Portugal’s second biggest city, Porto, is a popular tourist destination in northern Portugal. There are many amazing things to do in Porto, from tasting the local port wine to strolling through the UNESCO World Heritage City Center. The city perfectly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. With its iconic tiled buildings, lively streets, and famous bridges, Porto is a city that stands out from the rest. It’s a place where you can take a lazy river cruise, stroll through the cobblestone laneways of the Ribeira, and enjoy a long lunch with a view of the Douro River.
Best Things to Do in Porto
Portugal’s northern city is one not to miss and should not be overshadowed by Lisbon. Between all of the historic buildings, the iconic bridge, and the endless hills, there is just no shortage of great things to do in Porto. Get ready to fall in love with this magical city!
1. Port Wine Tasting
Porto is the birthplace of the world-famous port wine, a sweet fortified wine. The wine is produced in the nearby Douro Valley, a picturesque wine region next to the Douro River. So, the best place to try an authentic port wine is on a Douro Valley wine tour from Porto.
If you don’t have enough time to go to the Douro Valley itself, there are plenty of opportunities to go to port wine tastings in Porto.
When visiting the port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, you get a guided tour through the port cellar, learn about what makes port wine so special, and then finish it off with a port wine tasting.
2. Ribeira District
One of the most beautiful areas in Porto is the Ribeira district, or Cais da Ribeira as it’s called in Portuguese, which is located along the Douro River.
Colorful buildings line the shore and narrow streets wind through this historic city center. It’s the perfect place to go for a drink or a meal in Porto, as you’re right next to the Douro River and have a great view of the Dom Luís I Bridge.
But as great as it is to walk through this stunning part of Portugal’s capital, you can get the best views of the Cais da Ribeira area from the other side of the Douro River or from a boat, which brings us to the next great thing to do in Porto.
3. Douro River Cruise
You can get the best views of the beautiful Cais da Ribeira from a Porto boat tour. On a boat tour you don’t just see the colorful houses but also the iconic Porto bridges, the most famous among them being the bridge Dom Luís I.
Some boat tours even include a port wine tasting, so you can enjoy a glass of port wine with the scenic views from the boat.
4. São Bento Train Station
The São Bento railway station is a popular attraction in Porto because of the traditional blue tiles, called Azulejos, which decorate the inside of the São Bento train station.
But as great as visiting Sao Bento station is, it’s even better to catch a train from there. For example, you can take a day trip to Guimarães from Porto.
Guimarães is a picturesque little town in Northern Portugal, and it’s known to be Portugal’s birthplace since the first king of Portugal was born there. So it’s a great day trip to learn a bit about Portugal’s history.
5. Clérigos Tower
One of the iconic landmarks of Porto is Clérigos Tower, since it can be seen from many different locations in the city.
The Clérigos Bell Tower is the tallest building in Porto’s historic center. You can admire it from the outside or climb the stairs to the viewing platform on top.
Next to the tower is an outdoor bar with a lovely garden, you can enjoy a drink there and admire the tower while you brace yourself for the climb.
The climb to the top of the bell tower is rewarded with the panoramic views of Porto and the Douro River. At the top you have plaques naming famous buildings you can see from there, as well as comparisons of Clérigos Tower to other towers around the world.
6. Ponte de Dom Luís I
Ponte de Dom Luís I is one of the major Porto attractions. This iconic double decker bridge spans the River Douro from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. When the construction ended in 1886, it was the longest arch bridge in the world.
Ponte de Dom Luís I is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Portuguese National Monument, so crossing the bridge should be on every Porto itinerary.
7. Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is one of the most beautiful bookshops you’ll ever see. There’s a grand staircase in the middle of the Livraria Lello and a stained glass skylight which both look like something out of a Harry Potter film.
It’s even said that this bookshop inspired J.K. Rowling in creating the magical world of Harry Potter. This turns out to not be true, but it’s still worth visiting for all Harry Potter fans.
You have to pay an entrance fee to visit Livraria Lello, but you get the entrance fee back as a gift voucher to buy something from the store. They even produce their own special editions of classic novels, the perfect gift or souvenir from Porto. And don’t worry if you don’t speak Portuguese, they have their unique special edition books available in multiple languages.
As visiting Livraria Lello is one of the most popular things to do in Porto, it can get busy. When I visited Porto, we were lucky to get an entrance ticket at the door, usually you need to book your visit in advance.
8. Igreja de São Francisco
The Igreja de São Francisco or Saint Francis church is one of the most impressive churches in Porto because of its mix of architectural styles.
The inside of the São Francisco church is covered with intricate wood carvings which appear to be covered in gold, when under the right lighting.
Underneath the Saint Francis church are the catacombs where Franciscan monks and wealthy families from Porto are buried. There’s also an ossuary with thousands of human bones in the catacombs which can be seen through a glass wall.
9. Porto Cathedral
Porto Cathedral is one of the most important religious buildings in the city, and it’s located right next to the top deck of the Dom Luis I Bridge.
Porto Cathedral is built in different architectural styles, but from the outside it’s predominantly Baroque and Romanesque. It almost looks like a fortress on top of a hill when viewed from afar and getting a closer look is one of the great things to do in Porto.
The cloister of the Porto Cathedral is decorated with painted tiles, the so-called Azulejos, as mentioned earlier, depicting scenes from the bible.
10. Igreja do Carmo
The church, Igreja do Carmo, is located right next to another church, Igreja dos Carmelitas, at the corner of the popular square, Praça de Carlos Alberto. At first glance, it looks like there’s just one big church, but actually, in between the two churches is the smallest house of Porto, Casa Escondida, which is only 1 meter wide.
A visit to this tiny house is included in a visit to the Igreja do Carmo Museum.
The outside of Igreja do Carmo is decorated with Azulejos, the traditional Portuguese blue tiles. The tiles depict the founding of the Carmelite Order.
11. Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is a baroque church with 11,000 Azulejos decorating its facade. The Azulejos depict the life of Saint Ildefonso and were created by the same artist who made the tiles for the Sao Bento train station.
This twin-towered church immediately draws your eye when you walk past.
12. Praça da Liberdade
Praça da Liberdade, or Liberty Square, is the most important square in Porto Portugal. It links the historic center of Porto, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the new part of town.
In the middle of the square is a statue of King Peter IV holding the Portuguese constitution. The square is surrounded by Portuguese banks, restaurants, shops, and the City Hall.
Also, right in front of City Hall are the giant blue PORTO letters, which make for a great photo opportunity.
13. Rua de Santa Catarina
Rua de Santa Catarina is the most famous shopping street in Porto. You can find everything from big international chains to small local shops. If you love shopping, walking down the Rua de Santa Catarina should be one of the things to do in Porto.
But even if you’re not in a shopping mood, you shouldn’t skip Rua Santa Catarina. Nestled amongst all the shops is the chapel, Capela das Almas, which has one of the most beautiful facades decorated with around 16,000 blue Azulejos.
14. Foz do Douro
The closest beach to Porto is in Foz do Douro. It’s a popular place for locals and tourists alike to go for a swim or relax on the beach.
Getting to Foz do Douro is in itself one of the great things to do in Porto, as you can catch the historic tram. Riding in this traditional tram makes the visit to the beach even more worthwhile.
The tram sets off at Infante, close to Palacio da Bolsa. But keep in mind that the normal public transport ticket is not valid on the historic tram.
If you’re not in the mood to go for a swim, visiting Foz do Douro is still worth it. You can go for a stroll along the promenade, starting at a picturesque lighthouse until you reach the Pergola da Foz. And walking underneath the pergola is considered one of the most romantic things to do in Porto.
15. Jardim do Morro in Vila Nova de Gaia
Jardim do Morro is a small park on the other side of River Douro, in Vila Nova de Gaia. Vila Nova de Gaia is technically a city on its own and not part of Porto. But since it’s within a short walking distance from Porto, you just have to cross the Dom Luis I bridge, so it’s still one of the great things to do in Porto.
From the Jardim do Morro you have panoramic views of Porto. It’s one of the best and also most popular places to enjoy the sunset over the River Douro. But especially during sunset it can get crowded, so it’s best to come early and reserve yourself a good viewing spot on the grass.
16. Palácio da Bolsa
Palácio da Bolsa is the former Portuguese Stock Exchange. Today, the Palacio da Bolsa is a popular tourist attraction.
Inside the Palacio da Bolsa you can admire different halls, rooms and a grand stairway to the upper floor. One of the most famous rooms is the Arab Room, which was inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Marveling at the Islamic architecture of the Arab Room is one of the best things to do in Porto. It’s known for its intricate details in the Moorish style and is used as a reception room for important political visitors.
17. Crystal Palace Garden
The Crystal Palace Garden is a beautiful park in Porto with a modern concert hall in the middle, the Super Bock Arena. The concert hall used to be the place of a stunning palace, the Palácio de Cristal, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore.
But even though the Palácio de Cristal is no longer in the park, you can still stroll through the gardens and enjoy the lovely view. You have a great view of the Douro River and the Ponte da Arrábida from the garden.
18. Casa da Música
Casa da Música is a modern concert hall in Porto Portugal. It was supposed to open in 2001, the year in which Porto was named the European Capital of Culture, but construction only finished in 2005.
You can do a guided tour through the concert hall to learn all about it. But the best way to experience Casa da Música is by attending a concert there. They host a wide range of concerts in Casa da Música from classical to electronic music and from jazz to traditional Portuguese fado.
Visiting a live concert, especially a live fado concert, in Casa da Música is definitely one of the unique things to do in Porto Portugal.
19. Casa de Serralves
Serralves is the name of a contemporary art museum, a park, and a villa in Porto Portugal. It’s located outside the city center, about half way from the center of Porto to Foz do Douro.
The villa, called Casa de Serralves, is a great example of Art Deco architecture in Portugal. And the Serralves Museum features 14 galleries of contemporary art, so the Serralves complex is a must for all modern art lovers.
20. Pastel de Nata
There are two traditional Portuguese dishes you should try while visiting Porto, Pastel de Nata and Francesina.
Pastel de Nata is a sweet custard pastry dessert which is popular all over Portugal. It’s a small pastry cup filled with custard cream.
You can find this Portuguese pastry in every bakery in Porto. A great and very affordable bakery in the city center is Pastelaria Tupi. They sell a wide range of pastries, to-go or for sitting in, and they even have some vegan pastries as well.
Francesinha is a savory dish which originates from Porto Portugal. It’s like a sandwich with melted cheese on top which gets soaked in a special kind of tomato sauce.
One of the most popular places to eat Francesinha is Cafe Santiago. It’s so popular that you should either book a table beforehand or be prepared to wait in line.
Traditionally, Francesinha is always prepared with meat but you can even find vegetarian and vegan versions of it in Porto too.
22. Bolhão Market
Mercado do Bolhão is the most popular fresh produce market in Porto Portugal. It’s located inside a neoclassical building which was built in 1914.
Besides stalls selling fresh produce, there are also some small restaurants inside the market and people trying to sell souvenirs. The market has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto, and it’s a great place to grab yourself some locally grown fresh fruit or a smoothie while you browse through the market stalls.
23. FC Porto Museum and Stadium
A visit to the FC Porto Museum and the FC Porto Stadium, the Estádio do Dragão, is a must for all soccer fans (or football fans, as they say in Europe).
In the FC Porto Museum, there’s an impressive collection of trophies, medals, and other soccer memorabilia.
The best way to see the FC Porto Stadium is to watch a soccer game. But you can also do a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, during which you’ll see the stadium as well as the locker rooms.
Enjoy Visiting Porto!
There are so many more great things to do in Porto Portugal besides enjoying a glass of traditional port wine, although that is, of course, one of the great things about Porto. You can stroll through the picturesque Cais da Ribeira neighborhood, cross the famous Dom Luis I Bridge and soak in the magical atmosphere of Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.
There are so many reasons to visit Porto. So, what are you waiting for? Go and explore this amazing city yourself and create your own Porto memories!
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Tina Riegelnegg is the blogger behind Veganderlust, a vegan travel blog. She travels the world with just one bag and looks for the best things to do and the best vegan restaurants along the way. In 2022, she spent one month in Porto to explore this incredible city.