Journi Guide | Skip Portugal's Lisbon and Head to Porto

Portugal's best kept secret is perfect for Foodies and Design-Diehards.

When travelling to a famous international destination, we tend to have high expectations. Breathtaking views! Great food! Cultural exchanges with friendly locals! But too many times, our lofty aspirations are met with the harsh reality of dirty, overcrowded streets and pricey hotels. Local flavor? It's nearly impossible to find in many of the world's most touristy destinations. That's why we've created Journi Guides.

Journi Guides tell you where to beat the crowds, experience something authentic, and get the best 'gram of your life.

Check out this week's Journi Guide below to get our top recommendation of places you might not have heard of, but definitely should get to know.

Aesthetes and bon vivant's headed to Portugal should skip Lisbon and head to Porto. The laid-back coastal city has a stunning walkable center of 18th and 19th century architecture. Old world meets new in sleek design shops and artful, innovative restaurants and bars.

Climb the clerics' tower

Get your bearings—and the best panoramic views of Porto—in the belfry of Torre de Clérigos. Up 225 steps of a curving spiral staircase, you'll find sweeping views of tiled roofs, steeples, and the curve of the Douro River.

Appreciate the city's azulejo art

All around town, admire azulejo tiles, the elaborately painted tiles that came to Portugal in the 15th century. Landmarks popular for their tile tapestries include the Estação São Bento, the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, and the Igreja do Carmo.

Bottom's up

Become well-versed in the city's eponymous sip—as well as the country's wider variety of wines—at wine shops like Porto in a Bottle, which features many small producers. For five euros, you can sample three ports at Touriga Vinhos de Portugal or upgrade to a full flight at Vinologia.

Eat the signature sandwich

Portugal's answer to the croque monsieur, the francesinha features cured ham, steak, and linguiça (a Portuguese sausage) between thick slices of bread, buried beneath a blanket of melted cheese and a sauce of beer, tomato, chilies. "The little French woman" or "little Frenchie" is Porto's perfect hangover food.

Shop for chic souvenirs

You'll want to scoop up ever artful item at A Vida Portuguesa, a shop with colorful, nostalgic Portuguese products like notebooks, cans of sardines, lettuce ware dishes and its signature ceramic swallows. Fall in love with the charming Mercado 48, stocked with handmade leather goods and cork-and-ceramic teapots and mugs, a a nod to Portugal's history of cork production.

Cathedrals & cloisters

Perched atop a hill, the twin-towered cathedral Sé do Porto was begun in the 12th century but has become a gorgeous amalgam of architectural styles spanning multiple centuries. There's a haunting 14th century Gothic cloister with more signature azulejos, and outside, a terrace with picturesque views of Porto.

The bookstore of your fantasies

With an Art Nouveau façade and a Neo-Gothic interior featuring a stained glass ceiling, regal red rugs, and an Escher-esque staircase that stretches across the store, Livraria Lello is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. (It was also a favorite haunt of J.K. Rowling's once upon a time and a must-see for Harry Potter fans.)

Eat tapas, Portuguese style

On Rua dos Caldeireiros, a smattering of restaurants offer petiscos, the Portuguese answer to tapas. Rather than one sit-down meal, duck into Caldeireiros, Trasca, and Porta'O Lado for small plates of roasted green chilies and alheira de caça, a sausage made with white meats like rabbit and chicken. Wash it all down with cold glasses of vinho verde.

The logistics

Fly into Francisco Sa Carneiro airport, 11 kilometers north of the city center, or take a 3-hour train from Lisbon. Stay at the Mercador Guesthouse or modern The White Box House—both chic shockingly and affordable. Not unlike Porto itself.


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