What to visit first: Oporto or Lisbon ?
When we were planning our trip to Portugal, we knew that Porto should be on our bucket list. When defining our route through Portugal, we were thinking where to start our trip: Lisbon or Porto?
What makes both destinations so attractive?
– Both cities are popular city break destinations here in Europe.
– Both have a background history of centuries
– Both have inspiring architecture built in centuries, that takes your breath away
But, let’s speak today about Porto. Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, and was an important city during the “Age of Discoveries”. When Porto became one of the most important ship building centers in the world. A century later, it became one of the major ports for the wine trade in Europe. This distinction that still holds today.
The architectural styles are spanning from Medieval to Baroque to Art Nouveau. The wine cellars in Gaia, the buildings covered in typical Portuguese tiles, the Douro River are making this place spectacular. The historic city center is recognized by UNESCO for its immense cultural heritage.
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How to pack when traveling with kids?
On our instagram I have written posts about the best way to pack with kids. Keeping simple is our motto, and we believe in taking less things than we think we need. It works great!
Porto wasn’t only meant to be just a city break but our first destination on our long trip within Portugal. We were prepared to walk a lot, and the best way to carry on everything were the backpacks. From the beginning we knew there will be 2 backpacks, kids won’t have any. Since we wanted a great experience and the kids resisting this super journey , they had to carry only themselves :). We tried taking less things possible as not always is handy to leave the backpacks at the hotel.
For the 10 days trip through Portugal, we took less than half of the clothes needed for so many days.The idea was to use public laundries. Sincerely, I was afraid, it was risky, but it worked marvellously. Portugal is a great country and in each city there were possibilities to use public laundries, it wasn’t difficult at all.
When to go to Porto?
We decided to go in July as we thought that its great location will make our stay cooler. But, just in the week we came, 13th of July, all the Iberian peninsula was caught by a heat wave, and we had warmer weather than in Barcelona. Locals told us that it is not usual weather for Porto, normally the highest temperature is 25 Celsius degrees. If I would repeat Porto, I definitely will choose to go April-May or September-October.
How to get to Porto?
From Barcelona or Madrid, or even from any big Spanish destination is super easy. There are many low-cost flights that are going to Porto. Porto is a very popular destination for a city break for Spanish citizens. Even in the high season our flight Barcelona-Porto cost us 40EUR per person, which I consider a super price for a 2h flight. It is true that we went early in the morning, but during the day the flights are more expensive.
Once in Porto airport, we took the metro to get to the city centre. There are buses that leave you in the centre, 3EUR per person. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived it didn’t go to the centre. The metro cost us 2.40EUR per person, and then you have to buy the card(1 time cost, and then you recharge it) for 0.60 EUR. So, by the end, it is the same price, look what works better for you.
Where to stay in Porto?
As we lately love, we chose an apartment close to the city centre. Previously we were looking for the cheapest option, with kitchen facilities and more amenities. Usually it worked for apartments far from the city centre. Until one time, we spent more on moving around than if we would choose a central apartment. From that time, we decided to pay more for location, but not to worry about public transport.
We stayed in Reis de Gaia apartments, on the other side of the river, but still central. It was a perfect place to stay, to enjoy the old town and to move easily around, without using any public transport.
Believe me, when you move with 2 kids, it means a lot.
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Porto with kids?
There are many things to do in Porto with kids, you can find that most museums offer free admission for them. Even though we mainly used to walk and enjoy the sightseeings with them. One thing to keep in mind is that the city is perched on the banks of the Douro River, which makes it full of steep climbs and stairways that can tire children. Porto is a hilly city with a lot of attractions around the historic city centre reached by walking.
OUR EXPERIENCE. We used to go up the cableway and back walking. Both kids do a lot of sport (football and basketball), for them it wasn’t a challenge walking around and going an extra mile. But, every parent has to look at how your kid is prepared for long walks.
2 DAYS IN PORTO WITH KIDS
1st day in Porto
We arrived at 09:30 AM in the city centre of Porto, and took the bus to Aveiro on the next day at 6:00 PM. Which means that we had 2 full days to enjoy this beautiful city, and believe me you can see a lot.
Porto isn’t a huge city, you can easily see the highlights in two full days as long as you plan ahead. In our case, a long time ago, I decided not to plan anything and to go with the flow. If we see only a few things, then it means to be like this. There is still time in the future to come back and visit it again.
Avenida dos Aliados
Avenida dos Aliados was our starting point, as it was where we arrived from the airport. Close to several metro stops and the centre of the city, this series of sloping squares are authentically Porto. Covered in small Portuguese tiles and lined by trees and small elegant buildings, the City Hall of Porto takes pride of place at its top.
Going down through the beautiful alley we stopped to take our breakfast, and it was more than authentic. Delicious coffee, and very specific Portuguese pastries. Sorry, we took different things and do not remember the name of each.
Church of St. Francis.
After having a super delicious breakfast, we decided to go straight to our apartment and to leave our backpacks. But, interesting that we’ve got lost due to maps showing the wrong direction, and we get to the Church of St. Francis. The church is extremely impressive, probably due to the great use of gold coverings to cover everything. We took some pictures, and also went straight to the official football store 🙂 that is close by.
When we went there, there were maintenance works on the streets and we had to walk down to Ribeira.
Continuing downhill through the streets of Porto, in front of our eyes layed Douro River, a vital part of the city’s history and economy.
Walking along the Douro is the Ribeira riverfront, a boulevard home to restaurants and quaint tiled townhouses. From the riverfront you can look across to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia and the giant Luis I Bridge that links it with Porto.
Luis I Bridge
The great big metal “Luis I” bridge was designed by a student of Gustav Eiffel, the man behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Coming from the direction of the old city walls, you’ll actually be able to walk out onto the top of this iconic bridge.
From up there you can admire the view down along the Douro river and of the buildings on either bank. While there are many views that include the bridge, the views from the bridge itself are just as fantastic. Be careful while you’re up there as metro trains regularly roll past along the centre of the bridge, so look both ways before crossing.
As well, there is the side you can get to the Gaia Riverfront walking, and without getting so high.
As mentioned, we crossed the bridge and went to the riverfront of Vila Nova de Gaia. With green gardens and lined with traditional rabelo boats that were used to transport goods back and forth in the day, it’s quite a pleasant place to walk along. Throw in the superb view back to the buildings of Porto and the argument could be made that this is the better riverfront.
Closely were the apartments we stayed in. So, we left our backpacks and went back to enjoy the city and to have our lunch.
Teleferico de Gaia (Cableway)
From the riverfront of Vila Nova de Gaia to get all the way up at Luis I Bridge you have two ways of making it. Sure, you could walk up, but it’s far too complicated to do it with 2 kids, and more fun to take a ride in the city’s modern cable car, the Teleferico de Gaia. Floating over the rooftops of buildings and wineries, you get to look down at all the people wandering along the south side of the river.
Adult price is 6EUR/9EUR (one way/return), kids price 3EUR/4,5EUR (one way/return)
Once up, there are opening just marvellous views over the city. Views that take your breath away. We walked along the bridge till we found a local bar and had our lunch.
After having our lunch, we just kept strolling all around the old city and its streets. We also had our dinner here, and enjoyed the evening walk by the river. It was a great way to see the nightlife, to listen to people singing by the river, people enjoying their dinner at the restaurants and so on. It was simply great to fill the nightlife of the city. Not to mention that the city with its night lights seems like a fairytale. Walking straight into a fairytale called holidays.
Here to mention that in between our lunch and dinner, we went home to sleep a while and recharged our batteries. We woke up at 4am to get to Porto, which means that after lunch we didn’t have enough energy to follow along.
So, after a deep sleep we had enough energy in the same day to follow along, and explore the city. On Google Maps, we found that only 4 min walking from our apartments was located WOW.
WOW Porto – The Cultural District
Complex of museums, restaurants and bars in cellars that narrate the history of Porto’s wine sector. It was nice to have a walk there and to watch the sunset by the river. Just an amazing experience. It was so good that we came back on our second day to have our breakfast here.
2nd day in Porto
WOW Porto – The Cultural District
Our second day in Porto started more than amazing, at WOW Porto, where we had an authentic coffee from a local shop and Portuguese delicious pastries. Here to mention, that this side of the city felt more expensive in terms of food, but as well it was fabulous.
As well I forgot to mention that actually our second day started late, almost at 11:00, which meant that we had little time to explore the city.
Douro River Boat Tour.
After having our breakfast we took our backpacks from the apartments, as we wanted to explore the old city, and didn’t want to come back after our things.
One of the wishes of our kids the previous day was to take a boat on the river Douro, but because we slept at midday, it was late to take a tour. On our second day, we took it, and it was a FABULOUS experience
We took part in a 6 Bridge cruise with Manos Do Douro cruises. Surely touristy, but it offers a different view of the city and brings you back to the time when the river was the only connection with the Douro Valley to bring the Porto wine to the city. Lasting around 50 minutes, this gentle river cruise is best taken before the day gets too hot.
Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso
After enjoying the best time during our River Boat Tour, we went walking all the stairs up, till we got to one of Porto’s most beautiful churches, the Church of Saint Ildefonso. Sitting on a hilltop almost opposite the Clerigos Church, this is another church decorated with azulejos. But instead of being blanketed in blue and white, the tiles have been incorporated into its Baroque design, making for an interesting sight.
São Bento Train Station
It might seem strange to visit a train station without actually needing to take a train but trust me, there really aren’t many train stations quite like this one. Inside the main hall of São Bento Station, the walls are completely covered in azulejo tiles. While many Portuguese train stations have some tilework, this may be the most famous station for it.
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Among Porto’s many landmarks, ones such as the Fernandina Wall tend to get lost and overlooked. These historic walls once encircled Porto’s mediaeval town with the cathedral being the centre of Porto at the time. As Porto grew over the centuries, the walls got in the way and were removed. Only two stretches remain and have sort of merged into the Old Town around them. Still, at 30 feet tall these big stone walls are worth a moment of your time.
And here our 2 days trip in Porto came to an end, we took our FlixBus to Aveiro, but about this in the next post.
I hope this guide will help you during your time in Porto! Let me know in the comments if I missed some things!
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