Welcome to Porto, a city where each street is a canvas and every moment a new brushstroke. From the flow of the Douro to the intricate azulejos adorning ancient walls, Porto invites you on an unexpected journey. Prepare to explore Porto’s distinct charm, where every corner reveals a new aspect of its dynamic character. 

Let’s begin our exploration of what makes Porto truly captivating.

15 Things to Do in Porto, check out the amazing architecture

17 Things to Do in Porto

1. Gaia Cable Car Ride

This cable car will take you on a ride from the banks of the Douro River to the Jardim do Morro. Although the ride is only about 5 minutes long, it offers stunning views across the river of Porto, and the park that it ends at is the perfect place to watch the sunset. Some of the other things that you will see on the ride-up are the Luís I Bridge, Cais da Ribeira, and Torre dos Clérigos.

To get to the ​​Cais de Gaia station, it is only a 10-minute walk from Cais da Ribeira, where you can then board the cable car and enjoy the ride.

When you jump in, make sure to say cheese, as someone will snap a photo of you before the doors close. Once at the top, you can look at your photo and decide whether or not you want to purchase one as a keepsake. 

2. Explore World of Wine (WOW)

The World of Wine is also on the banks of the Douro River and was originally built as a place to store Portugal’s famous Port Wine. However, this place is not only about wine – It has 6 museums, 9 restaurants, bars and cafes, a wine school, shops, and an exhibition hall. You can choose to do multiple museums in a day if you would like, but most people just choose one. The most popular museums here are the Chocolate Story and Wine Experience.

However, if you want an Instagram-worthy photo, you should head to the Pink Palace, where you’ll find a pink ball pit, an upside-down room, and a giant bottle of champagne. 

Once you’ve finished at the museum, you can relax and enjoy a meal at the 1828, which is the best steakhouse in Portugal. Or you can head over to the Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant, which holds two Michelin stars and is part of the Yeatman Hotel, one of the most luxurious 5-star hotels in Porto. 

No matter what you decide to do at the World of Wine, you will love the experience and learn something as well.

Stroll Along the Gaia Riverfront and the fantastic river scenes of the city

3. Stroll Along the Gaia Riverfront

The Gia Riverfront is less crowded than the Cais da Ribeira and offers views of Porto. The promenade is in the city of Gaia, which is just across the river from Porto. This street has many restaurants and wine cellars, as well as the Mercado Beira-Rio. This market is at the very end of the promenade and has more affordable food options sold by local vendors.

You can also watch the boats from here and see the Luís I Bridge up close. I would suggest that you come here around sunset because it’s very exposed and doesn’t have a lot of shade. There is also an artisan market right on the river that sells local cuisine and handmade crafts.

4. Visit Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)

The Porto Cathedral is a church that had its groundbreaking in the year 1110 and wasn’t completed until 1737. That’s over 600 years. The facade of this church combines ​​Roman, Gothic, and Baroque architecture, which gives it a unique look. The interior has large stone columns that line the main chapel and lots of gold and silver decorations.

Some things that you won’t want to miss in this medieval church are the red marble holy-water fonts and the bronze bas-relief by Antonio Teixeira Lopes, which shows John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. Entry to the church is free, and the only thing you will have to pay to get into is the chapter room and the treasure room.

Be in Awe at Livraria Lello, the historic library in Porto

5. Be in Awe at Livraria Lello 

The Livraria Lello is known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It’s also one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and was opened in 1881. The inside of this store is two stories and has a large wooden staircase as you enter. 

Although this bookstore was said to be the inspiration for the library in Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling has come out and said that this is not true. However, this doesn’t take away from the magical elegance of this incredible place. It is located right next to the University of Porto and the Jardim das Oliveiras, which is a great place to go after you’ve purchased a book here. 

A quick tip: even though you need to pay to get in (around 8 euros), the Ticket-Voucher value is deductible against book purchases.

6. Beach Time at Matosinhos

If the crowds and noise of Porto are getting too much for you, then it’s time for a beach day. Matosinhos is a small city north of Porto that has a famous beach called Praia de Matosinhos. It is the perfect day trip from Porto and is only an hour away by bus. 

Also, if you are a surfer or want to learn to surf, then this beach is perfect for you. There are lots of surf schools and surfboard rental stores that you can choose from for an adventure-filled day on the beach. Restaurants and stores also line the beach so you can go get some dinner after a relaxing day at the beach.

7. Have coffee at Majestic Café

The Majestic Café opened in 1921 and was designed by José Pinto de Oliveira. He had recently come back from a trip to Paris and wanted to open a Parisian-style cafe in Porto. From the outside, you really get a feel for what he was going for with the Parisian facade of the building. The interior of this cafe is pink and adorned with beautiful chandeliers. This is the perfect place to come in the morning, enjoy an espresso, and get ready for your big travel day ahead.

An interesting fact about this cafe is that J. K. Rowling worked on Harry Potter here while she was living in Porto.

8. Sample Tripe at Maria Luísa’s Meat Stall 

With Portugal being one of the food capitals of the world, you can’t leave without trying tripe. Tripe is the inner lining of the stomach of either cattle, sheep, deer, antelope, goat, or ox. In Porto, tripe is made from cow stomach and is called dobrada à moda do Porto.

It’s usually cooked with white beans and carrots and served with a side of rice. One of the best places to try this is at the Mercado do Bolhão at Maria Luísa’s Meat Stall. Here, you can try Porto’s famous tripe from a local vendor.

If you want to visit more food spots – and there are many of them in Porto – take a Porto food tour that will take you to all the best spots. 

See the Azulejos at São Bento Railway Station

9. See the Azulejos at São Bento Railway Station

Train fanatics and fans of architecture will love the São Bento Railway Station. It’s one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe and has some of the most beautiful azulejos murals in Portugal. It’s in the historic center of Porto, and the design of the station came from the church that stood in its place before it was burned down in 1783.

The giant windows of the station do a great job of bringing light into the space and showing the azulejos tiles in all of their glory. I would recommend that you take the train up from Lisbon so that you can experience coming into Porto through the São Bento Railway Station.

10. Walk the Muralha Fernandina 

Explore the Muralha Fernandina, a section of Porto’s 14th-century wall that offers views of the Douro River. This wall is from a medieval fortification that was used to guard the city. Now, it is a great place for tourists to take in the views and learn the history of the ancient Porto people. 

The Trecho dos Guindais and the Trecho do Caminho Novo are the two parts of the wall that you can walk on. There’s also a funicular called Funicular dos Guindais that can take you up or down the wall and has some of the best views of the city.

11. Stroll Through Parque de Cidade 

The Parque de Cidade is the largest urban park in Portugal and has fields for playing sports, sand volleyball courts, dining options, and cycling/walking paths. Early in the morning, you will find lots of people jogging through the park, and in the afternoon, people will be lounging about and soaking in the sun. 

It’s about an hour outside of the city center of Porto and is right next to the beach. Some of the park’s major attractions are a giant fountain, the Miradouro da Aurora, and the Fonte das Águas Férreas. This is the perfect place to relax with your friends or loved ones and enjoy the perfect Porto weather.

12. Watch the sunset at Jardim do Morro 

If you are looking for a magical place to watch the sunset, then go to Jardim do Morro. No viewpoint in Porto has a better view of the Douro River and the Luís I Bridge. This park is high up in the hills of Vila Nova de Gaia. 

The best way to get to it is by taking the cable car from the Cais de Gaia station to this stunning viewpoint. Be sure to head to the Miradouro do teleférico, which is right outside the cable car station, for the best view in the park.

13. Visit the Church of Santa Clara

The Igreja de Santa Clara was completed in 1457 and was settled by nuns of the Order of Poor Clares. From the outside, the church’s azulejos tiles and stone facade look incredible against the blue Porto sky. 

Once you walk into this church, the baroque architecture and intricate wood carvings covered in gold will amaze you. The massive windows in the church allow the light to pour in and make the gold glitter in the sunlight. This church is in central Porto and is just a few blocks away from the Porto Cathedral.

14. Try a Francesinha 

Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich that is from Porto. It’s made with toasted bread and meat like roast, linguiça, wet-cured ham, chipolata, or steak. On top of the sandwich is some cheese that’s melted in a tomato and beer sauce called molho de francesinha. It also usually comes with an egg on top and fries on the side, which makes for an incredible meal. 

Some of the best restaurants that serve this sandwich are Café Santiago, Lado B Café, and Capa Negra II. The best time to eat francesinha is in the evening for dinner or after you have had a few drinks at the bar and are looking for something heavy and greasy to soak up the alcohol.

15. Take a sip of Port

Port wine is a fortified red wine from Portugal that is made in the Douro Valley. It’s one of the oldest protected wine-growing regions in the world and is the perfect place for a day trip from Porto. There are lots of vineyards here where you can do tours and tastings.

If you are looking for places closer to Porto where you can do a wine tasting, I recommend Vila Nova de Gaia. This is the hub for the Port wine industry and has lots of wine cellars where you can do tastings and tours. You can also take a Porto boat tour down the river while enjoying a glass of port wine – the best of both worlds.

Enjoy a cruise down the river of Porto

16. Enjoy a cruise down the river of Porto

There are many tour options of cruising down the Duoro River that you can have enjoying the fantastic views and seeing the city and landscape. You can sign up for a day tour, wine tasting tour, sunset tour or enjoy a panoramic cruise down to the famous wine country region to choose from. Enjoy sailing, cruising and see the six famous bridges of Porto with a fantastic water view from below.

Tour the historic city on a guided tour and see some of the hidden and historic treasures of the city

17. Tour the historic city on a guided tour

If you have a short time to visit or want to do something unique in the old town, why not take a guided tour of some of the hidden treasures around the city. Or you can any fun tours from an art tour, half day tour to even touring the city on a tuk tuk ride. There’s endless options to explore the city and you’ll enjoy having a guided tour show you the best attractions and places to be around the city.

Final Thoughts: Things to do in Porto

Final Thoughts: Things to do in Porto

This city, a blend of tradition and modernity, has much more than meets the eye. From the quiet riverfront strolls to the lively buzz of its markets, Porto offers a unique blend of sights, tastes, and sounds. It’s a city that doesn’t just welcome visitors; it invites them to be a part of its ongoing story, leaving them enriched with its culture and warmth.


Author bio: Yvonne is a Canadian who calls Portugal home (at least part-time). She’s been living in the country since 2020. She owns a small house in rural Portugal and loves to write about Portugal travel on her blog, nowinportugal.com

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