The 10 best things to do in Porto | TRAVEL GUIDE

Wine boats on the River Douro, Porto

Porto was the last stop on our 10 day trip around Portugal. After a quick 24h stopover exploring the medieval streets of beautiful Coimbra, we quickly hopped on the next train to Porto and arrived in Estação de São Bento in just over an hour. The second biggest city in Portugal welcomed us with one of the prettiest railway stations in the world. I was delighted to see that the Portuguese azulejo tradition was equally predominant in Porto as it was in Lisbon. An incredible hand painted tilework by Jorge Colaço featuring more than 20,000 tiles covers the main hall’s interior, portraying scenes of some of the most important moments of Portugal’s history. I couldn’t help but admire the meticulous 20th century artwork that was in front of me (and was quick to update my Instagram stories, of course).

Was Porto going to be this beautiful everywhere? Uhm, YES! Porto is vibrant, colourful and full of history waiting for everyone to explore it. Here are our top 10 things to do in Porto.

Capela das Almas, Porto

1. Discover Porto’s many Churches

Captivating tiled façades wrap the exterior walls of multitude of buildings in Porto, especially those of ecclesiastical nature. True to Portugal’s catholic tradition, religious architecture is of great importance in Porto and it’s easy to find a church in every corner. Each more impressive than the last, their artistic style is heavily influenced by the different periods they were built in.

Great examples of Porto’s rich Baroque and Rococo heritage are the interiors of Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, standing at the corner of Praça de Carlos Alberto. Many people think they form one single building but, in fact, both churches are completely separated by a hardly noticeable 1m wide house standing in between. The narrow residence was inhabited until the 80s, but was initially built with the intention of avoiding all sorts of contact between monks and nuns living in blue and white azulejo-covered Carmo (right) and classical Carmelitas (left), respectively.

Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas Porto

Fonte dos Leões in front of Igreja do Carmo Porto

Fonte dos Leões, Porto

This extravagant and dramatic artistic style is also reflected in the façade of Igreja da Trindade, located near Porto’s Town Hall. Its exterior is topped with religious statues and a single bell tower, whilst its interior is a perfect example of meticulously carved  wooden altars, with oil paintings and elaborate ornaments on its marble walls.

Igreja da Trindade, Porto

Inside Igreja da Trindade, Porto

2. Go to the top of Torre dos Clérigos

One of the most emblematic religious buildings in Porto is perhaps Igreja dos Clérigos, an 18th century Baroque style church by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni featuring a striking bell tower. At 249ft (76m), Clérigos Tower (Torre dos Clérigos) stands as the tallest campanile in Portugal and therefore the best viewpoint of the city. Walk up the 240 steps, past its 49 bells, and enjoy some of the most incredible panoramic views of Porto and the Douro River. Unfortunately, there is no lift so this is great for those looking for some good bum exercise!

View of Porto from Clérigos Tower

View from Clérigos Tower, Porto

Torre dos Clérigos | R. de São Filipe de Nery, 4050-546 Porto, Portugal

3. Explore the picturesque Ribeira and Sé do Porto

Don’t miss the opportunity to add Ribeira and Miragaia to your listThe vibrant riverside neighborhoods are characterised by narrow medieval streets, hilly cobbled alleys and picturesque old and colourful pastel houses, one on top of the other. Some of the best Portuguese food and Port wine sangría is also served here – head over to the many outdoor terraces and restaurants dotted along the promenade and soak in the beautiful iconic views of the Douro River.

As it separates from the port, Porto grows upwards towards its two hills – one of them topped with the Igreja and Torre dos Clérigos and the other, by Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto). A symbol of Porto, this 12th century Romanesque Cathedral underwent various Baroque adaptations throughout the years and is now considered a National Monument. The historic centre surrounding it offers incredible views over Porto’s riverside houses and the Douro River and was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Walking along Rua do Barredo, you’d be forgiven for missing Alminhas da Boa Fortuna (Shrines of Good Fortune). The small, inconspicuous blue shrine is mounted on a yellow wall under an inscription reading Senhor da Boa Fortuna, thus ”Lord of Good Fortune”. Legend says that visitors who stop at the shrine will receive good fortune so it’s definitely worth looking for!

Porto Cathedral

Alminhas da Boa Fortuna

Sandeman wine boats on the Douro River, Porto

4. Cross the Dom Luís I Bridge

This landmark is unmissable. The emblematic Ponte Dom Luís I is what most people think about when they picture Porto (apart from Port wine, obviously).

The characteristic iron arch of this elegant two-level metal bridge can be seen from everywhere along the Ribeira, crossing over the Douro River to connect Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Built in the 19th century by Teófilo Seyrig, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel, it is yet another example of metal constructions in Portugal (the Elevador de Santa Justa featured in our Lisbon Travel Guide was made by another of Eiffel’s apprentices!).

It’s quite a peculiar piece of engineering as it has two levels running along its 172 metres (564 ft). With pedestrian lanes on both levels, the top is designated to railway circulation whilst the bottom is dedicated to vehicles. Don’t miss the opportunity to stand in the middle of the bridge, where you will be able to enjoy incredible views of the the wine boats floating on the Douro River, with Ribeira and Miragaia on one side and Vila Nova de Gaia on the other.

Douro River and Dom Luis Bridge, Porto at night

Douro River and Dom Luis Bridge, Porto, Portugal

Dom Luis Bridge, Porto, Portugal

5. Go Port Tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia

Now, I am a fan of wine tasting (and my Madeira Travel Guide is a great example of it) so of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try the very best of Port Wine in Porto! We picked the House of Sandeman for our tasting tour, but you can pick one (or two, or three) of the many renowned wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Sandeman offers a classic tour for just 12.00€, where guides dressed as the Sandeman Don will guide you through the cellars and explain everything you need to know about Port Wine and its peculiar ageing process in hundreds of wooden vats and barrels. The best part is saved for the end – tastings of Ruby and Tawny Porto Wines! Absolutely recommended.

House of Sandeman Port wine cellar

Sandeman Port wine cellars

Port wine tasting in Porto

Sandeman Cellars | Largo Miguel Bombarda, 3, 4400-222 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

6. Wander around the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

These 19th century public Victorian gardens are located on one of Porto’s hills, overlooking the Douro River. They were initially built to surround the Pavilion hosting the International Exhibition of Porto and several other fairs afterwards. Designed by English architect Thomas Dillen Jones and inspired by London’s iconic Crystal Palace, the initial Palacio do Crystal is no longer there and has been replaced by the UFO-like Rosa Mota Pavilion.

Part of the spectacular forest-like gardens and terraces, however, are still there and can be visited daily, free of charge. Filled with fountains, a variety of birds, trees and flower mosaics from all over the world, it’s just the perfect place for a leisurely walk surrounded by the very best of nature.

Palácio de Cristal, Porto

Peacock in Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, Porto

7. Stroll down Avenida dos Aliados

Avenida dos Aliados is one of Porto’s main avenues and the heart of the city centre. Running between Mercado do Bolhão and São Bento Railway Station, it leads to Praça da Liberdade, Porto’s most important square featuring a statue of King Pedro IV atop a horse. Magnificent modernist buildings can be seen on both sides of the avenue, such as Porto’s Town Hall and the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world. With a spectacular eagle over its entrance, the interior is filled with Art Deco stained glass panels, mirrors and crystal chandeliers, original features of the former Imperial Café that was once there.

Câmara Municipal do Porto (Porto City Hall) and Statue of Almeida Garrett

8. Visit Mercado do Bolhão

Located close to Avenida dos Aliados, this 19th century emblematic market has it all: fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, flowers and a variety of handmade/traditional Portuguese products. Farmers sell their produce in stalls arranged around a central courtyard of the two-level market, a tradition that’s been alive since its establishment back in 1839.

Unfortunately, Bolhão Market is currently under restoration and will be closed during the next two years (until 2020). Nevertheless, we recommend paying a visit to Confeitaria do Bolhão, a bakery/restaurant right next to the market that’s over 100 years-old and where you’ll be able to get the most delicious savory and sweet pastries and cakes. Delicious!

9.  Marvel at the magical Livraria Lello 

Livraria Lello is one of the most outstandingly beautiful bookshops in the world. This historic building was designed by engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves and opened by brothers José and António Lello in 1906. With a stunning Neo-Gothic décor, the two-storey bookshop features an imposing stained glass ceiling, wood-carved banisters, a magnificent red wooden staircase and even a small café upstairs! The wooden shelves on the walls, chock-full of a large variety of books, are carved with Portuguese literary figures. New and old books in both Portuguese and English, valuable first and collector editions, books from every genre imaginable…it’s all here!

Its incredible interior is rumoured to have been an inspiration to J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter books, as she used to frequent the store whilst teaching English in Porto. You do need to pay a 3€ entry fee to access the bookshop; however, this price is discounted if you purchase a book.

Livraria Lello Porto, Portugal

Inside Livraria Lello Porto, Portugal

Livraria Lello | R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal

10. Eat a Francesinha, Porto’s most iconic dish

Francesinha (literally, Little French woman) is a sandwich made with bread, steak or roast beef, wet-cured ham, linguiça (a portuguese sausage) and covered in melted cheese and a hot tomato and beer sauce (and sometimes fried egg). It was inspired by the Portuguese immigrants’ adaptation of the French Croque Monsieur, obviously taken to a whole new level. It’s a calorie bomb, so make sure you can handle it! Sam and I actually shared one.

Other things to do in Porto

  • Walk down Rua de Santa Catarina: Porto’s main shopping street, featuring high street brands and a shopping centre.
  • Visit Majestic Café: An elegant Belle Époque coffee house in Rua de Santa Catarina with live piano music. A little bit pricey.
  • Have dinner at 17° Restaurante & Bar: located on the 17th floor of the Hotel Dom Henrique Downtown, this restaurant offers great views of Porto.

Have you ever been to Porto? If so, what’s your favourite thing about it? If you really loved our post please leave us a comment and show us some love on social media using the buttons below 🙂

Grats.


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46 comments

    1. blushrougette

      It was and it is! x

      Reply

  1. Ruth

    Wow, the architecture of those churches is incredible! Those gardens look amazing, too – I love the fact you get the incredible view from there as well, what a bonus. Great post!!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thanks for the lovely comment, Ruth 🙂 Porto is full of hidden gems! x

      Reply

  2. Brooke

    Your pictures look amazing of Porto! I have to say I love the peacock photo the way it’s posed for the photo makes me chuckle😂

    Brooke x
    http://www.brooke-pearson.co.uk

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Haha thanks Brooke! It’s such an elegant poser haha x

      Reply

  3. Naomi

    I’ve never been to Portugal, but I’m so keen to go! Your post is great and the photos are so cool! Definitely bookmarking for when I plan my trip! xx Naomi
    https://www.ohsixeleven.co.uk

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Awe thank you! I really hope you can visit Porto soon, it’s such a beautiful place! x

      Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Haha gracias Elisi 🙂

      Reply

  4. Tori

    These are some beautiful places that you’ve included! Especially that bookshop although the stairs look so strange. It makes me wonder what the rest of the book shop looks like, I bet there’s some amazing details in there.

    Tori | JustTheBeginning-x.com
    Latest blog post – My first Etsy Brighton meet up! 💕

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you! I’ve never seen anything like Lello in my life – it’s not only beautiful, the history behind its walls is also incredibly rich! x

      Reply

  5. Disha

    Porto was my favourite place when I visited Portugal. I defo need to go back and tick off some of your recommendations – looks like you had a great explore!

    Dear Disha | A Year Abroad Blog – deardishablog.wordpress.com

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      It was one of my favourite places too! Such a lovely city x

      Reply

  6. Ellen

    It looks great, I love your photos!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you, Ellen! x

      Reply

  7. Alice

    This is a wonderful guide to Porto and it looks incredible. Another place for my list!

    Alice // sullialice.com

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you so much Alice 🙂

      Reply

  8. Kaye

    I’ve visited the Algarve, Portugal last year and fell in love with their culture. If I was to go back i’d definitely visit Porto, love that bridge view at night. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      It’s such a beautiful city, I couldn’t recommend it enough x

      Reply

  9. Aimsy

    I would love to visit Porto, it is definitely on my list of places to visit! I like the idea of the port tasting and the Francesinha sounds delicious. The architecture and colours too 😍. I will deffo be referring back to your post when I eventually go!

    Aimsy xoxo

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thanks for the lovely comment Aimsy x

      Reply

  10. Cat

    I was trying to see if I could find myself in one of your pictures, because you never know ahah. I’m glad you enjoyed Porto and my advice is to visit Porto in July (23-24) because we have a festival called S. João (St John of Porto), all the places you’ve been will be filled with people celebrating it. We eat, drink, beautiful decorations all over the place, fireworks, procession and we release illuminated flame-propelled balloons. Thanks for visiting our city!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Oh. My. God. That sounds AMAZING! I am obsessed with Portugal and every time I visit, I end up loving it even more! I now want to go back so badly and celebrate S. João as well! x

      Reply

  11. Amy

    I would love to go to Portugal! This gives me so many ideas, you must of loved the trip!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      I absolutely loved it! Every single bit of it! Portugal is one of the prettiest countries I’ve been to and I honestly can’t wait to go back x

      Reply

  12. KB

    I haven’t been to Porto yet, but these pictures are making me want to bump it further up my list of places to visit soon! Great post!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      It looks much better in person, trust me! And thank you so much for the sweet comment 🙂 x

      Reply

  13. Karlie

    Portugal is on my lists of “next adventures,” but posts like this make it move up in the line! 😍

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Awe that’s lovely, thank you so much!! x 🙂

      Reply

  14. Kat

    I love to get a great view of a city when I visit and it looks like Porto doesn’t disappoint. Lisbon is on my bucketlist but maybe I need to add Porto too. Great post

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      You should, absolutely! It is a great city to visit 🙂 If you need some tips about for your Lisbon trip, feel free to check out our Lisbon travel guide as well – http://blushrougette.com/travel/european-destinations/10-best-things-to-do-in-lisbon/

      Reply

  15. Nam

    Wow, the architecture of Porto is so beautiful! The Churches very artistic. Great article!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you 🙂 x

      Reply

  16. Lauren Elena

    I need to go here! Looks so beautiful!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      You should! x

      Reply

  17. Tracy

    Your pictures are very engaging! I would love to be at the library that inspired JKR 🙂 The history would be entertaining but the wine and the water would get my vote!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you, Tracy 🙂 x

      Reply

  18. Ruth

    Beautiful pictures and a very informative post, like it!!

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you, Ruth 🙂 x

      Reply

  19. Sarah Borg Barthet

    Beautiful pictures! The port tasting sounds particularly appealing! xxx

    Sarah | dukesavenue.com

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you, Sarah!I have to admit the Port tasting was one of my favourite things from the trip 🙂 x

      Reply

  20. Ann Marie Ruby

    As an author, I love writing about different historical buildings so I love visiting historical places such as churches. Enjoyed your post! Thanks for sharing.

    Blessings from Seattle,
    Ann Marie Ruby | https://annmarieruby.com/

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Thank you so much for the lovely comment, Ann Marie 🙂 x

      Reply

  21. Peanuts and Cacahuetes

    Oh wow!! That looks like a great place to visit!!
    My boyfriend is Portuguese and comes from a City near Porto, but we didn’t get the chance to go to Porto YET!
    I will show him your blog post as a reminder haha
    Thank you for sharing!!

    Laura
    https://peanutsandcacahuetes.com/

    Reply

    1. blushrougette

      Haha thank you! Definitely visit Porto, it’s incredibly beautiful! x

      Reply

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