When you’re studying in Porto, you don’t want to be touristy. Touristy is stereotypical bus rides, queues for places that aren’t worth it, food that’s not great, going back home without any stories to tell. Besides: we all want to avoid tourist traps. Tourist traps in Porto (and around the world!) are not only crappy, they tend to be quite expensive.
How do you avoid tourist traps in Porto?
Tip #1 – Don’t eat at restaurants with pictures of food
It’s too easy, but it also tends to very true. Pixellated stock photographs illustrating menus, doors or windows are the surest sign that you’re walking into the wrong place.
Tip #2 – Also: don’t eat at restaurants with hawkers
Good restaurants attract the locals. They don’t need a waiter standing outside with a menu in his hand trying to talk you into lunch or dinner. No matter how charming they are, or how many languages they speak. The truth is this: good restaurants in Porto have no trouble attracting customers. The moment a restaurant needs a hawker, you automatically know that this is a restaurant where the food isn’t good enough to bring people in.
Tip #3 – Avoid the F word
Fado is a big Portuguese export. However, it’s not a Porto-ese thing. We have a longer tradition of rock’n’roll than we do of Fado up north. With maybe perhaps one or two exceptions, any restaurant, tour, museum, shop, or bar proposing a night of Fado (“where you can immerse yourself in this wonderful Unesco world cultural heritage” whatever) will be charging you a large entry fee and you’ll find yourself surrounded by middle-aged French tourists. My advice is to take a weekend trip to Coimbra or Lisbon, and check out the real Fado there..
Tip #4 – Be curious
Put down your map and wander through the old town, turn corners for no reason, let yourself go. Don’t worry. Porto is perfectly safe, and it’s one of those strange towns that is especially safe for tourists.
Tip #5 – Get in touch with a local
The most sure-fire way of experimenting the real Porto is to reach out to one of the locals. Whether it’s the reception boy at your hotel, or the friendly girl behind the bar. Ask for advice, let them know your interests, what you’re looking for. The locals are friendly, welcoming and generally quite cool. I should know: I’m one of them.
Which reminds me. If you are coming to Porto and are looking for advice, hit me up on twitter or something and just let me know. I’ll help if I can!
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