1. Find aesthetic magic at Serralves Park
Visionary, uber-wealthy 20th-century Portuguese aristocrat Count Carlos Alberto Cabral was a cultured dude, who loved discovering art and hobnobbing with the artisanal elite of Europe. His legacy is the disgracefully cool Serralves Villa, a millennial-pink art deco manor house set in 18 hectares of exquisitely manicured grounds, themselves home to some 200 species of indigenous and ornamental exotic plants. Not enticing enough? There’s also the on-site Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art – an architectural jewel in its own right – and a cinema. Collectively, it's one of the world's most important cultural institutions – rich pickings indeed.
210 Rua Dom João de Castro, Bairro Gomes da Costa
General entry €12
2. Find your perfect francesinha
Visiting gastronauts shouldn't miss Porto's signature sandwich. The francesinha is an indulgent feast of wet-cured ham, smoke-cured linguiça sausage, fresh sausage and roast meat slathered with melted cheese, and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce. For a solid traditional take, check out Café Santiago (at 226 Rua de Passos Manuel). For something a little spicier it’s Lado B (at 190 Rua de Passos Manuel). Or for ultimate cool points, hit Cantinho do Avillez (at 166 Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira), run by Portuguese celebrity chef José Avillez, which offers an avant-garde deconstruction of the dish, with truffle sauce, Serra da Estrela cheese and pork neck.
3. Search out a snifter in a port cellar
Made with grapes from the surrounding Douro Valley, port wine is sweet, rich and potent – often a nice, punchy 20 percent ABV – and sinking a glass or two at one of the esteemed port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia (just across the river from Porto proper) is a must. You can’t go wrong with a tasting tour at Ferreira (at 70 Avenida de Ramos Pinto), where they’ve been bottling the good stuff for 250 years now. Graham’s (at 141 Rua do Agro) is another big hitter, with centuries of tradition and the novel opportunity to actually watch the distinctive ruby-red tipple being made and packaged. But houses abound – Sandeman, Cálem, Offley, Taylors and more are all within strolling distance – so you'll never be short of a spot to wet your whistle.
Find more port houses in Porto
4. Mooch around the market at Mercado de Bolhão
See, touch and taste for yourself just how much they dig local produce around here with a mosey around Mercado de Bolhão. Situated in a pretty 19th-century wrought-iron hall on a slope overlooking the inner-city Douro, it’s divided by secants into different areas: the butchers, the cod-slinging fishmongers, etc etc. The hall echoes to the shrill cry of the vendors' pregão – sales banter, basically – and the sparkly zing of the traditional knife-sharpener, who sets up his stall by the main entrance.
Rua de Fernandes Tomás, Bolhão
5. Wander over the double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge
Don’t let anybody tell you Porto’s iconic span was knocked up by Gustave Eiffel, of the eponymous tower fame. It was actually one of his apprentices, a German chap named Théophile Seyrig. Still, it’s a vast improvement on previous Douro-crossing arrangements – back then locals would apparently lash a load of boats together and hope the tides weren’t too rough that day. Nowadays it carries a busy road, the metro and a very lovely walkway along the elegant upper deck, commanding superior views of the Porto skyline. So it’s an eyeful, either way.
6. Discover the magic of reading at Livraria Lello
JK Rowling lived in Porto when she was writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. And even though she’s recently said she doesn’t quite remember visiting this specific bookshop, even the most diehard sceptic has to concede that the theatrical, kinda-gothic interior and serpentine central stairway of Livraria Lello has an uncannily Hogwarts vibe about it. Potter fans pay pilgrimage in their droves, because it’s magical and beautiful and well worth supporting. Never mind 'Expecto Patronum', though – you should probably just Expecto Massive Queues.
144 Rua das Carmelitas, Baixa
7. Hit the tiles at Igreja de Carmo
Portuguese folk love covering buildings in tiles, or ‘azulejos’ (it's from the Arabic 'al-zulaich' meaning ‘polished stone’). It’s said the tradition was borrowed from the Moors, who borrowed it from the Persians, who nicked it from the Romans. More recently, they were manufactured by the Dutch. Anyway, they’re everywhere and they’re lovely – nowhere more so than the façade of Igreja de Carmo, which is separated from another church (Igreja dos Carmelitas) by a metre-wide house installed deliberately to stop naughty monks fraternising with frisky nuns next door. Heavens above.
Rua do Carmo, Baixa
Free (€1.50 for viewing platform)
8. Dance about architecture at Casa da Música
Groovy architect Rem Koolhaas was commissioned to knock up the first centre in Portugal to be wholly dedicated to music (performing, teaching, preserving), inaugurated in honour of Porto’s status as a European Capital of Culture. Imaginatively dispensing with the typical shoebox shape of similar venues, Casa da Música has an agreeably over-stuffed quality, as if straining to contain all the melodious magic inside. Home to the Orquestra Nacional do Porto, it’s open for regular guided tours – look out for the azulejo-decorated VIP bit, with tiles sourced from Koolhaas’s native Netherlands.
604-610 Avenida Da Boavista, Boavista
9. Get framed at Ó! Galeria
Porto is an especially stylish city, and as such you should aim to go home with an especially stylish souvenir. You won’t do better than the eye-catching wares at Ó! Galeria. A dinky little artist-run boutique, the idea is to showcase the best of Portuguese (plus a smattering of international) illustrators. Expect plenty of bold, block colours and a cheery mishmash of styles. If you’re worried about fitting a frame in your hand luggage, don’t – it also sells sweet T-shirts and illustrated knick-knacks. Swing by for yourself and see why Ó! Galeria is such a consistently popular draw.
61 Rua de Miguel Bombarda, Baixa
10. Party like a local at Plano B
Make yourself at home in Plano B – a converted, traditional Portuguese townhouse complete with antique furniture, saucy statues and nifty concept lighting throughout. By day the ground floor is serves as a very respectable coffee spot and art gallery. By night the larger room is given over to live acts, the other to big DJ talent – Jamie XX has played here, as has Peaches. And when you’re really ready to get down, the basement is widely regarded as the best nightclub in town. Literally the coolest house party you’ve ever been to.
30 Rua de Cândido dos Reis, Ribeira