17 Best Things to Do in Porto, Portugal

Although Portugal is tucked in the corner of Europe and is most often overshadowed by countries like England and France, it’s home to one of the world’s most charming and vibrant cities in the world: Porto.

It’s a fascinating city with a charming, colorful, and beautifully authentic identity and culture; whether you are an explorer, a weekend visitor, backpacker, or photographer alike, Porto is the perfect destination for a city break! Porto is famous for its port wine, mesmerizing architecture, beautiful beaches dotting the Costa Verde shoreline, and buzzing nightlife.

Moreover, if you are a history lover, the heart of Porto is a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and it’s a must-see! In both 2014 and 2017, it was chosen as the best European destination by the Best European Destinations Agency.

In addition to all of that, Porto is actually one of the cheapest destinations in Portugal and Europe altogether. In short, it’s a dream city.

NOTICE: The information here is updated as best we can in light of COVID-19. Please check before you go anywhere what modifications have taken place to avoid any inconvenience!

PORTO ESSENTIAL – THE PORTO CARD

Before getting into all the nitty-gritty of unmissable things to do and see in Porto, Portugal, Giorgy suggests getting yourself a Porto Card, which could help cover most of the key Porto highlights while your visit there! Moreover, if you try to see as much of Porto as possible!

You are able to choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4-day cards including free public transport and access to 6 museums; included 50% discount at the majority of Porto’s major attractions: Igreja E Torre Dos Clerigos and Palacio Da Bolsa, as well some skip-the-line-priority, and few restaurants.

#1. LUIS I BRIDGE

What is it?
The double-decker Dom Luis I bridge is an icon of Portugal; it spans the River Douro and it connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.

Why go?
It was designed by Theophile Seyrig and opened in 1886. The bridge has two levels; the upper one is used by the tram and the lower one is open for car traffic.
Both levels can be used by pedestrians, granting them two different-level beautiful views of both Gaia and Porto.

During the summer, you can find locals, especially kids, jumping into the river from the lower level of the bridge, it’s definitely a sight to see!

Don’t forget to bring along your camera to capture the spectacular views and why not… a swimsuit to take a dip in too!

#2. ENJOY THE VIEWS FROM THE MIRADOURO DA VITÓRIA

What is it?
Don’t let the first sketchy impression of broken window panes of the building fools you; Miradouro de Victoria is surrounded by abandoned buildings and it’s absolutely worth a visit during sunset in Porto.

Why go?
Have you ever found yourself in a postcard-perfect location? Miradouro de Victoria can offer this in real life with an amazing view over the river Duoro and the jumble of medieval terracotta rooftops that spill down to it.

Miradouro de Victoria is located in one of the oldest parts of the city tagged along with beautiful medieval buildings – It is indeed located right up to the Praça da Ribeira neighborhood on the shores of the Duoro river! Make sure to spend some time losing yourself in the beautiful twisting cobblestone laneways.

Hey Goofball! You have the chance to see some of Porto’s main attractions from here; Dom Luis Bridge, Porto Cathedral, and Bishop’s Palace.

#3. CASA DA MUSICA

What is it?
A treasured modern addition to Porto’s cityscape, the Casa da Música is a contemporary concert hall that was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and opened in 2005. 
The building is the first in Portugal to be dedicated exclusively to music, and it was conceived after Porto was crowned as the European Capital of Culture.

Why go?
Not only is the Casa da Música a highly attractive and interesting building from the outside; on the inside, but it also features a 1300-seat auditorium that is mesmerizing in the daylight, and it is the only concert hall in the world with two walls made entirely of glass.

Since its opening, the Casa da Música has hosted a wide array of musical events, from jazz and classical music to fado and pop. It’s definitely worth a visit even if there’s no one playing, and you can enjoy a meal in the restaurant inside the building at the end of your tour.  

Hey Goofball! The Porto Card was created to provide easy access to the city’s sights at your own pace, enjoying up to 150 discounts and benefits such as the free entrance to 6 city museums. Indeed you get up to 50% at “Cada Da Música.

#4. EAT YOUR WAY AROUND MERCADO DO BOLHÃO

What is it?
Mercado de Bolhao, a historic marketplace, is the best food market in Porto bursting with selling fresh fruit and vegetables, smoked meats and fresh fish, and delicious bread, chees, and local dishes.

Why go?
This beautiful place just restored gives you the authentic feeling of daily life in Porto. Located in the fantastic nearby Le Vie Porto Baixa Shopping Center, Bolhao Market is the ideal place for you to experience a diverse and delicious array of food and drinks of Portugal goodies!

Too busy to take pictures… I was enjoying the food… GNUM GNUM… Of course, tasting all of them!!!!

#5. THE PORTO CATHEDRAL

What is it?
The Porto Cathedral or Sé do Porto in Portuguese, is the most important and one of the oldest religious buildings in the city. 
Its construction began in the twelfth century, but it has gone through a lot of renovations and changes over the years.

Why go?
The cathedral’s architecture merges the Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles, giving it a rich interior. Inside the cathedral, there’s a gorgeous cloister that’s decorated with indigenous Baroque azulejos tiles, depicting many scenes from the Bible.

Another perk is that you can also enjoy a wonderful view of the city and the river from the square in front of the cathedral.

#6. VISIT THE SÃO BENTO RAILWAY STATION

What is it?
Giorgy has worked in a railways company for years and she knows the elegance and grandeur of European train stations. But one stands above the rest; Porto’s irresistible São Bento.

Why go?
Basically, if you visit Porto and miss out on São Bento railway station, you’ve done it all wrong. Let me explain to you!

This station is much more of a normal transport hub for Porto’s residents; in fact on the walls of the grand entrance stands 20’000 azulejo (traditional painted tiles) depicting Porto’s history in breathtaking beauty. The royalty history behind these beautiful azulejos, various battles, and transportation, is amazing and you should watch it when the afternoon sun hits in just the right place, soft golden light bathes the room in sheer magic.

Hey Goofball! Take a tour to understand better the history behind azulejo and some hidden gems around Port!

#7. JARDINS DO PALACIO DE CRISTAL

What is it?
This lovely botanical garden was originally the site of the original Crystal Palace that was built for the International Show in 1865 and the gardens were designed by German landscape architect Emílio David.

Unfortunately, the building itself was destroyed in the 1950s and was replaced by the modern dome complex, however, the beautiful gardens still remain.

Why go?
In the gardens, you’ll find fountains, sculptures, giant magnolias, camellias, pines, cypress, and olive trees, and you might even run into a bunch of peacocks! It’s located just by the cliff which makes it open up to some amazing views all the way from the Dom Luis Bridge to the Arrábida bridge.

There’s no better way to enjoy a relaxed day in the outdoors than to spend it in the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal!

#8. TAKING A SIGHTSEEING CRUISE DOWN THE DOURO RIVER

What is it?
Giorgy doesn’t like touristy stuff as well, but trust me when I am telling you this sightseeing cruise is worth every penny! Known as the river of gold, the Douro river is known as the world’s most beautiful wine region.

Why go?
Jumping abroad this six-bridge Porto city sightseeing boat tour upstream of the river will be a breathtaking experience as you take in the spectacular landscapes and the different World Heritage sites alongside the banks of the Douro.
The water flows through Portugal’s famous wine region of Alta Douro, where the beautiful countryside is jeweled with steeply-terraced vineyards that produced wine for the past 2,000 years.

A Douro river trip will definitely give you a glimpse of the beauty of Porto and its lively atmosphere, and why not combine it with a visit to the wine region! 

#9. TAKE A WINE TASTING TOUR

What is it?
The port wine cellars of Porto are one of the most famous tourist attractions and a visit to these cellars is a must on any trip to the city!

Why go?
Although the wine is produced in the Douro river valley, Porto is where the aging, bottling, and all commerce has taken place for centuries. These cellars are located on the south bank of the Douro and all you need to do to get there is to cross the Dom Luís I bridge.

Almost all port wine cellars provide guided tours and tastings. You’ll also get to learn about the history of the wineries, some of them go back hundreds of years, and how they evolved over time! Some of the best cellars include Cálem, Ferreira, Sandeman, and Ramos Pinto.

Hey Goofball! If you already had purchased the Porto Card, I suggest you go visit the Real Companhia Velha Port (Wine Cellars) which offers 50% off.

#10. GOING UP THE ESPLANADA DO TELEFÉRICO

What is it?
A terrace bar above the Porto cable car with epic views over the city: Esplanda do Teleférico. Reachable with a short walk, it could be extreme depending on how much alcohol is in your blood after the wine tasting lol.

Why go?
To the right of the all-glass bar is a concrete lookout perfect for watching the sunset bathe the Ribeira district, Dom Luis I bridge, and the Douro in beautiful golden tones, or just sit back and watch how Porto begins to light up!

Hey Goofball! Mosteiro da Serra do Pillar (on the right side of the bridge) has become a famous and touristic location offering a view of the city and the famous Dom Luis I bridge looks equally impressive during golden hour.

#11. VISIT LIVRARIA LELLO

What is it?
Livraria Lello, or the Lello bookstore, is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and is often regarded as the world’s most beautiful bookshop.

Why go?
It was opened in 1906, and it’s said that it was a direct inspiration for J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books as Rowling lived in the city from 1991 to 1993 and was a frequent customer.

Walking into this bookstore will feel like you walked into a different era thanks to its Gothic facade, its stained glass window, and the remarkable staircase. It’s also home to some of the world’s oldest and most precious books.

Hey Goofball! Lines to the bookstore sometimes stretch down several blocks, so get there as early as possible! Get the following tour with the fast track at Lello Library.

#12. CHECK OUT THE STUNNING VIEW FROM CLERIGOS TOWER

What is it?
Porto’s Torres do Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) has a view over the city from its place atop the Clérigos Church since 1763. And not for nothing, it’s one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

Why go?
The top provides epic panoramic views over Porto and beyond! This place is accessible only via the 230 stairs; a very narrow, claustrophobic, and cramped staircase!!

#13. THE CHURCH OF SANTA CLARA

What is it?
Completed in 1457 to replace a medieval convent, on the outside, the church of Santa Clara is a humble unassuming building, but inside you’ll find a pleasant surprise.

Why go?
The exterior of the church is built in the Gothic style, and once you step foot inside you’ll be taken aback by the beautiful gilded woodwork. 
The walls are adorned with angels, saints, cherubs, and meticulously detailed artworks. It’s truly one of the most captivating places in Portugal. 

#14. SCROLL THORUGH PARQUE DE CIDADE

What is it?
The Parque de Cidade is the largest urban park in Porto; it covers over 83 hectares from Avenida da Boavista to the Atlantic ocean.

Why go?
The park is the perfect place for a picnic or a relaxing walk. There are also places designated for sports like football pitches, a volleyball area, and paths for running and cycling. 
The park also has several lakes where ducks can rest, so the overall relaxed atmosphere will have you feeling peaceful and content in no time!

#15. NOT ONLY SUNBATHING AT THE BEACHES

What is it?
Even though most people don’t consider Porto as a beach destination, Porto beaches are pretty underrated and a visit to one of these beaches in the summertime will certainly not disappoint!

Why go?
Porto lies at the heart of the Costa Verde, a gorgeous stretch of Atlantic coastline that’s home to golden sandy beaches. 
One of these beaches is Praia de Matosinhos, a particularly popular choice among many tourists and locals, and it’s also known for its strong waves which are perfect for surfing

#16. VISIT PALACIO DE BOLSA AKA BOLSA PALACE AND MARVEL AT THE INTERIORS

What is it?
Palácio da Bolsa, or the Stock Exchange Palace, is a historical building that was built in the 19th century in the Neoclassical style over the ruins of the Church of São Francisco after it burned down during the Siege of Porto in 1832.

Why go?
On the inside, the palace is overwhelmingly rich with sculptures, decorative carvings, plasterwork, frescos, paintings, chandeliers, and tiles.

One of the highlights of the Palace is the Arab Room which is decorated in the exotic Moorish Revival style and is used as a reception hall for personalities and heads of state visiting Porto.

The palace is also considered a World Heritage Site and a national monument. 

Hey Goofball! If you already had purchased the Porto Card, I suggest you go visit Palácio da Bolsa which offers 25% off. Otherwise, you can purchase a single ticket here. Jumping on one of the 45-minute guided tours is a good idea for those of you keen to explore all of the intricately designed rooms of the Palace!

#17. EXPLORE THE CAIS DA RIBEIRA, BAIXA AND BOLHAO DISTRICTS

What is it?
This picturesque district is one of the liveliest and most fun places to visit in Porto and you can just easily wander around all day long; it’s where you’re likely to spend the majority of your time anyways.

Why go?
A visit to the Cais da Riberia will give you an authentic experience of the local life in Porto where you can mingle with locals, enjoy the bars and restaurants that line the riverside walk, and take in the colorful houses on the waterfront.

The district becomes even more vibrant in the evening when the wine cellars light up and twinkle on the river.

Hey Goofball! Keep in mind this is where the river Duoro 6-bridge river cruises depart from, make sure to book your ticket ahead of time!

OVERALL

Hey Goofball, Giorgy is about to share some useful tips for getting around the city:

  • Exploring Porto by Tram: Tram system is a scenic and easy way to explore the city, and it’s absolutely a must even though is a little bit touristic. The trams here are amongst the oldest electric transport systems in Europe, and you can still spot the quaint little yellow tram cars trundling along the 3 remaining routes today;
  • Food That You Should NOT Miss: grab Pastel de Nata (Portuguese tart) one of the best sweet treats at the Confeitaria do Bolhao, don’t forget to get something to eat at one of the many cafes lining Praça Ribeira (Ribeira Square) along with sangria, and eat Porto’s most famous dish: Francesinha!
  • Spot Porto’s Many Amazing AZULEJO Titles: As mentioned before, these beautiful blue and white azulejo tiles are one of the most famous things to see in Porto and it’s one of the things that makes Portugal’s northern city so special! There are so many that Giorgy suggests you to check the following out: Igreja de Carmo, São Bento Railways station (of course!), Porto Cathedral, Iglesia de San Ildefonso, and the Chapel of Souls.

All in all, Porto is a splendid city that has much to offer, from marvelous architecture and history to scenic nature and a dazzling friendly atmosphere. Ready to book your next weekend getaway to Porto then?

These are my recommendations for the 17 unbeatable things to do when you visit Porto. What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear in the comments below! 

 

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