What to Do in Porto

Our personal guide for your city trip to Porto

The skyline of Porto

In a nutshell: What to expect in this article

  • Finding your way around Porto on your first visit can be hard. We’ve already been there and will show you what’s important to see and what’s not.
  • This is not just any old list, but a selection of the 9 most important attractions in Porto that you really have to see.
  • For each attraction, you’ll get our very personal tips.
  • As an extra, there’s a list of other optional sights, tips on what to do in Porto when it’s raining, viewpoints, market halls and places to visit near Porto.

Orientation: Porto attractions on a map

Map with the most important Porto sights
Our top 9 Porto attractions on a map

Before we get started on the most important Porto attractions, we want to give you a bit of orientation. This will give you a better idea of how the city is laid out.

The old town of Porto is located on the northern bank of the Douro River. You will find most of the sights here.

On the other side of the river is Vila Nova de Gaia. This is actually not part of Porto, but an independent city. In Vila Nova de Gaia are also some sights which we will show you in this article.

Both cities are connected by the Ponte Dom Luís I bridge.

What are the must-see attractions in Porto?

There are many places of interest in Porto. But if you ask us about the ones that are really important, the list is relatively short.

These are our top attractions in Porto:

  1. The historic old town of Porto
  2. The Ribeira waterfront
  3. The Ponte Dom Luís I bridge
  4. The skyline of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia
  5. The São Bento train station
  6. The bookstore Livraria Lello e Irmão
  7. The view from the Torre dos Clérigos
  8. A port wine cellar
  9. Eating a Francesinha, a Porto specialty

Why did we choose these highlights? For us, these nine Porto attractions are the most beautiful. They are all typical for Porto and you will get a good feeling for the city.

We will introduce you to the individual highlights in detail and explain everything you need to know about them.

Of course there is much more to discover in Porto. If you have more time or are interested in other special sights, we have compiled some more interesting places for you at the end.

Old Town of Porto: a sight in itself

Colorful houses in Porto's old town
Colorful tiles are an essential part of Porto

What do you need to know?

The Old Town is the historic center of Porto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It extends up a hill from the banks of the Douro River.

Why is Porto’s old town worth seeing?

Porto’s Old Town is one giant sight in itself.

You can just walk around the old town for hours. What will you see? Colorful houses, narrow streets, great views, small stores, cozy restaurants and cafes.

And of course, many of the most important attractions in Porto are located in the old town. But for us, it’s not individual churches, buildings or landmarks that make Porto so special, but the old town as a whole. That’s why the historic Old Town is also our #1 must-see Porto attraction.

Our tips for Porto’s Old Town

You should plan the Old Town as your first stop. Mark the sights you want to see in the Old Town on a map beforehand and make your way through the streets.

Our personal top 3 are the view from Torre dos Clérigos, the train station Estacao Sao Bento, and the Lello e Irmao bookstore.

Be sure to wear shoes you’re comfortable walking in. The old town is located on a hill – so you’ll be walking up and down a lot of steep paths and stairs.

Ribeira: lively neighborhood on the banks of the Douro

View of Ponte Dom Luis I from Cais da Ribeira
Cais da Ribeira runs along the banks of the Douro River to the Ponte Dom Luís I

What is the Ribeira?

The Ribeira is the neighborhood right on the banks of the Douro River. It is part of the old town of Porto. The most famous part is the waterfront Cais de Ribeira, but the streets further up are still part of the Ribeira.

Why is the Ribeira worth seeing?

In the Ribeira you will find countless restaurants and cafés and you can recover from the strenuous ups and downs in the old town. You also have a great view of the Douro with the huge Ponte Dom Luís I bridge.

Our tip for the Ribeira

In the Wine Quay Bar directly on the waterfront you can enjoy delicious tapas and very good wine at fair prices. For us the best value for money right on the riverbank.

The Ponte Dom Luís I

View of the Ponte Dom Luís
Ponte Dom Luís
Basti on the Ponte Dom Luis
When the subway arrives on such a high bridge and you are afraid of heights, you may want to hold on to something

What do you need to know?

This impressive bridge is 385 meters long, almost 60 meters high and opened in 1886. It connects Porto with the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, located on the other side of the river.

Why is the Ponte Dom Luís I worth seeing?

The Ponte Dom Luís I is absolutely fascinating due to its sheer size and you can’t really miss it.

You can cross the bridge on foot and even have a choice between two paths: on the lower pathway you walk next to the cars, on the upper one you walk next to the metro tracks.

Our tip for the Ponte Dom Luís I

If you have a lot of time, try both paths. With less time we would recommend the upper one next to the metro. If you are afraid of heights, you will get a free adrenaline rush when crossing the bridge, too. Especially in strong wind it can get very exhilarating.

Vila Nova de Gaia: View of the Porto skyline

The skyline of Porto
The skyline of Porto photographed from the city of Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro River

What do you need to know?

Once you’ve successfully crossed the bridge, you’re no longer in Porto. Although it may not seem like it, there is another city on the other side of the Douro: Vila Nova de Gaia. With over 180,000 inhabitants, it is actually the third largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto.

Is Vila Nova de Gaia worth seeing?

A visit to Vila Nova de Gaia is already worth it just for the beautiful panoramic view you get of Porto’s old town. It’s the postcard motif par excellence. The best point to photograph the old town is along Avenida do Diogo Leite.

But that’s not all, because an absolute highlight of the region awaits you in Vila Nova de Gaia: the port wine. Did you get thirsty right away? Be patient, more information will follow shortly.

Our tip for Vila Nova de Gaia

You have a great view over the city from the cable car Teleférico de Gaia. It runs from the banks of the Douro River up to the Ponte Luis I bridge. The ride takes about 5 minutes and costs 7 euros; or do a round trip for 10 euros.

We recommend that you buy your tickets online beforehand. You can then get on directly without waiting in line.

To the ticket for the cable car

Estação São Bento: a stunning train station

Sao Bento station in Porto
Now that’s a pretty train station, isn’t it?

What do you need to know?

Estação São Bento is one of Porto’s two train stations and is located in the eastern part of the old city.

Is the Sao Bento train station worth seeing?

A train station as a top sight in Porto sounds a bit strange at first.

However, the concourse of Sao Bento station is very unique. It is decorated with over 20,000 azulejos, the typical Portuguese tiles. An impressive stucco ceiling adds the cherry on top.

Definitely one of the most beautiful stations in the world and for us one of the absolute top highlights in Porto. After all, there are beautiful churches all over the world, but truly beautiful train stations are rare. That’s why we definitely recommend a visit.

Livraria Lello e Irmão: a beautiful bookstore

Livrario Lello
Spending some quiet time in this bookstore is not possible, because you will definitely never be alone! But from the second floor you can have a look at the spectacle on the first floor.

What do you need to know?

In a city where a train station is one of the top sights, anything is possible. For example, that a bookstore also appears on this list.

The Livraria Lello e Irmão bookstore has been around since 1869 and is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It was voted the third most beautiful bookstore in the world by the British Guardian. By the way, you can find the number 1 in Maastricht – also a nice destination for a city trip in Europe.

Is the bookstore in Porto really worth a visit?

One thing is clear: Livraria Lello e Irmão is anything but an insider tip. There’s often a long line in front of the store and it’s always packed inside.

You shouldn’t expect to just walk in and leisurely browse the shelves.

The bookstore really is a gem though, with its huge wooden shelves and curved staircase in the middle. If you love bookstores, you should definitely not miss a visit. It’s worth it!

If you don’t start gushing when you see the pictures, then a visit may not be right for you.

How to get tickets for the Livraria Lello e Irmão

The entrance fee for the bookstore is 5 euros. If you buy a book, this will be deducted though. However, this only applies to books, not souvenirs or stationery.

Tickets are only available online, not on site. You book a time slot, but you will still have to wait in line. Every 30 minutes, a large batch of people is let into the store.

To the online ticket for the bookstore

Our tips for saving time

If you don’t want to wait in line forever, be there at 9:30 in the morning. If you’re there a couple minutes earlier, you may have a good chance of getting in right away with the first batch. Alternatively, the late afternoon is also a good time to get into the store with only a short wait.

The fastest way to get in is with a priority ticket. You can then just pass the line.

A priority ticket includes the purchase of a book. Depending on which book you choose, it costs about 16 to 18 euros. The books are nice special editions of literary classics.

Torre dos Clérigos: The best view of Porto

View from the Torre dos Clerigos
For us, the Torre dos Clerigos is the most beautiful viewpoint in Porto

What do you need to know?

At the northern end of the old town is the Igreja dos Clérigos, one of the many churches in Porto’s old town.

You can climb up the almost 300 steps to the top of the 76-meter tower and will be rewarded with the best view over Porto’s old town.

Is the climb up the Torre dos Clérigos worth it?

Even if it’s relatively narrow at the top, the climb is worth it. The only way to get a better panoramic view of Porto is to board a helicopter. To take some pictures without lots of people around, it is best to go there directly in the morning when it opens.

There are two viewing platforms on the tower. You can walk all the way around and get a 360-degree view of Porto.

Our tip: The light show in the Igreja dos Clérigos

Every evening, a pretty cool light and laser show accompanied by music takes place in the church belonging to the tower. The show lasts about 30 minutes. You can buy tickets online in advance.

To the ticket for the laser show

Guided tour of a port wine cellar

Burmester wine cellar
On a tour of one of the many port wine cellars, you’ll see how port is stored. This picture shows the Burmester wine cellar.

What is port wine?

Port wine is a sweet wine, usually red. It is produced exclusively in the Douro region around Porto and owes its name to the city.

Port wine has a much higher percentage of alcohol than regular wine, ranging from 19 to 22%. You usually drink it after a meal. If you want to dig deeper into the topic, we recommend this Wikipedia article on port wine. You can read everything about the different types of port wine and how it is made.

Is it worth visiting a port wine cellar in Porto?

If you are in Porto, sooner or later it will be time for some port wine. Sure, you can just order a port wine in a restaurant. But if you want to learn a little more about it, a cellar tour is absolutely worth it.

In Vila Nova de Gaia, there are lots of port wine cellars and almost all of them offer guided tours. Among the most famous cellars are Cálem, Sandeman, Cockburn’s, Graham’s and Burmester.

Which port wine tour in Porto is the best?

The tours in all of the wine cellars are pretty similar. They usually last between 30 and 60 minutes. You will first learn about the production and storage of port wine and then taste different kinds.

We can recommend the following tours:

Burmester: For those with little time. The cellar is located directly at the bridge Dom Luis I. and the tour takes about 30 minutes.

Cockburn’s: Here we can especially recommend the Vintage and Premium tours, where you can also taste rare and expensive wines and get cheese and chocolate to go with them.

Francesinha: Try it!

We have to admit, Francesinha doesn’t look very appealing. But it’s tasty!

What is Francesinha?

Francesinha is a Portuguese specialty, but you will mainly find it in the region around Porto. A Francesinha is a sandwich made of slices of toast filled with different types of sausage and meat.

The whole thing is topped with cheese and then covered with a sauce based on beer and port wine. Sometimes a fried egg is added on top and it’s usually accompanied by fries.

Do you really have to try it?

Admittedly, Francesinha doesn’t look particularly appetizing and the ingredients sound pretty adventurous too. But it tastes better than it sounds and looks.

For us, Francesinha is something like the perfect hangover breakfast. But even without a hangover, it tastes very good. It’s certainly not a dish for every day. But we think that it’s part of Porto. So, go ahead and try it!

Where can you get the best francesinha in Porto?

Almost every restaurant has francesinha on the menu and honestly, everywhere we tried it, we liked it.

The most famous francesinha restaurant is O Alfonso (location on Google Maps). It tastes very good and there is also a vegetarian version.

More sights in Porto

Of course, there is more to see in Porto. We’ll now show you some more attractions in Porto that are worth a visit, but we wouldn’t say they are absolute must-sees.

Historical buildings in Porto

Capela das Almas
Small but impressive: hardly any other building in Porto can compete with the beautiful facade of the Capela das Almas

Capela das Almas: one of the most beautiful facades of the city

The Chapel of Souls is small but definitely very impressive! It has one of the most beautiful facades in Porto. In sunshine, you can see the blue tiles shining from afar. From the inside, however, it’s rather simple.

Sé Catedral: the largest church in Porto

It’s the church par excellence in Porto. The cloister of the church, which is decorated all around with blue and white azulejos, is especially worth seeing. From the forecourt you have a breathtaking view of the city.

Palácio da Bolsa: the magnificent stock exchange

The old stock exchange seems very majestic, with its many gold ornaments. You can only visit it on a half-hour guided tour, which you can book online here.

Porto sights on a rainy day: Museums and more

Facade of the Café Majestic in Porto
Café Majestic is just as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside and a good place to visit in bad weather

Café Majestic: the most beautiful café in Porto

Porto’s most famous café has been around since 1916, and it is said that J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of the Harry Potter series here. Not surprising, as the atmosphere in the café is like a little trip to another world. The coffee here costs more than elsewhere, but the ambience is very special.

Centro Português de Fotografia: Photography Museum

This large photography museum is located at the upper end of the old town. The location is special, because the building used to be a prison. The admission is free of charge.

World of Wine Porto: a very special wine museum

World of Wine (short: WOW Porto) is an area that combines several museums and restaurants under one roof. Everything here is about wine. The museums are all very modern. For a rainy day in Porto it’s a great sight, but also otherwise worth a visit. We recommend the combo ticket for several museums, which is cheaper compared to single tickets.

Serralves Foundation: Museum of Contemporary Art

Great museum of contemporary art and the number one of its kind in Portugal. There are changing exhibitions and a huge park. An absolute must for art fans.

Avenida dos Aliados: the shopping mile of Porto

Porto’s famous boulevard. If it’s raining, grab an umbrella and go shopping in Porto’s main shopping street.

Viewpoints in Porto

Jardim dos Sentimentos
Jardim dos Sentimentos is a real insider tip and one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Porto

Jardim dos Sentinemtos

The Jardim dos Sentimentos (in English: Garden of feelings) is still a real insider tip. Peacocks wander through the charming park and there are hardly any tourists. From up there you have a great view over the Douro.

City Hall of Porto

Not only its architecture is impressive, but especially the 70-meter high tower in the middle. You have to climb up 180 steps and are rewarded with a unique view.

Jardim do Morro

A wonderful place to watch the sunset surrounded by nature. The Jardim do Morro is still an insider tip and especially popular among locals. From here you have a breathtaking view over the Douro and the entire old town. The garden is located directly at the top of the cable car in Via Nova de Gaia and you can combine both very well.

The most beautiful market halls in Porto

Mercado Bom Sucesso
At Mercado Bom Sucesso you can sample your way from one stall to the next

Mercado de Bolhao

Mercado de Bolhao is the largest market in Porto. In the huge market hall you can see mainly locals buying fresh food, such as fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. But there are also stalls where you can stay and grab a bite to eat.

Mercado Bom Sucesso

The modern market hall Bom Sucesso is a paradise for foodies. You can feast your way from one stall to the next. There’s everything from appetizers to huge seafood platters to the most delicious sweets.

Mercado Beira Rio

Another large indoor market with food stalls. Mercado Beira Rio is located across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Day trips from Porto

Miramar beach
You can reach Miramar beach by train from Porto in just 30 minutes.

Trip to Miramar beach

If you also want to spend a beach day in Porto, we recommend a trip to Praia de Miramar. The long sandy beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. From the train station Porto Campanha you only need 20 minutes with the Aveiro line to the Miramar station. It’s then only a short walk to the beach.

Trip to the Douro Valley

If you have a little more time, we can highly recommend a trip to the Douro Valley. There are very good guided day trips where you can get to know the wine region. In small groups you will visit two family-run wineries, take a boat trip on the Douro River and have some excellent food.

To the day trip to the Douro Valley

Guided tours in Porto

If you don’t want to explore Porto on your own, you can book one of the many guided tours and excursions.

From the huge selection of offers we picked out the best tours for you:

City tour incl. Livraria Lello e Irmao: Classic city tour to the most important Porto attractions. The special part: the entrance fee for the bookstore is already included and you are spared waiting in line.

Very cool food tour: If you like to eat your way through a city, this is the right tour for you. You will get to know 10 culinary highlights and can taste food everywhere – some even outside the typical tourist places. A very cool tour!

Tuk Tuk Tour through the old town: A slightly different kind of city tour. On a tuk tuk you get to see the most important sights and spare your legs.

Is the Porto Card worth it?

If you do some research on Porto, sooner or later you will come across the Porto Card. You can use the public transport in Porto with the Porto card. The metro is especially interesting for visitors, because you can use it to get from the airport to the city.

In addition, the Porto Card gives you free admission to some museums and discounted admission to many other attractions.

Our opinion: You can’t save a lot of money with the Porto Card. You won’t save anything with the card on the top highlights we presented before. But if you plan on visiting many museums and historical buildings, the card is worth it.

The card also makes sense if you will travel a lot by public transport. You can just get on and don’t have to worry about tickets. So the Porto Card is worth it mainly for convenience.

You can buy the card online before your trip and just have to pick it up once in Porto.

To the Porto Card

Porto attractions: Our conclusion

Porto is absolutely worth a trip. The city is charming and has some very special sights to offer. For a short trip of 2-3 days Porto is a perfect destination and can easily be combined with other places in Portugal.

Do you have any questions or a good tip yourself?

We are looking forward to your comment. Feel free to ask us any questions about Porto or share your personal Porto tips with us.