Roll out the barrels

Ellie Evans finds history, industry and bohemia make the perfect blend in Portugal's second city

There is much to explore and enjoy in Porto, capital of northern Portugal, where a bohemian vibe blends with 2,000 years of history.

Portugal's second city hosted 80 events in 2019, thanks in part to the ease of access via bustling Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport just 11km from the city.

It’s a city full of ancient streets and steeped in traditions yet with a modern edge: with four universities in the region, strengths lie in life sciences, nanotech, engineering and aeronautics while its new media and design sectors are also flourishing.

Contemporary architecture sets it apart from other destinations; check out Casa da Música concert hall, where various rooms including the auditorium are available for hire, and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, set in beautiful surroundings in Serralves Park.  

What’s new

World of Wine, a new £100m attraction on the banks of the Douro River, opened in 2020 to offer an unrivalled celebration of wine in one place from six museum experiences to a wine school, bespoke events space and restaurants, bars and shops.

At least nine new hotels opened in 2021, including the elegant 40‐room Casa da Companhia Porto Hotel and the modern Hotel Eurostars Aliados, which boasts 149 rooms along with restaurant, gym, spa and adjustable event spaces – plus some great new restaurants are showcasing the best of Portuguese cuisine, like Manso or Cordoaria.

Where to meet

Alfandega Porto Congress Centre, a former customs house by the river, is frequently named Europe's best conference centre: it can accommodate events for up to 3,000 people. The centrally‐located Palácio da Bolsa offers neoclassical splendour – check out the Arabian Room for a unique dinner venue for up to 220.

The stylish Yeatman has 13 meeting and event rooms of various sizes, some of which offer incredible views of the city and river, while the old wine lodges on the south bank of the River Douro are ideal for group dinners and cocktail receptions.

Where to stay

Porto has more than 14,470 beds, 11,000 of which are in four‐ and five‐star hotels: gems include Maison Albar Hotels Le Monumental Palace, with 63 rooms and 13 suites as well as opulent conference rooms for up to 40, and grande dame Infante Sagres, with its 85 rooms.

For a deluxe stay, the Palácio do Freixo is hard to beat; it has a variety of meeting rooms, the largest of which can seat 490 theatre‐style. Or for something different, check out the supercool boutique Torel Palace, home to the much talked‐about Blind Restaurant. Vila Nova de Gaia and Matosinhos, bordering Porto, also offer a great range of hotels.

"Porto is an amazing city to host business events because of its close connection to industry and companies and also its strong connection to history with amazing places to visit and host events

Carolina Guedes, Young Entrepreneurs Association Portugal‐China

What to do

The Ribeira district, the ancient heart of Porto, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth exploring. Head to Livraria Lello, the world’s most beautiful bookshop, try a port tasting at Graham’s Lodge where the visitor centre can host up to 600, or head inland up the Douro Valley to see the vines and try everything from sparkling wines to Muscat.

What they say

"Porto is an amazing city to host business events because of its close connection to industry and companies and also its strong connection to history with amazing places to visit and host events," says Carolina Guedes, executive director of Young Entrepreneurs Association Portugal‐China which hosted its 2021 FIN hybrid event at the OCC building. "This allows participants to not only have an amazing event, but also have a cultural experience, getting to know more about the city and Portugal."

Who to contact:

Ana Santos
Congress & Event Manager
T (+351) 223 326 751
M (+351) 932 324 041
[email protected]