Welcome to the top things to do in Porto.
Porto, the coastal city of Northwest Portugal is renowned for its port wine production, cobbled streets and brightly coloured buildings. This is the Porto mini-guide, top things to do in Porto, where to stay and what to do in the wonderful Portuguese city.
Portugal had never been on my radar, I visited a few years ago to Vilamoura for a relaxing week in a villa with the family, But Porto was different. My first solo trip to Portugal was chosen due to the cheap flights popping up on Skyscanner. Perhaps it was the football in Porto that increased its popularity.
Getting to the centre of Porto
Getting to Porto from the airport is very easy, you can opt for a taxi ride or use the metro. The light rail system has a station at the airport, just follow the signs, you will end up going through the car park but don’t worry. When arriving at the metro there are several people on a stand to offer assistance when purchasing a ticket from the machine. You can reach most of the city centre in about 30 minutes for €2.60, which includes the 60 cents rechargeable ticket. The metro runs every 30 minutes between 6:00 and 00:34 every evening.
Hop on to metro line E to Trindade to change to line D towards Santo Ovidio to get off at Jardim do Morro. It’s a steep way down to the river from the metro station, so an Uber might be a good idea.
There are some lovely hotels, boutique resorts and hostels in Porto. The Hostel / small hotel I stayed in was called The Sandeman Hostel and Suites. Located on the Douro River, this urban-style accommodation is situated above its famous port wine cellars. Rooms are reasonably priced and there is an outside terrace serving food and drinks whilst overlooking the Douro River. Accommodation varies from girls-only dorms, mixed dorms and private suites.
WHAT TO DO
There is plentiful to discover in Porto, I noticed that the tourist hot spots are by the river with street entertainment, marginally expensive restaurants and market stalls. Further up the steep incline and you’ve reached old Porto with its iconic infrastructures, old-style trams and a view over the river.
A great activity to do when you first arrive in a city. The walking tour will take you around Porto, sharing the history of the city as well as sharing things to do, hints and tips. I would definitely recommend doing this when you first arrive, it’s also a free tour where you can give a tip at the end. You’ll discover parts of the city you wouldn’t have uncovered before.
Luís I Bridge.
This large metal bridge spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gai. It has two decks, the lower deck for easy access from each city and the higher deck with an outstanding view over the city. Prepare for a steep descent in order to walk over the bridge, or get the cable car to the top. This view is iconic and not to be missed
Want an even better view over Porto? Head to Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. This old monastery offers the best view in all of Porto. I wouldn’t bother paying to go inside the monastery as there isn’t much to see, but catch a sunrise or sunset with this great view around the building.
Prepare for a long wait, but this beautiful bookshop is well worth it. Avoid peak times if you can as the queue can sometimes wind down the road. You need to purchase your ticket in the box office at the end of the road before you queue up to enter. With your ticket, you do get some money off a book, so it’s worth having a look especially if you are a Harry Potter fan. The staircase is rumoured to be the inspiration for the moving stairs in Harry Potter, due to the illusion as you enter the bookshop. There is an English section if you do want to buy a book as well as a children’s and Harry Potter corner.
Cais da Ribeira
A great setting along the river, sit back and enjoy a glass of wine whilst watching street entertainment. A busy and popular place for tourists with great food, wonderful markets and pockets of fun.
Porto Cathedral is a wonderful building, this building is the most important religious edifice in Porto and has been declared a national monument. The cathedral sits on a square with a column in the middle, this is where the criminals were hung. Inside you can watch a religious service in the cathedral and marvel at the blue tiles that enchant the city.
Get lost in the city
Probably the best way to explore a city is to get completely lost in it. My favourite thing to do is to walk around, get lost and work out how to get back. Porto is a great city to wander around, to marvel at the architecture, the famous blue tiles and become absorbed in the Portuguese city. Discover sights such as the Clérigos Church + Clérigos Tower, or jump on a tram and explore the city.
São Bento Train Station
This train station is one of the most beautiful train stations that I have visited. It was unveiled to the public in 1916 before the site was a former Benedictine monastery. The main hall has over 20,000 tiles, each one reflects the history of Portugal.
Douro River Trip
A Boat trip along the Douro is a must-do attraction whilst in Porto. The boats depart regularly from the Port and there are a lot of kiosks selling tickets. I recommend going early morning or late evening.
If you’re into cafe culture or just fancy filling up your Instagram with beautiful pictures, Cafe Majestic should be on your Porto list. The ques can be quite long, so heading over in the morning is recommended.
Finally, finish your Porto trip with a wine tour. Porto is famous for it’s Port wine, so a trip to the cellars is a must. if you can’t keep up with the samples, have your own tasting session at one of the many restaurants dotted around Porto. I would recommend the Sandemans wine tour, but there are lots more around the city.
Do you have any Porto suggestions?