Porto is known by travelers as slightly less of a cosmopolitan, party city than Lisbon. But contrary to the old saying that “Porto works while Lisbon plays”, it’s got both a lively and atmospheric feel in its UNESCO-protected Old Town and, in the outskirts, a seriously bouncing nightlife scene.
To get a night out started, the Ribeira quarter is packed with charmingly authentic old neighborhood bars and the odd louche bohemian hangout. Just back from the river, meanwhile, a lively atmosphere emanates from Praca da Ribeira and right up towards Rua de Santa Catarina, itself a busy strip of cafés and bars.
Ribeira is also home to a couple of Porto’s ‘fado’ (Portuguese folk music) bars. While not as plentiful as in Lisbon, they’re arguably a little less touristy. As with all things promising a taste of the ‘real’ country, though, a bit of caution should be exercised when choosing a place.
As is the case throughout Portugal, clubs in Porto tend to open late, rarely getting going until 2-3am. Even the bars tend to be a little slow in the early evening, and it’s important to bear this in mind when scheduling eating arrangements in order not to peak too early!
Across the river in the New Town of Vila Nova de Gaia, the area of Cais de Gaia has some smart, newer places. An added bonus is that the whole area boasts amazing views of the Dom Luis Bridge and the Old Town, spread out on the other side of the river.
In the summer, particularly, much of the action moves out west to the coast. Out along the seafront of Foz, there are a number of places on and around the Avenida do Brasil. A little to the north, the industrial quarter of Matosinhos has some of the bigger commercial dance clubs.
The Festa de São João is the city’s riotous celebration of Midsummer and St. John’s night. Held on June 23-24, the whole city explodes into one of the best street festivals in Europe. Much like the city itself, it may not have a particular reputation for wild entertainment, but the vivid reality is rather different.