Travel guide to Porto

Porto is Portugal’s second largest city. It is a trending travel destination (was voted one of the best European destinations in 2017), perfect for a city break in any season. Porto is well-known for its port wine, colorful ceramic tiles, romantic Ribeira district. If you need some color, sunsets, wine and mouthwatering desserts in your life (who doesn’t?), then head to Porto.

 

 

Porto is an honest city: there is nothing fancy about it, there are no tourist traps, there are no vendors at every corner trying to sell you key chains/tours/expensive rides. Porto is not trying to hide its imperfections (unless too much wine is an imperfection). You will encounter a lot of abandoned, collapsing buildings decorated with beautiful azulejos. These little imperfections add up to a unique city, creating a welcoming and exciting atmosphere.

 

Curious about what you can do in Porto? Here’s a list of 22 things to do in Porto:

 

Discover the heart of Porto: the Ribeira district

 

 

 

 

The oldest part of Porto, the Ribeira district is probably the most beautiful part of the city. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site you can explore pastel-colored houses, narrow alleyways that lead to hills with picturesque views or buildings decorated with typical azulejo tiles.

 

As you approach the Duoro river, you will understand why Ribeira is the heart of the city. The riverbank is the buzzing center of the tourist area: filled with restaurants and live performances is a great place to start (or end) your day in the city.

 

Enjoy a local dish here, walk on the promenade, get lost on the narrow streets, and try to breathe in the local atmosphere.

 

Buy something from the Bolhão market

Bolhao market Porto, old market, european market

 

 

The market may not live its glory days (read: it could use some renovation), but the spirit and atmosphere is very much alive. It’s full of fresh fruits, fresh fish, flowers and local delicacies (you can find some cheap souvenirs here too).

 

Even if you are just visiting Porto for a few days, support the locals by buying some fresh fruits from the vendors. Arrive early in the morning!

 

Admission: free (yay!)
Open: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Mon-Fri), 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM (Saturday), closed on Sunday
Address: R. Formosa 214

 

Try the best dessert in the world: pastel de nata

pastel de nata, pasteis de nata, portugal desserts, coffee and dessert

Although I’m not a dessert person, I could eat a pastel de nata every day!

 

Pastéis de Belém or pastel de nata is a traditional dessert in Portugal, which were created before the 18th century by monks in Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. These wonderful pastries were spread across Portugal, you can find them in basically in every coffee shop or pastry in Portugal.

 

Did I mention they taste like a piece of heaven? This egg tart pastry is best served warm with some cinnamon on top.

 

I tried pastel de nata in too many places (for the sake of comparison, of course), and the best place to find nata in Lisbon (according to me) is the Nata, the world needs nata on Rua das Flores (near the train station). Honorable mention goes to the Fábrica da Nata and Manteigara.

 

Price: from 0.80-2 euro for a piece of heaven

 

Visit one of Portugal’s oldest bookstore: Livraria Lello & Irmão

livraria lello collage, lello bookstore in Portugal

 

The library was founded in 1881, and along with Bertrand library it is considered on of the oldest bookstores in Portugal. And probably one of the most beautiful ones too!

 

It was one of those places I could have spent a day. The smell of old books, carved wooden staircase, and an elegant and mystical interior makes it one of my favorite spots in Porto.

 

You have to buy voucher to enter the bookstore, which can be used as a discount if you buy a book. There are a lot of books in English, even Lello special editions. Although it is packed with selfie-taking tourists, I think it is worth a visit.

 

Admission: 4 euros (you can use it as a discount if you buy a book)
Open: 10:00 am – 7:30 pm
Address: Rue das Carmelitas, 144

 

Admire the azulejos of Porto

 

I became slightly obsessed with these tiles.

 

What are azulejos? Azulejo comes from the Arabic word “az-zulayj”,  which means “polished stone”. The term was brought in by the Moors, but the main influencer in Portugal was King Manuel I. (Now that’s what I call an influencer!) He decided to decorate his palace in Sintra with ceramic tiles. In the 17th century, the dominant colors were blue and white, but other colors became gradually used too. By the 19th century, it was the biggest hit in Portugal. 

 

I seriously wanted to take a picture of each and every pattern. Not a good idea in a city where EVERYTHING is covered in tiles 😀

Best thing in Porto. Best thing EVER. Tiles in every city!

 

Walk on the Dom Luís I. bridge

 

 

Unless you are afraid of heights- in that case it’s ok if you just admire the views from the safe land 😀 Seriously, there is some frightening space between the metal plates! I crossed it twice though, and I’m still alive 😀

 

The bridge is a double-deck metal arch bridge constructed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, and was considered the longest of its type at the construction (1886).

 

The upper deck offers a great view of the Duoro river, the Ribeira district, as well as the wine cellars of Vila Nova Gaia. During the day, the bridge is full of pedestrians. Watch out for the metro!

 

Tip: to avoid the crowds, head there at night to enjoy the view of Porto.

 

Watch the sunset from Serra do Pilar

 

 

 

 

As you walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova Gaia, head up to Miradouro da Serra do Pilar for an epic view of the city!

 

Admission: free (yay!)
Address: Largo Aviz, 4430-999 Vila Nova de Gaia

 

Try a francesinha

frnacesinha, sandwich in portugal

 

A francesinha is a typical dish in Porto, you can find it in almost every restaurant. Basically it is a sandwich filled with all kinds of meat (fresh sausage, ham, steak or roast meat, linguiça), covered with A LOT of melted cheese and drenched in a tomato and beer sauce.

It didn’t become my favorite dish, but it is worth a try.

 

Visit the São Bento train station

sao bento train staion, train station in porto

 

The train station in Porto is a piece of art, it is probably the most beautiful train station I’ve seen in Europe. The beautiful azulejo tiles that decorate the station (20.000 tiles!) illustrate a series of great battles, kings and historical scenes.

 

Admission: free (yay!)
Open: all day, every day
Address: Av. Dom Afonso Henriques

 

Learn about the port wine on a wine tasting tour

port wine, wine tasting, wine cellar in porto

 

You can not leave Porto without tasting its famous port wine! Whether or not you are a wine person, this is a must! (I’ve been waiting for this pun since forever)The port wine is more like a sweet digestive anyway.

 

If you want to taste some port wine and learn about the history of winemaking in Porto, head to Vila Nova Gaia. There are several famous wine cellars that offer wine tasting tours every hour. If you are not into wine tasting, you can simply admire the view of Ribeira from across the river sitting at a nice restaurant.

 

We took a wine tasting tour at a small family business (Quinta dos Corvos). The tour lasted about 30 minutes, was very informative, and we tasted some great wines. Tasting port wine almost as old as me- check!
The price of the tour was 7 euros/person, which included the guided tour in the wine cellar, the tasting of 4 different kinds of wine (any additional glass of wine is at extra cost).

Visit the Portuguese Center of Photography 

 

center of photography porto, museum in a jail

 

 

The Portuguese Center of Photography (Centro Portugues de Fotografia) is located in a former prison! How cool is that?

 

Close to Clérigos Tower, it is a perfect place to hide from the sun for an hour and visit the photo exhibition. The 18th century building was used as a prison until 1974, and some of the prison doors and cells are still intact.

 

Tip: go all the way up for a unique birds-eye view of Porto from a prison window.

 

Admission: free (yay!)
Open: Closed on Mondays, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Tue-Fri), 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM (Sat-Sun)
Address: Largo Amor de Perdicao, Building of the former Jail and Court of Appeal

Climb the Torre dos Clérigos tower for a birds eye view of Porto

 

Climbing towers is your thing? (I’m not judging…but really?) 😀 Head to Torre dos Clérigos to climb the 240 steps to admire the beauty of Porto. Don’t forget to also pay a visit to the church too!

 

Admission: 5€ for the tower (the church is free to visit)
Open: 9 AM- 7PM (Mon-Sun) + 
Address: Rue de São Filipe de Nery

 

Have a cup of coffee in the fancy Majestic café

 

majestic cafe in porto, art nouveau cafe in europe, european coffee shop

 

If you are a fan of Art Nouveau, the Majestic Café won’t disappoint you.  It’s a great place to start your day! But keep in mind, it tends to get crowded.

 

Open: 9:30 AM – 12:00 AM (Mon-Sat)
Address: Rua Santa Catarina 112

 

Take the nostalgic tram line to the ocean

 

porto tram, old tram, nostalgz tram in europe

 

A 100 year old tram to the ocean? Yup, you can do that when visiting Porto! The line 1 will take you all the way to the area where the Duoro river meets the Atlantic.

 

Tram is too crowded? You can take a bus too on the exact route!

Price: 3 euro

 

Take a walk near the ocean and discover Porto’s lighthouse

 

 

 

 

Palácio da Bolsa – one of the most beautiful buildings in Porto

 

palacio da bolsa, bolsa palace, stock market in europe, stock market

 

Another place that was on our list and we could not see due to a wine event that was taking place in it. The event was expensive af beyond our budget.

 

The Palacio da Bolsa (the Stock Exchange Palace) is classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it is the most visited building in northern Portugal.

 

Visit the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)

 

porto cathedral, cathedral se, se do porto, old cathedral

Pay a visit to one of Porto’s oldest monument built in Romanesque style. Psst, it’s a great spot to enjoy a sunset!

Address: Terreiro da Sé

 


Going to Europe? Check this list of useful travel apps to make your trip easier! 


 

 

 

 

Visit the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world

…and do tell us about it, ‘cause we walked past to it several times without entering. I mean, it looked cool from the outside, but since we’re not into McDonald’s (apart from some occasional drunken Big Mac’s) we didn’t bother to go inside 🙂 It is considered the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world for a reason!

Address: Praça da Liberdade 126

 

Try the local food

 

food in porto

 

Francesinha may be the most famous dish in Porto, but (in my opinion) there are waaay better foods in Porto.

 

Porto is famous for its tripe too, so if you’re adventurous, try some Tripas à moda do Porto. The people from Porto are called “tripeiros”, which is derived from tripe.

 

Another food to try when in Porto is the codfish, which you can find in almost every restaurant among the Duoro river. I don’t get the hype around codfish (it doesn’t have any taste, yo!), but apparently the portuguese have a recipe with codfish for every day of the year.

 

The seafood, however was fabulous in Porto!

 

Get lost in the streets of Porto

 

 


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Attend a concert in Casa da Música

 

You can take a guided tour in the house of music. The Casa da Música was designed by Dutchman Rem Koolhaasy when Porto became the Cultural Capital of Europe and it is entirely dedicated to music.

 

Admission: a guided tour costs 10 euro/person
Open: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Mon-Sat), 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Sun)
Address: Rua do Capitão Henrique Galvão 1

 

Discover amazing street art in Porto

 

street art in porto

 

If you like murals and graffiti, Porto is an amazing place for you! We discovered some really cool murals and street art installations around Porto. Walk with your eyes open, there are plenty of art pieces around Porto.

This particular street art installation can be found near the Quinta dos Corvos wine cellar, on a corner of Dom Afonso street 😉

 


Where to stay in Porto:

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Best Guest House Porto Hostel: great location, nice place, and BREAKFAST is included, yay!

Check price and availability now on booking.com!


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Feels like home Santa Catarina Prime Suites: great location, rooms with a view, beautiful, perfect for a romantic weekend

Check price and availability now on booking.com!


$$$

Almada Wine House: wine house. WINE HOUSE.

Check price and availability now on booking.com!


Where we stayed in Porto: M&S Guesthouse

Check prices and availability on booking: M&S Guesthouse in Porto

 

Other options: If you are traveling to Porto in a group, it’s better to rent an apartman on Airbnb. Want a 27$ discount to Airbnb? Register through my link!


Public transport in Porto 

The main attractions in Porto can be covered on foot. Keep in mind, that there are some hills and stairs to climb.

 

Journey planner: Use the official journey planner of Porto’s public system. The planner on Google maps worked good for us too!

 

How to use the metro in Porto:

 

The metro system of Porto uses zones. A zone starts on the station where you validate your ticket. If you are in Z1, you can travel to all the stations that are in direct contact with your initial zone. You can check which zone you are traveling in the stations. Do you want more information about the public transport in Porto? Check this link, it’s very detailed.

 

Tip: we bought an Andante metro card (which is mandatory and costs 0.50€) and charged it with 10+1 trips (12 euros, the +1 trip was free).


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7 Comments

  • Anisa says:

    I loved Porto, but only spent 2 days there, so lots of your list I need to go back and see. I didn’t try the Franchina so that’s probably top of my list for next time.

  • Anna says:

    Portugal has been on my mind a few years now. And this post just confirmed my thoughts that Porto would be well worth seeing

  • Maike says:

    I was in Porto for the first time in January and I loved it. We did most of the things on your list and it was great. Except the Bolhao Market was a bit disappointing in my opinion.

  • Abigail says:

    Beautiful post, love your photos. This has been a city on my bucketlist for a while!

  • April says:

    Beautiful pics! I’ve only spent two days in Lisbon (where I also took pictures of every tile I came across!) and cannot wait to get back to Portugal to explore more of the country. Porto is definitely on the list. Thanks for the ideas!

  • It’s saddening to say, but Porto does have tourist traps and Majestic Café is one of them. The bookstore Livraria Lello & Irmão, founded in 1906 (not 1881), is Porto’s second-oldest bookstore and arguably another tourist trap since no locals go there anymore.

    https://www.livrarialello.pt/en/a-livraria-lello/

    The oldest bookstore in Porto is Moreira da Costa (1902) beside Hotel Infante Sagres.

    The Mercado do Bolhão has been a political football for decades, and was nearly turned into a shopping mall. The public had to intervene to preserve it. The reason why it looks partially empty is because the city stopped giving licenses to new vendors years ago while it was in limbo.

    Meanwhile, the mayors have changed, Portugal was hit with an economic crisis, public works were halted, terms have come and gone and the very long process of tendering the construction projects has dragged on. Many of the vendors of the market are pension age and have worked there their entire lives. But every month of delay for the renovations means an extra month of income… so yes, while the market does look like it’s on the verge of collapse, it’s important to support the vendors before the 2 years of market renovations (likely to go longer) begins and they won’t be able to work anymore.

  • Sabrina says:

    What a great and detailed post about Porto! I love travelling Europe. Everything is so close and a weekend trip is like the easiest thing you can do.
    Your photos got me hooked on this beautiful city even more! <3

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