With a Local: Porto, Portugal

This With a Local supplies insider tips on things to do and see while visiting Porto in northern Portugal.

Porto, around three hours from Lisbon by both rail and road, has emerged as one of Portugal’s urban tourism hotspots in 2016.

The city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. You can see examples of Manueline and Romanesque architecture in the city, which overlooks the River Douro and the terracotta roofs of the port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia, on the opposite side of the waterway.

British Airways flights take two-and-a-half hours to reach Porto from London’s Gatwick Airport.

Luis Buchinho, one of Europe’s leading fashion designers, lives in Porto. His seasonal collections are shown on catwalks around the world during fashion weeks. Between fashion shows in the likes of London and Paris he returns to Porto.

For previous collections, Luis has drawn inspiration from the calçada cobblestone paving that decorates Porto’s public squares and pavements. In this interview he talks about some of the things that enthuse him about his home city.

Why do you think people should come to Porto?

Porto is a destination where I believe you quickly have a sense of being welcome and at home, wherever you are from in the world. This happens because the city feels like a cross between a regional capital and a small village.

We have huge variations in weather, so you never really know what to expect here. That’s true on the streets too—just by turning a corner. I love walking around Avenida Rodrigues de Freitas, near the Jardim de São Lázaro garden and the Fine Arts University.

There´s a choice for everyone. We’re by the sea so have beaches and lush valley landscapes along the River Douro, amazing food and furious nightlife, as well as good opportunities to shop. All this is available at very affordable prices.

The Art Nouveau style A Perola do Bolhao building in Porto.
The Art Nouveau style A Perola do Bolhao building in Porto.

What is your favourite place in Porto?

I love the gardens of Palácio de Cristal and a walking in the Fontaínhas district—both places have amazing views.

Walking at on the Dom Luís Bridge—an iconic, arched landmark linking Porto with Villa Nova de Gaia—is also a must.

If you were going to take a guest to lunch/dinner, where would you choose and why?

I would go to Tapabento, near the San Bento railway station (222 Rua da Madeira; +351 22 2034115). I like it because it serves a blend of modern regional and traditional cuisine, and is a super comfortable place. Every time I’ve been I’ve been received the friendliest way possible.

A Francesinha sandwich, one of the local delicacies served in Porto.
A Francesinha sandwich, one of the local delicacies served in Porto.

If there is a bar or cafe that you could take guests to, which would it be and why?

For the happy hour, I suggest Aduela (Rua das Oliveiras 36; +351 22 2084398). It’s the perfect spot for a post-work drink.

Later Café au Lait (46 Rua Galeria de Paris) and Plano B (30 Rua Cândido dos Reis) are both good choices to drink and dance.

For non-alcoholic choices, I´d go to Café Vitoria (156 Rua José Falcão) for a yogurt milkshake.

Pretty much everywhere has a good selection of red wine at affordable price levels.

What is your favourite legend or quirky bit of history associated with Porto?

Our story of self-regeneration and recovery.

The city has changed from being a complete desert in the ‘90s and early part of the first decade of this century. I used to call it a ghost town because, for us, it was a nightmare to find places to go out in the city centre. Everywhere seemed abandoned. For my group of friends, people who love to live in the city centre, it was painful to see.

Porto has changed a lot in the last few years, mainly because of the will of a small group of people, most of them people I know. On their own initiative they took risks by opening small business like restaurants, guesthouses or bars and nightclubs in the hope of changing the city to something desirable. That is how I find the city to be nowadays.

The azulejo tile clad faacde of the Capela Das Almas in central Porto.
The azulejo tile clad faacde of the Capela Das Almas in central Porto.

If guests can stay in the area for an extra day, what do you recommend they do and see?

We are close to beautiful, historical cities like Guimarães, Braga as well as Caminha and Viana do Castelo. They are lovely, with plenty to see.

Further information

Take a look at the Visit Porto and Visit Portugal websites for ideas on what to do in and around Porto.

Take see Luis Buchinho’s collections browse his website, www.luisbuchinho.pt.

Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.

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The Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) in Porto.
The Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) in Porto.


  • Walt Hess

    January 18, 2017 at 03:29 Reply

    We visited Porto last year and really enjoyed the city. The tiles were great as were the Portuguese custard tarts!

    • Stuart Forster

      January 18, 2017 at 14:38 Reply

      Those custard tarts, pasteis de nata, are delicious!

  • Brad Jackson

    January 24, 2018 at 17:36 Reply

    I’m learning from the way you write and blog. This is an interesting look at Porto.

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