Dance enthusiast Marta Macedo was born and raised in Porto and came to realize just how much she loved her city while she was studying abroad. “People may live their lives trying to figure out where their home is,” she says. “Being away made me realize that Porto truly is home for me.” After traveling the world and gaining her degree, Marta returned to her beloved port city and started sharing her hometown pride on Spotted by Locals. Here are a few of her favorite things about Portugal’s second largest city.

Porto Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is Miradouro da Vitória, because the walk to get there gives you a true feel of Porto and when you reach your destination, the view is so breathtaking that there’s no way you won’t fall in love.

Summer is the best time to visit my city because it looks brighter and happier and you can walk everywhere. While Porto is poetically melancholic in the winter, I still think the sunshine makes for a better experience.

You can see my city best from Gaia, across the Douro River.

Locals know to skip the crowded beaches in Matosinhos, and check out the ones in Gaia or Leça instead—they’re cleaner, quieter, and generally more pleasant.

A Vida Portuguesa is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like cello prodigy Guilhermina Suggia, protofeminist poet Florbela Espanca, and inspiring writer Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (girl power, yeah!) have called my city home.

Serralves, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, is one of the most visited museums in Portugal. (Photograph by malisia, Flickr)

Serralves, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, is one of the most visited museums in Portugal. (Photograph by malisia, Flickr)

My city’s best museum is Serralves because in addition to featuring contemporary art exhibits, the architecture of the building is a work of art in itself and the gardens look like something out of a dream. It’s the perfect setting for a lovely afternoon.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you can easily walk from one place to the next. But be prepared to climb some steep hills, especially if you’re downtown.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is either downtown or by the sea in Foz.

My city really knows how to celebrate Festa São João (Saint John the Baptist Festival), held every year on the night of June 23, because there’s nothing like it the world. It’s a very democratic party where people from all backgrounds come together to celebrate. You have to experience it to understand it.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they are really loud and swear a lot.

For a fancy night out, I’d go for sushi dinner and drinks downtown.

Just outside my city, you can visit Viana do Castelo and Esposende, and the small villages around them; these are my favorite places for a relaxing weekend break.

Viana de Castelo boasts a medieval city center and stand-out Costa Verde beaches. (Photograph by Graeme Churchard, Wikimedia Commons)

Viana de Castelo boasts a medieval city center and stand-out Costa Verde beaches. (Photograph by Graeme Churchard, Wikimedia Commons)

My city is known for Porto wine and its football (soccer) club, Futebol Clube do Portobut it’s really a cultural melting pot of old and new, traditional and cutting-edge, rustic and polished. It’s a beautiful mix.

The best outdoor market in my city is probably the monthly flea market. But for something genuinely local go to Mercado do Bolhão (you’ll see what I mean about people being loud and swearing a lot).

Duas de Letra is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Museu d’Avó is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Viral Agenda.

My city’s biggest sports event is anything futebol-related. Whether they support the largest local club or root for someone else, football is a religion for people around here. You can watch a game at Dragão stadium, the primary one in the city.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I may go for a picnic in one of the city’s many gardens. If you fancy the city center, Jardim das Oliveiras is a great option.

To escape the crowds, I avoid shopping malls on Sundays like the plague. And though Rua de Santa Catarina, one of the city’s most popular shopping streets, is crowded, at least it’s outdoors.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Morgan Freeman because it’s old and wise and its charm draws you in.

The dish that represents my city best is the Francesinha sandwich, and Porto wine is my city’s signature drink, though the locals have a soft spot for beer, especially our very own Super Bock. I recommend sampling the Francesinha at Café Santiago and Porto wine at Caves Ferreira. As for Super Bock? Well, that’s everywhere!

Teatro Nacional São João is my favorite building in town because though it may fall under the radar, it embodies Porto’s main characteristics: It’s beautiful yet not overpowering, perfectly proportioned, not overwhelmingly large, and just grand enough to make a statement. Also, I love theaters in general and this is the prettiest one in the city.

The most random thing about my city is that there are seagulls everywhere, even in the city center, far from the sea. Beware.

Casa da Música is the best place to see live music indoors, and Primavera Sound is by far the best music festival in Porto. But if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Plano B.

Porto's stunning Casa da Música (Photograph by wojtekgurak, Flickr)

Porto’s stunning Casa da Música (Photograph by wojtekgurak, Flickr)

Getting lost and making friends for life while trying to find your way could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should enjoy a nice cup of tea on the beautiful terrace at Rota do Chá.

In the summer you should be able to enjoy the sunshine and go to the beach; Praia da Memória is probably my favorite one.

In the fall you should stroll the leaf-covered paths of Palácio de Cristal and discover the hidden spots while enjoying amazing views of the city.

In the winter you should take a break from shopping and sightseeing by stopping by the Traveller Caffé for a nice cup of hot chocolate.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss roller-skating or bicycling along Avenida Brasil.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Lua,” by Porto native Pedro Abrunhosa. It’s a bit cliché and slightly tacky, but it’s a very personal and meaningful choice.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because Porto makes you feel like you belong. It’s small enough to be comfortable, yet big enough to be interesting. And it’s irresistibly charming.

Comments

  1. Raul Osorio
    Porto, Portugal
    August 29, 6:58 am

    Helen you should come back, the city has dramatically changed in this decade since you came here. To it’s old days charm it now adds an incredible growth in tourism, an added sophistication to touristic offer and a memorable night life.

  2. Elissa
    USA
    August 25, 2:47 pm

    Porto was my favorite city when I visited Portugal two years ago. The entrance into the city was depressing– we drove past many crumbling buildings. A guide explained that severe rent control means many landlords don’t have enough money for the necessary upkeep. But once we were able to explore, we walked by many beautifully tiled buildings, including a church where the entire exterior was blue & white tile. I also enjoyed the colorful district along the river and visiting the port cellars in Gaia. I would love to go back for a Douro river cruise and spend more time in Porto also.

    http://www.elissaexplores.com

  3. Helen Morrison
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    August 7, 3:25 am

    Visited in 2002 and loved it. Dined down on the quay and visited Sandman & Sons and toured the city and some vineyards along the River Duoro. I suggest that it has changed over the years, however I would revisit in a flash as there was so much that I didn’t get to see.