What to do with a long weekend in Porto

Tiles in Porto

Porto, Portugal’s charming second largest city offers pretty cobbled streets, lovely beaches and a very warm welcome. It is an ideal place for a long weekend away in autumn or spring – as we discovered…

What to do in Porto

We arrived late Friday evening and headed straight into the welcoming arms of our home for the weekend – Porto’s most charming boutique hotel – Rosa et Al. With only 6 rooms, it felt more like arriving at the home of a tasteful friend – a very tasteful friend indeed, with the old Portuguese town house converted into something that looked like it was straight off of the pages of Apartamento or Wallpaper* Magazine.

Best boutique hotel in Porto - Rosa Et Al Townhouse

After a night of deep slumber, we awoke to blue skies and the smell of baking bread. Breakfast at Rosa’s is good, really good – eggs on toast and a strong coffee served to us in the pretty garden surrounded by herbs and the cluck of chickens (not sure from where!) set us up nicely for our first day of exploring.

Discovering Porto

Stepping out into the pretty cobbled streets you’re immediately immersed in the boutiques and galleries that are in abundance. We headed down to the banks of the mighty Douro river, and stumbled across the brilliant Armazém a huge, new arts space in a converted warehouse in Ribeira do Porto. Part of the movement to revitalize the old town, Armazém offers a rather impressive exhibition space, interesting boutiques and a bar with a great outdoor space luring you to sit and enjoy a drink in the sun.

Beautiful church in Porto

Heading on into town we sat down for a late lunch of grilled sardines and calamari, washed down with cold Super Bock beers. Refuelled and unwinding into the weekend our wandering continued up into Ribeira, the old town area where time feels as if it has stood still for the past 50 years.

Flea marketing in Porto

There’s plenty to take in just wandering the hilly streets at the top of which sits the beautiful Porto Cathedral.  We wandered for hours, peeking down alleyways and peering into windows before stumbling across  the charming Clerigos Flea Market. A treasure trove of fine-cut glasses and old reclaimed tiles, it was a bargain hunter’s paradise.

One of the best restaurants in Porto - Book

That evening we had dined at Book a softly lit and pleasantly swanky downtown restaurant. Housed in an old bookstore, the book theme runs throughout and we enjoyed zingy Hemingway Mojitos before moving onto some amazing Douro wine and delicious bacalhau, the famous Portuguese salted cod.

Lunch at the beach in Porto

Sunday brought with it more sunshine, so we headed out to the beach. We strolled the length of the coastline from Nevogilde to Foz do Douro, stopping for lunch at Praia de Gondalém a dreamy beachside shack. We embraced the day of rest like locals appear to – sipping cold crisp white wine and enjoying incredible sushi, watching the waves of the Atlantic roll in.

The beach in Porto

After a snooze on the beach and a bracing dip in the sea, we meandered our way back through the beautiful Parque da Cidade – enviously eying up the stages set up for Primavera Sound. There’s just something about a festival by the sea – definitely on the wish list for next year.

Reitoria - one of the best restaurants in Porto

That evening, finding somewhere for supper proved a little tricky – many restaurants are closed on a Sunday – but on the advice of Rosa we managed to squeeze ourselves into the brilliant Reitoria. With a steakhouse upstairs and tapas downstairs – we opted for the tapas, settling at a table outside to enjoy the warm evening air. The fried eggs and chips with truffle oil were truly something special. A night cap of 30 year old port, softened the prospect of the steep hill climb back to our hotel and into bed.

Great brunch place in Porto

On our third and final day, we decided to brunch at a sweet little organic café we’d spied around the corner from Rosa called Virtudes & Segredos (Rua da Maternidade). With a focus on fresh, local, organic produce – we were treated to the most delicious eggs, home-baked artisanal bread and good strong coffee.

Great little boutiques and independent stores in Porto

Buzzing from our caffeine hit, we meandered past the boutiques and galleries of Rua do Rosário. Patch Porto was a particular favourite with it’s kooky vintage clothing and clever design pieces made from reclaimed items.

Mercado do Bolhao in Porto

Our ambling carried us down to Mercado do Bolhao. Much cited as a tourist trap, we were still keen to see it and were pleased that we did. There’s a mix of fresh produce, fish and meat alongside clothing and gifts all set in a crumbling old building – typical of Porto’s faded grandeur.

Taylor's Port in Porto

What better way to spend our last afternoon than drinking port? And so to Taylor’s where we had a tour of the warehouse and introduction to the port production process before spending a very enjoyable hour or two sampling the different vintages with views out over the Douro.

Custard tarts in Porto

What a weekend and just what the doctor ordered – a bit of sun, a spot of culture and a lot of great food. Porto treated us well but, never satisfied, there were so many more things we’d have liked to have done. From a concert at the Rem Koolhaas designed Casa Musica (book well in advance), to a night out at Maus Habitos or a swim in the incredible Las Piscinas de Mare (open mid-June to mid-September). Oh well, not to worry we’ll just have to come back…

Where to stay

Best boutique hotel in Porto

Rosa Et Al Townhouse 

Located in Rua do Rosario is a hip and exceptionally renovated townhouse with just 6 rooms.

Check rates & availability here

See our full collection of boutique hotels in Porto here

Roxane has a passion for budget boutique travel. From cheap and chic city boltholes or owner-run rural retreats in Europe to faded palaces in India and simple beachfront cabañas in Mexico - she believes that style doesn't always have to come at a price (and restaurants with plastic chairs, packed full of locals are invariably the best ones).