Portugal is a country in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. The capital and largest city of Portugal is Lisbon. However, many people also choose to visit Porto which is the second-largest city in Portugal.
Some even prefer Porto to the capital city of Lisbon. It is no surprise considering the many attractive things to do in Porto.
If you are wondering what to do in Porto, here are some of the best attractions and activities that this charming city has to offer!
Before we look into the best things to do in Porto, it is important to know about the Porto Card when planning your itinerary. City passes are common in many touristic destinations. These can save time and money depending on what you plan to do.
If you intend to do a lot of sightseeing while in Porto, then you might want to consider getting the Porto Card. This card will give you free access to many public transportation options as well as discounts or free admission to some museums and attractions. You can choose between a 24-hour, 48-hour, or 72-hour card.
Tip: Here are some tourist and city passes available in popular European cities. These can be great time and cost savers so always check out if there are worthwhile city passes for what you want to do when visiting Europe.
Most Popular Thing To Do In Porto
Many cities that sit by a river or ocean are well known for their waterfront, and Porto is no exception. The waterfront of Douro River is one of the most charming areas of Porto city.
Cruise Down The Douro River
It is no surprise that one very popular activity in Porto is to take a cruise down the Douro River. This is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. You will be able to see some of Porto’s most iconic bridges as well as get a glimpse of the picturesque vineyards that line the riverbanks.
There are many different companies that offer Douro River cruises. Most of these last around one to two hours. You can also find premium cruises that include a meal or drinks. Some encompasses a full day trip to Douro Valley.
Best Things To Do In Porto
Scale The Clerigos Tower And Cathedral
Clerigos Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in Porto. This baroque-style tower was built in the 18th century and is 76 meters tall. You can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city.
If you are not interested in scaling the tower, you can still admire the Cathedral of Clerigos which is right next to it. This baroque cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Portugal.
Visit A Port Wine Cellar
Port wine is a type of fortified wine that originates from the city of Porto. This sweet wine is usually served as a dessert wine. However, it can also be enjoyed on its own.
There are many port wine cellars located in the city of Porto. Many of them offer tours and tastings independently. This is a great way to learn about the history and production of port wine. Unsurprisingly, you will also find many tours that bring you around different cellars, or combine it with other popular things to do in Porto.
Get Inspired At The Livraria Lello Bookshop
Livraria Lello is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. This store is over a hundred years old and is known for its Art Nouveau interior.
This bookstore was even an inspiration for J.K. Rowling when she was writing the Harry Potter series. If you are a fan of the books or movies, then this is a must-see spot!
It used to be free to enter Livraria Lello; however due to its popularity now you need to get a ticket which can be used as a discount voucher if you do purchase a book. There are often long lines to visit even with the entrance fee. One way to get a quicker entry is to join a guided tour that visits the bookstore as part of the tour.
Indulge In The Dish of Porto – Francesinha
Francesinha is a dish that originates from Porto. It is a tasty sandwich that is filled with meat and melted cheese. It is then covered in a spiced tomato and beer sauce.
This dish is very hearty and filling. It is definitely a must-try when visiting Porto! Some popular places to get Francesinha include Café Santiago and Café Majestic.
Ride The Vintage Tram
Riding the vintage tram is one of the most unique things to do in Porto. These trams date back to the early 20th century and are a great way to see the city.
There are two main tram lines that operate in Porto. Tram line 18 goes from Jardim do Morro to Batalha. Tram line 22 goes from Massarelos to Passeio Alegre.
Both of these tram lines offer great views of the city. If you are interested in riding the vintage tram, then be sure to purchase a ticket in advance. You can also get combo tickets that bundle tram access with other transport options like the funicular or hop on hop off bus tours etc.
Indoor Things To Do In Porto
Get Local At Mercado de Bolhao
One of the best things to do in Porto is to visit Mercado de Bolhao. This is a local market that sells fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and more. These are the kind of places to get a pulse of the local community. Sometimes you also get people playing traditional music around the area.
It is not just a great place to get a feel for the local culture, but also a good spot to try some traditional Portuguese dishes.
Marvel At Palácio da Bolsa
Palácio da Bolsa is one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal. This neoclassical building was once a stock exchange market, dating back to 1842. Now it is open to the public for tours.
Apart from its stunning exterior, the interior features intricate designs in a variety of rooms and halls. It is definitely worth a visit as well.
The Palácio da Bolsa is in the center of Porto. It is a short walk from Mercado de Bolhao and the Clerigos Tower, making it is an easy destination to fit into the itinerary. You cannot tour the building by yourself, make sure to get a guided tour in order to visit this historic landmark.
Enjoy A Show At Teatro Nacional São João
Teatro Nacional São João is the national theater of Portugal. It was built in 1793 and has since been a center for the performing arts. If you are interested in culture and the arts, then this is a great place to visit.
The theater usually has a few different shows going on at any given time. Check their website in advance to see what is playing during your visit.
Teatro Nacional São João is in the Baixa district of Porto. It is a short walk from the Palácio da Bolsa and the Clérigos Tower.
Immerse In Musical Arts At Casa da Música
Casa da Música is a concert hall that is known for its contemporary architecture. The building is designed by Rem Koolhaas and sits in the historic Rotunda da Boavista. It is one of the most popular things to do in Porto, especially if you are a fan of music.
The concert hall has a variety of different musical events happening throughout the year. Check their website to see what is going on at any point in time.
Get Sporty At FC Porto Museum And Stadium
If you are a fan of sports, then you will enjoy visiting the FC Porto Museum and Stadium Tour. This is a great way to learn about the history of Portuguese football while also seeing the stadium. The museum covers the origins of FC Porto as well as its most famous players and moments.
The tour takes you through the locker room, the press room, and onto the field. You also get to see the trophy room and visit the club shop.
The FC Porto Museum is in the central district of Porto. The stadium tour is an additional cost but it is definitely worth it if you are a fan of sports.
Check Out The Exhibitions At Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis
Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis is a national museum that is dedicated to the life and work of the Portuguese artist, Soares dos Reis. It features paintings, sculptures, and other art pieces.
The museum is housed in the former home of the artist and has a large collection of his work on display. In addition, you will also find works from other famous Portuguese artists like Silva Porto, Aurelia de Souza, and Henrique Pousão on display.
Outdoor Things To Do In Porto
Catch The Sunset At Dom Luis I Bridge
Dom Luis I Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in Porto. This bridge spans across the Douro River and offers stunning views of the city.
Apart from getting some beautiful photos of the city, one of the best things to do in Porto is to catch the sunset at Dom Luis I Bridge. The bridge can get quite crowded during peak travel season, so go early to grab a great spot to watch the sunset over the river and cityscape.
Visit The Jardim do Morro Garden
The Jardim do Morro Garden is a great spot to relax and take in the views of Porto. This garden is perched on top of a hill, hence the name “Jardim do Morro” which means “Garden on the Hill”.
The elevated position also means the garden offers panoramic views of the city and river. It is a great spot to watch the sunset or just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. You can get there by crossing the Dom Luis I Bridge or via the Vila Nova de Gaia cable car.
Learn The Story Of Porto Through Tours
If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Porto, then take a tour of the city. There are many different types of tours available, from walking tours to Tuk Tuks and river cruises. You can also take a walking tour of the historic center or go on a food and wine tour to learn about the local cuisine.
These are great for doing a deeper dive into the local scene with a city guide. There are many options depending on your preferences and interests.
Cheap And Free Things To Do In Porto
Explore The Ribeira District
The Ribeira District is the historic center of Porto and one of the most popular tourist areas in Porto.
This district is located along the Douro River and is full of narrow streets and colorful buildings. Here is also where you will find many popular attractions in Porto.
There are plenty of things to do in the Ribeira District. You can visit the many cafes, restaurants, and bars. You can also explore the many shops and boutiques. The district is also home to a number of museums and galleries.
The Ribeira District is full of narrow streets and alleyways. It is a great place to explore on foot. Be sure to keep your camera handy as there are plenty of photo opportunities!
Wander Around Baixa District
Baixa District is the central district of Porto. This is where you will find many of the city’s monuments and attractions. It is a great place to simply wander around and take in the sights and sounds of the city.
There are many things to see in Baixa District, such as the Palácio da Bolsa, São Bento Railway Station, and the Church of St. Ildefonso. This is also a great place to do some shopping as there are many shops and boutiques in the area.
Admire The São Bento Railway Station
One of the most popular things to do in Porto is to simply admire the beauty of São Bento Railway Station. This station was opened in 1916 and is known for its beautiful blue and white tile work. There are over 20,000 azulejo tiles depicting scenes from the history of Porto. If you are a fan of architecture, then this is definitely a place that you should visit!
Relax At Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is a spacious park in the center of Porto, featuring fountains, sculptures and colorful flora. This is a great place to relax and take in the beauty of nature. The park was designed by landscape architect Émille David.
It is also home to some beautiful peacocks, and you may be lucky enough to spot them. Admission to the park is free, so this is a great activity if you are looking to save some money!
Things To Do In Porto At Night
Catch A Traditional Fado Show
If you want to experience some traditional Portuguese culture, then be sure to catch a Fado show. Fado is a type of Portuguese music that is known for its melancholy and emotive lyrics.
There are many places in Porto where you can see a Fado show. Some popular options include the Casa de Mateus, Café Lusitano, and Clube de Fado. You can easily book a show that also include wine tastings.
Experience The Nightlife In Porto
Porto is a great city to experience some nightlife. There are many bars, clubs, and pubs to choose from. Some popular places include Gare Porto, Blanco, and Plano B.
Downtown Porto is where you will find most of the night life scene. However, if you go by the coast, a nice beach bar or club can be on the cards too!
If you are looking for something a little different and more classy, remember that wine tasting is one of the best things to do in Porto. Be sure to check out the Porto Wine Houses. They are great place to try and learn about some of the local wines.
Pub Crawl In Porto
If you are traveling alone and want to mix in with a group to enjoy Porto’s nightlife, a pub crawl is always an option. This is a great way to visit many different bars and pubs in a short amount of time. You will also get to meet other travelers from all over the world. It can also be safer since you have a local guide that looks out for the group.
Take A Day Trip From Porto
There are many things to do in Porto, but sometimes it is nice to get out of the city. There are several day trips that you can take from Porto. Some popular day trips include visiting the Douro Valley, Guimarães, and Braga.
Immerse In Nature In the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its vineyards and stunning scenery. You can take a boat ride along the river or go on a wine tour to learn about the local wine industry. From wine tasting to cruise and countryside exploration, be prepared for a fun filled day. This day trip destination is one of the most popular things to do in Porto.
Learn The Birth of Portugal At Guimarães
Guimarães is a small city in the north of Portugal. It is known as the birthplace of Portugal, as it was here that Afonso Henriques was born. This city is full of historic monuments and buildings. You can explore the Guimarães castle and some of the many museums.
For convenience you can always do a day tour that plans out transportation and food. Most of these tours also cover Braga as well, which allows you to visit two cities all in one day.
Check Out Beautiful Churches At Braga
Braga is a city located in the northwest of Portugal. It is known for its many churches and cathedrals. You can also visit the Bom Jesus do Monte, which is a staircase with over 600 steps that lead up to a beautiful church.
There are day tours that bring you to the prominent destinations if you enjoy the convenience, or simply want to do a combined trip to the main attractions.
Where To Stay In Porto
Porto has a good range of accommodations that not only caters to different budgets, but also many that takes advantages of the city’s geographical location and offer great views of the river. Here are some well rated accommodations in Porto.
Hostels In Porto
Rivoli Cinema Hostel: Housed in an Art Deco building from the 1930’s, this is a relaxing hostel in downtown Porto. It has a good range of amenities, with BBQ facilities and even a rooftop pool on the terrace; makes it good for mingling with others. The modern, clean design makes it a comfortable dwelling and the dorm beds have privacy curtains.
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The Passenger Hostel: A clean, modern hostel located right in the S. Bento Train Station and in the UNESCO Heritage area. Everything is spacious from the common areas to the rooms. The hostel has a chill vibe and tables are good for working from your laptop for remote workers.
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Mid Range Accommodations In Porto
Catalonia Porto:Nice 4 star boutique hotel that is centrally located and also has a bunch of amenities including both indoor and outdoor pools, restaurants and gym. Comfortable interior decorations with spacious common areas. There is also a buffet breakfast option.
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Castelo Santa Catarina: If you ever wanted to stay in a castle, this is your chance. Castelo Santa Catarina is a distinct looking castle in central Porto that is just steps away from a metro station. It has both modern rooms and classic rooms that feature intricate and ornate decorations from the early 20th century. There is also a terrace, garden and pool.
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BessaHotel Baixa: Big and spacious 4 star hotel that has multiple areas for different purposes. From the outdoor gardens and relaxing pool/sauna area to the classy lounges and restaurant, the hotel has great amenities. Room decoration is simple yet still exudes a luxury vibe. It is conveniently located near some of the major attractions in the city.
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Luxury Accommodation In Porto
Torel Avantgarde: Award winning 5 star hotel that has a resort vibe despite being in the city! From the rooftop terrace overlooking the Targus river to the warm, relaxing vibes throughout the hotel, it certainly puts you in vacation mood. The hotel has a bunch of amenities including an outdoor pool, garden and gym. Some rooms even have their own private terraces or superb views.
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PortoBay Flores: Beautiful 5 star hotel that takes advantage of the 16th century building it is housed in. A mixture of classic and contemporary interior design brings its own unique style. The hotel is well located in the city center, near to some key attractions, and also has a peaceful interior patio to get away from the hustle.
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Getting Around Attractions In Porto
Porto has a variety of transportation options available, which include buses, taxis, and the metro. The Porto card provides free rides on most of the transportation options in the city (Note: Tram is not included). The card also comes with a number of discounts at local businesses.
If you want to visit many different attractions in a short period of time, one of the best options is to take the hop-on-hop-off bus tour. This tour allows you to get on and off the bus at any of the stops.
This is a great way to see many different things in Porto without having to worry about transportation.
Porto Airport Transfer
There are many different ways to get from the airport to your hotel in Porto. You can take a bus, taxi, or the metro. The metro is a popular, budget option via Line E (Purple Line). It runs every 20-30 minutes, and the journey takes around 30-40 minutes.
If you are looking for a more convenient option, then you can book an airport transfer. This is a great way to avoid the hassle of public transportation and get to your hotel quickly and easily.
Discovering The Best Things to Do in Porto
Porto is a charming city with plenty to see and do, these are just a few of the best things to do in Porto. Whether you are looking for indoor or outdoor activities, Porto has something for everyone. You are bound to discover more places to visit and things to do when visiting Porto yourself.
A common destination after Porto for travelers will be Lisbon. Be sure to check out the main things to do in Lisbon as you plan for your Europe Adventure.