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  • Mathilde

Porto city guide

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Smaller and cuter than its big sister Lisbon, Porto gently emerges and has a lot to offer in terms of culture, leisure and gastronomy with its historic center designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gourmet restaurants sprouting up here and there, magnificent Port Wine lodges across the Douro river and vast sandy beaches on its doorstep.

1) Yoga

To be honest, yoga in Porto has not yet totally gone through its western revolution, with many studios offering either dogmatic practices or loose and unreliable schedules. But it is a fast-moving city and one can start to find recommendable addresses, though:

Cosy place located in Matosinhos (north of Porto) created by Pedro Varela 'as a way to take his passion beyond the simple practice'. Hatha, Vinyasa and free flow yoga can be practiced here Monday to Saturday, not to mention Power yoga with the wonderful Inês.

After completing her yoga teacher training in India, Filipa Li launched this tiny little studio located in the city center which offers Ashtanga and Vinyasa classes Monday to Friday and also - as its name doesn't indicate - Yin yoga and meditation.

A little studio located close to the ocean shore and run by a couple of yoga enthusiasts. They offer Hatha and Ashtanga classes from Monday to Friday and a wide range of events, workshops and even a trip to India next spring.

Every Saturday morning at 10, the studio 'Vidya academia de Yoga' hosts a free class in the beautiful 'Jardins do Palacio de Cristal'. One hour of - somewhat unorthodox - yoga on the grass with a panoramic view on the city, surrounded by hens and peacocks. The little kiosk around offers delicious coffee and 'pasteis de nata' for the after yoga snack.

2) Eat and drink

As they say, when in Porto, try the Port Wine! I prefer it chilled, on its own or with tonic and some ice. You can find some in every bar and restaurant around the city, so make your own experience!

Standing on a tiny triangular square in the district of Cedofeita, Aduela is a wine bar with a relaxed urban vibe that offers good music and good food. What more can you ask for?

For a romantic dinner, head to the Taberna dos esquecidos where you'll be served gourmet Portuguese food in a very cozy and tasteful environment made of purple walls and golden table lamps.

Finally, my favorite is called Maus Habitos. Located on top of a car park, it is not only a fine Italian restaurant but also a place that promotes all forms of cultural expression and offers exhibitions and gigs all year long -so check the schedule! The industrial design gives the place a trendy vibe, while the pretty little terrace adds a splash of green. I like to go there on Sunday for the brunch from midday onwards.

3) Culture

The rua Miguel Bombarda and its surroundings are called the 'art district' because they have the highest concentration of art galleries, which get together once every two months to open their new exhibitions. The event usually takes place on Saturdays at 4pm and it is free and open to the public.

Porto is home to the Portuguese center of photography, which is located in a former 18th century prison. The building was refurbished in 2001 by the Portuguese architect Souto de Moura and is well worth a visit. The center is home to more than 60 collections - of which the national and the municipal collections - and offers an annual program of exhibitions. Entry is free.

4) Treat yourself

On the left bank of the river Douro, amidst the Port Wine lodges, stands the Yeatman luxury hotel, which can pride itself on having the best views over Porto and the Douro river. In addition to a 2 Michelin stars restaurant, the hotel includes a wine therapy spa unusually large and bright. The full body massage + afternoon tea in the resting room overlooking the historic center of Porto is to die for! Of course, it's a bit expensive (I paid 125€ for the package), but I spent the whole afternoon there, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, enjoying the deep swimming pool, sauna, hammam, sensory showers, hot whirlpool baths and watching the sunset over the city. I think it's worth it!

I spent the whole afternoon there, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, enjoying the deep swimming pool, sauna, hammam, sensory showers, hot whirlpool baths and watching the sunset over the city.

5) Day trip

Just outside the city starts the Douro valley: acres of vineyards rolling down the hills towards the Douro river. You can go there by car, train or even take one of the boat trips that are offered from Porto along the river. The Douro valley being home to the fine and rich Douro wines (both white and red), you can visit wineries, enjoy a wine tasting, have dinner in a delicious typical Portuguese restaurant and even stay for a night among the vines in one the many farms ('quintas') which offer accommodation. Although I would recommend going late September when the vines start to become golden, it is a worthy experience throughout the year!

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