Do you enjoy a night out in the town? In the north of Portugal you will feel at home, out in an esplanade near the Douro River, or keep pace with the academic evenings in Minho.
Northern people know how to enjoy themselves. Porto, Braga and Guimarães are young cities, offering cultural entertainment and very interesting cuisine and night life.
These cities are turned to the creative industries and host many artistic and cultural events, especially Porto, but also Guimarães, the birthplace of the nation and European Capital of Culture in 2012.
If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan, yet family-type of destination, where cuisine – a typical restaurant or an exquisite restaurant of traditional flavours or author cuisine – and nightlife are unique experiences, with options for every taste, age and purse, then Porto is the perfect place.
In recent years, many bars, cafés, clubs, concert halls, gourmet grocery stores, fashion stores or specialized liquor stores have opened business in downtown Porto – especially the areas of Carmo, Clérigos and Passos Manuel – and the historical centre. All these spaces have in common a top-class and attentive service, and an innovative and entrepreneurial vision.
Some spaces are cosy and intimate – many of these entrepreneurs have rehabilitated buildings with a long history and preserved the memory of these places in the decoration of their restaurants and bars –, some are modern, with innovative and broad concepts, spaces for market niches and multipurpose spaces – to cater for culture, concerts and live DJ performances, and for various events.
Some are outdoor spaces, art galleries, stores, theatre stages and places with alternative sounds and retro atmospheres.
In the downtown area – currently the liveliest place in the city at night –, you can also come across some urban “tribes” and different cultures, from university students to young adults, a more mature age bracket, artists, journalists, politicians, hipsters and the gay community.
In the historical centre, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1996, the cultural port of call is, without any doubt, the Hard Club, a cultural facility located in a former fresh produce market, a few steps from the famous Ribeira area.
Buy tickets to a rock concert and, before the show starts, dine at one of the many restaurants with an esplanade overlooking the Douro River banks, while enjoying a plate of Porto tripes or the Portuguese stew and a glass of a good DOC Douro wine.
Another excellent option is the DOP restaurant, a few metres from the concert hall. Chef Rui Paula brings to his cooking the bourgeois roots of Porto and the richness of its traditional cuisine. In the menu of this fine restaurant, in the Art Palace building, you will find classical dishes, such as tripes Porto style or codfish cooked in many different ways: Congregados, Gomes de Sá and Zé do Pipo.
Whether downtown or in the historical centre of Porto, there is a wide range of accommodation. Near the City Hall, the hub of Porto nightlife you will find the Hotel Infante de Sagres (in Largo D. Filipa de Lencastre) and the InterContinental Porto –Palácio das Cardosas (in Praça da Liberdade, 25). Both hotels combine tradition, in the decoration and service, and refinement and luxury.
Braga and Guimarães
Braga, the European Youth Capital in 2012, is just 55 Km or less than an hour away from Porto, is the youngest district capital in the country, thanks to its student population attending the University of Minho.
Braga has 180,000 inhabitants and 17,000 students who hang out in various places. Near the University campus there are several bars where students come together for a beer at the end of the day of for longer evenings. In the historical centre, you will find more picturesque bars, and multipurpose spaces, where culture and animation come together under the same roof.
This the case of Velha-a-Branca, a cooperative houses in and 18th century building designed to promote creativity and cultural dissemination, where people get together, attend releases or a concert, see exhibitions and, of course, have some coffee in the cafeteria. The narrow façade of the unique building hides a vast and surprising garden in terraces that ends in a belvedere overlooking the city.
If you’re in to dancing, don’t miss out on the Sardinha Biba (in Praça Dr. Cândido da Costa Pires), one of the oldest and liveliest places as far as nightlife in concerned, usually chosen by young people to finish off the evening.
Stay at the Basic Braga by Axis, the idea hotel if you want to stay in the hub of the fun in town. It is located next to the railway station and at a 5-minute walking distance from the Cathedral of Braga and the historical centre.
Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal and the medieval and historical centre, which was also listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, “hides” many restaurants and nice bars. This is where D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born, and this is why on one of the towers of the old walls the engravings say: “This is where Portugal was born”.
During the day, while walking along the typical streets – you can and should stop at Largo da Oliveira, the heart of the city, and see the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, the arcades, the inn of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira and the old City Hall –, pinpoint the places you are most identified with. At night, return to these nice esplanades in the old part of the city and start enjoying your evening.
Outside the historical centre, the clubs in Guimarães are at full throttle. Stay overnight at the Pousada de Guimarães, a hotel on the slopes overlooking the city. Once the Monastery of Agostinhos, the grand 12th century building was rehabilitated and received the National Architecture Award in 1985.
How to get there
There are flights to Porto, low cost , for example, London (Stansted and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly and Charles de Gaulle Vatry), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat , Tenerife, Valencia, Venice and Palma de Mallorca.
In the summer there are low cost companies flying from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.
With normal fares from London - Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris - Orly.
The best way to reach the center of Porto from the International Airport Francisco Sá Carneiro is by metro. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
You will need about 30 minutes to go from Porto to Guimarães on the A7 and A3. The A3 will also take you to Braga, about an hour away.