A Visitor's Guide to Porto

The second largest city in Portugal, Porto is a fascinating mix of history, culture, art, and fun. A prime tourist destination with lots to see and do, it can be hard to know where to even start!

Whether you are in town on a whirlwind visit or planning to stay for an extended vacation, this visitors guide to Porto will fill you in on the must-see sights, the must-do activities, where to stay, and where to eat.

If you want the most from your time in Porto, here’s everything you need to know:

What to Do in Porto

Porto is the kind of city that requires at least a few days to truly experience everything this beautiful location has to offer. But, if you are short on time, or want a list of local sites (and sights) that you’re sure to enjoy, we’ve got you covered!

Go to the Beach

One of the things that Portugal is famous for is its beautiful beaches and the Porto area more than delivers in this department.

Porto is perfectly situated between two beach regions, Costa Verde to the north of the Douro river and Costa Prata to the south. Fortunately, it is easy to reach the best beaches in the area can be reached by taxi or public transportation.

Praia do Senhor da Pedra

Praia do Senhor da Pedra is the perfect place for a day at the beach. There is a direct train from the Sao Bento station in Porto. It will take you about 30 minutes to arrive but once you’re there, you can spend your time relaxing and taking in the views.

This beach is named for the Senhor da Pedra chapel that is built on one of the nearby rocky outcrops. If you are visiting Porto in the months of June, you can witness the annual pilgrimage in honor of Senhor da Pedra. This celebration takes place over 3 days beginning at the Holy Trinity Sunday.

It is worth noting that the water temperatures at this beach are surprisingly “refreshing,” staying around 18℃, even in the middle of summer. The area is exposed to strong waves from the Atlantic ocean so it is important to exercise caution when swimming. These waves, however, make this a great beach for surfing! Just be aware that there are lots of rocks around the shore so be careful!

Praia do Senhor da Pedra is located near cafes, restaurants, and shops so you can relax knowing that anything you could need is not too far away!

Praia de Matosinhos

This beach is a summertime favorite of Porto residents and it isn’t hard to see why.

Just 8km from Porto, you can get here by taking the 500 bus route that leaves from Praça da Liberdade. You can take the metro as well but it will not offer you the same stunningly beautiful scenic route.

Praia de Matosinhos is the largest beach near Porto and boasts soft sands and sparkling clean waters. If you are looking for the gorgeous views offered by many Portuguese beaches, you’ll be disappointed. Situated near a container port and a fishing harbour, the backdrop is not exactly natural. BUT, don’t let that deter you.

This beach is patrolled in the summer by lifeguards making it safe for children but it still gets enough wave action to be perfect for surfing and other water sports. And like Praia do Senhor da Pedra, the beach is close to several restaurants, cafes, and amenities.

Visit Igreja de São Francisco

With a classically gothic exterior, the Igreja de São Francisco is a church full of Baroque and Rococo wonders. Located in the historic center of Porto, do not let the understated exterior fool you.

Dating back to the 13th century, the church was declared national monument in 1910 and then in 1996 it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Consisting of 3 naves, 5 sections and multiple altarpieces, the interior shows off the work of many Porto sculptors. Everywhere you look are intricate, detailed wood carvings covered in gold leaf. There is so much gold leaf in the church that estimates have suggested there is as much as 300kg of gold has been used.

One of the most impressive carvings is the Árvore de Jesse (Tree of Jesse). This work was carved by Filipe da Silva and António Gomes in the 18th century and displays 12 images of the Kings of Judah on a tree growing from the body of Jesse and ending in an image of the virgin and child.

If you’d like to visit more churches while visiting the city, pay a visit to the Se Cathedral and the church of Santo Ildefonso.

Se Cathedral is one of the most important religious structures in the city, with ornately decorated cloisters while the church Santo Ildefonso has a stunning exterior decorated with Azulejos tiles.

Walk Ribeira

Riberia is the oldest section of Porto and it’s narrow streets wind their way along the northern banks of the Douro. Surrounded by ancient buildings, Ribeira can really transport you to the Old World in a way that you can’t quite experience in other old cities like Lisbon.

In this area, you will find many family-run shops, traditional restaurants, and hip bars. At night, the streets come alive with revelers looking for a good time.

These streets are the best places to view the Maria Pia bridge. This bridge was built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel to connect the railway across the Douro.

Ribeira is also the best place to see view the Dom Luis Bridge.

On a related note, if you are looking for the best views of the city of Porto, take a walk across the Dom Luis Bridge. You’ll be glad you did.

Ribeira Square is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The square once served as the commercial hub in Porto. Today, it houses architectural remnants of the past like the 3 stories tall fountain built in the 1780s. The square is where you will see many of Porto’s brightly coloured buildings and experience unique offerings from street vendors. It is more than worth a visit.

If you don’t want to visit this historic district on your own, you can book a guided tour. For those worried about missing some of the landmarks and sights, this may be the best option.

Take a Douro River Cruise

The Rio Douro has played a significant role in the history of Porto. Part of the reason it thrived from early on was due to its proximity to the river. If you want to see a different side of the city, one you can’t see on a walking tour, the river is the spot to be.

You have a few different options depending on how much time you want to spend on the water. You can take short cruises that last about 1-2 hours or you can go on a day-long trip that takes you up the Douro Valley to the famous Douro wine region.

If choosing one of the shorter cruises, try to time it for the evening time. These cruises will take you under the 6 bridges that cross the river and with the city lights dancing on the water, it will be a truly magical experience.

Port Tasting and Cellar Tours

One of the things that Porto is more well known for is port wine. A deliciously sweet fortified wine, the port is aged in casks that can be found in cellars lining the southern shore of the Douro.

There are over 10 difference port cellars to visit. By the time you are done, you will have a firm understanding of the history of winemaking in the region. Each of the producers offers tastings and tours so you’re spoiled for choice.

Word to the wise, tours are only offered at certain times of day with a set language. To avoid showing up in an off time or getting booked on a tour in a language you don’t know, try to pre-book your spot.

Visit the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves

The art world is alive and well in the city of Porto. It lives and breathes in the churches and architecture but contemporary art thrives at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves. While contemporary art is not everyone’s cup of tea, this museum is worth a visit.

The Casa de Serralves villa has a stunning art deco façade and the grounds that surround it are idyllic and serene. The museum houses fascinating exhibits.

So, if you are looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, stop here for a visit. No matter how you look at it, it’s a good way to kill a few hours.

Go to The Livraria Lello Bookshop

The Livraria Lello Bookshop is widely believed to be the most beautiful bookshop in the world. And once you step inside, it isn’t hard to see why. Think Harry Potter Hogwarts library but real!

The neo-gothic façade is lovely but the interior is breath taking. From the stunning staircase to the beautiful wooden walls and the unexpected stained glass ceiling, this spot is a true feast for the eyes.

Take your time, wander through, and celebrate the details.

Climb the Torre dos Clerigos

The Torre dos Clerigos, or Clerigos Tower, is part of the beautiful Baroque Igreja dos Clerigos. While the architecture is lovely, the real view is from the tower’s platform.

Construction was completed in 1763 making the tower the tallest building in Porto. At 75 meters high, it is still impressively tall. To get the most spectacular 360° view of Porto, climb the 225 steps to the tower platform. Open until 11pm, you could go more multiple times and never have the same view twice. The city looks much different at dusk than it does at high noon.

Climbing the tower is simply a must-do activity. But be aware, the staircase is pretty narrow so if you have mobility issues or don’t like tight spaces, this might not be for you.

Where to Stay in Porto

When staying in Porto, you have many options for accommodation. You can stay in hotels or something smaller like an apartment or flat rental. Here’s a look at some of our favourite places in the city:

Yeatman Hotel

Yeatman Hotel. This hotel takes luxury to the next level. And as the best hotel in Porto, it is nothing less than what you would expect. With spectacular interior design in every room and the best views of the city and the Douro River, you’ll be glad you stayed. Relax in the spa, enjoy the location’s two Michelin Stars and take a dip in the pool.

InPatio Guest House

Restored in 2012 and located in the historic heart of the city, the InPatio Guest House is the perfect place to call home for the duration of your stay in Porto. Each room has its own unique design and breakfast is included. Wouldn’t you love to have breakfast in a courtyard in Ribeiro (weather permitting, of course)? If you are looking for a quiet home away from home, this is it.

Where to Eat in Porto

It’s pretty difficult to find bad food in Porto. Whether you are looking to enjoy local specialties like caldo verde, francesinha, and pastel de nata, or something else entirely, you will have plenty of options to choose from in Porto.

Cervejaria Brasão

Other restaurants may stake claim to having the best francesinha in the city, but as far as we’re concerned, Cervejaria Brasão is tops. If you are clamouring to try this carb-loaded sandwich masterpiece, start here!

The restaurant itself is laid back and comfortable with a great selection of craft beers, and other Portuguese traditional dishes that will please your taste buds.

Rua Das Flores

If you are leaving the Sao Bento station and heading to the Ribeira district, you will come across Rua das Flores.

This street is perfect for a wine tasting, shopping, sampling Portuguese delicacies like pasteis de nata, people watching, AND viewing street art.

At the beginning of the street, you will find a massive cat portrait by the Spanish artist Liqen. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll spot all of the brightly adorned electrical boxes.

With more than a dozen boxes painted by Porto’s most popular street artists, walking this street is like going on a little treasure hunt!

Porta 4

Eating at Porta 4 is like going to a friend’s place for dinner. It is warm, friendly, and inviting.

Enjoy multiple courses of lovingly prepared food with expertly chosen wine pairings. The pork belly or tuna tend to be popular choices but there is no bad choice here.  With many delicious options, simply choose the chef’s meal - we promise you will not be disappointed. Just be sure to leave room for dessert, you’ll want to try the mango mousse!

The space is cozy and with an open kitchen, you can see the attention and care that goes into every dish.

With room for only 14 people, you’ll want to call ahead and book a table. You don’t want to be disappointed.

Porto is a wonderful and lively city with plenty to see, do, taste, and explore. Let us help you plan your trip! For options in Porto, why not check out our Porto Art & Architecture Travel Package or our Porto Spa & Wellness Getaway.