Although it might not get quite the attention of Portugal's capital Lisbon, Porto is the unsung treasure of the Iberian Peninsula. The city boasts an array of interesting shops, delicious foods and enviable cultural events that make it worthy of more than just a quick weekend trip. But what to do if you're trying to cram in everything the city has to offer in the middle of a stifling summer? We've rounded up the top ten ways to beat the heat in Porto.
Porto might not be the first destination you think of when it comes to creamy cool gelato, but one scoop of Cremosi's unique flavors will change your mind. Adventurous ice cream eaters can try cheese or coca cola flavored gelato, but you'll find us choosing between their remarkable alcohol-infused varieties such as port wine, champagne and lemon vodka.
If it's too hot to contemplate a drink outside, head to Touriga Vinhos, where you can sample a variety of Portugal's distinctive wines, then buy a bottle to take home for yourself. The owner, David, loves port and will eagerly guide you through a tasting of three of his most distinctive varietals. The shop also sells vinho verde, Douro wine and Dao wine—three of Portugal's most distinctive wine varieties.
When temperatures climb in the middle of the day, duck into The Feeting Room, a collaborative store highlighting up-and-coming designers. The emphasis is on footwear and you'll be debating if you have room in your suitcase to shove in a pair understated leather sandals or Euro-chic sneakers. They also operate a cafe, The Coffee Room, where you can unwind with a frosty beverage while browsing local and international independent magazines.
From the outside, Porto's cathedral resemble a romanesque fortress, but inside the large columns that line the nave are even more imposing. The cathedral was built in the 12th century, though little of the original structure remains except for the gothic rose window. Be sure to pay a visit to the gothic cloisters. They cost extra, but the stunning azulejos (Porto's trademark blue painted tiles) recounting various stories merit the small entrance fee.
Think of A Vida Portuguesa as your dream souvenir shop. The store stocks an astonishing range of nostalgic Portuguese-made products unique to their locations. Whether you're beguiled by the bright hued ceramics or the retro-cute notebooks, you're sure to find something for everyone back home.
Modern art lovers will want to take an extra long break at Porto's contemporary art museum. The museum opened in 1999 in a building specially designed to blend the atmosphere of the city with its surrounding green space. Wander through the permanent collection featuring a variety of sight-specific installations, or take in a special exhibition, which frequently feature works by Portuguese artists you should know (but probably don't). Don't leave without visiting the remarkable gardens replete with lily ponds, roses and formal fountains.
You'll have to join guided tour to visit, but it's worth the advance planning to experience this architectural gem. The glass-domed entrance hall is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the opulent ballroom in which the stuccoed walls have been coated in over 18 kg of gold.
There's something for everyone at Armazem, a concept store housed in a warehouse on the outskirts of Porto. The name literally means "warehouse" in Portuguese and until recently the building was a storage facility for Real Companhia Velha wine and port. Unique clothing and housewares stores are set up around the sides, along with small displays of contemporary art by local artists. After shopping, take a break at the cafe/bar in the center, which serves a variety of drinks and tapas.
Both architecture and music lovers will relish a visit to the home of Porto's cultural scene. The building is the home of the Porto National Orchestra and was designed by Rem Koolhaas for 2001 when Porto was European capital of culture. You can attend a guided tour to see the building, otherwise look to see what performances are on during your visit.
Austere on the outside, stepping inside this church is like stumbling upon the biggest seam of gold. Every possible surface has been gilded, adding up to nearly 100 kilograms of gold leaf. If the baroque gaudiness is too much, head down to the cooler catacombs, which house a remarkable swath of some of Porto's most notable and notorious citizens of yore.