Porto has become a real favourite among city travelers. Not only because it has become convenient and relatively cheap to fly there (airlines like Ryanair serve Porto). Also, because Portugal’s second largest city has invested a lot of money and energy to make it a great place to live and visit. The transformation is still ongoing, judging by the many construction works. This is a good sign, after years of economic crisis in Portugal.
What impressed us particularly is the number of healthy eateries now available in Porto. Vegan or vegetarian lunches and dining experiences have become hip.
Porto is also a great location for exploring northern Portugal and the vinho verde and Douro wine regions.
Here a few tips where to stay and what to do when visiting Porto, aimed at environmentally conscious, discerning travelers.
Where to stay in Porto
Where to stay in Porto? The options seem endless, and there certainly is something for every budget. Things get a little trickier for visitors looking for environmentally friendly, sustainable hotels. While hotel chains like Accor (Ibis, Novotel,..) are all doing their bit to reduce use of natural resources – and waste, sustainable boutique hotels like the Inspira Santa Marta in Lisbon are (still) rare in Porto. Here’s what we’ve found (suggestions welcome!):
The Yeatman Hotel
Member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux collection of hotels and distinguished with a Michelin Star for its restaurant under the direction of Chef Ricardo Costa, The Yeatman Hotel in Porto is a unique and distinctive landmark in the world of classic luxury hotels. And one which has implemented many environmental practices.
Check reviews and rates here
Monverde Wine Experience Hotel
Visiting Monverde was one of the highlights of exploring Porto and surroundings. Just an hour by car from the city, you’ll find yourself in a wine region famous for its vinho verdes. Monverde Wine Experience Hotel is almost a must when visiting Porto. Spoil yourself and your better half, enjoy the spa, the wine tastings and the fabulous architecture – all together making this a green, boutique experience.
Check reviews and rates here
What to do in Porto
Apart from the usual sights and highlights in Porto (join one of the many free tours for a good walk around the city), here some suggestions of things to do.
River / Ocean walk
Get a bus from downtown Porto (if that’s where you are staying) to the neighbourhood of Foz and enjoy the wild Atlantic ocean. Many locals come here for their evening run and you’ll find beach bars and cafés for shelter or refreshments.
Port wine tasting
If there’s one thing Porto is known for, then the port wine which traditionally was shipped from the city, even though the actual wine bottling action happens on the other side of the river, in the city of Vilanova de Gaia. Nevertheless, the name Porto somehow stuck and of course you’ll want to visit one of the numerous cellars. We had a good look around and liked Taylor’s most. The self-guided audio tour around the property (many languages available) and museums worked well for us, and we enjoyed the introduction to the world of port wine – the finale being the wine tasting at the end!
Douro valley and Quinta da Lixa
Visiting the Douro valley is the highlight of many Porto tours and you’ll find numerous tour operators serving this route. One particular spot to check out is Quinta da Lixa, where the (above mentioned) Montverde hotel is located. Not just because of their commitment to environmental best practices, but because the views from the hotel and restaurant are breath-taking. Great for a walk around and introduction to Portuguese wine.
Insider tip: just before you drive into the Monverde areal, there is a small restaurant serving local cuisine at generous portions and friendly prices. The family running it is very friendly too. You won’t find a sign outside the door, so this is where the locals hang out. The place is called Casa Ventura. Look out for the doors on their Facebook profile.
Where to eat
The amount of organic, vegetarian and vegan cafés and restaurants in Porto was a positive surprise. Some of them are quite famous and highly valued on TripAdvisor & co. Other, smaller ones you’ll probably only find wandering around with enough time to explore.
DaTerra is probably the best known vegetarian restaurant in Porto, now in three different locations. The vegan lunch menu is very popular among locals as well, so expect some noise and waiting time!
We didn’t get to try other restaurants during our stay, but this website has a good list.
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