It is always worth returning to Porto. The city is getting more and more beautiful and surprising, and it is easy to find a good excuse to go there for a weekend. Be it exhibitions, new restaurants, hotels, or new boutiques …
You have to make the most of all that the city has to offer, and if you haven’t been to Porto in a long time or it’s your children’s first time, for example, be sure to (re) visit the biggest attractions, such as the Clérigos Tower, which you can climb to the top, let there be breath for the 225 steps. Lello Bookstore, which Harry Potter fans will not miss, or the beautiful Praça Lisboa, right in front, where you can sit on the Base esplanade, among the most popular in the city.
Likewise, if you’ve never been, stop by São Bento Station to admire Jorge Colaço’s 20,000 tiles, with striking scenes from the history of Portugal and transport, and also through the frantic Rua das Flores where you can take a leap to the flagship Claus Porto store and leave with a handful of hand-wrapped soaps. Nearby, also, on Rua do Almada, is the no less historic (and sweeter) flagship of Arcádia. Which have a studio open to the public where you will be able to watch a master craftsman preparing the country’s favorite chocolates.
The Palácio da Bolsa, a huge neoclassical building built in the early 20th century, is another of Porto’s most visited monuments. Its high point is the exotic and luxurious Arab Hall, stage for dinners, conferences and concerts and deserves a visit at least once in a life.
The Serralves Foundation, in turn, is a place to return to often. From the 18 hectares of gardens to the museum itself, there is always a lot to see and do. And of course, you can’t miss a trip to Gaia to visit one of the cellars where Port Wine history was made (Taylors or Real Companhia Velha offer, in this chapter, memorable experiences), leaving time to have a drink in one viewpoint bar like the Terrace Lounge 360 °, with stunning panoramic views over Porto.
Be sure to stop by Bairro das Artes, a block full of galleries, ateliers, cafés and designer shops. This is the case with Banema, a concept store for those who like architecture, design and beautiful things in general, since in this space – 300 m2 of an old bakery – you will find an exclusive curatorship of brands and furniture, lighting, decoration and lifestyle. For vintage fans, another good idea is to go to the lively Rua da Cedofeita to continue a shopping session, where you cannot miss the store of the famous Couto medicinal paste, a company that celebrated 100 years with the opening of the first commercial space in its own name in all country.
In terms of restaurants, in addition to the classics like Cafeína, a local institution (today part of José Avillez’s group), there is a lot to choose from. In fact, from the Tapisco by Henrique Sá Pessoa to the unmissable Casario (by Miguel Castro e Silva) and Almeja, throught the Michelin stars of Pedro Lemos and Casa de Chá da Boa Nova by Rui Paula, you will never feel defrauded, but willingly to come back. Keep these tips for dinner, since for lunch there is also a lot to choose from: from Cozinha Cabral to Mondo Deli, through Digby (the restaurant at Hotel Torel Avangarde that pays homage to Sir Kenelm Digby, an English diplomat considered the father of the bottle of wine), that has what is considered one of the best brunches in Porto.
The right choice of a hotel can dictate the success of a trip, and this Torel Avangarde was once considered “the best new hotel” and also the best “Luxury Art Hotel” in Europe, because art is really part of its DNA. Each of the 47 rooms pays homage to personalities from the fine arts, music, fashion or literature, from Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso to Picasso, passing through Frida Kahlo, Coco Chanel or Charles & Ray Eames. We find several pieces by Portuguese artists at the entrance and common spaces, such as the “Sala das Flores”, the most “instamagrable” space of the hotel, an original winter garden, with the walls and ceiling fully lined with flowers. The ideal place to sit down with a glass of wine or take a photo session.
Torel Avangarde is part of a small, expanding boutique hotel group – the first was the Torel Palace in Lisbon and the most recent was the Torel 1884, an elegant palace in downtown Porto, which may be another excellent alternative (soon will open also the Torel Palace Porto, in one of the most stunning palaces in the city).
Fortunately, the success of Porto (and Portugal) as a tourist destination has brought with it a revolution in the world of hospitality, making it increasingly easy to find beautiful, well located and well-serviced hotels. This is also the case for Le Monumental, in the middle of Avenida dos Aliados, in a majestic building where, in the 1930s, the historic Café Monumental was located. Owned by a French group, it also offers the only Nuxe Spa in the country.
Or how about staying at the most recent Pestana unit? The Portuguese group has some emblematic hotels in the city of Porto, but none more offers the possibility of having breakfast in a café on the ground floor, which happens to be called Brasileira. Nearby, in the heart of the Invicta, we can still find the InterContinental Palácio das Cardosas, and the view it offers, without Douro, but towards the Praça dos Aliados and the City Hall, is something amazing.
The view from The Yeatman, from Gaia to Porto, could not have been more praised (and photographed), and the hotel still offers an exceptional service, one of the best restaurants and wine cellars in the country and in Europe (and maybe, even, from the city…) and a Caudalie SPA. Last but not least, the oldest luxury hotel in Porto, where state personalities, royal members, kings and queens from the stage, and even religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama have spent the night. Infante Sagres has just been completely renovated and is another perfect starting point for exploring the city.