Planning to visit Portugal and looking for the best things to do in Porto? You are in the right place! I am here to help you discover this beautiful city and put together an ultimate Porto itinerary.
In this Porto travel guide, we will discover everything you need to know before visiting Porto. Including main attractions, hidden gems, must-see museums, useful travel tips, and of course, the best things to do in Porto.
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What is Porto famous for?
Porto is one of the top destinations in Europe and it is known as Portugal’s cultural capital. The old town of Porto filled with colorful houses and narrow streets that lead you to the Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On top of that, the Porto region is famous for some of the world’s top wine production and trading. Porto is also rich in history and unique traditions and is an absolute dream destination for every foodie.
From my own experience, I have to say that this city has a special place in my heart. After visiting Porto, I decided to move to Portugal and just a couple of months later I already lived in Lisbon (just because it had better job opportunities!). And ever since then, I have been to Porto multiple times.
If you are still wondering if Porto is worth visiting, keep reading because we will discover the soul of Porto and all the best things to do in Porto.
How many days in Porto is enough?
If you are looking for a quick city break, anything between 2-3 days is a good time to visit Porto and you should be able to cover all the main attractions in Porto. If you want to add some relaxing time on the beach and a day trip to Douro, I would suggest staying 5-7 days in Porto.
Porto is a great place to visit during a long weekend and it is a great destination for romantic getaways, family trips, or solo female travelers.
How to move around Porto?
Porto is a walkable city, however, it does involve a lot of climbing and steep streets. Most of the main attractions in Porto are located a short distance away from each other, so you won’t need to use public transport or a taxi.
If you are planning to visit the viewpoint of Vila Nova de Gaia, you can use the metro. But if you want to reach the lover part of Vila Nova de Gaia, a taxi is a better option. Taxi in Porto is very affordable and you can use apps like Uber to avoid any possible scams.
And tram is another must-do in Porto. Line 1 is the most popular route and it takes you to Foz. Line 22 covers a lot of famous attractions in Porto and you can make a fun city tour out of it. Line 18 is the less popular option, but a great way to find some hidden gems in Porto. The single ticket price is 3.50 euros.
Where to stay in Porto?
It is essential to find the right accommodation for your trip, so I have prepared a list of the areas where to stay and the best hotels in Porto for every budget. Depending on your travel style, I am sure you will find something suitable, so take a look and decide where to stay in Porto.
Cais da Ribeira
Ribeira is the soul of Porto and it makes it one of the best areas in Porto for first-time visitors. It covers the promenade of Douro and right outside your accommodation, you will have all the essentials and main attractions of Porto. However, it is a busy and noisy area and there are not many parking options if you are planning to rent a car and explore the rest of Portugal.
Top-rated hotel in Cais da Ribeira: Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira
If you dream to sleep in the most picturesque district in Porto, in a typical but renovated building, Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira is the perfect solution. This fantastic hotel offers stylish and fully equipped rooms overlooking the Douro river, and the prices won’t break your budget.
Area of Rua das Flores & São Bento station
For someone who has been to Porto many times, this is my favorite area where to stay in Porto. It is still in the middle of central Porto, but you can easily find quiet corners and escape the crowds. While you can walk almost anywhere in this area, you have a lot of public transport options available on every corner.
Top-rated hotel in the area of Rua das Flores & São Bento station: Pousada do Porto – Rua das Flores
Pousada do Porto – Rua das Flores is located on one of Porto’s most lively and popular streets. This 4-star hotel is located in a Portuguese palace, delightfully renovated in order to offer the guest a sophisticated and luxurious experience in Porto. Here you can also find a fitness center, an indoor pool, and a nicely designed bar.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Technically, Vila Nova de Gaia is not Porto anymore, but here you can find amazing views from your balcony and postcards from Porto! Also, all the famous wine cellars are nearby! Keep in mind that you will have to cross the bridge to arrive to Porto. But it takes less than 10 minutes, so everything is very close.
Top-rated hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia: The Yeatman Hotel
The Yeatman Hotel offers a luxury spa and has a large indoor pool and hot tub offering panoramic views of Porto. Each bright room of The Yeatman hotel opens onto a spacious, private terrace. The rooms are stylish eye candies furnished with chic pieces and provide all comfort and amenities to make happy even the most demanding customer.
Foz is a bit far from the city center and walking all the time is not an option, but you have the ocean next to you, so you will not miss any of those beautiful Portuguese sunsets! If you have a rental, you will find a lot of parking space and you can use a taxi to get to central Porto. This is a great area to stay if you are looking for a relaxing experience.
Top-rated hotel in Foz: Vila Foz Hotel & SPA – member of Design Hotels
Vila Foz Hotel & SPA is a 5-star hotel and one of the best places to stay in Porto. If you are looking for the ultimate luxurious experience while visiting Porto, this is the right place for you. Located away from the crowds, this villa is a perfect way to pamper yourself during your time in Porto.
Best things to do in Porto
Azulejos, azulejos, azulejos
While others were painting on canvas, the Portuguese had a brilliant idea to express their art on tiles and this is how azulejos were born back in the 13th century. It used to be a sign of wealth. Nowadays azulejos are not only decorative but also protect against dampness, heat, and noise.
Did you know that there is a place in Porto where you can get these beautiful tiles free of charge? It is not as easy as it sounds, but the Bank of Materials collects the city’s lost tiles to give them back to building owners. This helps local inhabitants restore the façade and keep the houses always pretty, however, you will have to prove that you are the owner of the building. The place also looks a lot like a museum, so give it chance when wandering around Porto.
Best places to see azulejos in Porto? São Bento Station, Igreja do Carmo, Capela das Almas, Igreja de Santo Ildefonso. These are the top sights in Porto, but the good news is – you will find azulejos on every corner.
Eat like a local in Porto
After living in Portugal for some time, I can say that there are a lot of differences between the cuisine in Lisbon and the cuisine in Porto. You can still find Pastel de Nata and 365 versions of cod fish, but there are some things that you cannot miss when visiting Porto.
Francesinha – people call this heart attack in a plate. I have to say, I was skeptical at first, but I had to try it. Little French girl in Porto is made with bread, meat, and sausages, and covered with melted cheese and a hot, thick beer sauce. Where to find the best Francesinha in Porto? Go to Cervejaria Brasão, but make the reservation in advance. Nowadays, there is a vegetarian version available.
Iscas de Bacalhau – once again, not the healthiest thing to eat, but definitely a great snack. Codfish mixed with wheat flour and parsley… Calories do not count when traveling, right? In order to try a good one, look for a very traditional Portuguese restaurant. Nothing fancy just a simple place run by the entire family.
Caldo Verde – green soup that contains kale, potato, and some garlic (sometimes with chouriço). Could be a healthy option after eating Francesinha and fried cod.
Tripas à Moda do Porto – this one is only for the bravest food lovers. There is a story behind this recipe and it just shows the generosity of the Portuguese once again. Locals donated a lot of food to the navy and they were left only with tripe, this is when they got creative and Tripas à Moda do Porto was born.
And get to know the real Port wine
You can’t leave Porto without trying its signature drink. Port wine is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. You can find a lot of cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia (on the other side of Porto), but my personal suggestion is to choose Porto Augusto’s – it’s one of the few authentic and Portuguese-owned places left.
Find the best sunset spots in Porto
Passeio das Fontaínhas is more than just a pretty spot! It’s a very authentic area of Porto where you will not meet many tourists. In fact, every Saturday morning you can visit a flea market called Feira da Vandoma that started back in the 80s. On top of that, you get a beautiful view of the Douro River and Luis I Bridge and it makes it one of the best sunset spots in Porto.
But I have to say, the steep streets of Porto and multiple miradouros (viewpoints) in Porto mean that you can catch a great view from anywhere. Consider alternative ways – Foz do Douro, Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, Ribeira, Esplanada in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Book an unforgettable tour in Porto with a Beetle
If you are looking for a private guide and want to discover Porto in a fun way, Peter`s Beetle Porto Tour is a must. I have booked multiple tours with him over the years and always had the best experience. Apart from visiting the main attractions, he can create tailored tours and help you discover some real hidden gems in Porto. Or even bring you to the Douro valley.
Not only you have a local guide who shares a lot of curiosities about Porto, but you also get to save your feet from constant walking. You will leave Porto with new memories and a local friend. If you are interested in other tours, click here.
Discover the Most Instagrammable Cafes in Porto
Apart from tourist attractions and hidden gems, Porto has some very unique cafes that are great for taking a photo and not only. Which one you should visit?
Cafe Majestic is my personal favorite and it is one of the most popular attractions in Porto. It is a historical cafe with elegant service and exquisite local food. Vogue Café Porto and Lazy Breakfast Club are modern and hip cafes that are built for picture perfect. It comes with modern cuisine, endless coffee options, and great vegetarian & vegan meals.
Tip! Don’t forget to visit McDonald’s in Praça da Liberdade. Yes, you read that right. With all the delicious Portuguese food, I don’t advise you to eat at McDonald’s, but make sure you visit this place and I can guarantee that you will be impressed. Certainly, deserves to be on the list of the most Instagrammable cafes in Porto.
Visit the main attractions in Porto
Cais da Ribeira
Cais da Ribeira is the lively district of Porto and a must-visit during your vacation in Porto. It offers amazing views over the Douro and has very cool vibes. Sit down and indulge in a glass of green wine (or delicious Portuguese coffee), enjoy the background music of local artists, and see the heart of Porto.
The Dom Luís I Bridge and Vila Nova de Gaia
The Dom Luís I Bridge and Vila Nova de Gaia offer the best view over Porto. You can really appreciate the scenery and find some local wine cellars. If you are a photography lover, don’t miss this location.
Fun fact! The Maria Pia Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel (the same person who built the Eiffel tower), but the Luis I Bridge – by Théophile Seyrig – a student and future associate of Gustav Eiffel. Some people say that they started to work together on Luis I Bridge, but Eiffel didn’t want to share the credit and couldn’t accept the fact that his student has become a master, so he left the project.
Clérigos, Casa Oriental, and the sign of Porto
Clérigos, Casa Oriental, and the sign of Porto – another area to discover around Porto. Preferably on your way to Igreja do Carmo. You will get some cool Instagram shots around here as well. Clerigos Church and Tower is open to the public and offers some impressive panoramic views over Porto.
Igreja do Carmo
Igreja do Carmo is one of the most photographed places in Porto. And for a great reason, because unique blue azulejos make it picture-perfect. If you see the building from the front, you will notice that there are actually two churches and both are divided by a tiny house to separate the monks from nuns.
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is another beautiful church that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Porto. The church was built in a Baroque style and features a retable by the Italian artist Nicolau Nasoni. It has a little square in front of the church and a facade of 1932 azulejo tile work – everything you need to take a beautiful photo. It opens at 10 am and the inside is worth visiting as well.
Capela das Almas
Capela das Almas – another azulejos paradise. If you ask me, this is the most impressive azulejo work in Porto and the contrast of blue is so, so pretty. On the side of the church, you will find scenes from the lives of saints and deep blue colors. This is hands down one of the best free things to do in Porto.
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT PORTO: Porto was divided into 3 decks. Nowadays known as Ribeira used to be an area of fishermen and was considered for the lower class, however, most of the churches are built on the top of Porto, which symbolizes aristocracy and wealth. And then, the middle deck was always considered for the middle class. You will notice these sections, once you go to Vila Nova de Gaia.
Explore hidden gems in Porto
Capela De Santa Catarina E Senhora Dos Anjos
Capela De Santa Catarina E Senhora Dos Anjos is one of those places that I discovered thanks to our amazing guide Pedro. I believe the real name is Capela De Santa Catarina, but if you google it, you will find Santo Ildefonso. Address: Largo Santa Catarina 3, 4150-425 Porto.
Largo da Pena Ventosa
Largo da Pena Ventosa is a little square in the heart of Porto surrounded by typical and colorful houses. If you are arriving from Porto Cathedral, you will find a lot of cute streets with plants on every corner with Largo da Pena Ventosa at the end of the street. Just waiting for you to take a photo!
It is one of the most beautiful places in Porto and even though it gained a lot of popularity thanks to Instagram, it is still often left behind.
Escada dos Guindais
Escada dos Guindais dates back to the Middle Ages and it used to be a red-light district. Nowadays, it is a hidden gem of Porto and offers many beautiful corners. If you are familiar with Portuguese, you already know from the name that this involves a lot of stairs. This is why I suggest you start from Capela Nossa Senhora das Verdades and head down to Miradouro Barredo e Jano. There are no cars around, which makes this path even more charming, but the best part is the authentic Portuguese vibe that surrounds that area.
Unlock the museums of Porto
Se Cathedral is an important attraction in Porto and it is one of the oldest monuments in the city. You can see it from the outside and visit Cathedral for free, but the most beautiful part and more azulejos are located inside the Cloister. The entrance ticket for the Cloister is 3 euros and it opens at 9 am. I suggest arriving sometime before opening time, so you can be one of the first to enter.
Igreja de Sao Francisco
Igreja de Sao Francisco is one of the most amazing churches that I have seen in Portugal… And trust me, I have seen many of them. Entrance fee is 3.50 euros.
Sao Bento train station
Sao Bento train station is probably one of the most beautiful train stations that I have ever seen and it has a Portuguese touch that makes it unique. It covers the scenes from Portuguese history on the walls and it is one of the best free things to do in Porto. Good reason to add it to your Porto itinerary!
Livraria Lello is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and it is located in Porto. So you simply have to include it in your list of things to do in Porto. Harry Potter fans probably have heard about this place as there are rumors that J. K. Rowling found some inspiration for her books after visiting Livraria Lello.
However, it comes with a price. Everyone visiting Porto wants to see this place, so the lines get crazy. The bookstore is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm and the entrance fee is 5 euros. If you want to avoid the crowds, come here 30 minutes before closing time or during lunchtime. Even better if you are visiting during the low season.
A Vida Portuguesa
If you don’t like crowds and don’t want to wait in the line, head around the corner and visit A Vida Portuguesa instead! It is a very unique place to visit in Porto and a great location to get some souvenirs from Porto.
Bolsa Palace is one of my personal highlights of Porto and I would say it is still a hidden gem in Porto. The building was constructed mid-nineteenth century in a neoclassical style and is situated in the city center. Inside you will find multiple unique rooms, an impressive staircase, and a huge hall with marble and gold details.
The entrance fee is 10 euros and it comes with a guided tour in Portuguese, Spanish, French or English. You will need to join the group to visit Bolsa Palace and the tour takes around 30 minutes. After the tour, you will have some free time to wander around and take pictures. It is open from 9 am to 6.30 pm.
Beyond Porto – visiting Vila Nova de Gaia
Most of the people who go to Porto, manage to visit also Vila Nova de Gaia which is another city located in front of Porto. But they do not know that there is much more to see than just a pretty view of Porto. Here are some cool experiences that you should include in your itinerary:
- Wake up for sunrise at Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar and enjoy the uplifting view over Douro
- Try Port wine at Augusto and check the local market
- Visit the unique chapel located on the beach and fall in love with Capela do Senhor da Pedra
- Sit down and relax at Jardim do Morro
- Get the royal treatment at The Yeatman
- Explore the new wine shop concept at 17.56 Enoteca
Considering to rent a car in Portugal?
I always use Rentalcars which is an international online car booking service. They match you with the best prices and have a flexible cancellation policy – you can cancel or change most bookings for free up to 48 hours before the pick-up. I only had the best experience with them, so I can recommend this company, but there are endless opportunities online or at the airport arrivals.
Looking for travel insurance for Portugal?
Take advice from someone who travels full-time and get travel insurance. Unexpected situations can happen at any time, so having travel insurance will give you a piece of mind during these situations and won’t ruin your travel experience or break your wallet. Especially during these unpredictable times.
After long research, I decided to settle with Heymondo and I highly recommend that you check them as well. Heymondo offers:
- 24/7 worldwide assistance
- Extended Stays
- Cover for non-refundable expenses
- Heymondo assistance app
Click here and get 5% off when purchasing your travel insurance. Please note that I joined the affiliate program only after I purchased it myself, so this is not paid content.
This is the of the best things to do in Porto and I hope this Porto travel guide will help you plan your trip. Porto is a wonderful destination and I believe we can unlock it together.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.