In the north of Portugal, there is a colorful city of Porto with cobbled old streets and tiled houses and a rich history. Porto is one of the most amazing cities to visit on the Iberian Peninsula and definitely the top city to see in Portugal. Here are some tips on some tourist sights in Porto.
To get in, you can either use cheap Ryanair or any other major European airline. The alternative is to get in by train from Lisbon (3 h).
It is only about € 3 from the Airport to the center. It is easy to go around with public transport. Buy a blue metro card which you can recharge in the machine at the airport or any other stop. Have small change ready as some of the machines don’t take paper notes or cards. Check into one of the digital stands with your card before boarding the train. You don’t have to check out. The first metro in the morning is at 6 am so don’t book the flight too early as then you will have to pay extra for taxi or Uber. Metro works until 1 AM.
When to go:
Basically whenever during the year is good. In the summer it can get very hot, so spring and autumn might be the best. In the winter it is usually super nice and warm during the day but make sure you bring a winter coat, hat, and gloves for the night.
Once in a lifetime try to experience São João (Saint John) celebration on the 24th of June, the longest night of the year. All around the town, there will be street dances (bailaricos).
Airbnb is a good option and delivers value for the price. Make sure to book early, because Porto is becoming very popular.
We visited during the winter and we stayed in Airbnb in the old center in one of the old houses.Most of the old houses don’t have normal heating so make sure to check your accommodation beforehand. We had to go buy extra clothes to sleep in not to freeze…. We all got cold anyway….well next time we will remember to check before we go….
What to eat and drink:
- Pastel de Nata. Sweet custard pie
- Francesinha. Bread, sausage, fries, cheese, eggs with special pure like sauce
- Port wine. Strong wine, around 19percent of alcohol, almost like a liqueur. Locals drink it after dinner, not with food as a normal wine
Where to eat:
- Jimão tapas e vinhos, (street) traditional Portuguese food served in trendy tapas form, yet not overpriced. In my opinion, the best food we tried in Porto and we tried a lot…..
- Vinhos Quinta do Noval (Avenida Diogo Leite 256) Port wine with short lecture (if wanted)
- Cultura dos Sabores
- Casa Agrícola. (Rua Miguel Bombarda). It is pretty cheap and their cakes are soo big!
- Leitaria da Quinta do Paço, ….
- A Sandeira do Porto, sandwich shop
- Chocolataria Equador (street). Chocolates. Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11:00-19:30,
- Café Majestic, (street). Examples of Art Nouveau. Really touristy and popular for their Sweet toast. There is always a line ( can’t book it) but if you try before closing in the evening you might not need to wait.
- La Piada (R. do Dr. Barbosa de Castro 64) Piadina and Mozzarella
- BOP (R. da Firmeza 575) American cuisine with Portuguese ingredients
- Cantina 32 Portuguese ingredients in stylish hipster place, good for lunch
Go for the dinner in old town of Ribera, on Praça da Ribeira my favorite Jimão tapas e vinhos,
- Ride the classic old tram number 1 along the river. Start your tour from in front of the monastery, passing by Mirra Gaia where you can spot many picturesque houses. As in the old town of Ribera, there are still freshly washed clothes hanging dry from the balconies. Get off at the terminal stop and take a short walk to the lighthouse where the Douro meets the Atlantic. Watch out for the waves as they can get pretty high. Some people in front of us got totally wet actually when taking their pictures 🙂 It looked like in one of the funny home videos….
- Boat ride. The best view of the old town is for sure from the boat. There are few boat options on the shore so you can choose the boat you like (better with the open deck even in the winter). All of them cost around € 12 for the 1-hour ride to see all the 6 Porto bridges.
- Wine cellars: Cellars of the more than 50 wine companies are located in Gaia where bottled wine is ready to be exported to far-away destinations. Port Wine is famous all around the world, therefore, the wine cellars and tasting is in high demand. There are few cellars you can visit by the river Duoro. We got recommended Croft, Taylors, Sandeman and Cálem. All of them are quite good so it is up to you to choose. Make sure you book it before you arrive as it happened to us they were fully booked for the day. If you don’t have luck with booking, go to the wine tasting bar just next door to Vinhos Quinta do Noval, where you will also get a detailed description and talk about the wines. For 3 glasses you will pay approximately €14 and for 5 glasses €24. Croft Cellars production dates from 1588, managed by a family of Yorkshire wine merchants. Oriented visit and wine tastings – Tasting of Port Wine with chocolates(10:00-18:00, last tour one hour before closing time) Taylor’s Cellars, founded by English trader, family owned with a terrace panoramic view over the city. Port and chocolate or cheese pairing (10:00-18:00)
Ride the classic old tram number 1 along the river.
- Tore dos Clerithos, Clérigos Tower. The first of the views, we visited this tower as a recommended spot. It is a must to visit in Porto and it gets a bit touristy but still worth the visit. It costs around 3 EUR (museum and the tower) and you might have to wait up to 45 minutes but at the end of more than 200 steps later you will be regarded by the panoramic view of the countless red rooftops of Porto. You can see all the old houses which are on the hillside, this is a great start for your walking tour.
- Gaia’s Wharf (Vila nova de Gaia) great view over the Porto’s historic center. From the Gaia Wharf depart the famous Douro River Cruises, heading to the Alto Douro region, where vineyards and much of the Port wine production takes place, providing unforgettable landscapes. It is considered to be some of the most beautiful in the country. Here you will find a lot of the Famous Port Wine Cellars where you can pay a visit and try it too… You can get here by crossing the Famous D.Luis I bridge built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877.
- Jardins de Palacio Crystal located above the palace, with fountains, peacocks, flower beds, and ponds. For the amusement of visitors in the past, little stories in a form of stone statues from the Renesaince are waiting for you. It is usually open until sunset and it is for free.
- Top of the D.Luis I bridge. Every day thousands of tourists cross this bridge either on foot or by the train (local metro/tram) to enjoy one of the best views over the old city and the river.
View from D.Luis I bridge
Artist in You:
- Library Lello Spot where the inspiration for the Harry Potter’s Hogwarts castle might come from. Looking at the Art Nouveau façade with neo-Gothic details, spiral staircases carved wood and decorative lamps it kind of makes sense. The library is decorated in painted plaster imitating wood. When you buy a book you will get a discount from your ticket (around 3€ for the entry) There is always a line to buy the tickets nowadays. It the past it was a quiet place and it even had a coffee place with few tables where you could read or even write a book. Also worthy of attention is the huge stained-glass skylight, bearing the library’s monogram and motto: ‘Decus in Labore’.
- Café Majestic was frequented by J.K Rowling while she was living in Porto and working on Harry Poter. She apparently spent quite some time in this cafe for the inspiration. In the past, this place used to be the meeting point of the writers, artists, thinkers and politicians. Some say it is one of the most beautiful cafes in the whole world with its romantic atmosphere and decorative façade. You can read more about the history on Café Majestic website. It is located in the is the heart of Porto’s main shopping street and a walking distance from the train station.
- A Pérola do Bolhão Outside decoration of the traditional grocery store with neo-decor is simply beautiful. The entrance is covered in Portuguese tiles with decorative flowers, tea and coffee plants. It is located just a few steps from the main shopping street (R. Formosa 279, 4000-252 Porto, Portugal)
- Portuguese tiles. They are on most of the buildings.
- Rua Miguel Bombarda 285, Here you can find a small passage with artsy stuff. Visit the art galleries on the street. Every 2 months there is a Saturday with live music and entertainment. Ó! Galeria
Summary of the top 14 things to see:
- Visit Library Lello
- Climb up the Tore dos Clerithos
- Walk on the Ponte dom Luis
- Visit the Mercado Ferreira Borges market
- Walk through Ribera historical center of the city
- Stroll through Bolhão Market is the most famous in the city
- Admire Chapel of Almas Entire exterior was covered with tiles representing scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine.
- Visit the Sao Bento Railway Station.The glass and iron structure adorned with twenty thousand tiles. From here you can cross the bridge Luis on the upper side and enjoy a great view of the city
- Rua de Santa Catarina. Fine examples of the Art Nouveau style, part of which has been pedestrianized, is the busiest shopping street in the city center. We spent quite a lot of time here as it was after Christmas and every shop had at least 70 percent discount.
- Visit A Pérola do Bolhão
- Learn about music at Casa da Musica. Contemporary architecture, a guided tour is super interesting, it is about the details in the architecture how to make the sound better.
- Stroll in Serralves Park. The first private national garden built on the basis of an architectural landscape project.
- Relax at Matoshinos. It is Porto’s beach (recommended if you have more time than a weekend)
- Visit Portuguese Centre for Photography (if you have more time than a weekend or if it is bad weather)
Fountain mirror reflection in Jardins de Palacio Crystal.
Good to Know:
- You will always be charged for the bread and olives on the table even if you did not order them. (Almost in every restaurant)
- Old houses don’t have a heating system.
- There can be a lot of dog poop on the streets so look where you step
Get Rick Steve’s Portugal guide.
Thank you for reading! So these were my 3 Days in Porto. Do you have other suggestions? Let me know I would love to hear!