coexistence between human beings and nature’.
18:00: Improve your culinary skills
Take a cooking class with Vitor Candido, at Cook en Ribeira. You will be greeted with a chouriço flambé, broa de Avintes (malt bread) and a glass of chilled white port with tonic and mint. A former economist who learned to cook from his father, Vitor says: “It’s not teaching, it helps you cook with instruction.” His seasonal menus include appetizers, soups, main course, dessert, appetizer and wine. A ‘traditional cooking class experience’ costs €70 (£60) per person, while a market visit and cooking class cost €115 (£98).
7pm: Drinks with a view
Cross the Douro River to Vila Nova de Gaia to enjoy a late Port wine tasting in one of the cellars where the barrels were aged after sailing downstream from the Douro Valley vineyards. Then head to the viewpoint at the nearby Jardim do Morro to catch the last light of the day as it bounces off the rooftops and facades of Porto’s historic buildings. Alternatively, head to The Yeatman Hotel, with its spectacular riverside bar.