Greetings Internet Stranger, and welcome to our one day in Porto itinerary. I bet you thought that we’d done everything there was to do in Portugal’s second city yesterday, right?! Today we’re going to dine in a library, drink some terrifying alcohol named after a clown, climb the Clerigos Tower, which is the highest building in Porto (not saying much), and eat the world’s best sponge cake. How was the voting for the world’s best sponge cake carried out, you ask? Come with me and all will be revealed.
One Day in Porto Itinerary
Where to Stay?
Porto is not the biggest city in the world, but you still want to enjoy your one day in Porto itinerary in a convenient neighborhood. I suggest the Jualis Guest House. There’s a good breakfast included, the rooms are pretty and charming, and it’s very affordable. It is also conveniently within walking distance of the Clerigos Tower. Besides, you don’t want to spend your entire 24 hours in Porto in your room! Get out and live a little, Internet Stranger!
One Day in Porto Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today around Porto. It’s very frequently hot here, though not always, so it’s smart to wear sandals. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! The sun can get scorching! My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. You don’t want to sling a heavy bag all around Porto. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so you’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Porto Itinerary
Morning: Self Guided Food Tour
As I have said before and will say again repeatedly, no matter how many times the authorities try to silence me, my three favorite things to do when traveling are: take food tours, visit museums, and wander around and randomly explore weirdness. Museums and weirdness are omnipresent in any city, but not every place is lucky enough to have a food tour. So I will present a little DIY food tour so you can get the most out of your time in Porto!
Approximately top 5: porto snacks edition
1) pastel de nata
The absolute first dish almost anyone talks about when discussing Portuguese food is the notorious egg tart, pastel de nata. This is a warm egg custard tart topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. 4 out of 5 Portuguese doctors say that you should eat two every morning for breakfast.
Enjoy your pastel de nata with a side of espresso at a shop called Fabrica de Nata. The pastry was flaky and the custard oozed out of the tart with every bite. Apparently the richness of the custard was due to the fact that it is made only using egg yolks. So if I eat an egg-white omelet for breakfast, that should balance out eating a pastel de nata afterwards, fat-wise, right? That’s just science.
2) Meat, cheese, and wine
Another food you simply must try in Portugal is the ubiquitous meat and cheese platter. Hmm. Now that I look at the photo above, it doesn’t seem quite right. Let me fix something.
There! I added some port wine. That looks better! This food platter is courtesy of a gourmet food shop called Comer e Chorar Por Mais, which is Portuguese for “Eat and Cry For More”. I’d say that’s exactly what we did! I had no idea that Portugal was famous for its cheese before visiting here. My favorite was the Serpa cheese, which adds paprika to the rind to give it a little kick.
3) Bifana roll
Never think of leaving Portugal without eating a bifana, which is a marinated pork sandwich topped with onions and served on a roll. Get yours at a casual spot called Conga, and chase it with a light Portuguese beer, Super Bock. This sandwich is quite spicy because of the peri-peri sauce used to flavor the pork. You can get extra peri-peri if you like things super spicy and also like having to chug Portuguese beer really quickly afterwards because your eyes are watering. Not that I know this from experience or anything, ahem!
I love the combination of rich spicy pork and the light and fluffy Portuguese rolls with the crunchy exteriors. This is definitely a real man’s sandwich.
Now it’s time for us to head to the Codfish Ball! But not this kind of Codfish ball…
This kind of codfish ball! If there’s one thing the Portuguese love, it’s salted codfish. I speak French fluently and Portuguese not really at all, but I still know the word for cod in Portuguese better than I know it in French. (It’s bacalhau in Portuguese and la morue in French, for the curious.) They’re best served like Portuguese rolls: warm, soft on the inside, and super crispy on the outside.
These codfish balls at Casa Leandro were especially interesting because they were served with clown juice, aka Eduardino. This is an anise-flavored liquor named after a clown who performed in Lisbon and loved his booze. So every time you drink an Eduardino, just remember that you’re drinking the tears of a clown.
5) Even more preserved fish
The Portuguese are truly unparalleled wizards when it comes to cooking with cured fish. They are the Dumbledores of salted seafood. I learned this by stopping a store that specializes in curing our scaly friends of the deep and sampling some of their fish pairings. First we had sardines and honey. I liked this because the sweetness of the honey helps to cut the aggressive flavor of the sardines.
Next was cod with raspberry jelly. This was very tasty, but the raspberry jelly has a strong taste that sometimes overpowered the cod.
The last was smoked trout with cream cheese and pesto. This was my favorite because it tasted just like a perfect little appetizer to serve at a cocktail party. But it did lack the sweetness of the other two fish pairings.
6) Port wine
Of course, if you’re drinking in Porto, the first think you’re going to think of is not clown juice but Port wine, the fortified nectar of the gods. We stopped in for a wine tasting and got to sample the three kinds of port: white, red, and tawny.
The white was medium dry, but since this is Port we’re talking about, it was still a bit sweet. The red had a kind of peppery taste, and we were told that it was aged in steel. I always want to know how a drink aged in steel doesn’t end up tasting like metal. The tawny was sweet and aged in wood for 10 years. This was my favorite because it tasted the most like a beverage I could imagine a fat 19th century Englishman drinking with his buddies right before Sherlock Holmes proved him guilty of murdering his groomsman.
7) Potato croquetas
After some fancy Port wine, it is time to put the country back into Porto and stop by a family-run restaurant for some warm and homey potato croquetas. These delicious fried potato balls have a surprise inside. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed “codfish”, you are 100 percent correct. When in Portugal, 93 percent of the time the answer to a trivia question is going to be codfish.
Wash down the croquetas with some mildly spicy Portuguese chicken gizzard stew and black eyed pea salad. I’m just glad for Fergie’s sake that they weren’t Black Eyed Pea gizzards. If you’re feeling squicked about eating gizzards, don’t be! Don’t you care about using every part of the animal? Don’t you want to take care of the environment? Have a heart, Internet Stranger! Also, eat a heart if necessary.
One Day in Porto Itinerary
Afternoon: Explore Porto and the Clerigos Tower
Now that we’ve gotten the food out of the way, it’s the time in our one day in Porto itinerary to take a walk on the wild side! And in Porto, the wild side usually involves gold leaf and tiles. It also involves climbing up the “giant” Clerigos Tower. As usual, I encourage you to take the afternoon and see the city on your own. But to help you get started…
Approximately top 5: clerigos tower edition
1) The Clerigos Tower
The Clerigos Tower is one of the most memorable landmarks in Portugal. It is the bell tower attached to the Clerigos Church, so if you visit the tower, you get to visit the church also. It’s two landmarks in one! Actually, there is a museum about the Clerigos Tower inside the Clerigos Tower, so it’s really three landmarks in one. The Clerigos tower is also the best place to go for amazing views of Porto’s famous red roofs. But if you want a little knowledge along with your scenery…
THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT THE CLERIGOS TOWER
A) Who built the clerigos tower?
The architect of this Portuguese landmark, the Clerigos Tower, was actually an Italian, Nicolau Nasoni, who constructed the church in the first half of the 18th century. Perhaps it is because the architect was Italian that the campanile (bell tower) has a rather Tuscan flavor to it. Nasoni ended up living most of his life in Porto, and he even joined the Brotherhood of the Clerigos, for whom this church is named, before his death.
B) How tall is the tower?
This is tall for Porto, but not terribly tall for the rest of the world. That is why, when you climb to the top of the tower, you will see signs like the one above showing how teeny the Clerigos Tower is in comparison with the Eiffel Tower and various skyscrapers in NYC. Way to be self-deprecating, Portuguese Bell Tower!
C) how do you get to the top of the clerigos tower?
It takes 240 steps to get to the top of the Clerigos Tower. Sadly, no owl will be there to help you bite off some of the steps. There you will be presented with sweeping views of the city. You worked hard to get up here, so take as many photos as you want, and don’t let any mean tourists push you off!
3) Stop in the Clerigos Church!
You can enter the Baroque and golden church right from the exit of the Clerigos Tower without exiting the building or paying any extra money. There is a museum inside the church dedicated to religious art. You will be able to explore many of the rooms and treasures of the Brotherhood of the Clerigos who inhabit this church.
Be sure to climb to the second floor of the church in order to find all of its secrets. I personally enjoyed pretending that I was hiding inside the altar or behind the church organ. It made me feel like an adorable little church mouse.
4) Get an eclair at the Leiteira da Quinto do Paco
You may be thinking that the massive food tour ended just a short time ago and how can I still be hungry? But I say that food tour was two and a half whole hours ago, and I need dessert! The LDQDP is one of the most famous pastry shops in Porto. They specialize in eclairs, from double chocolate to wild tropical fruit flavors.
I just got a regular eclair with chocolate frosting to see if the basic quality was good. It was super sweet and rich, so one eclair was enough to satisfy me, which is pretty impressive as normally I can eat as many eclairs as Eclair Monster. He’s just like Cookie Monster except he has a beret and a pencil mustache and says, “ECLAIR, HOH HOH HOH!” instead of “COOKIE, NOM NOM NOM!”
5) Igreja dos Carmelitas and igreja do carmo
Feeling a little churched out? Too bad! Churches are where it’s at in Porto. Our next stop on our one day in Porto itinerary is to see the blue and white tiles and gold-covered wooden statues in the Igreja dos Carmelitas and the neighboring Igreja do Carmo on R. do Carmo 1.
If you are curious where all the gold in the Portuguese churches comes from, it comes from Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. Remember, there was a time when the Portuguese empire was so powerful that Portugal and Spain decided to split the entire world between the two empires. Then England and France came along and that plan didn’t work so well.
But the gold in the Portuguese churches is part of what Portugal decided to do with all that colony money. There are definitely worse things they could have done with their loot. After all, if the gold is in a church, anyone can come look at it, whereas if it is all hidden away in a nobleman’s house, no one can see it but the nobleman’s friends and relations.
24 hour Treasure
Sometimes the gold in a Baroque church can be a little blinding. That’s why I grew fond of these slightly less gilded wooden statues with peaceful star-decorated backgrounds. They remind me of the heavens without blinding my eyes with shiny metal.
6) Find some street art!
Porto isn’t a city that is necessarily famous for its street art, but I promise you it’s there. Spend some time in your one day in Porto itinerary wandering about and find your favorite ephemeral cartoon cats, painted phone booths, and other unsolicited public art.
My favorite piece was this guy because it looks like a cross between a comic book and the ubiquitous Portuguese blue and white tiles. Way to use local inspiration to fuel your work, unnamed street artist!
7) The Praca do General Humberto Delgado
During your one day in Porto itinerary, it is important to find a relaxing place to sit and read for an hour before dinner. That’s why I like the Praca do General Humberto Delgado. Humbert Humbert, as no one calls him, was a Portuguese general and politician who was definitely murdered and…liked Hitler? That is what Wikipedia tells me, but that shouldn’t be right. Don’t go named squares after people who liked Hitler is Square Naming Rule 101 in my book.
Anyway, even if the square was named after a Fascist sympathizer, it’s still a nice place to read on a warm evening. Sometimes they even have a sound and light show.
I was not expecting this and for a brief moment thought a Hellmouth had opened. But no, it’s just public entertainment.
One Day in Porto Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Restaurante Book
I promised you that during your one day in Porto itinerary, you’d have dinner in a library, didn’t I? And I took the Blogger’s Oath to always deliver on my promises. At Restaurante Book, everything is book themed. The menu comes with a book.
If you need a coaster, the coaster will be a book. If you order a cocktail, it’s going to be a delicious Mojito named after Hemingway.
Even the bathroom signs are books! The ladies’s bathroom has all book covers with pictures of women on them, and the men’s bathroom has manly book covers. I’ve always wanted to see a Jacqueline Susann novel in Portuguese, so this was really living the dream for me.
I started with that Hemingway mojito and a refreshing Book salad, which is made with tomato jam and caramelized goat cheese rounds. I recommend making sure your bites have the jam, cheese, and greens in each one to get that perfect mix of sweet, bitter, and savory.
24 hour treat: acorda
My main course was an acorda, which is a Portuguese bread soup. It was contained eggs which made the bread soup very thick and creamy. I was surprised at how spicy the bread soup was, I had been worried something so carby would taste bland, but those fears were entirely unfounded. Those juicy prawns were my favorite part of the dish. We don’t get giant prawn heads like that back home. Any time you have a chance to eat seafood in Portugal, please do!
24 hour treasure
And now we come to what the restaurant called “the best sponge cake in the world”. I don’t know who died and made this sponge cake king, but it was pretty damn delicious. The sponge cake was light with a sweet and unidentifiable (to me) powder.
But the specialness was in the rich egg custard and berries that came oozing out of the sponge cake when you cut into it. After eating Portuguese food all day, I have to say that it is all delicious, but it is truly the egg custard that is Portugal’s gift to the culinary world.
That’s a One Day in Porto Itinerary!
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Porto now? Then let me help you with some suggestions for further reading. I like Lonely Planet’s guide to Porto. It’s divided into neighborhoods, which makes it easy to use for planning purposes.
Jose Saramago is one of the most famous Portuguese writers of all time. After all, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I recommend his novel Baltasar and Blimunda. It’s extremely entertaining and extremely bizarre.
It’s kind of hard to find a book that’s specifically set in Porto and not Lisbon or just Portugal in general. That’s why I recommend Sharpe’s Havoc. This novel in Bernard Cornwell’s fascinating historical fiction.mystery series is actually set in Porto. And the mystery involves wine! It doesn’t get more Porto than that!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY follow a one day in Porto itinerary. If you want to add another one day in Porto itinerary just click here! And if you’d like to add 24 hours in Lisbon, just click here or here.