Porto is a charming and pitoresque Portuguese city, located 3.5 hours northwest of Lisbon by train. Porto—also known as Oporto—is the second largest city in Portugal famous for its port wine. Situated along the Douro River, Porto is one of the oldest European settlements; and therefore, it is filled with history, allure, and exuberance.
I was in Porto for a few days and, of course, visited the main tourist spots and savored the local wine. But when I travel, I like to immerse myself in the local culture and try some of the things that locals do. Here are some non-touristy things to do in Porto:
1. Visit a sapataria
Aside from pastelarias (coffee and pastry shops) and cervajarias (beer houses), what you see most in Portugal are sapatarias (shoe stores). Like its former colony Brazil, Portugal is a large footware manucfacturer. You can find a large selection of good quality and reasonably priced footwear in the sapatarias. They are scattered all over Porto and its neighboring city, Vila Nova de Gaia, but most of them are on 31 de Janeiro and Fernandes Tomas streets.
2. Dine at Cais de Gaia
Cais de Gaia is located on the other side of the Douro River. You can reach it on foot by crossing the Dom Luis I bridge from Porto. A lot of locals, including cab drivers and hotel workers, dine at the restaurants along Cais de Gaia.
The food is mouth-watering--and cheaper than Porto. I highly recommend a traditional Portuguese dish called bacalhau (cod fish). But the main reason you should dine at Cais de Gaia is for the view. Nowhere else will you have a better view of the city of Porto—it’s simply breathtaking!
3. Have coffee at a pastelaria
The Portuguese love their coffee and pastry—that’s why the streets of Portugal are filled with pastelarias. Try a café and salgados (savory pastries) at a pastelaria. The salgados come with different fillings such as beef, chicken and shrimp. The Portuguese sip 2-3 cups of coffee throughout the day--and I followed suit. The flavor and texture of their coffee is just out of this world. You'll know what I mean once you try it.
4. Buy port wine at a local supermarket
You cannot go to Porto and not buy port wine. The best place to purchase wine is at a local supermarket. Because port is produced right there, grocery stores and supermarkets are stocked with high quality local wine. You can get a great bottle of port wine for about 20 euros-- no need to spend a lot of money buying it from wineries.
While you are at the supermarket, you might also want to get some Portuguese coffee. I recommend Delta Café—it’s one the best known and loved brands and in the country.