For one of the oldest cities in Europe, Porto is remarkably forward-looking.
Street art and contemporary architecture typify Porto as much as Gothic-baroque churches and fortified wine, while laidback locals and waterfront bars make for one very welcoming city. Throw in outdoor adventures in Peneda-Gerês National Park, and Portugal’s second city is a fantastic all-round destination.
Porto is a well-connected city and easy to navigate on public transport. The metro system comprises six lines which criss-cross the city underground - a quick and convenient way of getting around the city. Above ground, there is an extensive bus network and a tram network, which is gradually being replaced by more bus routes. A scenic way of getting around is to take the funicular railway, which travels between the Ribeira and Batalha areas and offers great views over the city. It's very convenient to get an Andante card, which can be topped up everywhere and allows you to travel across the city's forms of public transport.
There's no shortage of taxis across Porto, and, as is the case across Portugal, they're recognisable by their colours. Most are black and green, and some are white and beige; Portuguese law dictates that only taxis are allowed to use these colours. Taxis are quite an expensive way to get around Porto, and rates increase by 20 percent between 6pm and 9am, and on weekends and public holidays.
If you'd rather drive yourself around Porto, book your car hire in advance and do some research to make sure your hotel has parking.
The Ribeira: for waterfront walks
Porto’s old town, the Ribeira, is a pretty, slightly ramshackle area on the banks of the Douro River. There’s a pleasingly old-fashioned, carefree feel about this part of town, and it’s easy to imagine how it would have looked in centuries past; namely, not very different. This all makes it an evocative place for a sunset walk along the river. The waterfront is lined with tall, thin houses of uneven height, painted in various bright colours. This is a relatively touristy part of town, and there’s no shortage of cosy restaurants where you can enjoy a traditional meal.
Sé: for history
The area around Porto’s cathedral, or the Sé as it’s known locally, is home to many of the city’s historic attractions. Chief among them is the Sé itself, an imposing 12th-century church on top of a hill. Also nearby is the Igreja de Sao Francisco, an ornate Baroque church that's extravagant to the point of gaudiness, but is mightily impressive, with every interior surface seemingly covered in gold leaf. Other historic sights in the area include the Muralha Primitiva, remnants of a centuries-old city wall, and the Muralha Fernandina, Porto’s medieval citadel.
Praia de Matosinhos: for sun, sea and sand
Porto, as its name suggests, is a coastal city, and it has no shortage of superb sandy beaches within easy reach of the city centre. The closest and most popular of these is Praia de Matosinhos, which is accessible from the city centre in around 15 minutes on the metro. This long stretch of golden sand is great for doing nothing more than lounging underneath a parasol, but there’s a range of more active pursuits on offer as well, and the Atlantic swell makes it popular with surfers. There’s also a great selection of seafood restaurants in this part of town.
Time zone: Western European Time (GMT) and Western European Summer Time (GMT +1) – Portugal runs on the same time as the UK, so there's no need to change your watch
Language: Portuguese (English widely spoken)