Tourism in Porto has grown exponentially in the last few years. At first, it was mostly because of the budget airlines new routes but with time, visitors started to realize the city was a hidden gem and had a lot to offer. This article will help you understand why you should visit our city in the coming year.
Article by: Kleiber, the owner and guide at Hi Porto Free Walking Tours
In 2017, Porto was on the spotlight when it was chosen the best destination in Europe and people wanted to know a bit more about Porto than just Porto wine. In 2019, the number of visitors grew by 10% compared to the year before and it represented about 20% of the city’s GDP.
With the tourism becoming so important for the economy of the city, the Covid-19 pandemic was a major shock. When everybody was getting ready for another successful season, suddenly the world was turned upside down and the economy of Porto was hit hard. Many restaurants, hotels and tourism related business closed or are struggling to survive, waiting for the vaccine and for the tourist to come back next year.
Last month, the city was chosen the Europe’s leading city break Destination by the Travel Awards (the Oscar of the Tourism Industry) and the top destination for Culture and History Experience in 2021 by the National Geographic Magazine.
This was very good news to Porto and will definitely help the city to emerge from this hard time and become one of the most visited places in Europe again.
We’ve made a list with the best reasons to visit Porto in 2021.
1 - Northern Portuguese Food
Portugal is famous for its incredible gastronomy and the Northern region of the country is definitely the place where you’ll find the most delicious dishes.
Starting with the unique Francesinha (sandwich consisting of toasted bread, steak, two types of sausages, ham, covered with melted cheese and an egg on top, normally served with chips and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce to dip your sandwich), Tripas a moda do Porto (Traditional Porto Tripe), Cachorros do Porto (sausages served on a crispy bread with cheese and a little touch of spice sauce), Alheira (typical sausage stuffed with pork, chicken, turkey and other kinds of meats), Bacalhau a Gomes de Sá (Codfish with potatoes, eggs and olives) and Bifanas (pork sandwich) are just some of the dishes you should try on your visit to Porto.
The best places to try local food are the local restaurants called “Tascas” in Portuguese (similar to Trattoria in Italian).
2 – Ribeira
The area known as Ribeira is a Unesco Heritage Site since 1996. This is the oldest and most charming part of the city and with its old colorful buildings (some dating from the XVII century and almost completely rundown), one of the most interesting areas and definitely not to be missed. To really enjoy and understand it, you have to walk up and down and get lost on its narrow streets but we can assure you won’t regret.
At the shores of the Douro River you’ll find a great place to relax and to take that Instagram picture with the incredible Luis I bridge behind you. If you have time, take the 6 bridges cruise to have a fantastic view of Porto from the Douro River. It’s a 40 minutes ride and definitely worth it.
3 – Architecture and Historical buildings
Porto offers an enormous range of historical buildings with incredible architecture.
Starting with São Bento Station, one of the most beautiful stations in the world, covered with more than 20.000 tiles, Porto’s City Hall with its Flemish style, Sé Cathedral which is the oldest church in Porto with its mixed of Romanesque and gothic style, Clérigos Tower, built in baroque style and at some point the highest point in Porto with its 75 meters and the famous Lello e Irmão bookshop, a precursor of the Art Nouveau movement in Portugal are just some of the spectacular buildings you should visit.
4 – Amazing views
Porto is a very hilly city and for that reason you’ll find several viewpoints to enjoy the amazing views.
The ones we recommend are the view from Miradouro da Vitória, the view from the gardens of the Crystal Palace, the view from Clérigos Tower, the view from Luis I bridge and for the sunset, the view from Serra do Pilar is breathtaking.
5 - Port Wine
The reason that made Porto so famous could not be left out of our list.
Port wine is produced in the mountainous eastern reaches of the Douro Valley, one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful vineyard areas where wine has been made for at least two thousand years. Until well into the XX century, the wine was carried down the Douro River in special boats known as “rabelos” and then unloaded into the cellars of the Port Wine Houses in Vila Nova de Gaia, located across the river from Porto, to be aged, blended, bottled and finally shipped.
Nowadays you can visit most of the cellars and learn a bit more about Port Wine and taste its different types (definitely the best part of the visit).
We hope we've given a little taste of what is expecting for you in Porto!