The city of Porto is known as the Undefeated City. It is the city that gave its name to Portugal – from an early age (c. 200 BC), when it was called Portus Cale, later becoming the capital of the Portucalense County. It is still a city known worldwide for its wine, its bridges and contemporary and ancient architecture, its historic center, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
On the slopes above the Douro Estuary, Porto is a historic mercantile city with business and trade written into its very name. The centre is a World Heritage site, and you’ll be struck by how rich and varied this heritage can be: There are medieval walls, gleaming Baroque churches, the compact streets of the Ribeira district, the Romanesque Cathedral and that’s just the beginning.
Its beautiful monuments and historic buildings, such as the imposing Sé or Clérigos Tower, Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, offering a harmonious synthesis of ancient and yesterday’s attractions.
On the opposite bank of the river, Vila Nova de Gaia, boasts superb views of the world-famous Port Wine Cellars, the main center of Port wine production. where the wine is made and matured and where it is possible to taste the different varieties, or also opt for a cruise on the Douro.
Top 20 Best Things to Do in Porto
1. Cais da Ribeira
A little chaotic and great fun to explore, Porto’s riverside area is a very picturesque piazza where tourists and locals mingle.
There are bars and restaurants around every corner, and these line the riverside walk too.
You’ll have a perfect shot of the iconic Luís I Bridge from here, and if you duck through the arcades there’s a confusing maze of steep streets and stairways between pastel-painted houses in varying states of repair.
2. Luís I Bridge
An industrial symbol for Porto, this twin-level metal arched bridge opened in 1886. It was conceived by the German engineer Théophile Seyrig who cofounded the Eiffel Company.
There’s a bird’s eye view of the Cais da Ribeira from the top level, which is also used by Porto’s light railway. You could board the Funicular dos Guindais to get down to the waterside.
3. Church of São Francisco
The last Gothic monument in Porto is this church completed in 1425. Wander around to the apse to ponder the long lancet windows and then head back to the main facade where an ornate portal is crested by a lovely rose window.
The interiors were redecorated from the 1500s to the 1700s and have some of the most lavish gilded woodwork you could hope to see.
4. Palácio da Bolsa
You have to go in to comprehend the richness of the sculpture, decorative carvings, plasterwork, frescos, chandeliers and tiles.
The stuccoed Moorish Revival Salão Árabe is almost overwhelming, while the monumental Pátio das Nações courtyard is lit by an octagonal metal and glass roof.
5. Guided Tour of Porto
In this guided visit of Porto, we’ll pass through the historic centre, getting to know its most special nooks, and discovering why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site.
Having picked you up from your hotel we’ll begin our route through the most important parts of the city.
In this walking tour you will be able to enjoy Porto’s lifestyle by following though lesser known spots and hearing stories from the local guides that we born and raised here!
6. Muralha Fernandina
There’s a length of Porto’s 14th century wall just up from the Luís I Bridge and runs almost parallel to the funicular.
As you walk the UNESCO signs will give you a little background on medieval Porto. Although it belongs of the World Heritage Site, it’s an attraction a little underappreciated by tourists.
But best of all is the view of the Douro up here is unbeatable.
7. Crystal Palace Gardens
The Crystal Palace Gardens are part of the park that also includes the Porto Romantic Museum and the Port Wine Museum. Not only the different gardens and spaces are a remarkable example of the gardens during the Romantic period, but they also are a terrific belvedere with views over the Douro river, Atlantic Ocean and the city itself.
The gardens result from a project by the architect Émile David, in the 19th century. The name “Crystal Palace” refers to a Palace that was built in the area where nowadays you can see the Rosa Mota pavilion, an oddly shaped building projected in 1956, where events and concerts take place all year.
8. Porto Six Bridges Cruise in the Douro River
Embark on the most popular of the Douro cruises. Wander through the riverside of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia and discover the beauty of the Douro River.
The six bridges are a true landmark of Porto and are full of history. Discover the Rabelos, the typical boats from Porto and from the Douro Valley.
Let yourself be amazed by the beautiful sights of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
9. Visit Port Wine Cellars
If you cross the bridge to the other side of the river you arrive to Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the Port Wine cellars are located.
At most of these cellars you can get a guided tour where they’ll explain how Port Wine is made, stored and distributed and also, how to distinguish different kinds of Port; most of these visits end with a wine tasting.
10. Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello & Irmão is a bookshop in the heart of Porto housed in a neo-gothic building from 1906, so exquisitely decorated covered in wood panelling that it will transport you to the nineteenth century.
The bookstore has two floors with shelves packed with books of all shapes and sizes covering every wall and touching the ceiling. An elegant wooden and red velvet staircase stands in the middle of the library connecting both floors, while the stained-glass window at the top fills the shop with natural light bringing the room to life.
You cannot miss a visit to this unique bookshop, where you’ll feel you’ve just walked into a fairy-tale setting instead of a library. Livraria Lello is so magnificent that the author J.K. Rowling was inspired by it when writing Harry Potter when she lived in Porto.
11. Casa da Música
A treasured modern addition to Porto’s cityscape, the Casa da Música is a concert hall that opened in 2005. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas oversaw the design along with high-tech scenography and acoustics firms.
This is one of the rare music venues that is also worth seeing when nobody’s playing.
12. Food Tour of Porto
Enjoy Porto’s traditional cuisine with this food tour around the city centre which will satisfy the most sophisticated palates.
What does Porto taste of? To find out, you will enjoy a walking food tour by the city centre. We’ll stop at different markets and taverns to experience the signature food.
One of the main features of a culture is its gastronomy. It reflects centuries of history and represents the connection between the inhabitants and the natural resources of the region.
The route across the city’s historical center that connects the several stopping points for food and beverage tastings is also an opportunity to get to know the city a little better.
13. São Bento Railway Station
São Bento Railway Station in Porto was opened to the public in 1916 on the site of a former Benedictine monastery. The structure emanates the city’s typical melancholy and nostalgic air.
Although the train station is striking from outside, the real beauty lies inside. The main hall is breathtaking with over 20,000 tiles that reflect the history of Portugal.
You can take a train to other picturesque villages in the region from São Bento station. If you have enough time, we recommend exploring Guimarães, Braga and Viana do Castelo.
14. Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market)
The Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market) was opened to the public in 1914 and specializes in meat, fish, fruit, flowers, vegetables and other colourful products.
The Market has several floors packed with farmers and other citizens selling fresh produce and typical products from the region around a large central courtyard.
The building’s worn down appearance is part of its charm and it has become one of the most emblematic parts of Porto. The Mercado do Bolhão is a reference point, where you can get an idea of the daily life of the citizens of this enchanting city.
If you’re not looking for fresh produce, you probably won’t purchase anything in the Market, however it’s still well worth visiting and enjoying its nostalgic atmosphere.
15. Clérigos Tower
Clérigos Tower is the tallest campanile in Portugal. It stands 249 ft (76 meters) tall and climbing its 200 steps will give you a privileged view over the city and the river.
The Clérigos Church and its bell tower are one of the most popular visits in Porto. We recommend climbing the steep steps to get a breathtaking view over the old town and the Douro River.
16. Porto Cathedral – Sé do Porto
The Porto Cathedral is the most important religious edifice in the city and has been declared a National Monument.
The construction of the Cathedral began during the twelfth century, but it was rebuilt and renovated numerous times throughout the centuries. This explains why the Cathedral is a mix of architectural styles.
The temple is predominantly Baroque in style, although its façade and the nave are Romanesque and its cloister and one of the chapels are Gothic in style.
17. Douro Valley Tour
A full day tour to the Douro Valley departing from Porto. Take a close look at the fascinating landscape of what is considered the world’s first wine-demarcated region.
Drive up the steep hills through off-road routes surrounded by the vineyards of Portugal’s most famous wine region, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Breathe the fresh air of Douro Valley while sampling world-class wines and enjoy a traditional picnic in a fantastic viewpoint considered one of the most beautiful in Portugal.
18. Peneda-Gerês National Park Full-Day Tour
Get back to nature and escape the crowds on a full-day tour of the stunning landscapes of Peneda-Gerês National Park. Hike along ancient paths through lush woodlands and marvel at the endemic flora and fauna.
Immerse yourself in Portugal’s wild landscape on this full-day small-group tour of Peneda- Gerês National Park from Porto.
Explore the only Portuguese National Park, climb incredible mountains, while admiring local fauna and flora, amazing viewpoints and mesmerizing waterfalls.
Enjoy a traditional picnic lunch in one of Gerês most iconic viewpoints while resting with the mountain at your feet and admiring the gorgeous surrounding scenery.
19. Paiva Walkways Full-Day Hiking Experience
You’ll walk along one of the most beautiful walking trails in the world: the Paiva Walkaways!
Get ready to be amazed by one of the most beautiful riverside hikes in Europe. The Paiva Walkways follows the Paiva River providing glorious views for an amazing connection with nature. A delightful typical lunch will be included.
The Paiva Walkaways were the winner of the World Travel Awards in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019! It is a 8 km boardwalk through ruggedly beautiful scenery in Arouca Geopark, a UNESCO Geological site.
20. Serralves Foundation
The Serralves Foundation is a renowned cultural institution whose main objective is to promote Portuguese and international contemporary art.
The Foundation houses the Museum of Contemporary Art, lush gardens, Serralves’ house, the Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira and an auditorium.
The Foundation has a magnificent 18-hectare park that circles the museum. If you’re looking for a tranquil and captivating place to go for a walk, then Serralves Park is one of the most enjoyable places to visit.