Portugal’s second largest city and the heart of one of Iberia’s largest urban areas. Porto is home to around 300,000 people, with over 2 million in the surrounding region.
With a history stretching back to pre-Roman times, Porto has a dearth of history to explore. It was occupied by the Moors, the heart of Portuguese ship building, and invaded by Napoleon’s forces. It was also famous for its wine production which gave its name to the fortified wine port.
Nowadays, Porto is home to many of Portugal’s largest corporations of various industries. Visitors to Porto come to see the UNESCO-designated old city centre, sample the local gastronomic delights, shop ’til they drop and take in the city’s laid-back culture.
For details about gay rights in Portugal, please see our Gay Lisbon City Guide page.
Compared to Lisbon, Porto is a conservative city. This doesn’t neccessarily mean that you should expect any bother as Portugal is, on the whole, a very liberal and welcoming place and Porto is not an exception.
If you scratch the surface, you will find a decent and buzzing selection of gay clubs, gay bars and gay saunas. Most of the gay venues are located in the area around Jardim da Cordoaria. The annual LGBT Pride parade in summer has become increasingly popular every year.
The Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO), located 11km from the city centre, is Portugal’s third busiest airport and is a hub for flag carrier TAP and focus city for easyJet and Ryanair. There are Transatlantic connections as well as flights in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The violet E line of the Metro (heading to Estádio do Dragão) will take you downton Porto. Tickets cost €1.85 and journey times to the city centre are around 25 minutes. Alternatively, change at Campanhã to access the other metro lines and long distance rail services.
There are buses available from the airport but it’s only really recommended to take the bus at night when the metro service isn’t running. Night line 3M is an hourly service and leaves from the airport’s bus station.
Taxis cost in the region of €20-30 euros which can be hailed at the airport or be booked in advance. Be aware that large items of baggage will incure greater costs.
Porto has two main stations. Sao Bento is the city’s central station and is a regional hub whereas Campanhã offers services further afield across the Iberian peninsula. Being in mainland Europe means that it is easy to transfer from larger hubs on the European rail network.
The ultra-modern Porto Leixões Cruise Terminal welcomes passengers embarking from cruise ships and is connected to the city by metro. Douro River cruises are also very popular and many tourists take this scenic route into the city.
Porto’s city centre is relatively small, so all the major sights are located close to each other. The city is, however, rather hilly, so if you plan to get around on foot, be well-prepared to do some serious walking.
By public transport
The best way to save money on public transport is to purchase a rechargable Andante card for 60 cents. This card works on the metro, buses and Funincular dos Guindais. Once “charged”, it can only be “recharged” for the zone that you have purchased travel in. Day passes cost €7.
Porto has 6 colour-coded and alphabetical metro lines, with more lines expected to be constructed. Waiting times vary depending on the time of day and Fridays and Saturdays have special night services. Be wary of pickpockets at rush hour.
Bus tickets start from €1.90 when bought on board and offer a better way of getting to specific destinations than the metro. The service is relatively frequent during the day, but at night look out for services marked with M which are less regular but should take you where you need to go.
There are taxi ranks readily available throughout the city, but the cost is higher than other modes of transport. Cheaper deals can be found by pre-ordering or using taxi apps. At busy times, Porto’s roads can become quite congested.
For a list of recommended hotels in Porto, please visit the Gay Porto Hotels page.
Port Wine Cellars – no trip to Porto would be complete without sampling the drink the country’s most famous for. There are many different cellars you can visit to try it so do your research to find to make the most of your budget.
Torre dos Clérigos (Cleric’s Tower) – one of Porto’s most iconic sights. The bell tower of this 18th Century church is a splendid example of Baroque architecture in the city.
Livaria Lello – a charming old bookshop with an astonishing interior. The cafe inside is a great spot for a cup of coffee (or glass of port).
Mercado do Bolhão – traditional food market selling everything from seafood to fresh fruit. There are a few restaurants situated here which are good options if you want to grab an inexpensive lunch.
Palácio da Bolsa – the 19th Century stock exchange building is a stunning neo-classical building that took nearly 70 years to complete. It is just as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside.
FC Porto – a tour of the football stadium offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of these European heavyweights. Why not try and catch them in action when they play a game at home?
Fundação de Serralves – contemporary art museum with a beautiful garden to walk around. Check online to find out about the most recent exhibition.
Centro Comercial Bombarda – not your regular shopping mall but a spot to purchase items made and produced by local artisans. Perfect for souvenirs or quirky treats for yourself.
The Atlantic Ocean makes the city of Porto cooler than other cities on the same latitude like Barcelona. But summers here are warm and sunny, with temperatures reaching up to 40ºC in heat waves (usually in the 20’s). Winters are generally cool but occasionally drop below 0ºC.
Porto hosts a wide range of events throughout the year. Some of the more popular include NOS Primavera (the counterpart to Barcelona’s hipster/indie music festival) in June, FantasPorto Film Festival in February, and the Porto Wine Festival in January.
Portugal is within the Schengen zone. Those who do not hold an EU passport or a valid Schengen Visa should check requirements with their own embassy.
Portugal’s official currency is the euro. Visitors will have no trouble exchanging cash and traveller’s cheques. Post offices usually offer a better rate than banks and commercial money-changing shops, though the latter might be the only option for obscure currencies.
ATM’s are widely available. When withdrawing cash from an ATM, a charge will be added (usually around €2), so it’s best to take out 100 or more at a time.
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