Luxury Travel Guide to Porto
Porto, Portugal. Narrow streets lined with colourful houses decorated with tiles in an array of designs, geometric or traditional, lead down the sloping roads towards the lifeline of the city: the Douro River.
The city was once a trading hub for one of Porto’s most recognised international exports: Port wine. The grapes were grown and harvested on the terraces of the Douro Valley and shipped to Porto by means of slow barges to be transported later on to England after the 1386 Treaty of Windsor established a diplomatic and mercantile alliance between England and Portugal.
Aside from Port Wine, the Valley is also home to some incredible regional wines, it’s a holiday dream come true for wine lovers, the city makes for an ideal holiday for gourmands who want to enjoy incredible food and wine.
The city also has boomed in recent years due to the influx of tourism and trendy restaurants, stylish boutique hotels and a thriving cultural scene have sprung up making Porto a perfect choice for the luxury traveller.
With its charming riverside and architecture, you will be sure to fall in love with the city of Porto. Though it is considered a budget destination, where you can eat and drink to your heart’s content without burning a dent in your wallet, there are luxury experiences to be found and we will show you the very best way to indulge in the style and culture of this amazing city.
This guide is perfect for those who are travelling to Porto on a luxury. We will show you what to do in Porto, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether it’s a weekend in Porto or a long term stay.
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The best time to visit Porto
Porto is a great destination to escape the summer heat, as it’s usually has lower temperatures than other parts of the country, with temperatures remaining mild throughout the year.
It often has the odd shower even during summer months. Recently, summer temperatures have soared into the 30s, however you should always prepare for changes in weather by packing layers and bringing an umbrella or raincoat.
Summer is the busiest season so if you’re looking to avoid higher prices and crowds of tourists it’s best to head to Porto in Spring in around April or May or again in September and October.
If you plan to visit the Douro Valley, then make sure to visit in Harvest Season which usually occurs in mid-September and changes annually, here you will be able to get experience the centuries-old tradition of grape harvesting and wine-making which includes stomping on grapes by foot. See it with your very own eyes and it will give you added pleasure with every sip of that glass of wine.
Luxury things to do in Porto
Shop till you drop
Visit the designer shops on Passeio de Clérigos to indulge your desire to shop. Porto now has a number of chic designers and you can explore local style and trends at Almada 13 which features local designers.
For more boho designs, check out this Coração Alecrim, a gorgeous store whose self-description is “green, vintage and indie” to pick up some unique items.
If you love the independent and unique vibe, also check out Workshops Pop-Up in Baixa which is a converted iron-ware workshop that now features independent designers.
Go on a private wine tour
Explore the Douro Valley in style and hire a private tour guide and driver. From the comfort of an air-conditioned car you can admire the spectacular vistas from the window of the winding roads that lead to the Douro valley.
Along the way you’ll visit some sights and see charming traditional sleepy villages in the valleys, the views along the way are breath-taking as vineyards and olive groves flank both sides of the river on terraced steppes carved into the hillside.
Of course, the highlight of the visit is the local wine and you will sample some different port and white and red wines in the heart of wine country, which you can enjoy to a backdrop of the stunning and incomparable landscape of the region.
Visit the Casa da Música
This iconic concert hall was the creation of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and is known as one of his best designs. For music lovers a concert is a must and tickets only cost €15 per person and you can find the itinerary here.
For €6 per person you can go on a tour of the auditorium and backstage, to see where the magic happens. Situated just a short stroll from Trinidade metro, it’s an attraction that’s well worth visiting.
Azulejos and more Azulejos
Azulejos are the painted tiles that decorate the interiors and exteriors of almost all the buildings in Porto and are one of the major attractions of the city.
They actually originated from Seville, Spain and were brought to Portugal by King Manuel the First in the 15th century, the word Azulejo comes from the Arabic “zellige” meaning “polished stone” and was a striking style that was brought by Moors to the Iberian Peninsula.
To see some of the best Azulejos, head to the Igreja de Santa Clara which is situated on Largo 1 de Dezembro, to see the stunning tiles in this 15th century church.
Another stunning place to see the traditional tiles is the Igreja do Carmo Baroque-style church which is home to view some of the most stunning examples of blue and white azulejos in Porto.
Porto’s cathedral, Sé do Porto also boasts some stunning azulejos and is only a stone’s throw from the iconic and unmissable São Bento Station which has fascinating depictions of Portuguese history and everyday life painted onto the 20,000 tiles that adorn the very walls of the station.
Visit the inspiration for Harry Potter
For those who love Harry Potter, Porto was said to have served as inspiration for its creator J.K. Rowling.
If you want to geek out on your holiday, visit the Livraria Lello which dates back to 1906 and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to the world of Hogwarts.
Be aware that there are queues to visit this iconic bookshop and a priority ticket costs €12.50 per person and includes two books, just for a visit to this tiny bookshop.
A standard ticket is €3 per person and tickets must be purchased in advance from a small stall situated opposite the bookshop.
Another highlight is the grand Majestic Café, where J.K. Rowling was said to have started her first book, inspired by the art deco design. As with the Lello bookshop, the café is a huge attraction for tourists and there are often queues to go inside.
Running tour of Porto
Too many of those indulgent Francesinhas? Fear not, the solution is a running tour of Porto’s sloping streets. With tours starting from 5 kilometres to 9 kilometres you can explore the city in your running shoes, zipping past monuments and landscapes.
Bespoke tours can also be organised and tailored to your distances, abilities and desires, definitely a different way of seeing the city!
Take to the skies
For those with deep pockets, this is the perfect tour for you. A helicopter provide you with breath-taking aerial views of the city for €205 for a maximum number of 3 guests.
The tour last 10 minutes and is an unforgettable way to see the city.
Take in the nightlife
Porto’s nightlife scene has been growing in recent years and for a slice of Porto’s essence and character, head to Pérola Negra club which was once a famous cabaret in the city of Porto, which once had a seedier side. It now is one of Porto’s trendiest and flamboyant venues for a night out.
If you’re looking for a buzzing scene and great cocktails, head to Vogue Café which serves up some of the most delicious cocktails in town.
For an unusual evening head to Casa de Ló which is set in a trendy nightlife district and was once a bakery that has been reborn as a beer garden and bar which hosts DJs and live music concerts.
Savour the local port on a private tour
Porto Port wine is world famous and there’s no better way to gain an appreciation than a visit to a Port cellar with a wine tasting session.
Calém has the reputation of being one of the most renowned and visited cellars in Porto and you can experience a tour with a session of mournful Fado, which is traditional Portuguese soulful music.
A feast for your senses, you enjoy the sound of Fado whilst savouring the typical flavours of Porto in one go! Price start from €21 per person for a tour, Fado show and tasting, whilst private tours can also be organised via their website.
As a bonus you can cross the Dom Luis I bridge on foot to enjoy some of the best riverside views on your way to the cellars.
Check out the views
Porto is a city of hills and there are several fabulous viewpoints to catch a spectacular sunset. Head to Torre dos Clérigos where you can climb the tower and see some of the best views of the city.
The Torre dos Clérigos tower closes at 19:00 so in Springtime it’s possible to catch the sunset from there. Alternatively, you can go to Parque das Virtudes where you can enjoy the city views as the sun sets over the city and the water of the Douro River.
The Presidential Train
For the ultimate in luxury experiences book yourself a seat on the Presidential Train. This historic train has carried Popes, Queens and Portuguese Presidents and Kings.
Enjoy the views of the Douro Valley rushing past your window as you savour gourmet dishes from some of the best chefs in Portugal.
This is a truly unforgettable experience from the very start at the iconic São Bento station to the private vineyards of Quinta do Vesúvio where the guides will explain the wine-making process and you will have the opportunity to taste some world-class wines.
The price is €650 per person and includes a four-course tasting menu and wine pairing created by a world-class chef, access to the vineyard and port wine tasting, gift bag and bar access with live music. Book your indulgent Porto experience here.
Where to stay in Porto – Luxury Hotels
The Yeatman – This incredible hotel collaborates with some of Portugal’s most world-renowned producers of wine to organise tastings and sumptuous dinners and boasts one of the best collections of 25,000 bottles including some of Portugal’s finest wines on its property.
The rooms have private terraces overlooking the stunning views of Porto, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and it has its own wine-themed spa run by Caudelie where you can even bathe in wine and indulge in luxurious treatments created from vine extracts.
It also has a Michelin-starred restaurant serving up some of the finest Portuguese fusion around.
The Intercontinental Porto – Situated in the beating heart of Porto in an 18th century palace on Avenida dos Aliados, this five-star establishment provides you with exceptional service during your stay, leaving you feeling pampered and cared for. The rooms are elegant but minimalist and all the amenities including a turn-down service.
There is a gym, spa, sauna as well as a fitness centre, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have a pool. The on-site Bar das Cardosas hosts live music concerts almost every night and the fantastic Astória Restaurant offers excellent meals made from seasonal ingredients.
Infante Sagres – Stay in a historic palace just steps away from the main attractions of Porto, including Praça da Liberdade, Livreria Lello and Bolhão market. The elegant and opulent décor makes this perfect for the luxury traveller, and is actually a historic listed example of Portuguese architecture complete with details such as stained glass, wrought ironwork and wood.
The rooms offer great views over the city and the hotel is host to one of the most trendy bars in town, the Vogue Café. The hotel facilities also include a plunge pool and Asian-inspired spa where you can soak the day away after all that exploring around the city.
1872 River House – Wake up to views of the Douro River from your bed in 1872 River House, set in the fashionable riverside district of Ribiera. The B&B offers stylish rooms offer minimalist comfort and is within a short walk of Porto’s main attractions.
It only has eight rooms, each with a different theme and design and the hotel has a terrace with Douro River views where you can enjoy your meals whilst taking in the incredible cityscape.
Malmerendas Boutique Lodging – For home away from home, check out Malmerendas Boutique Lodging where you can rent small apartments and suites decorated in a simple, modern style just minutes away from the heart of Porto.
The hotel is stylish and chic and some suites are equipped with small kitchens and some have terraces and lounges to ensure you’ll feel completely at home in Porto.
Luxury eats in Porto
Pedro Lemos – This two Michelin star award-winning restaurant is named after its head chef, Pedro Lemos who serves up fabulous and innovative dishes inspired by Portuguese flavours. His menu is inspired by his grandmothers, one who once was a fishmonger at the Matosinhos marketplace and another who worked in the farms of Bragança.
He uses incredibly fresh and seasonal produce to create dishes such as the rich and smoky Alentejano black pork served up with wild mushrooms or seafood fresh from the Atlantic Coast. You can dine indoors or enjoy the views from the terrace. There are options for five or seven course tasting menus. The price per person starts from around €120 not including wine.
Casa de Chá da Boa Nova – Though not situated in the city itself, this restaurant is well worth visiting, situated just 19 minutes by car to the coastal Leça da Palmeira with its dramatic ocean views. The restaurant’s Michelin awarded chef Rui Paula uses local ingredients such as locally-fished oysters, clams, mussels and fish to craft culinary masterpieces. There are two tasting menus to choose from:
“Por Mares nunca Antes Navegados” which means “Sailing in Uncharted Waters” for €90, €120 or €160 depending on the number of courses and an additional €60 or €110 for the wine pairing; and also a vegetarian option for the same price.
Lado B Café – Though this doesn’t have a Michelin star, you can’t leave Porto without trying their authentic classic the Francesinha, or “Little French Girl” which is a gut-busting sandwich layered with Portuguese ham, steak and sausage, topped with a fried egg, bathed in cheese and drowned in gravy. It is really a heart attack on a plate. The recipe was invented in the 1950s and you can find a great version served with French fries and an ice cold beer here at this favourite hangout for locals.
Helder’s Pop up kitchen – This is one of Porto’s best-kept secrets and is an exclusive pop-up dining experience. Helder was once the owner of a popular restaurant known as O Carteiro, opens up the doors to his house in Foz Velha every Tuesday and Thursday for dinners and serves up sustainable locally-sourced produce in traditional Portuguese dishes. Prices for the dinner cost only €60 per person including wine. For bookings, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Luxury tours to do in Porto
Porto has a thriving street art scene which you can discover on this two-hour private walking tour. Learn about the local culture and about local artists with a private guide who is also the coordinator of a Street Art academic project in Porto, documenting the rise of the street art culture in the city. Prices start from only €7 per person.
On this tour you will learn about the rich gastronomy and culture of Northern Portugal, tasting regional dishes at hidden local foodie spots and authentic taverns.
Dishes that you will savour include local cheeses, smoked meats and other traditional snacks. The tour lasts four hours and your experienced guide will provide you with knowledge into the food culture and history of Porto.
Discover the Serra D’Arga Mountains
For the more active traveller, head out on a private tour to see the best-kept secret such as the Pincho Waterfall and natural lagoon pools set amidst the rural villages around Porto.
Your private tour includes an experienced guide who will lead you on an adventure in the Serra D’Arga Mountains and also to visit a local farm, the price includes pick up and drop off from your hotel and a picnic in nature. Remember to bring your hiking shoes!
Recommended Luxury Tours for Porto
- Douro Valley Wine Tour: Visit to Three Vineyards with Wine Tastings and Lunch
- Porto Jewish Heritage Walking Tour
- Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and Optional River Cruise
- Porto City Tour with River Cruise Including Lunch and Wine Tasting
- Sailboat Cruise on the Douro River
- Aveiro and Coimbra full day private tour from Porto
- Santiago de Compostela and Viana do Castelo small group full-day tour from Porto
- Porto Half-Day Tuk Tuk Private Tour with Lunch
- Full-Day Serra D’ Arga Tour of Waterfalls, Watermills and Traditional Cornbread
- Private Food Tour of Porto: The 10 Tastings