Porto is a small and intimate coastal city, with so much to see and do. Porto is packed full of interest and character with a lively cafe and bar scene, perfect for lazy summer evenings. If you’re going on road trip of Portugal, find out how to spend one day in Porto.
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When to Visit Porto
Porto is a coastal city in the north of Portugal and enjoyes hot summers, pleasantly warm spring and autumn months and mild, wet winters.
The best time to visit Porto is late spring or early autumn. There will be fewer visitors but the weather will still be lovely with warm sunshine and little rain.
Where to Stay in Porto
Our number one hotel in Porto, the Flores Village Hotel and Spa is located right in the middle of where you want to be; just a ten minutes walk to the river and five minutes to Porto’s historic city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The hotel is simple and stylish in design whilst retaining some of the character features of the buildings former life. You’ll find a spa here with a sauna, steam room, pool and gym and a roof-top garden with great views of the city. Book the popular Flores Village Hotel and Spa now.
Things to Do in Porto
Portugal is an easily walkable city with most of the major attractions being within each reach; be prepared to walk up some hills though and perhaps get a taxi out to the Serralves museum and Arrábida bridge. Follow this one day Porto itinerary to see all the main sights and find out what to do in Porto.
If you want to take a day trip or have your Porto one day itinerary organised for you by a tour guide, then check out these activities.
Cross the Pont Luis I Bridge & Take the Cable Car
This iconic bridge and top tourist attraction in Porto is a manically busy pedestrian thoroughfare across both levels with vehicles also using the lower level. The bridge takes you from the Porto side of the Douro River into Vila Nova de Gaia where you will find Port lodges, live music with bars and restaurants cheek by jowl along the river front. This is one of the best places to visit in Porto, it’s lively, vibrant and full on!
Head here to listen to Fado being played live on the streets; Fado is the incredible expressive but profoundly melancholic music and singing which originated in Lisbon and can only be heard in Portugal.
The bridge is a fantastic structure, a double-decked metal arch bridge spanning 172m; when constructed in 1880 it was the longest of its type in the world. If you’ve been wandering the Ribeira, head up the steps (or take the lift) to cross the top section of the bridge then take the cable car down to the Port lodges on the other side…..or cross at the bottom of the bridge and do the reverse coming back! Either way, it’s a great experience and the bridge is a real hub of activity.
Take a Port Wine Tour
One of the top things to do in Porto is taking a tour or a Port wine lodge, preferably with a tasting included!
These lodges were storage and despatch warehouses for port wine, produced in the gorgeous Douro valley to the east of Porto. There are many of names you will recognise such as Taylors and Sandemanns, all of whom have bars along the river front as you come down from the bridge.
The lodges are fascinating buildings in themselves and smell wonderful. Many of them have not been renovated since being built in the 17th century; it was a privilege to admire their architecture and unique style, whilst dodging the holes in the roof!
There are lots of tours to choose from and our choice of tours will all take you to a number of different houses with tastings offered, alongside guidance from local port experts.
Visit the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
Ok, time to be honest. You must visit this museum, not for the art, but for the buildings and gardens.
The museum building was designed in the 90’s and is blocky, glassy and white…it’s pretty stunning if you like that type of architecture. The gardens are centred around the Serralves Villa, a masterpiece of art deco design built in the 1930’s. The gardens are laid out in a similar style with lots of symmetry and art deco styling and colour ways. Get lost here for an afternoon and forget about the art!
For more information on the museum, opening hours and tickets click here.
Eat Pastéis de Nata in the Old Town
These delicious custard tarts are a staple of cafe life in Porto, in fact anywhere in Portugal! I didn’t think I was a custard tart lover until I had one of these with its’ crispy, flaky pastry and rich custard filling, bubbling and caramelised on top from the high heat of the oven. Yep, I was converted!
These little beauties will cost you around €1 each; our friends over at The Culture Trip know all the best places to enjoy them but for our money, have one with a coffee at the Majestic Cafe, one of the most beautiful and romantic spots in Porto, which you will no doubt come across when wandering the historic heart of the atmospheric old town.
Stroll Along the Cais de Ribeira
On the opposite bank of the Douro to the Port lodges, the Ribeira is the place to promenade in Porto. Here you will find restaurants and bars to suit every taste and budget, with a a focus on seafood, including salt cod which has to be tried, but maybe not enjoyed…it is an acquired taste! You can easily while away an afternoon or evening here, people watching and soaking up the happy and lively atmosphere.
Visit the Cathedral & Clérigos Tower
For me, these are probably the top two historic religious buildings to see in Porto.
Porto Cathedral, Sé do Porto, is in the upper part of Porto and will require a bit of hill walking to get there. The church 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.
Downhill from the cathedral, the Clérigos Tower is the tallest campanile in Portugal. Standing 76m tall, this iconic Porto tower has a fantastic view of the city and river.
Climb the 200 or so steps for a really breathtaking (and breathless!) view from the tower’s observation deck over Porto. This is also a great place to take photos of the cityscape. Book your tickets in advance, queues for tickets on the day are often long.
Climb the Arrábida Bridge
In 1963, the Arrábida Bridge was the largest concrete arch in the world. Since 2016, the concrete arch is the the only one in Europe open to visitors.
Take this unique opportunity to access to a national monument and building that has been closed to the public for 53 years and climb it! Why not?? Together with a guide and all the safety equipment you can climb one of the most iconic buildings in Porto.
Book here and make sure to take a camera, the views are incredible!
Take a Douro River Cruise
A Couple of Things Not to Do...
This is just our experience but we wanted to share with you a few things we found to be highly over-rated and incredibly touristy…
The hop-on hop-off bus, which we have enjoyed in other cities in the past, just does not work in Porto. Much of what you will want to see is not accessible to the bus and there are huge lengths of the journey without commentary. We just didn’t think it was worth the €35 cost.
Livraria Lello is one of the oldest and most beautiful bookshops in the world and reportedly inspired JK Rowling when she was writing the Harry Potter novels. It is one of the most instagrammable places in Porto and is truly a magnificent building and bookshop, but totally spoiled by the overcrowding, cost to enter and monstrous queues. What if you just want to buy a book?