The Other City: A Local Guide To Porto, Portugal

When you think about Portugal, it’s almost guaranteed that the city of Lisbon comes to mind. At one point the richest city in Europe, Lisbon is a treasure trove of historical architecture and eating spots, offering up a huge variety of things to do and see. Elsewhere in the country, however, there is also much to discover, as each region brings its own approach to what it means to be Portuguese. Porto is perhaps at the head of this action, serving up its very own style of coastal life. Located just a few hundred miles up the coast from Lisbon, the city is an easy train ride away, making it possible to journey into a different world in a matter of hours.

Spirited and more rugged than its capital counterpart, Porto is built around the cold waters of the Douro river, which push forward into the icy Atlantic. Kitted out in opulent buildings and tiled streets, the city is every bit as pretty as LIsbon, offering a snapshot view of a traditionally Portuguese way of life. Further into the city, however, a great many things are on the rise, bringing a new kind of clientele to the area. Food and art are high on the agenda, exploding into life on any one of the city’s winding alleyways. Head to any one of the local districts and you can experience a different kind of life, one that represents a new facet of Porto.

When it comes to culture, Porto doesn’t disappoint. The Casa da Música is a top spot for music lovers, offering up an entire season of melodic delights. Even if you’re not ‘au fait’ with all things cultural, you can head to the place for the architecture alone to marvel at its contemporary fittings. Elsewhere on the culture scene, the 15th century Igreja church is a whole world apart, finished off in an ornate, intricate style. Taking a morning to wander the gilded interior will offer you an insight into the place’s rich history, and the cultural styles that have come before. As far as modern art goes, the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is the country’s most important building on the subject. The building itself is a study in light and shade, showing off its impressive architecture as a design feat in and of itself.

Of course, with all of that sightseeing, you’re going to want to chow down on something substantial, too. Thanks to its proximity to the ocean, Porto is a treasure trove of seafood and no matter where in the city you head, you’re guaranteed an incredible culinary experience. If you’re on the hunt for something local and rustic, Guindalense Futebol Clube will serve you right. While it isn’t glamorous, the place serves up a range of local classics, all accompanied by a jaw dropping view.

Cantina 32, on the other hand, caters to a more contemporary clientele, serving up a range of diverse vegetarian options. Using practically only local products, the eatery is a great place in which to get acquainted with the Porto taste and take a look at the world passing by the terrace. Miss’Opo also shouldn’t be missed. Serving up small plates and seafood specialties, the spot is known for its flare for flavors, using basic ingredients to great effect.

Sleeping spots are in abundance in the city, offering something for every budget. Flores Village, for example, is a great option if you’re looking to spend a little more, having been renovated from an older town house. The new B&B is kitted out with its own spa, too, giving you the perfect place to wind down after a long day. Porto Vintage Guest House veers more on the boutique side of things, incorporating a contemporary style. Deeply immersed in the design scene, it is leading the way for Porto’s hotel industry, offering a younger traveler a new way of staying in a city.

Buzzing with life and rife with tradition, Porto is a place that offers the best of both worlds. Journey into the city streets and see a brand new side of the country, one that you simply cannot find elsewhere.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.