City break in Porto: savour old world charm and sumptuous food

My favourite memory of Porto? Sipping a glass of local port in a cosy wine cellar beside the River Douro.

It sums up what this city is all about: the pleasures of the good life, never too far away from the water. More laidback than Lisbon, the charms of Portugal’s second city are subtle but countless, from the medieval Ribeira district to the serene, 19th-century Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.

Even if you’ve been here before, it’s easy to find something new to see – and something delicious to eat – in sun-soaked Porto. Last time I visited, I tried a cheesy steak and ham francesinha sandwich with beer sauce for the first time (and I can wholeheartedly recommend it). To get you started in this historic yet flourishing coastal city, here are a few of my top picks.

What to see and do in Porto


This city effortlessly combines swoon-worthy architecture with quiet parks and cavernous bookshops.

Where to stay in Porto

This lively city is brimming with places to stay, whether you’d prefer an ultra-hip boutique spot or an historic hotel overlooking the river.

A central five-star hotel for your Porto city break

For an upmarket Porto city break, Hotel Infante Sagres is definitely one to consider. Each room and suite is individually decorated with heritage-style dark wood and sumptuously upholstered fabrics. You can even treat yourself to an in-room massage. Discover contemporary European cuisine – with a healthy side of panache – at the hotel’s stylish Vogue Café. The menu sums up what I love most about Porto: that classic old-meets-new feel, with dishes such as tandoori beef tartare and codfish cocochas.

Hospes Infante Sagres Porto

Top rated
9.5 Excellent (1401 reviews)

Self-catering in Porto's historic heart

Like to do your own thing? These self-catered apartments offer a luxury stay in the middle of the UNESCO-listed Old Town for your Porto weekend away. When I stayed here, I loved that the apartments were in a former 19th-century iron warehouse. The exposed concrete and wooden floors give the apartments so much character. There are free-standing bathtubs, king-size beds and views out over the city (trust me, there’s no better place for your morning coffee). Also on site is a yoga school and studio that can be rented for meditation.

Armazem Luxury Housing- Architectural & Design Hotel

9.8 Excellent (104 reviews)

An innovative and contemporary hotel in Porto

This forward-thinking accommodation in the central Bolhão area wants to break the boundaries. Stay at Zero Box Lodge for rooms inspired by Japanese capsule hotels. I’m talking minimalistic spaces made almost entirely out of wood, complete with dream-worthy beds and private bathrooms. Communal spaces like the bar, rooftop and movie room are decorated with Portuguese art, giving Zero Box Lodge a creative, almost hostel-like feel. Perfect if you’re on a budget, or just fancy experiencing a different kind of hotel. Oh, and your room key comes with a free beer.

Zero Box Lodge Porto

9.0 Excellent (499 reviews)

An elegant 19th-century Porto hotel

Grande Hotel do Porto oozes old-school charm with its opulent décor. If you’re celebrating, splash out on one of seven Signature Suites, each inspired by a key figure from Porto’s history. My favourite part of the hotel was the D. Pedro II Restaurant, named after the former Brazilian Emperor, who once visited. The interiors are unabashedly glamorous, with red velvet upholstery and framed portraiture. There’s a menu to match, with mouthwatering dishes like codfish confit and rhubarb tiramisu.

Grande Hotel do Porto

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (2503 reviews)

Where to eat and drink in Porto

Bring your appetite on your short break to Porto. You’ll find everything from cosy port cellars to modern restaurants run by celebrity chefs like José Avillez.

Local tip: If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong by ordering the house wine in Porto. It’s usually produced nearby and tastes delicious. When paying the bill, remember to factor in that it’s polite to tip between 5% and 10%.