In our Spending Diaries series, we break down how our writers spend, save and splurge on weekend city breaks

Porto Spending Diary banner
What to eat, drink, see and do in 48 hours in Porto © Austin Bush/Lonely Planet

I’m a writer and photographer based in Lisbon, Portugal. I love my new home, but in search a brief escape I decided to head north to Porto for the weekend.

I was keen to save a bit of money – but didn’t want a full-on budget trip. So I took the train (more expensive than a bus), stayed in a hotel (rather than a hostel) and treated myself to a couple of small indulgences.

Even with these outlays, Porto is a great value, especially where it concerns food and drink, and I found that the city also offers some great budget and free activity options. Which means it’s super easy to have a great time on a midrange(ish) budget.

Aerial view of Porto
You can dine well in Porto at reasonable prices © Austin Bush/Lonely Planet

Pre-trip spending

Train tickets: €50.50 for round-trip tickets from Lisbon

Accommodation: €110.46 for two nights at the classic, centrally located Hotel Aliados

Total: €160.96

On the ground

Friday

9:30am: I walk (free) to Lisbon’s Santa Apalónia Station for my morning train to Porto. I take a coffee on the train (€0.90) and watch the view from the dining car. 

Wine, coffee, lunch and dessert in Porto
(L-R) A glass of wine at Genuíno; a salt cod dish with wine at Casa Expresso; eclair and coffee at Leitaria da Quinta do Paço; lunch (soup and sandwich) at Casa dos Presuntos “Xico” © Austin Bush/Lonely Planet

1pm: Arriving in at Porto’s Campanhã Station, I make the short walk to the rustic Casa dos Presuntos “Xico,” where I have a cheap and tasty lunch of a cured-ham sandwich, soup and and a glass (or bowl, in this case) of vinho verde tinto, a slightly fizzy red wine (€4.30). I take the metro (€1.30) to my hotel to drop off my bags, then it’s a coffee and a mini éclair at the century-old Leitaria da Quinta do Paço (€1.90).

From there, I schlep up the steps at Torre dos Clérigos, Porto’s iconic bell tower. At €8, the entrance fee here is a bit steep – but it’s worth it for the views over the city. I compensate by heading virtually next door to the excellent and free Centro Português de Fotografia

Centro Portugues de Fotografia.jpg
Centro Português de Fotografia is a photography museum with free entry © Austin Bush / LonelyPlanet

7:30pm: My mini spurge of the day is a glass of natural Portuguese white wine at Genuíno (€5). From there, it’s a few blocks to a tasty, raucous and exceptionally cheap dinner at the workingman’s eatery Casa Expresso. A hearty bowl of soup, a massive salt cod dish and two glasses of wine set me back a mere €7.50. This is such a great value that I opt for yet another mini splurge, this time for a dessert of rabanadas, maybe the world’s most decadent French toast, at the similarly decadent Café Guarany (€7).

Total: €35.90

Portuguese pastries
(L-R) Rabanadas, Portuguese-style French toast at Café Guarany; Lanche at Confeitaria Belo Mundo © Austin Bush/LonelyPlanet

Saturday

8am: I start my day the Porto way with lanche, a croissant-like roll stuffed with preserved meats and cheese, at Confeitaria Belo Mundo (€1.60). I’d been to Porto a few times previously, but hadn’t yet done one of the near-obligatory cruises along the Douro River, which usually start at around €65. In order to save a few euros and also because I love trains, I decide to take the Linha do Douro to the tiny town of Pocinho, with a brief stop in Pinhão, where I have time only for a coffee (€1.50). The route, which snakes along the Douro River Valley, is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in Europe, and a round-trip ticket only set me back €31

Duoro Valley viewed from the train
Duoro Valley viewed from the Linha do Douro (a round trip on this line cost €31)

4:30pm: Arriving back at Porto’s Campanhã Station, I take the metro to my hotel (€1.30), change clothes, then another metro (€1.30) to a splurge dinner at A Cozinha do Manel, a classic Porto eatery. Siting at the counter, olives, octopus rice and a couple glasses of Douro red set me back €37. After that, it was another metro ride back to my hotel (€1.30).

Total: €75

Arroz de polvo, octopus rice, A Cozinha do Manel (1).jpg
Arroz de polvo (octopus rice) at A Cozinha do Manel © Austin Bush/LonelyPlanet

Sunday

8am: On Sunday, it’s an early-morning pastry and coffee at the frozen-in-time Confeitaria do Bolhão (€3.10), followed by a free walk through the recently renovated Mercado do Bolhão, Porto’s iconic fresh market. Finally, it’s one more ride on the metro (€1.30) to Campanhã Station in order to catch my train back to Lisbon.

Total: €4.40

Coffee and pastry, Confeitaria do Bolhão.jpg
The final treat: coffee and pastry at Confeitaria do Bolhão © Austin Bush/LonelyPlanet

The final tally: €276.26

Overall spend: €115.30 + train tickets (€50.50) + accommodation (€110.46) 

Notes: Without my (admittedly conservative) splurges, it’s certainly possible to do this trip even more cheaply, especially if keeping to the type of rustic, huge-servings eateries that Porto excels in.

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