Situated at the mouth of the Douro, Porto is often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal due to its numerous historical sights and its impressive old town. In this travel guide I will introduce you to the best things to do in Porto and give numerous Porto Tips for tours, restaurants and hotels as well as hostels based on my own travel experience.
The second largest city in the country is also the economic and cultural center of northern Portugal. The area along the Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the fact that it is the oldest wine-growing region in the world. The same applies to the historic old town. Besides the capital of Lisbon a visit to Porto is without a doubt a must for any trip to Portugal!
My personal Porto Tips will help you make the most of your time there. Use the following navigation to jump to the things to do in Porto you are most interested in:
1) Sights & Things to do in Porto
2) Tours in & around Porto
6) recommended Hotels & Hostels
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1. Popular Sights & Things to do in Porto
Besides numerous wineries, you will find a wide selection of sights in Porto due to its long history. Most of the Porto Tips mentioned here are very close to each other which makes it easy to explore the city by foot.
However using public transport is also fairly straightforward and extremely affordable!
a) Ribeira – Portos Old Town
To get a first overview I recommend a proper stroll through the old town. The core of the “Centro Historico” stretches from Torre 2 Clerigos down to the banks of the Douro.
It is best to start in the upper part of Ribeira and stroll (with one or two detours) down the streets to the “Cais da Ribeira”. My favorite part are the charming, narrow streets east of the cathedral!
b) Cais da Ribeira
The waterfront promenade Cais da Ribeira is definitely the highlight of the old town. With its typical colorful houses, street musicians, numerous restaurants and cafés, the Cais da Ribeira is ideal for sunset.
Apart from the beautiful location overlooking the Port Wine Cellars and the Dom Luis Bridge, the waterfront is also the starting point for the popular Douro River boat tours. As far as restaurants are concerned, you should rather limit yourself to drinks here as they are mostly classic tourist traps.
c) Livraria Lello
The fact that a bookshop is now one of the sights in Porto is also thanks to Instagram. Due to the fairytale interior design with its uniquely curved wooden staircase, the Livraria Lello, which opened in 1906, is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world (regarding to the Guardian & Lonely Planet) for a reason.
Due to the high number of visitors an entrance fee of €5 has been introduced in 2015, which can be offset with any purchase in the store. Nevertheless this small library became so popular that you should expect to wait in line for quite some time. I therefore recommend coming as soon as the shop opens and buying the ticket online in advance – this way you avoid waiting times and can bypass the queue at the box office.
d) Torre dos Clérigos
The 76m high bell tower of the church of the same name is visible throughout the city and served as a guide for seafarers back in the days. If you want to see Porto from above the Torre dos Clérigos is undoubtedly the best choice.
Climbing the tallest church tower in Portugal is a bit of a workout, but the view makes up for the effort. Similar to the Livraria Lello the lines can be quite long as the viewing platform only offers space for a few visitors. In this case, I also recommend booking an admission ticket in advance:
e) Estação de São Bento
You're probably wondering why a train station has made it into my list of Porto Tips. The reason being are not the train connections, but rather the beautifully designed entrance hall. Here you can admire some quite impressive tile art, the so-called “azulejos”, which illustrate parts of Portuguese history. The artist Jorge Colaço spent altogether 11 years to complete theses masterpieces.
The central location of the Sao Bento train station makes it the ideal starting point for city explorations. You can even stay here – the Passenger Hostel offers a wide range of accommodation options and activities (see below).
Porto's main church is visible from afar as it is located on a hill right next to the Dom Luis I Bridge. The impressive building also offers the opportunity to see the city from above. Although the vantage point is not quite as high as at the Torre dos Clerigos, the entrance fee is a little cheaper at only €3.
g) Ponte Dom Luís I
One of the most beautiful bridges in the city is right next to the old town and connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. Due to its striking architecture and great location, the Ponte Dom Luis is one of the most popular sights in Porto. A walk on the upper part is definitely a must for any visit to Porto.
h) Port Wine Cellars in Villa Nova Gaia
You can combine the walk across the bridge with a visit to the numerous port wineries on the other side of the river. As you might know Porto gave its name to the world-famous wine which is harvested upstream in the Duoro valley. The wine itself is stored and exported in Villa Nova da Gaia.
On a tour through the local wineries you will learn more about the history of the wine and you can taste the wide range of port wine options. I did a self-guided audio tour including a tasting at Taylors – there are numerous recommendable guided tours and great combo-packages at other renowned wineries that you can book in advance:
- Graham's Port Lodge Tour and Wine Tasting
- Wine tour to 2 wineries with wine tasting (mostly Croft & Taylors)
- Burmester Wine Tasting Tour with Foodpairing
- Cálem Cellar Tour, Fado Show & Wine Tasting
i) Cais de Gaia
When on the other side of the river you might as well go for a stroll along the promenade. The numerous wooden Rabelo boats anchored here were once used to transport the wine barrels and make up for some great photographs.
Along the promenade you will find not only restaurants but also bars and severals spots for port wine tasting – in summer there are also a few concerts here.
j) Teleférico de Gaia
A cable car in Portugal is certainly a bit unusual, but the Teleferico de Gaia offers a few new perspectives.
Though the trip is a bit pricey with €6, you can enjoy a great view over the wineries, the Douro Valley and the old town.
k) Jardim do Morro & Miradouro da Serra do Pilar
Right next to the “mountain station” of the cable car you will find the Jardim do Morro park. The small green area was only recently redesigned and is considered one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset thanks to its panoramic view over the Douro to the old town.
You have a similar view from the slightly higher viewpoint “Miradouro da Serra do Pilar” which is located directly in front of the church of the same name. Compared to the adjacent park the photo motif is better here as you have the Dom Luis Bridge in the picture.
l) Jardins do Palacio Cristal
One of my personal favorite things to do in Porto is a visit to the Jardins do Palacio Kristall park complex, perched on a terrace above the Douro River. On the one hand, a walk through the beautifully landscaped gardens offers a change from sightseeing, on the other hand, you can admire numerous great panoramas due to the elevated position of the gardens. Admission to the park is completely free.
m) Matosinhos & Castelo do Queijo
Although Porto itself is not by the sea, you can take the metro to the nearby beach of Matosinhos in just a few minutes. Unlike the beaches in Cascais this beach is certainly not one of the most beautiful in the country the conditions for surfing and for a refreshing dip in the cool water are ideal. There are also a number of restaurants and bars along the beach promenade which are perfect for a drink in the sun.
My personal recommendation is a short walk along the beach to the fortress of Castelo do Queijo. The small cheese castle (the name comes from the shape of the granite blocks on which it was built) can be visited for a small fee of 50 cents.
2. Guided Tours in & around Porto
In addition to the popular things to do in Porto there are also a few guided tours and day trips can make your stay even better.
Best of all, the following Porto Tips do not require a rental car for the day tours, as transport is already included in the tour price.
a) Duoro River Cruise
The best way to see the sights of Porto waterside is on a river cruise. The so-called “6 bridges cruise” is a true classic: the 1-hour tour takes you from the old town to Freixo, at the mouth of the Douro.
The trip on the traditional Rabelo boat starts directly in the old town at Cais da Ribeira and can be easily combined with your sightseeing program. With GetYourGuide you can book the tour in advance and save yourself the hassle of queuing on site:
- River Douro 6 Bridges Cruise
- 6 Bridges Cruise with Optional Wine Cellar Tour
- Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, River Cruise, & Port Cellar Tour
b) City Tours
If you want to learn more about the history of the city and also save some time, a guided city tour with a local is the way to go. You can choose from different tour options – from bike tours and the classic city tour on foot to the night tour with a fado show:
- Guided Walking Tour and Lello Bookshop
- City Highlights 3-Hour Guided Electric Bike Tour
- Private Food Tour – 10 Tastings with Locals
- Porto by Night Tour with Fado Show & Dinner
c) Duoro Valley Tour
One of my personal recommendations is this day tour to the wineries in the Duoro Valley including a river cruise on a Rabelo boat, wine tasting and a traditional lunch. On this excursion you will not only learn more about wine production you will also get to see the beautiful landscape where the famous port wine is growing:
- Douro Valley Tour with Wine Tasting, Cruise and Lunch (my choice)
- Full-Day Douro Wine Tour with Lunch and River Cruise
- From Porto: Douro Valley w/ Boat Tour, Wine Tasting & Lunch (incl. photo stops)
d) Excursion to the Peneda-Gerês National Park
The Peneda-Gerês is the only national park in Portugal and one of the most beautiful parks on the Iberian Peninsula. Located on the border with Spain you will find an attractive combination of mountains, rivers, waterfalls and numerous lakes in evergreen nature.
I was already in the park on my first trip to Portugal in 2012 and can highly recommend a visit to all outdoor and trekking lovers. But also if you don't want to be active you can enjoy the beautiful landscape from numerous vantage points and take a refreshing dip in the park's waterfalls. At GetYourGuide you can find day tours for both options (all with pick-up in Porto):
- Small Group Day Tour of Geres National Park
- Peneda-Gerês Park 4×4 Tour with Lunch
- Hiking and Swimming in Gerês National Park
- Kayak & Waterfall Trek w/ Lunch
e) Surfing in Matosinhos
Although Porto is not necessarily known as a surfing destination you will find ideal conditions for surfing in the neighboring town – at the beach of Matosinhos. The metro takes you from downtown Porto to the wide sandy beach in just under 50 minutes (stop: Matosinhos Sul).
You can either rent the necessary equipment directly from one of the numerous surf schools on site or book a course (incl. equipment) online in advance:
f) Full Day Tours
Due to its location Porto is also a great starting point for tours to other regions and cities. In addition to the mentioned things to do in Porto I also visited Braga & Guimarães, two cities north-east of Porto that are well worth seeing.
So…if you bring a little more time it's worth taking a look at the following day tours (all from Porto):
- Braga and Guimarães Full-Day Tour with Lunch
- Fátima and Coimbra Full-Day Tour from Porto
- Aveiro, Paiva Walkways and Arouca 516 Footbridge
3. Restaurants in Porto
In addition to the all the Porto Tips regarding sights and tours the culinary side shouldn't be neglected during a visit. During my time in the city focused primarily on restaurants that offer regional dishes – below I list all the restaurants that I consider particularly recommendable.
a) Petisqueria Voltaria (Petiscos / Lunch & Dinner)
My absolute highlight was this small restaurant in a side street of the old town where I was able to enjoy a very tasty selection of petiscos (Portuguese tapas). What was once one of the Porto tips for insiders got pretty popular recently…so I recommend coming as soon as the restaurant opens.
If you still have to wait: it's worth it!
Mo. 12:00 – 16:00 h & 18:30 – 22:00 h
Tu. 12:00 – 16:00 h
Th. 12:00 – 16:00 h & 18:30 – 22:00 h
Fr. 12:00 – 16:00 h & 18:30 – 22:00 h
Sa. 12:00 – 16:00 h & 18:30 – 22:00 h
R. Afonso Martins Alho 109, Porto, Portugal (Google Maps)
b) Casa Dias (Lunch & Dinner)
Located on the promenade of Villa Nova de Gaia, Casa Dias is a very authentic Portuguese restaurant. Accordingly you will find very classic local dishes such as Bitoque and the prices are correspondingly low. Highly recommended!
Tu. – Su. from 12:00 – 15:30 h & 19:00 – 21:30 h
Around the corner from the cable car station at the promenade
Av. de Ramos Pinto 242, 4400-161 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal (Google Maps)
c) Barris do Duoro (Lunch & Dinner)
Another comparatively cheap restaurant in this part of town can be found at the beginning of the promenade. In the Barris do Douro I can highly recommend the fish. Solid dishes, great view and friendly service.
Tu. – Sa. 11:00 – 22:00h
Su. 11:00 – 16:00h
Av. de Diogo Leite 402, 4430-999 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal (Google Maps)
d) Restaurante e Churrasqueira Papagaio
This small, very traditional restaurant is located in the upper part of the old town not far from the university. Also here you can enjoy down to earth cuisine at fair prices – both meat and fish lovers will get their money's worth!
We. – Mo. 12:00-15:30 & 19:00 – 23:30h
Tv. do Carmo 30, 4050-165 Porto, Portugal (Goolge Maps)
e) Cafe Santiago
Contrary to what the name might suggest, Café Santiago is not a café but one of the places to taste the legendary “Francesinha”. This very special sandwich is now famous beyond the borders of Porto and quite rich: toast stuffed with boiled ham, chourico, beef and topped with melted cheese and a thick sauce.
I recommend showing up immediately after opening at noon (otherwise it can be quite crowded) and skipping breakfast beforehand – definitely try the version with a fried egg on top. If you just want to try it you should definitely share the dish with a second person ;)
Mo. – Sa. 11:30 – 22:30h
R. de Passos Manuel 226, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal (Google Maps)
f) Casa Guedes
When it comes to sandwiches however I particularly like this place. Of all the dishes on offer you should go for the “Sandes Pernil com queijo” here which is a roasted pork knuckle sandwich with cheese on top (which melts on the meat). Absolute madness (and one of my best culinary Porto tips)!
Su. – Th. 11:00 – 23:00h
Fr. & Sa. 11:00 – 0:00h
Praça dos Poveiros 130, 4000-393 Porto, Portugal (Google Maps)
4. Cafés & Brunch
Want a little break from exploring all the things to do in Porto featured above? Use my following Porto Tips for proper Cafés to make a stopover or start the day right with a decent breakfast.
a) Muralhas Olival
Let's start with a solid bakery next to the Torre dos Clérigos. In addition to bread and rolls there are many delicious pastries and snacks on offer as well as good coffee for fair prices.
If you want to take a break and save money you've come to the right place. I recommend a classic Croissant misto (with ham & cheese) and a Galão (Portuguese version of the milk coffee) to go with it.
Mo. – Su. 06:00 – 20:00h,
Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 117, 4050-367 Porto, Portugal (Google Maps)
b) Esquires Coffee Porto
If you fancy a decent brunch or a good espresso for a change Esquires Coffee has you covered. In addition to the breakfast menu there is also a wide selection of toasts, salads, omelettes and waffles.
daily 08:30 – 18:00h
R. de 31 de Janeiro 215, 4000-543 Porto, Portugal (Google Maps)
Located on the other side of the river in Villa Nova de Gaia this traditional bakery offers a wide selection of Portuguese favorites for reasonable prices. I loved coming here for breakfast and was the only tourist in the shop.
Mo. – Fr. 06:30 – 20:00h
Sa. & Su. 06:30 – 19:30h
R. 1.º de Maio 17, 4430-175 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal (Google Maps)
5. Bars & Nightlife
In Portugal Porto is best known for its nightlife. Especially in the summer months the Portuguese like to come here to party on weekends.
If you stay in one of the recommended hostels below you're sure to find a pub crawl among the activities listed. Especially if you only have little time this option is ideal for getting to know the nightlife.
When staying in one of the other recommended accommodations you can book a pubcrawl directly with the Porto Walkers.
b) Explore the “Bermuda Triangle”
But also without a guided tour you can have a lot of fun. The good thing about nightlife in Porto is that everything is on two streets which are next to the Torre dos Clérigos.
On Rua Cândido dos Reis and Rua Galerias de Paris you will find both bars and nightclubs. Most of the pubs are a combination of both similar to the Reeperbahn in my hometown Hamburg. However you should note that in Porto things really only get going after midnight. Dance floors slowly start filling up at around 1am.
c) The Royal Cocktail Club
If you like it more relaxed and would like to swap the rum & cola for an unusual cocktail creation you should definitely pay a visit to this cocktail bar. In addition to the cocktails on the menu you can also request a cocktail with your favorite ingredients. Highly recommended!
Su. – Th. 19:00 – 02:00h
Fr. & Sa. 19:00 – 04:00h
Rua da Fábrica 105, 4050-247 Porto, Portugal (Google Maps)
6) Where to stay in Porto
In addition to all the things to do in Porto this article also includes my personal recommendations for accommodation. Since I have been a guest in the city more than once I have several Porto tips on offer for hotels and hostels:
a) The Passenger Hostel (Budget & Boutique Hostel)
Located inside the beautiful Sao Bento train station the Passenger Hostel is one of the new hot spots when it comes to boutique hostels in Porto. In addition to the spacious dormitories, the modern double rooms and common areas are particularly impressive.
Due to its central location and the varied program the Passenger Hostel is the ideal starting point for travelers of all kinds to get to know Porto with all its facets. Another plus: a quite extensive breakfast is also included in all rates!
b) Gallery Hostel (Boutique Hostel) – my choice
By far one of my best hostel experiences in Europe was at the Gallery Hostel: great breakfast, chic rooms, modern interior and above all really nice staff. There is a reason why the small Gallery Hostel has already won several awards and is one of the top accommodations in Porto on many booking websites. Accordingly booking well ahead of time is recommended.
I was a guest here on my first Porto visit and was impressed by the cosy atmosphere, a stark contrast to the big hostels, which focus more on mass than class. Both the dorms and the private rooms are attractively designed and are therefore a good choice for travelers of all kinds. The breakfast offered, the in-house bar and the activities (free walking tour) are impressive. Highly recommended!
c) Jardim da Batalha Boutique Hotel (*** Boutique Hotel)
The modern Jardim da Batalha Boutique Hotel only opened its doors in 2019. The location in a quiet corner in the center of the city is ideal for walking to most of Porto tips described here.
In terms of equipment and design the house fully meets the definition of a hip boutique hotel which is of course also reflected in the price. Nevertheless the stay is worth it: warm staff, great breakfast, chic rooms and an ideal location make the Jardim da Batalha a first-class option for guests looking for more comfort!
d) Torel Avantgarde (***** Hotel, Luxury)
If you want to go one step further and make your Porto vacation a little more exclusive you should definitely consider the Hotel Torel Avantgarde. The portfolio of the award-winning 5-star hotel includes chic, modern rooms as well as an outdoor pool, a fitness center, a garden with panoramic views over the city and its own restaurant.
In addition to the friendly staff and the good location a rich breakfast buffet is also part of the package. Altogether the Torel Avantgarde offers all the ingredients for an unforgettable stay – an ideal gift for your partner!
e) Oh! Porto Apartments (Apartments)
Those who like a little more privacy should consider these cool apartments. Located in Villa Nova de Gaia, Oh! Porto Apartments offers beautifully furnished, modern apartments with great views.
The ideal choice for couples and families who want to spend a few relaxing days in the city!
Any Porto Tips or Things to do in Porto, Portugal you'd like to add?
I wrote this Porto travel guide based on my own travel experience. If you have been to Porto as well and you have something to add to this list of things to do in Porto please feel free to leave a comment below. In case you liked my Porto Tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share it with your friends or link to it from your homepage!
Disclosure: This Porto Guide contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels therefore I can highly recommend them. By using these links you won’t pay any additional fees. All recommendations, tips, opinions, and ironic remarks are, as always, my own.