‘After all, Porto, to truly honour it’s name, is, first of all, this wide open to the river lap, but that only the river can be seen, or else, by narrow mouths closed by low walls, the traveler can look into to the outdoors and have the illusion that the entire Porto is the Ribeira.’
The offer is plenty and diverse, depending on individual interests. We leave, however, some suggestions of city areas with a range of shops which we think are of utmost interest.
At the Downtown area, more specifically at Miguel Bombarda Street and adjacent streets (like Rosario Street), you can find a very well-known area for the great concentration of art galleries, but where there are also located several other shops devoted to retro and vintage furniture and objects (like Artes em Partes, Patch Porto and others), illustration’s galleries (Ó Gallery or Oficina Arara), alternative bookstores (Gato Vadio e Inc), clothing stores, among others.
At Picaria Street, Almada Street and Conceição Street, you find the most important record stores in town – all within five minutes walking from each other! It is worth knowing the Matéria Prima, a record store music specialized in alternative sounds from different latitudes. At the same building there is Dama Aflita, a gallery specialized in illustration and drawing. Another important record store is Louie Louie, where you can find a quite diverse catalogue of new and second-hand records, from different musical genres. Finally, take a look at Porto Calling, a record store strictly specialized in vinyl.
On these streets and adjacent streets of Porto Downtown and Historical Center you can find several other clothes and shoes shops. You can find also in this area a large concentration of second-hand bookstores, which can make your delight. Also in this area is located the Lello Bookshop, next to the Clérigos Tower, which was already considered one of the most beautiful in the world, so you should not fail to visit it.
On weekend, especially on Saturday, you will find several small street markets throughout the Porto Downtown, with a diverse product offering: records, books, posters, clothing, accessories, food and more. The Vandoma, the historic flea market of Porto, that takes place every Saturday mornings at Fontainhas, next to Freixo Bridge, is an indispensable spot to visit not only for the opportunities that you can find here, but mainly by its unique atmosphere with incredible views over the Douro River. Edge-of-town hypermarkets and their miniaturised city-centre offspring are now firmly entrenched in Porto, but the city’s mercearias (grocery stores) have not given up the ghost yet. The best examples can be found on the streets surrounding Mercado do Bolhão. Start at the wonderfully named Comer e Chorar por Mais (Eat and Cry for More). Founded in 1912, this diminutive store is packed to the rafters with Portuguese wines and regional foodstuffs. Everything is traditional and tasty, from the sardines and Portuguese pâtés, to the port wines and tinned sardines. For oriental herbs and medicines, like antioxidant-rich gingko and “super-detox” chia, head to Casa Chinesa on the next block. It’s also the place to go in Porto for pulses and lentils, teas and spices. Save some space for some salted cod, best procured from nearby Casa Natal.
To simply walk loosely in the city, there are numerous places in Porto that is worth knowing and exploring. Right in middle of the city there are several interesting green parks: the Crystal Palace gardens, which are fairly close to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto, where is the Conference (midway between Downtown and Ribeira); the City Park, next to the sea; and the beautiful gardens of the Serralves Park, where is also located the Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by one of the Pritzker Architecture Prize winners, the architect Álvaro Siza Vieira – not to be missed!
The Historic Centre of Porto is, since 1996, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Therefore it is always highly recommended to take a walking tour throughout the medieval historic district, the path of the Ribeira district, along the Douro River. But there are many other spots in the whole Porto Downtown area which are worth knowing, and are quite friendly to a casual stroll.
Finally, it should also be noted that there are several museums around the city of Porto, most of them located in Downtown and in the Historic Centre. So please look at the tourist information to find out more about the collections, entrance hours, prices and location.