Best Things To Do in Porto
The charms of Porto are plentiful and this city's laid-back vibe gives travelers to Europe a much-needed respite from the faster-paced, museum... READ MORE
The charms of Porto are plentiful and this city's laid-back vibe gives travelers to Europe a much-needed respite from the faster-paced, museum packed cities nearby. In Porto, you can take in the arresting views of the Rio Douro from a stroll across the Dom Luís I Bridge, admire the beach landscape on the city's western coast and drink in the liveliness of the UNESCO World Heritage Ribeira District. Speaking of drinking, get ready to sip and saunter through Vila Nova de Gaia to taste the region's famed port at its finest wine lodges. Those looking to enrich their minds with a little history and culture will enjoy visits to the Porto Cathedral, the São Bento Railway Station and the Stock Exchange Palace. Meanwhile, artsy types can see paintings, sculptures and more at the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis or the Serralves Foundation's contemporary art museum.
Updated July 29, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Porto1.4 miles to city centerFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND1.4 miles to city centerFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
This iconic arching iron bridge straddles the Douro River, connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. Though Porto is known for having quite a few bridges, the Dom Luis I Bridge is especially renowned because it was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Plus, at the time of its completion in 1886, this bridge was the longest iron arch in the world. The bridge accommodates cars on its lower level and Porto's metro on its upper level; pedestrians can walk along the bridge on both levels. Stroll along the upper deck of the bridge and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the edifices built into the hillside cliffs that line the river.
Admiring the bridge's composition and the views it offers is something all visitors to Porto must do, travelers consistently attest. A visit here would pair well with a stop at some of Porto's nearby wineries across the bridge in Vila Nova de Gaia. Another option would be to hop on a Douro River cruise or boat tour, which would allow you to see all six bridges in one go.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Porto1.2 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Perched on a hilltop standing watch over the city, the Porto Cathedral (known as the Sé) was originally built between the 12th and 13th centuries, and features a variety of architectural styles, including Romanesque, baroque and gothic. The fortress-like church is the largest in the city and one of Porto's oldest monuments; it's flanked by twin towers. It has a rather plain stone facade, but inside the Sé you'll find a beautiful stained-glass rose window, a collection of centuries-old sculptures and a silver altarpiece that was once used as the bishop's study. Meanwhile, the cloister boasts cobalt and white ceramic tiles that depict different scenes from religious history.
Most travelers, noting that the exterior is remarkable but the interior is exquisite, say visiting the church and cloister is absolutely worth an hour or two. This particular attraction is also popular with visitors thanks to its vantage point. You can meander along the terrace outside the church and admire the views (and take photos) of Porto's terra cotta-colored rooftops below.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Porto0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Crystal Palace Gardens boast green shrubbery, winding walkways, bright flora and bubbling fountains. Bring your camera along because you'll find plenty of photo opportunities here: Everything from the flower varieties to the expansive views of the Douro River beckons for your attention. (And if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the peacocks that roam the gardens.) The park's name comes from the Crystal Palace that once stood here, though it was torn down in 1956 and replaced with a domed pavilion that houses a sporting arena and a multi-purpose events center, which was refurbished in 2019.
Visitors routinely rave about the panoramic views afforded from this hilltop park.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Porto1 mile to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Porto's main thoroughfare, Avenida dos Aliados, features a smattering of cafes, hotels, banks and boutiques all housed in architecturally impressive buildings. Located in the heart of Porto, just southeast of the famous Bolhão Market, this wide avenue is named to honor an alliance between Portugal and England forged in the 14th century. Most of the buildings showcase intricate design in their cupolas and cornices. Points of interests include Porto's granite and marble town hall (which sits at the northern end of Avenida dos Aliados), General Humberto Delgado Square (marked by a few trees and situated in the center of the avenue) and Liberdade Square (which serves as the anchor to the avenue and is marked by a statue of King Pedro IV riding a horse). The central portion of the boulevard often hosts artists, street performers and festivals.
The best way to enjoy Avenida dos Aliados is by strolling along the street to revel in its buzzing atmosphere, and pick a cozy spot to order some café (coffee). Be sure to bring your camera or phone to snap some scenes of daily life in Porto.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Porto1.5 miles to city centerTours, Sightseeing, Wineries/BreweriesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND1.5 miles to city centerTours, Sightseeing, Wineries/BreweriesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
A visit to Porto wouldn't be complete without a stop to sample the city's most notable export — port wine. You'll find dozens of wine cellars scattered throughout Porto, and there's even a Port Wine Museum dedicated to teaching the history of the port wine trade and production development. But if you're more interested in imbibing, head to one (or several) of Porto's top wineries.
Sogrape Vinhos owns Ferreria, Sandeman and Offley cellars, and all three northern Vila Nova de Gaia venues are within walking distance of one another. Start at Ferreira, the westernmost winery, which was built in 1751 and has long played an important role in Porto's winemaking history thanks to its family of notable winemakers. Head east along Avenida Ramos Pinto and you'll happen upon your next stop, Sandeman Porto Cellars. Sandeman is the most recognizable wine cellars in the region, situated along the picturesque banks of the Douro River and boasting massive white lettering spelling out the winery's name. This winery also features various paintings, photographs, antique bottles and other trinkets that outline the history of the Sandeman brand. South of Sandeman you'll find Offley Cellars; built in 1737, the Offley cellar is the eldest of those owned by the Sogrape Vinhos brand. A singular visit to tour and sample wines at one of the Sogrape Vinhos cellars costs anywhere from 14 to 42 euros (about $15.50 to $47) depending on what type of experience you seek. (Some packages include tastings with a wider variety of wines, some boast a more intimate experience and some include tapas samplings as well.)
- #6View all Photos#6 in PortoZoos and Aquariums, Free, Parks and Gardens, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and Aquariums, Free, Parks and Gardens, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Parque da Cidade do Porto, or Porto City Park, ranks as one of the largest parks in northern Portugal at more than 200 acres. It has more than 6 miles of trails for biking and walking, and it is a popular spot for picnics and other outdoor activities, particularly on weekends. In addition to lakes and lawns and diverse flora and fauna, the park contains the Sea Life Porto, a privately run aquarium with thousands of marine animals, and the Pavilhão da Água (Water Pavilion), which was originally part of Expo 98 in Lisbon, but was reconstructed in the park and emphasizes the importance of water to Portugal's history and culture.
The park extends to the Atlantic Ocean and affords access to the area's beaches, a much-appreciated feature. Parkgoers describe Parque da Cidade as well-organized and well-maintained. As would be expected, adults and children alike love the park.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Porto1.1 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Built on the former site of a Benedictine monastery, the São Bento Railway Station was inaugurated in 1916; today, trains pass through here carrying travelers between Porto and many of its northern suburbs. But you likely won't be visiting here to hop a train anywhere. What's notable about this landmark is its 20,000-some painted blue and white tile panels (known as azulejo) that highlight the history of Portugal. Portuguese artist Jorge Colaco is the mastermind behind this azulejo piece; its tiles were mounted over the course of a decade – from 1905 to 1916. Some of the most impressive scenes include King Joao I and Queen Philippa standing near the city's cathedral in 1387 and a depiction of the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez.
While it may seem unusual to see such detailed artwork in a train station, travelers consistently describe it as mightily impressive and not to be missed.
- #8View all PhotosfreeCapela das Almas#8 in PortoFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
While the Igreja do Carmo features imagery made from blue- and white-painted tiles on one side, the Capela das Almas (also known as the Chapel of Souls or St. Catherine Chapel), has such tiles on a side wall as well as its front facade – 16,000 tiles in all. Like Igreja do Carmo, Capela das Almas dates back to the 18th century, though the colorful tilework was added in the early 20th century. The azulejo, as the tiles are known, here depict episodes from the lives of the saints, including the martyrdom of its dedicatee, St. Catherine. The stained-glass windows date back to the 19th century.
As with the other similarly decorated church, the Capela das Almas earns enthusiastic praise for its attention-grabbing external tiles. Even so, it's worth peeking inside too.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Porto1.1 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Scents of sweet fruit, freshly baked bread and aromatic cheeses greet visitors as soon as they enter the Mercado do Bolhão. This open-air market is reminiscent of many you'll find in Europe, with vendors hawking a variety of fresh goods and homemade wares at very affordable prices. The market, which dates back to the mid-1800s, is housed behind a neoclassical facade in a two-story building in the heart of Porto that opened in 1914.
Previously, visitors said the building was in need of some renovations, even as others found its well-worn condition part of its charm and noted that the bustling energy of the market and delectable treats made up for the aging facility. However, the space began renovations in mid-2018; they are expected to take a few years to complete. In the meantime, the market has been relocated to a temporary spot near the original.
- #10View all PhotosfreePorto Beaches#10 in Porto2.9 miles to city centerBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND2.9 miles to city centerBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Porto's location along Portugal's northwestern coast grants the city access to some prime beachfront. If you find yourself experiencing a sunny day, visiting Portugal's northwest coast is a great way to pass the time. In Foz do Douro, located east of the city center along Avenida do Brasil, you'll find a handful of small beaches, like Praia do Molhe and Praia de Gondarem. Close to the Praia do Molhe you'll find the Pergola da Foz, a neoclassical pergola modeled after the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France; it's the perfect spot for watching the sunset. Though picturesque, the terrain just offshore is a little rocky, so swimming isn't advised. But you can still bring a towel to lie on the sand, soak up the sun and dip your feet in the cool Atlantic for a little refreshment. Speaking of refreshment, this area of Porto is also packed with plenty of beachfront bars, restaurants and cafes – it's quite a popular place to enjoy the outdoors both day and night.
Meanwhile in the town just south of the Porto city center, Vila Nova de Gaia, you'll happen upon beaches with soft white sand and conditions more suitable for swimming. The beaches of Vila Nova de Gaia are known for their impeccable water quality, environmental awareness and safety – awarded and recognized with blue flags – making them some of the most impressive in Portugal. Both active types and those looking for a little R&R will find a day at one of these beaches enjoyable: The shorelines here feature amenities like volleyball nets, bike paths and shaded cabanas.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Porto1.2 miles to city centerChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Igreja de São Francisco looks rather plain on the outside, sporting a stone facade with elements of gothic and baroque styles, but step inside and you'll see gold: lots and lots of it. An abundance of gilt wood carvings (reportedly more than 800 pounds of gold) make up the columns, vaulted ceilings and walls of this church, which started to take shape in 1245. A traveler favorite amid the luster is the Tree of Jesse, a massive family tree sculpture that traces Christ's genealogy and dates back to 1718.
The Igreja de São Francisco is located right next to the Palácio da Bolsa in the heart of Porto; it's easily accessible via the Sao Bento metro stop on the D (yellow) line. It can also be reached using the 1, 23, 49 and 57 bus lines or tram line 1. The church is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. November through February; from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. March through October; and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. July through September. Admission costs 3.50 euros (about $4) and 2.50 euros for students (about $2.75). Services are no longer held here regularly, though the church does host classical music concerts and some religious ceremonies like weddings and baptisms, so leave some flexibility in your schedule to come back later, if necessary.
- #12View all Photos#12 in Porto0.9 miles to city centerCafes, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND0.9 miles to city centerCafes, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
A bookstore may not seem like one of the most obvious things to see in a new city, but when the shop is consistently named one of the world's most beautiful, it's worth a visit. Situated among the cafes and shops along Rua das Carmelitas in downtown Porto, Livraria Lello easily stands out with its chalk white, neo-gothic facade featuring intricate carvings and two painted ladies (representing science and art). The early 20th century building's facade was fully refurbished in 2017. Step inside and you'll be even more impressed. The bookstore's interior is adorned with rich wooden paneling and colorful stained-glass windows, and boasts a regal ruby red staircase. As for the books, you can peruse an assortment of Portuguese fiction and nonfiction works, as well as a selection of books in English and French.
Travelers are often impressed by Livraria Lello's allure and say visitors should take a peek inside. Most visitors commend the charming atmosphere and exceptional artistry evident in the Livraria Lello's architecture (and judge it fully worth the small charge). The store also uses its basement space for readings, talks and conversations.
- #13View all Photos#13 in Porto1.2 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
One of the most-visited sites in Porto, the Palacio da Bolsa is renowned for its exquisite neoclassical facade and ornate gilded Arabian Hall. This massive building – located in the historic center of Porto – once acted as the city's stock exchange, wooing European bankers and investors alike. Today, you can tour the interior with a guide and see the glass-domed Patio das Nacoes (Hall of Nations) and the magnificently golden Salao Arabe (Arabian Hall, which was designed to mimic the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain), as well as the numerous portraits that adorn the walls.
Travel experts and publications consistently laud the Palacio da Bolsa as a must-see stop in Porto. Some travelers say the tour price is a little high, but others note the sheer splendor of the interior and say learning the history behind the building is worth the price.
- #14View all Photos#14 in Porto1.8 miles to city centerMuseums, Parks and Gardens, Historic Homes/Mansions, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.8 miles to city centerMuseums, Parks and Gardens, Historic Homes/Mansions, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Fundação de Serralves comprises a park, a villa, a contemporary art museum and a cinema all set on nearly 45 acres of land in western Porto. Billed as a cultural institution, the foundation aims to "raise the awareness and knowledge amongst audiences from different backgrounds and age groups, in relation to contemporary art, architecture and the landscape." The villa and park were the first to open (in the 1930s); the villa is often touted by architecture experts and historians as the most noteworthy example of an art deco building in Portugal and it was declared a national monument in 2012. Inside, the villa is laid out like a private residence (as it was originally such) and hosts temporary art exhibits throughout the year. Situated on one of the highest points of the complex, the villa overlooks the park, which features lush gardens, exotic plants, winding pathways and even a farm. Permanent sculptures pepper the premises as well. Meanwhile, the Serralves Museum opened in 1999 and boasts 14 exhibition galleries across three floors. Today, the museum features rotating art exhibits, music and dance performances, and educational programs. The Caso do Cinema (or House of Cinema) opened in 2019.
Although it's a bit removed from other top attractions around Porto, the Fundação de Serralves is well worth a visit for its beautiful gardens and interesting art, travelers say. Also, if you happen to be visiting in early June, you can take part in the museum's annual Serralves em Festa festival, which offers a plethora of free contemporary art and cultural events and performances.
- #15View all Photos#15 in Porto0.7 miles to city centerMuseums, Castles/PalacesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.7 miles to city centerMuseums, Castles/PalacesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Founded in 1833, the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis ranks as Portugal's first public art museum. Art lovers will appreciate the expansive collection as well as the ornate building that it occupies. Housed in a former royal residence, the museum features much of the work of its namesake, Antonio Soares dos Reis, including his famous marble sculpture, "O Desterrado" ("The Exile"). Inside the museum you'll find a vast selection of Portuguese paintings and sculptures from the 16th to 20th centuries created by a variety of artists. The museum also features furniture, jewelry, fabric work and glassware.
Visitors frequently remark on both the beauty of the extensive collections and the regal building itself.
- #16View all Photos#16 in Porto2.2 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.2 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
While Portugal may not be as well-known for having avid soccer fans as Spain or England, the Portuguese still love their futebol. Porto's home team, F.C. Porto, is one of the country's "Big Three" – the three most successful multi-sports clubs in Portugal – and plays in Dragao Stadium. You can take a tour of the stadium: A guide will escort you to see the presidential box, locker rooms and players' benches. Or, skip the tour and explore the on-site museum, which highlights F.C. Porto's history and showcases trophies like the UEFA Cup and European Super Cup. But if you really want to experience the stadium come alive, get a ticket to a soccer match.
While tickets for games can be pricey, most travelers say it's well worth the cost to see the passionate fans and talented players. Indeed, some regard Dragao Stadium as one of the best to visit in Europe.
- #17View all PhotosfreeClérigos Church#17 in PortoFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Clérigos Church, an 18th-century baroque building topped by the nearly 250-foot Torre dos Clérigos (or Clérigos Tower), offers unrivalled views of the Douro River and Porto's old town. The Torre is the tallest bell tower in the city and boasts 49 resonant bells. The structure also houses a museum, the House of the Brotherhood, with artifacts related to the clerics who founded the church.
While the museum and church are generally deemed worth seeing, the sweeping city views from the tower are what travelers deem as the best part of the visit. Note, there are more than 200 steps to climb to reach the top, so it takes some effort see the sights and snap your photos. Also note that this is a popular spot and the viewing area can get crowded. As such, many recommend heading here early so you won't have to deal with too long of a line, if any.
- #18View all PhotosfreeCais da Ribeira#18 in PortoFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Cais da Ribeira, a riverfront promenade along the Douro in the vicinity of the Dom Luis I Bridge, is considered one of the liveliest parts of town. During the day, it's an ideal spot to see the neatly stacked pastel-colored houses facing the water. Many restaurants in the area have terraces from which you can enjoy the nighttime views of the river and the bridge along with traditional cuisine as well.
While many people find this area a pleasant place to walk, dine, sightsee and people-watch, some find it overrun with tourists and deem its eateries correspondingly overpriced. Most agree, however, that the spectacular views make a stop here essential.
- #19View all PhotosfreeIgreja do Carmo#19 in PortoFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The rococo Igreja do Carmo, or Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, built in the mid-18th century, houses numerous oil paintings and several elaborate gilt altars. The exterior boasts a tile mosaic, added in the early 20th century, depicting scenes relating to the founding of the Carmelite Order. (Another, older church, the Igreja dos Carmelitas, sits almost immediately next door, separated only by a very narrow residence, evidently intended to keep the monks and nuns from the respective churches from interacting in any untoward way. Popular destinations like Livraria Lello bookshop and Clérigos Church and Tower are also nearby.)
Visitors say the blue and white azulejo tiles adorning the outside of the church are particularly impressive. That doesn't mean you shouldn't venture inside, however, as the sculptures, altars and decorations are judged to be quite striking as well.
- #20View all Photos#20 in PortoSports, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSports, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Porto Bridge Climb offers spectacular views of the surrounding area from a distinctive perspective. When the Arrábida Bridge spanning the Douro River was completed in 1963, it stood as the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. While it no longer holds that record, its 885-foot arch remains one of the world's largest, and it is the only structure of its kind in Europe open to the public. Indeed, only a few bridges in Australia and New Zealand offer a comparable experience. Travelers are in a harness that connects to a cable, which runs the length of the bridge's arch. Visitors will be led by a guide up the stairs along the arch and have a handrail they can hold on to along the way.
Bridge-climbers report that the outing is less strenuous than one might expect and that the views of the sunset and the river made it something not to miss.
- #21View all Photos#21 in PortoEntertainment and Nightlife, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Casa da Música, a modernist concrete concert hall designed by famed Dutch architect Remment (Rem) Koolhaas, opened in 2005. In addition to serving as the home of the 94-member Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, the building hosts smaller ensembles. It also contains its own restaurant, a cafe and two bars as well a shop and an educational center. The main auditorium has 1,300 seats.
While the structure's angular design appears to provoke either love-it or hate-it responses, most agree that the Casa da Música is a world-class operation with top-notch performances and facilities.
- #22View all Photos#22 in PortoHistoric Homes/Mansions, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a circular former monastery, sits just across the Douro river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia. It takes its name from the mountain range on which it sits, the Serra do Pilar. It offers panoramic views of Porto's historic center and the Dom Luis I Bridge. (Together, the monastery, the bridge and the old town were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1996.) Construction of the original round building commenced in the 16th century and was completed in the 17th century. Destroyed during the civil war in the 19th century, the structure was subsequently rebuilt. The Portuguese military owns and operates the facility.
While visitors typically find the architecture noteworthy, it's the views from the balcony surrounding the cloister's top that earn the most praise.
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