The Ultimate Porto Travel Guide
Nestled along the Douro River estuary in Northern Portugal, you’ll find the city of Porto, which is a real hidden gem in Europe.
After arriving, the first thing you’ll notice about Porto is its strikingly beautiful cityscape. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ribeira district of Porto is a maze of narrow, winding streets, charming medieval buildings, and azulejo-covered churches, with the sparkling Douro River flowing through its heart.
Having just returned from a trip to this captivating corner of Portugal, I can attest that Porto is an indispensable stop on any travellers itinerary. From discovering its storied history and stately bridges to strolling along its gorgeous riverfront and vibrant centre, there’s no shortage of wonderful things to do in Porto.
So, if you’re in search of a European holiday destination that offers a rich tapestry of experiences, make your way here!
Things to Know Before you get to Porto:
Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, so it’s always helpful to know a few phrases before you set off on your Porto adventure.
🗣️’Bom Dia’ (Good Morning), ‘Obrigado’ (Thank you), and ‘Por favor’ (Please) are some essentials that will endear you to the locals.
Although Portuguese is the native language, we found that lots of people also spoke English in Porto, especially in the more touristy areas.
As for currency, Portugal is a member of the European Union, so the official currency is the Euro.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted across Porto, but it’s still a good idea to have some cash on hand, especially for smaller purchases and tipping.
Best Time to Visit Porto, Portugal
Now, onto one of the most asked questions – when is the best time to visit Porto?
Each season has its own unique charm and there really isn’t a bad time to visit Porto. However, your interests and preferences might lead you to favour one season over another. So, here’s what you can expect in each season:
Spring is one of the best times to visit Porto. The weather during these months is mild and pleasant, with average temperatures ranging from 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. This is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities like walking tours through Ribeira or a leisurely boat trip on the Douro River. The city bursts into colour as flowers bloom, adding to the enchanting allure of Porto’s landscapes. Plus, this is before the peak tourist season hits, so you can enjoy the city’s attractions without the summer crowds.
Summer in Porto is warm, but not stifling, with temperatures often hovering around the mid-20s Celsius. This is the busiest time of year, with lots of tourists flocking to the city and nearby beaches. Despite the crowds, summer is a great time to visit Porto if you enjoy a bustling, vibrant atmosphere. The city’s calendar is packed with cultural events like the São João Festival in June, which is one of the biggest street parties in Europe!
Autumn is a delightful time to visit Porto. The weather remains mild, and the city’s foliage offers a beautiful array of autumnal colours. Wine enthusiasts will particularly love this season, as September marks the start of the grape harvest in the Douro Valley. This is also an ideal time to visit the city’s wine cellars and learn about the rich tradition of Port wine production, without the summer throngs.
Winters in Porto are quite mild compared to many European destinations, with temperatures typically between 5 to 15 degrees Celsius. Although rain is more common during these months, the city still has plenty to offer indoors. From its innovative restaurants and museums, to an incredible range of historic sites, there are literally so many things to do in Porto in the winter. This is also a less tourist-heavy time of year, so during the winter months you’ll definitely have a peaceful Porto getaway.
Overall, Porto’s seasonal moods cater to different types of travellers. Whether you’re a wine aficionado, a history buff, a food lover, or a beach enthusiast, you’ll find the right time to enjoy everything this fascinating city has to offer.
How to get to Porto
If you’ll be arriving in Porto via Train, your point of arrival should be Campanha Train Station. However, Sao Bento station primarily facilitates connections from Porto to the surrounding towns in northern Portugal.
Porto Tip: If you do end up at Sao Bento station, make sure you go to the main hall to check out the gorgeous collection of azulejos (blue ceramic tiles) here. The station actually showcases more than 20,000 of these blue beauties, which depict the history of Portugal, Kings, Queens, wars, and the country’s transportation legacy. They also make the perfect backdrop for Instagram!
Click here to plan you journey on Omio, which is a super handy travel app I use to compare and book trains, busses and flights so I know I’m getting the best deal!
How Long Should you Spend in Porto?
Aim to spend at least three days in Porto. Two days to check out the best places in Porto and one to two days for an awesome day trip!
Safety in Porto
Portugal overall ranks as one of the safest countries in the world according to the Global Peace Index, making it one of the best places for solo female travellers to visit.
The locals in Porto are typically friendly and hospitable, and the city itself offers a warm and welcoming environment, which I truly experienced first hand on my recent Porto adventure.
However, as with any city, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded tourist areas where pickpockets might operate, and to be cautious at night.
Getting Around Porto
The best way to get around Porto is on foot, with the historic centre being easy to stroll around and explore.
Top Porto Travel Tip: If you plan on using public transport in Porto, I highly recommend getting the Porto Card with transportation, which covers all local transport and includes discounts.
Or, if you plan on driving around Porto and beyond, you can easily collect a car from the airport. When we hired a car in Portugal, we used Discover Cars, which is a fab car rental comparison website you can use to find, compare and rent a car globally ⬇
Top Portugal Travel Tip: If you do hire a car in Portugal, I highly recommend bringing a whole purse of coins out with you. Despite the country being quite modern in many respects, I was very surprised to learn on our Portugal road trip that you can usually only pay parking fees with coins (not even notes, and almost certainly not your card!)
📸 Top Things to do in Porto:
If you’re wondering what to do in Porto then you have sure come to the right place! Porto is one of my favourite places to visit in Portugal as it doesn’t have the big city vibes of Lisbon but is still full of character.
#1 Explore the Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Walking down the riverfront is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the city and one of the best free things to do in Porto.
As you stroll around the Ribeira you’ll see boats cruising along the shimmering river, a mosaic of colourful houses and talented local musicians busking.
Health Warning: Although wandering along the riverfront in Porto is technically a great way to get your steps in, there’s an endless amount of vendors selling the most delicious Portuguese desserts, with each step making it harder to resist temptation!
The market-stalls along the river are also one of the best places in Porto to get traditional Portuguese cork products, blue tiles and other souvenirs to take home.
#2 See the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World
A real highlight of Porto is visiting Livraria Lello, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and has become an iconic Porto landmark.
The bookstore features a stunning neo-Gothic façade and an interior adorned with intricate woodwork, stained glass, and a grand staircase.
However, it’s not just the architectural beauty that draws visitors; legend has it that JK Rowling, during her years working in the city, was inspired by its interiors for aspects of Hogwarts!
So while you’re visiting Porto, why not do a Harry Potter-inspired tour, where you’ll not only get to visit Livraria Lello, but you’ll also get to see the café where Harry Potter was written, the Gryffindor fountain, and the shop where Hogwarts uniforms are sold! Doing this tour is the best way to relive Potter magic, at its birthplace.
#3 Take a Boat Tour on the Sparkling Douro River
Taking a boat tour on the Douro River is one of the top things to do in Porto and the perfect way to soak in its beautiful scenery. There are tons of boat tour options available, ranging from short cruises to longer trips that venture into the Douro Valley.
A popular option is the traditional Rabelo boat tour. These wooden boats were originally used to transport Port wine barrels along the river.
Today, they offer a unique and nostalgic experience. On these tours, you can enjoy panoramic views of Porto’s historic waterfront, iconic bridges, and picturesque landscapes.
If you’re interested in wine, you might want to consider a boat tour that takes you to the vineyards and wineries in the Douro Valley. These tours usually include wine tastings and a chance to learn about the wine-making process.
#4 Check out the Magnificent Stock Exchange Palace
Palácio da Bolsa, also known as the Stock Exchange Palace, is a must visit in Porto. It was built in the 19th century and is known for its extravagant neoclassical design, opulent interiors, and impressive Arabian Hall.
This historical landmark was originally built to serve as the headquarters of the Porto Commercial Association, which is why it’s called the Stock Exchange Palace. Today, it is not only a symbol of the city’s economic history but it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto.
If you plan on visiting the city, I highly recommend adding Palácio da Bolsa to your Porto itinerary. It’s truly a magnificent place to appreciate the architecture, history, and rich cultural heritage of Portugal.
#5 Explore Porto’s Contemporary Art Scene
Porto is not only a city steeped in history; it’s also a bustling hub for contemporary art.
For art lovers, the Serralves Museum is a must-visit in Porto. This modern architectural marvel stands proud amidst the city’s vintage aesthetic and is full of changing exhibits that feature artists from all walks of life.
But the art in Porto isn’t confined to museum walls. Streets like Rua Miguel Bombarda are a testament to the city’s thriving urban art scene. Known as the “Art Block,” this street is lined with indie galleries and graffiti that transform the city into a vibrant open-air museum. Strolling around the area is also another great thing to do for free in Porto.
#6 Visit the Most Underrated Attraction in Porto
The Museu do Carro Eléctrico, or the Electric Car Museum, is another interesting place to visit and one of the most underrated things to do in Porto.
As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to the history of electric trams in the city, showcasing trams from different eras. It’s the ideal place to immerse yourself in the history of Porto’s tram system and experience a unique aspect of the city’s culture and heritage.
Away from the crowds of the city centre, this peaceful spot is actually one of the best ways for families and tram lovers of all ages to spend an afternoon in Porto.
#7 Do a Guided Walking Tour of Porto
Taking a guided walking tour of Porto is one of the best ways to explore this historical city. It’ll take you through all of the famous landmarks of Porto, as well as some hidden gems.
I highly recommend this Essential Porto Walking Tour, which is lead by an art historian who will take you to Porto’s most iconic landmarks, including its historic centre, which is a truly unmissable thing to see in Porto.
But if you don’t quite have the energy, why not do a segway or tuk-tuk tour of Porto instead!
#8 Snap the Most Photographic Views of Porto
1. 360-degree Views from Clerigos Tower
For anyone seeking the most breathtaking and panoramic views of Porto, climbing the Clerigos Tower is an unmissable adventure.
Standing at an impressive 250 feet (76 meters) tall, this iconic bell tower, with its intricate Baroque design, is not only a historical landmark in Porto but also an incredible viewpoint.
Once you get to the top of the tower’s spiralling 200-step staircase, you’ll be rewarded with an unparalleled 360-degree view of Porto’s terracotta rooftops, the Douro River, and the distant horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.
From this height, the city’s intertwining history and modernity come to life, with every nook and cranny of Porto revealed in a new light. It’s no wonder that Clerigos Tower is one of the most visited monuments and one of the top things to do in Porto.
Don’t miss out, get your Clerigos Tower entrance ticket here!
2. Dom Luís I Bridge Views
On a sunny day, one of the best things to do in Porto is taking a walk along the Dom Luís I Bridge. This double-decker arch bridge was built in the late 19th century and is one of the most famous landmarks in Porto.
The bridge doesn’t just offer a passage across the Douro River, but provides panoramic views of the city’s stunning beauty, including the riverside houses, bustling port, and vineyard covered hills.
If you’re feeling tired, taking a metro ride on top of the Dom Luís I Bridge is another interesting thing to do in Porto, with equally gorgeous views.
3.The Majestic Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
Built-in the 18th century, Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is a beautiful church known for its stunning blue and white tile facade, which depicts iconic religious scenes.
Not only is this church a must-visit in Porto for its impressive architecture and historical significance, it’s also an amazing spot to get some epic Instagram content!
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is not on the typical Porto itinerary so you will almost always find a quiet space in front of the church to take some uncrowded and unique pictures.
4. Bird’s Eye Views from the Teleférico de Gaia
Known as Teleférico de Gaia, the cable car is a relatively recent addition to the Porto skyline and one of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of the city.
From this vantage point, you’ll get gorgeous views of the river, the bridge, and the Ribeira, so don’t forget your camera!
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Portugal with kids and is highly affordable:
#9 See a Live Fado Performance
Originating in Portugal in the 1820s, Fado is often considered to be the soul of Portuguese music and forms an integral part of Portuguese culture.
Fado was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2011, which makes watching a live Fado performance an unmissable thing to do on your Porto Itinerary.
Here are some of the best Fado with wine tours that you can do in Porto:
#10 Port Tasting
Experiencing Port in its very birthplace, Porto, is an absolute must for any city visitor.
This rich, sweet, fortified wine has a history as deep and complex as its flavour profile! With it being a narrative of explorers and merchants, and of trade routes and innovations, which all contribute to the legendary status it holds today.
The Vila Nova de Gaia district in Porto houses historic wine cellars where you can learn all about the art of Port wine making, and take part in tastings to really feel the centuries of tradition that have shaped this Portuguese delicacy.
Get your Port Tasting ticket here!
Where to Eat in Porto
Beyond its historical allure, Porto is a modern metropolis with an innovative culinary culture, where you’ll find an incredible array of foodie experiences that offer something for everyone to enjoy.
12 Best Places to Eat and Drink in Porto:
#1 7g Roaster
If you’re looking for the best breakfast and coffee in Porto head to 7g Roaster. This specialty cafe is perfect for hungry coffee lovers. Arabica beans are sourced from around the world and roasted in-house here, which creates the most delicious and perfect blends of coffee you’ll find in the city. Plus, 7g Roaster is well known for its food too, serving everything from extravagant stacks of pancakes to avocado on toast.
#2 Floresta Cafe by Hungry Biker
If you’re looking for the best brunch in Porto then look no further than this buzzing spot. I highly recommend their unique Strawberry Fields dish, which combines cream cheese, avocado, salty halloumi, jam and strawberries – somehow this is a winning combo!
#3 Miss Pavlova
Miss Pavlova is another awesome brunch spot in Porto, serving everything from bruschettas and sweet potato chips to the fluffiest American pancakes and best Pavlovas ever!
Cafeína is a trendy restaurant known for its creative dishes, stylish ambiance, and stunning views of the Douro River. So if you’re looking for a gorgeous lunch spot in Porto head here!
#5 Mercado Bom Sucesso
Mercado Bom Sucesso is basically the Time Out Market of Porto, with 44 food stalls under one roof, where you can sample gastronomic delights from different regions of Portugal, as well as international cuisine.
Located in the Boavista neighborhood, Mercado Bom Sucesso is housed in a gorgeous, contemporary building with a sleek design. Inside, you’ll find a huge range of stalls and vendors offering fresh produce, and also restaurants, cafés, and kiosks where you can indulge in a mix of traditional and modern dishes to satisfy all taste buds.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mercado Bom Sucesso has become one of the best places to eat in Porto and the ideal spot for experiencing the lively food culture of the city.
If you’re a food lover, make sure to add Mercado Bom Sucesso to your Porto itinerary and get ready for a feast!
#6 Mercado do Bolhão
If you love local markets, you could also check out the iconic Mercado do Bolhão, one of the oldest and most traditional markets in the city.
Inside, you’ll find a wide variety of local produce, seafood, meats, cheeses and more. It’s a great place to experience the local culture, interact with vendors, and get a taste of authentic Portuguese ingredients.
Mercado do Bolhão is particularly known for its vibrant and bustling atmosphere, which is why it’s grown to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto.
#7 O Gaveto
Head to O Gaveto for an amazing dinner in Porto. This is a seafood lover’s paradise and local favourite. With its extensive seafood menu and friendly service, you’ll have a truly memorable dining experience here.
If you’re feeling fancy, head to this Michelin-starred restaurant in Porto. DOP specialises in modern Portuguese cuisine, combining traditional flavours with innovative techniques. This spot is undoubtedly one of the top restaurants in Porto, so be sure to make a reservation to avoid missing out.
#9 Cantinho do Avillez
Cantinho do Avillez is owned by renowned Portuguese chef José Avillez, and offers a contemporary twist on traditional Portuguese cuisine. Don’t miss their famous ‘Mini Cheeseburgers’!
Manteigaria is one of the best places in Porto to try the famous pastel de Nata. These are one of the most authentic things to try while in Portugal and at Manteigaria they’re literally made fresh right in front of your eyes! For anyone with a sweet tooth, this is an absolute must on your Porto itinerary!
Alternatively, Vegana is the best place for vegans or lactose-intolerant people looking to get their pastel de nata fix.
Or you could even make your own Nata, with this popular cooking class in Porto (using Grandma’s recipe)!
Looking for the best rooftop bar in Porto? Look no further than Base, which is a trendy rooftop bar that’s popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s got a super relaxed atmosphere and stunning views of the city, making it a great place to unwind after a hard day of exploring!
#12 Best Food Tours in Porto
If you’re a true foodie, why not do a food tour, which will take you through the city’s vibrant culinary scene while you experience Porto’s rich culture and heritage?
By doing a food tour in Porto, you’ll get to experience some of the most famous food in Portugal, from local cheese, chorizo, prosciutto, wine, and more! At the same time, you’ll discover the roots of Porto and its significance through the centuries.
Best Day Trips from Porto
Often dubbed as the ‘Venice of Portugal,’ Aveiro is a vibrant city marked by its picturesque canals, colourful Moliceiro boats, and stunning Art Nouveau architecture.
Although it’s just an hour’s journey from Porto, this charming town offers an alternative perspective on the Portuguese lifestyle.
In Aveiro you can enjoy a peaceful boat ride along the canals, immersing yourself in the tranquil, yet lively atmosphere. However, if you’re looking for the best free thing to do in Aveiro, simply strolling around its beautiful neighbourhoods like Beira-Mar or Beira-Ria (on the opposite side of the canal) is well worth doing.
The city’s gastronomic appeal is also a significant draw, with the local sweet treat, ovos moles, being a must-try in Aveiro. These were the first Portuguese sweets to win the designation of Protected Geographical Indication, which ensures its quality and guarantees that they’re made using traditional methods and recipes.
We got our ovos moles’ from Milano Avenida, and I have to say that this restaurant possibly serves the best gelato you will ever have in your life! Their kinder bueno and popcorn flavours are out of this world!
All of this, coupled with the friendly local people, make a day trip to Aveiro from Porto a refreshingly unique experience in Portugal.
You can book the best Aveiro day trip here.
#2 Douro Valley
One of the best day trips you can do from Porto is the Douro Valley, which is Portugal’s renowned wine region and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Having recently come back from a trip to Douro Valley, I am convinced that it is an absolutely essential stop on any Portugal itinerary!
A day trip to Douro Valley is perfect for visiting historic quintas (wine estates), learning about the complex winemaking process, and, of course, sampling the best wine in Portugal!
#3 Hitting the Local Beaches
If you’re visiting Porto during the Summer, make sure you take some time to soak up the sun at one of the nearby beaches.
Foz do Douro is a gorgeous neighbourhood in Porto, situated at the mouth of the Douro River, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a gorgeous place known for its beautiful beaches, scenic promenade, and upscale residential areas, making it an amazing stop on your Porto itinerary.
Matosinhos is widely regarded as the best beach close to Porto (it’s only 40 minutes away from the city via the 500 bus).
This vibrant seaside district is known for its surf, bustling fish market and lively eateries, where you can savour the catch of the day grilled to perfection!
I really like the vibe of Matosinhos, it feels super authentic and is the best place to get an insight into the modern side of Portuguese architecture, with the gorgeous Alvaro Siza’s Leça Swimming Pool and exhibitions at the Casa da Arquitectura, which has a free ‘Matosinhos Architecture Walking Route Map’ at the reception.
Best Hotels in Porto, Portugal
We personally stayed at Utopian a Charming Boutique Hotel, located in one of the best neighbourhoods in Porto (very close to the old centre). It’s a great idea to stay as close to the historic city centre as possible so that you can easily walk to most Porto attractions.
Utopian a Charming Boutique Hotel was also extremely modern and luxurious, with possibly the biggest shower I have ever seen in my entire life. There were so many lovely finishing touches here too, like a free minibar and toiletries!
However, if this hotel doesn’t tick all your boxes, you can easily find the best hotels in Porto to suit your budget using Hotellook below:
Portugal Travel Insurance
While Portugal has excellent healthcare facilities, medical costs for non-residents can be high, especially if intensive care or emergency evacuation is required.
Travel Insurance is essential as it will save you thousands if something goes wrong on your adventure. Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing is amazing, as it covers emergency medical evacuation and bedside visits, starting at just $42 per 4 weeks.
You can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel, giving you the ultimate level of flexibility. There’s also no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance.
Check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
Overall, Porto is an intriguing blend of old-world charm and contemporary culture, making it one of the coolest places to visit in Europe! This incredible city truly encapsulates the warm soul of Portugal and has something for everyone to enjoy.
Now that I’ve shared with you all the highlights of this incredible part of Portugal, it’s your turn to visit Porto and experience its beauty for yourself ✨
If you have any of your own Porto recommendations I’d love to know in the comments below! ❤️
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