Best Things to Do in Porto, Portugal | Travel Guide for Tourists
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Porto is one of Portugal’s gorgeous coastal cities, a true sight for sore eyes. A weekend in Porto is all you need to feel refreshed, invigorated and inspired. For an unforgettable experience, this guide will cover the best things to do in Porto, Portugal.
Known for its winding cobbled streets, beautiful bridges, quaint cafes, and the production of its famed Port wine, there isn’t much one can dislike about the charming city of Porto.
For first- time visitors to the city, the number of things to do can be overwhelming. Sit down for brunch in Porto while planning your itinerary. Here’s the best of Porto that you should be adding to your bucket list.
Top Things to Do in Porto, Portugal
If you’re visiting the city for the very first time, you’re going to need to know what to do in Porto, Portugal. Here are a few of the most enjoyed tourist attractions around the city.
Take a Cable Car
First on your list of fun things to do in Porto should be taking a scenic cable car ride from Porto’s historic neighbourhood to Gaia. The cable car transports you high above the city, providing magnificent views along the way.
The trip is not very long, consisting of only 5-minutes but the views are so worth it. Be sure to bring your travel camera along for the trip, as you’re sure to get some of your best shots of Porto from above.
Take a Porto Tram
To the locals, the tram is just a means of getting around. However, to first-time visitors of Porto, these trams hold a lot of history, mystery, and a healthy dose of charm.
Taking the tram becomes not just about getting from one place to another, but also about enjoying the actual journey.
The trams all contain a polished wooden interior, brass dials and controls, as well as bells that signal the stopping of the vehicle.
Taking tram line one is recommended for your first tram ride around Porto. This line follows the route of the Douro River and provides stunning views of the city.
Do a Walking Tour
Exploring the city by foot is an irreplaceable adventure. It allows you to interact with the locals and take in a little more of the scenery around you.
You’ll also often find hidden gems that would have otherwise remained undiscovered during your trip.
Book a walking tour of Porto to discover the city’s main landmarks and receive tips from your local guide about the best places to visit. The tour will last around 3 hours, giving you enough time to have all your most pressing questions answered.
Join a Food and Wine Tasting Tour
As if Porto alone wasn’t enough to inspire the senses! Book a private food and wine tour to indulge in the finer things that Porto has to offer. This 2-hour tour will allow you to unwind and mingle with the locals in a social setting.
You’ll be shown around some of the top local hangouts in Porto, tasting the best wine that the city has to offer, along with a wide assortment of delicious tapas. Wrap up your tour with a glass of sweet port and a decadent dessert.
There’s no better way to remember a city than by the unique flavours it introduced you to.
Tip: Read my guide on the best time to visit Porto.
Catch a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are unique in that they allow you to design your own tour and visit the places that you’re most interested in.
Purchasing a 2-day hop-on hop-off bus ticket ensures that your transport is covered for two days’ worth of uninterrupted Porto sightseeing.
Once you’ve fleshed out your itinerary and pinpointed your not-to-be-missed activities, hop on a bus and see the city independently.
Amazing Things to See in Porto, Portugal
There are plenty of Porto must-see sights and attractions. Here are just a few of the best points of interest.
Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
The Mosterioa da Serra do Pilar is a circular building that was once a fully functioning monastery. It’s located on the opposite side of the Douro River from Porto, just outside of the outskirts of the city.
The monastery was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. This includes both the church itself and the cloister.
Built in 1538, the building is worth a visit. If not for its historical significance, then for its architectural beauty.
Casa da Musica
The Casa da Musica was built in 2001 and was the very first building in Portugal to be dedicated completely to music, musical performances and music training.
The geometric building is completely unique in comparison to the rest of the traditional Porto buildings.
This nine-story building is a must-visit during your time in Porto. The modern design, combined with the stunning and unique interior decoration of each room makes it a fun excursion.
READ MY GUIDE ON HOW MANY DAYS TO SPEND IN PORTO
Livraria Lello Bookstore
The Livraria Lello Bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and one of the top-rated in the world. Founded in 1869, this old beauty is as grand as they come. An iconic crimson staircase leads you through the bookstore. Allowing you to discover multiple floors of books by famed Portuguese writers.
The architecture of the building is absolutely stunning. The art deco-style ceiling and columns make the building look much older than it is.
There’s a small entrance fee of €5, but well worth it for the possible hours you could spend inside.
Alternatively, you can visit Lello Bookstore on this guided walking tour.
Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas
These two churches stand side by side, one of which housed the nuns (Igreja dos Carmelitas) and one of which housed the monks (Igreja do Carmo).
Separating the two churches is a one-metre wide house built to separate the two churches, due to a law that prohibits churches from sharing a common wall.
The interiors of the churches are absolutely stunning, decorated with elaborate statues and intricate oil paintings. There are no entrance fees for either of the convents, so it’s a great activity for travellers on a budget.
Torre Dos Clerigos
The Torre Dos Clerigos is an ornate tower belonging to the Clerigos Church. It can be seen from most areas of the city and has become an iconic symbol of Porto.
The construction of the tower was completed in 1763 and is heavily decorated with beautiful baroque motifs.
The tower is an impressive six stories high, and there are 240 steps to climb to the very top. But the views are priceless from up there. Looking over the red-bricked roofs of Porto is not a site you’ll often see.
To get into the tower, you can expect to pay around €5, which will give you access to climb all the way to the top.
Bolsa Palace is one of the main highlights of Porto and a great addition to the city’s extensive list of tourist destinations.
The word Bolsa means stock exchange and comes from when the building was used as the chamber of commerce.
Taking a guided tour of Bolsa Palace is considered essential for anyone travelling to the city for the first time.
The church was founded in the 13th century and boasts incredible architecture, ornate statues, and elaborate frescos on the ceiling. Taking a guided tour of the building not only teaches you about the building’s long history but allows you to get a glimpse into Porto’s past.
Porto Cathedral is one of the city’s oldest monuments and a great addition to your Porto itinerary. It’s a Roman Catholic church located in the historic sector of the city, close to many of the other great Porto tourist attractions.
The church’s main feature is the two square towers, making it look like an olden-day castle. The architectural style varies throughout the building because it was under construction from 1147, updated in the 16th century, and had additions added on over the years.
It doesn’t cost anything to get into the cathedral, so you can explore the church for free. However, if you’d like to visit the cloister as well, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of €11, rather steep but worth the price.
Porto Travel Guide – Unique Things to Do
Here are a few things to do in Porto, Portugal, that are a little different from the rest. If you enjoy a unique outing, this is what you should be getting up to.
Stroll Through Cais da Ribeira
The Cais da Ribeira is a historic neighbourhood located right on the Douro River’s edge. Taking a stroll along the promenade allows you to take in scenic views of the city from the water.
If you visit this area in the early evening, expect to be serenaded by buskers, which can make for quite a romantic experience.
Pop into some of the best seafood restaurants located along the promenade, or visit an old arcade or tavern. It will certainly make for a unique encounter.
Try a Francesinha
A francesinha is a sandwich. In between two slices of bread, you’ll find wet-cured ham, fresh sausage, roast meat, and spiced tomato. It’s served with melted cheese on top of the sandwich just to make it extra indulgent.
This incredible local meal is not only Portuguese, but it’s also originally from the streets of Porto.
So giving a francesinha a try while you’re visiting the city is a must. Make sure you work up a healthy appetite before going in search of one of these delicious local delicacies.
You can find these sandwiches at just about every restaurant and cafe in the city, so you won’t have any trouble getting your Francesinha fix. You’ll never have a meat fix quite like this one anywhere else in the world. If you’re a vegetarian, you’re going to want to give this meal a miss.
Porto Places to Visit on a Day Trip
Exploring Porto itself is an incredible experience. But staying in this wonderful city also gives you a great opportunity to explore the surrounding regions and areas.
Taking a day trip from the city to any one of these great locations will enhance your holiday experience in Portugal.
- Douro Wine Region day trip – Porto is famed for its great wine, so exploring the surrounding region is essential during your trip. Spend the day tasting great wine and taking in stunning views of the vineyards.
- Day trip to Braga – The city of Braga is culturally rich and has an extensive history to be explored. See the city’s most iconic landmarks at your own pace on this convenient tour.
- Minho Region day trip – On this day trip, you’ll visit some of Portugal’s oldest cities, see their most famous landmarks and learn about their rich history and culture. There’ll be a wide variety of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on your list of things to do. Be sure to bring your camera along to savour the precious moments along the way.
- Peneda Geres National Park hiking tour – This day trip is for the adventurous at heart. If you’re up for getting the heart pumping and enjoying the refreshing nature that Portugal has to offer, this day trip is a must. The trip includes a circular hike for 7.4 miles. You’ll come across some incredible viewing platforms along the way, as well as the magnificent Arado waterfall.
- Santiago de Compostela full-day trip – Follow in the footsteps of religious pilgrims as you enter the city of Santiago de Compostela. You’ll get the chance to visit some architectural beauties along with UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this city. Walk around the city’s old town learning about its fascinating history. Your Porto trip will be so much richer for it.
- Geres kayak and waterfall trek – This day trip will see you experiencing Peneda Geres National Park in a completely unique way – both in and out the water. After a few hours of paddling, you’ll get to indulge in a traditional lunch and explore the town before swimming in the lagoon’s clear waters.
Go Port Tasting
If there’s one thing Porto is inarguably famous for, it’s their Port wine. So I suggest you take a Port wine tasting tour via train if you’re looking to experience the best wine in the region.
This 2-hour wine tasting experience will see you hopping aboard a train and heading to one of the oldest wine cellars in the country.
You’ll stop for two Port wine tastings along the journey, enjoying the scenic views from the train window. If you’re a wine lover, this is an unmissable experience while you’re in Porto.
Visit Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is located on the opposite side of the Douro River, just south of Porto. It’s one of those cities that you can’t miss out on while you’re in the area. Its old-timey charm surpasses that of many other Portuguese cities.
While you’re there, be sure to visit one of the many sandy beaches, the small seafood restaurants, and stroll the quaint streets. It’s considered the heart of the Port industry, so a wine tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia is a must.
To get to Vila Nova de Gaia, take bus route 906 from Porto. The trip should only take around 13 minutes and costs around €2. If you’re willing to travel for a little longer, you can save a euro and take the train on line 15711, which will take around 20 minutes.
Explore Douro Valley
There’s one thing that nobody in Porto can argue with; the Douro Valley is a place of great beauty. So why not spend the entire day taking it all in?
One of the best things to do in Douro Valley is the Douro Valley tour. This will see you travelling in the comfort of a vehicle through the valley, tasting wine and olive oil, as well as indulging in a traditional Portuguese lunch.
After lunch, you’ll take a cruise along the Douro River and take in more stunning scenery.
Be sure to take your camera along for this excursion. You’re sure to encounter more than a few Insta-worthy moments.
Take a Six Bridges Cruise Tour
Cruise down the loved Douro River in the footsteps of wine merchants from centuries gone by. This river is the lifeblood of Porto and provides a beautiful way of seeing the city from a different perspective.
A knowledgeable guide will tell you the history and stories behind the six bridges that you’ll pass underneath.
Eventually, you’ll come to the wonderful Foz do Douro. This is where the river meets the ocean, before heading back to Porto.
Book your six bridges cruise on the Douro River to ensure you don’t miss out on this incredible experience.
Experience the Funicular Dos Guindais
The funicular connects the lower portion of the city (the portion that lies next to the river), to the upper portion.
It’s a means of getting around, but for tourists, it’s also a great way to take in wonderful views of the city.
The funicular railway was inaugurated in 1891 but was renovated and updated in 1994 to accommodate a larger amount of traffic, as well as for safety reasons. A one-way journey will cost you €2.50 and save you from having to walk up a steep and challenging hill.
Non-Touristy Porto Things to Do
Here are a few of the best things to do in Porto for those who like to travel a little off the beaten track. Enjoy the local things to do that most tourists leave undiscovered and enjoy the non-touristy things to do in Porto.
Take in the Beauty of Sao Bento Railway Station
It’s not often that you’d think to add a railway station to your itinerary as it’s not a traditionally touristy activity.
But trust me, this one is worth stopping by. The interior of the station is decorated with 20 000 azulejo tin-glazed ceramic tiles.
These tiles are coloured blue and white and took over 11 years to place. The intricate detailing is something any eye can appreciate. And the best part is, it’s also one of the many free things to do in Porto.
See Luis I Bridge
The Luis I Bridge stretches across the Douro River, connecting Porto and Gaia. The double-deck arch bridge was constructed in the 1800s and consists of a road bridge as well as a pedestrian bridge.
The pedestrian bridge is located far above the road bridge and makes for the perfect location to snap a few pics.
Many tourists don’t bother strolling across this bridge, however, the views it provides make it worth the walk.
Visit Figueira da Foz
Located just an hour-and-twenty-minutes’ drive from Porto, Figueira da Foz makes for a great day out. It’s located along the coastline at the mouth of the Mondego River. The city boasts of beautiful beaches and plenty of beach activities.
It’s also located within a legal gambling zone and home to some of the biggest and best casinos in the country.
The city is also known for producing wood-pulp and paper, so if those are industries you’re interested in, you’ll learn a lot on your trip to Figueira da Foz.
Many tourists of Porto leave this gem of a city off their itinerary, but that’s a terrible mistake. With so much to offer, you won’t want to miss Figueira da Foz.
Enjoy Views From Miradouro da Vitória
This viewing platform is a hidden secret for many of the tourists that visit Porto. It certainly doesn’t provide the most beautiful views in the city, but it’s still worth a visit, especially as you’ll get to skip the crowds.
Look out over the red-roofed houses of Porto, and take in the sight of the flowing river and the many bridges that stretch over its shore from afar. It’s a great place to take photos of Porto in its purest state.
More Must-See Porto Landmarks & Tours
In addition to the attractions and activities mentioned above, here is a quick list of a few more Porto places to visit.
- See the world through the eyes of Portugal’s explorers at the World of Discoveries.
- Admire the art of Frida Kahlo at The Life of an Icon Exhibition.
- See and hear live Fado, the music that’s part of Portugal’s soul, at Cálem wine cellars.
- Discover more than 3,000 unique sea creatures at SEA LIFE Porto.
- Journey to the outskirts of Porto and visit age-old Roman mines on a 4×4 mountain tour.
Transport to Porto Attractions
Porto has great public transport services making it really easy to get from one attraction to another. The city is also easily walkable, so if you’re prepared to make your way around on foot, you can save a pretty penny.
If you plan on making use of public transport during your stay, it’s recommended that you purchase a Porto Tourist Card.
This will give you unlimited access to buses, the metro system, and funiculars. You’ll also gain free or discounted access to many museums and restaurants around the city (easing up your budget greatly).
There are 75 bus routes that run throughout the city. The bus system in Porto is known as STCP and is a great way to get around.
Efficiency and convenience are their priority. The buses run regularly from 6 am to 9 pm, with limited routes being serviced between 9 pm and 1 am.
You can use a Porto Card or an Andante pass for your ride or simply purchase a one-time ticket aboard the bus. You’ll find that one-way trips start at around €1.20 Euros.
There are six metro lines in Porto. These run conveniently close to many of the main Porto, Portugal points of interest.
The metro system runs from 6 am to 1 am, and you’ll have unlimited access to it if you have a Porto Card.
If you decide against purchasing a Porto Card during your stay, you’ll need a rechargeable Andante card to access the metro.
The actual card costs about €0.60 Euros, and you’ll need to load money onto it to travel. A one-way fare cost starts at about €1.20 Euros.
The tram in Porto dates all the way back to 1872 and is a historic part of the city. There are three routes throughout Porto which make for a great way to experience the city.
You can use a Porto Card, an Andante Pass, or pay for a once-off ticket onboard the tram, which will cost you around €3.50 Euros.
Taxies are a rather expensive way to travel in Porto, although they are cheaper than in many other European cities. The starting rate for a taxi is around €2.50 Euros, and the price increases with every mile travelled.
If you’re travelling around other parts of Portugal as well, you may want to rent a car. However, if you’re just visiting Porto, then renting a car is not ideal. The roads are narrow and congested, so driving can prove to be a rather frustrating process.
Porto is a very walkable city. The roads are cobbled, narrow, and winding, making travelling by foot the absolute best way to explore the city.
Many of the main attractions are located within walking distance of one another. So with a little planning, you can visit different portions of the city on each day, simply make your way from one attraction to another by foot.
Porto Guide – Where to Stay
If you’re going to be visiting the wonderful city of Porto, you’ll need a place to base yourself. Exploring the city is a lot more restful when you know where you’re headed after a long day of adventure. Here are a few places to consider.
Feels Like Home Santa Catarina Prime Suites
This bed and breakfast is located within the historic centre of town, within the famed shopping street of Santa Catarina.
Enjoy a breakfast served each morning on your private balcony overlooking the red-bricked roofs of Porto. A meal with a view doesn’t get better than this.
The B&B is located in a traditionally styled building that has been modernised to provide all the comforts and luxuries of a hotel.
If you’re travelling to Porto alone, rest assured that this accommodation option is highly convenient. It’s situated within walking distance from many of Porto’s main attractions and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Click here for the latest rates | Booking.com
This guesthouse provides comfort and convenience. It’s close to a wide variety of the city’s most loved attractions and has easy access to public transport systems.
The rooms all have air-conditioning and free WiFi, and there’s a shared lounge for guests to make use of during their stay. Every room has its own private bathroom, desk and a flatscreen TV.
A continental breakfast is available each morning, and the staff are friendly and happy to help out wherever possible.
Click here for the latest rates | Booking.com
Oporto House is a stylish guesthouse located within central Porto. Each room has a private bathroom and fan, and some rooms contain a city view or a sloped ceiling.
A continental breakfast is served each morning. But there are also plenty of restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the guesthouse.
The guesthouse is a 5-minute walk from the train station as well, giving you easy access to the rest of the city.
Click here for the latest rates | Booking.com
Hotel Sao Jose, Porto Old Town
This hotel has a classy elegance about it and is located in the Old Town. Within walking distance of the City Market Bolhao, you’ll be well provided for throughout your entire stay.
The rooms are spacious and contain a flat-screen TV, mini-bar, air-conditioning, free WiFi, as well as the added extra of a balcony with a view in some rooms.
Click here for the latest rates | Booking.com
Hotel Boa – Vista
If you’re looking for a scenic stay during your time in Porto, The Hotel Boa – Vista is the place for you.
The hotel overlooks the mouth of the Douro River where it connects to the ocean. The comfortable rooms are kitted out with air-conditioning, a minibar and cable TV.
The hotel bar is located on the terrace, where you can enjoy a cocktail or beer along with a fresh sea breeze.
There’s also a rooftop indoor pool which guests have access to all year round, and an outdoor cafe, perfect for enjoying lunch with a view.
Click here for the latest rates | Booking.com
Final Thoughts on the Best Porto Portugal Things to Do
Porto is a fascinating city with stacks of history to be discovered. Its old town charm and UNESCO World Heritage Sites make it a fantastic place to go on holiday.
Be sure to visit some photo-worthy destinations in Porto and put these smartphone photography tips to the test.
Whether you’re travelling alone or with a group, Porto is sure to catch your attention. Now that you know all the best things to do in Porto, Portugal, you can start planning your very own itinerary for this magical destination.
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