Porto Is Europe's Best Non-Capital City
Europe has many visit-worthy non-capital cities, but none can compare to Portugal's Porto.
The Atlantic Ocean surrounds the city on one side and the UNESCO-protected Douro Wine Valley on the other. Split by the Douro River, the town center provides a charming fluvial scenery of traditional boats bobbing on the water. Colorful houses, stacked one on top of the other, provide visitors with pretty views as they make their way up hilly streets.
Azulejos, or Portuguese tiles, also bring a hint of originality to the local architecture. Some reproduce patterns, but go to the São Bento Train Station to appreciate full historic scenes painted in blue over white tiles.
Don't leave the city before catching a sunset over the river from the top of one of the hills — with a bottle of wine and some pasteis de nata to mark the occasion.
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Where to Stay in Porto
Portugal is Western Europe's most affordable country, so you'll be able to find decent accommodations at relatively good prices in this lovely city. Consider these great hotels for your stay in Porto:
Best luxury Porto hotel:Torel Palace Porto
Best mid-tier Porto hotel: Vila Galé Porto Ribeira
Best budget Porto hotel: HF Ipanema Porto
Best Overall Hotel in Porto: Torel Palace
Built in 1861, Torel Palace perfectly exemplifies the city's romantic architectural period. Bright colors, arches and natural light complement the elements of green throughout the five-star property.
The hotel only has 25 guest rooms, guaranteeing a peaceful and intimate atmosphere perfect for enjoying Porto.
Book it: Torel Palace Porto
Best Budget Hotel in Porto: HF Ipanema Porto
At HF Ipanema Porto, you'll be within a 15-minute walk to Porto's historic center. The hotel is decorated in a chic modern style and provides good amenities for a low price.
Book it: HF Ipanema Porto
Getting Around in Porto
The magic of most European cities is that they're easily walkable. If you stay near Porto's historic Ribeira District, you can easily walk to most of the must-see spots. And if you want to venture further than the tourist route, cabs and ride shares are easily available.
Consider renting a car if you want to explore the magnificent surrounding area. The Douro Valley is dotted with family-owned vineyards where you can taste the region's specialty wines, including famous ports.
Rent a car in Porto
Alternative Destination: Barcelona
Want another amazing non-capital European city? Check out Barcelona.
Yes, everyone and their mother goes there, but it's for a reason. Antoni Gaudí gifted the city with unique architecture that you can't find anywhere else on the planet. From parks to churches to museums, this distinct style is something you must see for yourself.
Then there's the Gothic Quarter, marked by centuries-old churches, narrow streets and large boulevards with boutique shops. In the summer, crowds flock to the beaches and picnic at Ciutadella Park.
Museums, Michelin-starred restaurants and modern art galleries also provide visitors with reasons to come back to Spain's best city over and over again.
Best luxury Barcelona hotel:Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
Best mid-tier Barcelona hotel: Catalonia Avinyo
Best budget Barcelona hotel: Ibis Barcelona Ripollet
Book a flight to Barcelona