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10 Insider Tips on Best First Luxury Trip to Porto, Portugal

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In recent surveys about what’s on the travel wish list of many people, one of the most popular wished-for vacation destinations in the world turns out to be Portugal. And one of the country’s most charming cities is Porto. If you’re planning to visit for the first time, you’ve got questions. When is the best time to visit Porto (and the rest of Portugal)? Where’s the best place to stay? What are the must-do activities and the best secret places for a wonderful meal? We’ve done the work, and we’ve got answers. Here’s our report on insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and essential activities (plus the real story on which ones to skip).

our insider itinerary series

Insider Itinerary is an occasional series here at Dandelion Chandelier that shines a light on the best places to see, stay, and dine in some of the hottest travel destinations worldwide. Our far-flung correspondents are sharing their inside tips on how to best experience their chosen cities, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. Consider it your local luxury GPS. You’re welcome! In this edition, we share luxury insider tips on the best first trip to Porto, Portugal.

We began this series with Cape Town, South Africa. Since then, we’ve shared insider itineraries for Oslo, Nantucket, and East Hampton among others. Next up? Our design editor shares the inside scoop on her recent trip to Porto, Portugal.

Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation in Porto, Portugal.
Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.

insider itinerary for the best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal

1. Why Porto? What made you want to go there? Why should we go?

The charm, history and promise of authentic Portuguese dishes attracted us to Porto. She is the charming little sister to the more stately and sophisticated Lisbon.

2. How long did you stay? How long is the ideal first visit?

We spent 4 days in Porto. Since there are so many wonderful day trips you may want to extend your visit to 6 days.

3. What hotel(s) do you recommend? Or did you rent an apartment/house/villa?

In Porto we had a wonderful apartment in the Vitoria area located in a centuries-old building on a quiet side street within steps of shopping, restaurants, historical sites and the Douro River.
If a hotel is more to your liking, the Intercontinental – Palacio das Cardosas will provide a luxury stay in a great central location.

4. What are the 5 most important “must see” sights – natural wonders, museums and so on?

Top 5 Must-See Areas in Porto: São Bento Railway Station.
São Bento Railway Station. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
São Bento Railway Station. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Porto: Igreja de São Francisco cathedral.
Igreja de São Francisco cathedral in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.
Igreja de São Francisco cathedral in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Porto: The Serrvales Museum.
The Serrvales Museum was designed by Alvaro Siza, Portugal’s most prominent architect.
The Serrvales Museum. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
The Serrvales Museum. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Porto: a stroll across the Ponte Luis Bridge + port tasting.
After the museum, take a walk across the Douro River on the Ponte Luis Bridge designed by Gustavo Eiffel, followed by a port tasting at one of the world-famous port cellars located in the sister city of Gaia.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities.
Duoro River in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Envato Elements.
Top 5 Must-See Areas in Porto: Livraria Lello bookstore (*with one caveat, as explained below).
Livraria Lello bookstore. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities.
Livraria Lello bookstore. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Livraria Lello bookstore. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities.
Livraria Lello bookstore. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.

5. Is there good shopping? If so, where?

There’s wonderful shopping in the Vitoria and Ribera sections of Porto. You will find fabulous clothing, great shoes, and wonderful handmade gifts all in easy walking distance in these two adjacent areas.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation in Porto, Portugal.
Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.

6. Which restaurants did you love best?

Tapabento offers delicious authentic cuisine in a warm and cozy setting. Don’t be too discouraged if you cant get a reservation. With some flexibility and kind words to the hostess Isobel (in one of the 8 languages she speaks!), she can find a spot for you.
Encaixados offers a more upscale yet still unpretentious meal of traditional cuisine.
And for a break while touring and shopping, stop at BASE – a chic yet comfortable outdoor option – for a drink and tapas. Sit at the bar or a table in the shade or take your goodies and relax in its adjacent park with low tables in the grass.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities.
Insider tips on the best first luxury vacation in Porto, Portugal. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities.
Insider tips on best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal, including when to go, where to stay, top restaurants and activities. Photo Credit: Laurie Woods.
For a unique dining experience, take a day trip from Porto to the Mercado in Matosinhos. There you can make a selection from the abundance of fresh fish and seafood, which the adjacent restaurant will skillfully prepare and serve at your table with accompanying sides.

7. Of everything you did on your first visit, what was the one most memorable thing?

Making new friends over dinner. Yes, Porto attracts tourists. But many are fascinating individuals from all over the world who love to engage and share with others – just like you! So never decline seats at a community table.  You’ll leave with more than just a great food experience.

8. What would you take a pass on if you had it to do again? What ended up being overrated or over-hyped?

This is admittedly a contradiction because the Livraria Lello bookstore is listed above as a must see. But be prepared that the enjoyment can be diminished by all the hype surrounding it. There is always a line to get inside, although immediate entry passes can be purchased. Once inside, so many visitors are vying for photo ops with the stunning carved staircase that it can interfere with what surely was a wonderful experience before it was discovered by the tourist world.

9. What’s on your list to see next time that you didn’t get to see/do on your first visit?

We did not have time for the Casa de Musica designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaus. Next visit will surely include a concert in this intriguing modern building.
We would also likely add a day trip to the wineries in Douro Valley. Because while there why limit yourself to only Port tastings?!

10. Is this a good vacation for families with kids? Teenagers? Romantic partner? Solo traveler? Any or all of the above?

Definitely all of the above. Anyone who enjoys history, architecture, beaches, surfing, shopping, food, wine (PORT!), and warm people proud of their culture and happy to share will find plenty to love in Porto.

Describe Porto in three words.

Gracious. Magical. Delicious.

insider itinerary for the best first luxury vacation trip to Porto, Portugal

We don’t know about you, but our glasses are already raised. What say you, dear reader? Next stop, Porto?

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