Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, is widely known as one of the best places in Europe to try the traditional Port wine, which is also known as Porto. However, there are many other reasons to visit this stunning city! From its gorgeous natural wonders such as the Douro River or the sea cliffs at Guincho to its rich cultural heritage and mouth-watering cuisine (try the pastéis de Nata!), Porto is an unforgettable destination that will have you coming back again and again. Here are some of our favorite places to visit while you’re there!
Walk along the Douro River
Quisque rutrum. Aenean imperdiet. Etiam ultricies nisi vel augue. Curabitur ullamcorper ultricies nisi.
- Sleep Quality
- Accommodation 5.0/5
- Location 5.0/5
- Foods and Drinks 5.0/5
- Service 5.0/5
My first day in the city was a very busy one. I got up early to head out on my first excursion of the day, walking down through town to catch a boat cruise along the Douro River, taking me up past some of the beautiful natural sights Porto has to offer. The river is what divides the city in two, winding its way around, and dividing different neighborhoods and urban areas with quite a few bridges that cross it.
Passing some colorful buildings with gargoyles on their corners and views across towards the main attractions at night… I didn’t stop for long though because our boat sailed into one of those bridges’ archways, which was home to one of two cathedrals in town – Saint James Cathedral!
Enjoy Port Wine at its Source
One of the first places to visit in the Portuguese region is Porto. Located on the northern bank of the River Douro, it is Portugal’s second-largest city after Lisbon. The landscape with its vista we’re hills goes down to meet the water’s edge on one side, and up towards Sao Paulo castle at Castle Hill (Castelo de São Paulo) on the other, will greet you as you make your way into town. These landscapes are enough to put one in a peaceful mood right away.
Visit the Historic Centre
No visit to Porto is complete without a trip to the historic center, and that is where you will find some of the city’s most beautiful landmarks. From ornate Gothic churches to artsy rooftop bars, this neighborhood is one you won’t want to miss!
When you arrive in Porto, you’ll discover that its charming historic center is filled with must-see landmarks. From cultural museums to ornate churches, you’ll fall in love with it at first sight. Within minutes of leaving your hotel, you can be strolling along pedestrian streets where locals gather for relaxed evenings.
Enjoy a Romantic Sunset Cruise
Sail away with your sweetheart on a romantic sunset cruise. Spend the day taking in the spectacular views and exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site on this 3-hour cruise. Sip on chilled wine, indulge in local cheeses, meet new friends, watch a magnificent sunset and bask in beautiful music! There is no better way to make your trip to Porto unforgettable.
Make your way to Catraia pier in front of São Bento Train Station at 7:30 pm sharp. There, you’ll meet your captain for a short briefing before setting sail at 8 pm. Over about three hours, glide along the Douro River past countless landmarks that have inspired famous musicians and songwriters alike. Among these majestic sites is Vila Nova de Gaia, home to many port wine lodges with stunning views on offer. As you cruise farther upriver towards Oporto (about 45 minutes into your trip), pass under Dom Luis I Bridge—one of two remaining river bridges dating back to Napoleonic times! A few feet away lies the La Invicta statue in memory of Portugal’s victory over its former colonial master Spain in 1890.
Indulge in Portuguese Pastries
One classic Portuguese pastry, pastel de nata, is a traditional favorite. Light-as-air pastry squares with a flaky crust filled with soft custard cream topped with caramelized sugar. I was lucky enough to visit the famous Pasteis de Belem, but my personal favorite is Pão-de-Ló topped with cinnamon sugar and fresh berries.
Next time you’re in town don’t forget to check out other local favorites like the Francesinha sandwich, which combines ham or other cured meats with melted cheese over fries and local beer.
In addition to being rich in flavor, it’s also one of the most filling dishes on offer! It’s easy to find street vendors selling Francesinha sandwiches so be sure not to miss it. You can also find egg tarts at many bakeries which are served warm with powdered sugar on top. They make for a great breakfast or afternoon snack!
Take an Easy Day Trip from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia
To make the most out of your time in Porto, take an easy day trip from Porto to vila nova de Gaia! Vila Nova de Gaia is a perfect place to do some sightseeing after enjoying a couple of days in the bustling city. To get there, grab a car and make your way to the highway.
From here, it’s just one more turn before you’re crossing into vila nova de Gaia! Once you arrive at the destination, we recommend first stopping by Adega Sao Miguel for some wine tasting. From there, walk down Rua da Concise on your way to Gaia Boulevard, which has plenty of shops. Head over to marina Boccadasse for even more food options before making your way back home again.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Fresh Fruits on Any Street Corner
Portugal’s trademark ingredients are sweetness, so it’s no surprise that chocolate, pastries, and fresh fruits are found everywhere. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with pastel de nata, a flaky pastry soaked in luscious caramelized milk that is nothing short of heavenly. It is typically eaten for breakfast or for an afternoon snack.
You may find it near the counter of any bakery as well as stalls in town markets. Be sure to get your hands on a scoop of one of Portugal’s most popular desserts: Bolos de Arroz rice (sweet rice cakes). There is something about this rich treat with its crispy outer crust that leaves one wanting more after each satisfying bite.
Spend a Night at One of the Hotels
No visit to Porto is complete without a stay at one of the most enchanting hotels in the city, a true getaway from it all. Here’s a review of three unique options that have just enough warmth to make you feel cozy on a cold day, but not so much you’ll be dying for fresh air:
A member of Design Hotels, Hotel de São Nicolau is an idyllic escape set within an elegant 18th-century manor house surrounded by grape vines. Or venture south for a refreshing stay at Guest House Pinheiros (currently undergoing renovations), where newly-built accommodations with exposed brick walls share space with old stone ruins scattered throughout the property. The cozy surroundings make the garden full of orange trees and yellow flowers even more tempting.
Take a Coffee Break at One of the Cafés
Porto has the pleasure of being one of Europe’s most eclectic cities, with architectural gems left over from five centuries ago. It’s also one of Portugal’s liveliest; with many quaint cafes dotting the streets, every corner is ripe for a coffee break or quick bite to eat while taking in the architecture.
Porto is bustling during the day when locals head out to find their traditional pastries in one cafe ́ or pick up some fresh produce from a neighborhood fruit stand before making their way to a butcher for prime cuts.
After sunset, however, local revelers fill outdoor cafes and bars to sip on a glass of wine or beer and listen to live music. Whether for a quick snack, late dinner, or evening celebration, there is no shortage of good food in Porto.
If you’re coming to Porto for a quick weekend trip, don’t fret! You’ll have time to visit the City’s captivating museums, scenic parks, and hidden gems. Just be sure to walk around—the town’s layout is made for strolling! So make sure you wear good shoes. Also, be sure to explore Ribeira. There are plenty of interesting landmarks worth exploring. Make it a point to see the Basilica da Se Cathedral in Downtown Portúgal as well as Saint Iria Chapel in Alfama.
Portúgal is also home to plenty of modern attractions. Be sure to visit Palacio da Bolsa which houses several art exhibitions throughout the year. The same building also serves as a Stock Exchange and houses different cafes, shops, and restaurants. With its timeless beauty, enticing city skyline, and seemingly endless culinary options, it’s no wonder why people flock to Porto every year.
Whether you plan on staying overnight or just taking a quick weekend trip out of town, be sure to see at least one iconic attraction in Portúgal: Dom Luis I Bridge (better known as 25 de Abril Bridge). Whether you take your time crossing it or walk across in 10 minutes—it’s definitely a must-see attraction!
In summary, Porto is a stunning European city with medieval charm, natural beauty, and a decidedly cosmopolitan vibe. With winding streets, scenic riverside trails, abundant history, and culture, it has all the qualities of the perfect travel destination. Porto is also quite accommodating to visitors with an efficient public transportation system and plenty of welcoming locals. We suggest coming for at least 3 days – 2 nights as a minimum. When you arrive you will be greeted by such wonders that it may seem too difficult to leave!