Porto Travel Guide
Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Porto
The second largest city in Portugal and one of the most affordable places to visit in Western Europe, Porto is a dream destination! Also known as the capital of the north, Porto is home to 2.4 million people. It has long been a hot destination for wine lovers, as it is the best place to start your trips to the nearby Douro Valley, where you can explore and tour the region’s famous port vineyards. But this city by the sea has more to offer than vinho. Porto is an attractive European minimetropolis on Portugal’s northwestern coast where visitors can get their fill of culture, museums, fine wines, historic buildings, gorgeous beaches, and old-European charm. It is located right along the Douro River and is characterized by hilly cobblestone streets, centuries-old churches, and beautiful azulejo tiles. The charms of Porto are plentiful and this city’s laid-back vibe gives travelers to Europe a much-needed respite from the faster-paced, museum packed cities nearby. No matter what you choose to see and do in this captivating city, you’ll leave with an appreciation of Porto’s diverse offerings, some great photos and, ideally, a bottle or two of its best wine.
WHEN TO VISIT
Like most of Europe, Portugal has an excellent train system, making it easy to travel to Porto from many places throughout Europe. If flying, Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) is the closest airport to Porto. Once you arrive, you can take the purple metro line, the Goin’ Porto shuttle bus, a taxi, or an Uber to get to the city. Taxi rides take about 20 minutes from the airport and cost around 20 EUR.
What To Expect
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Porto is May through September, when days are sunny and the weather is warm. Like most destinations, June through August is the peak season, with average temperatures around 73 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The nice weather results in higher prices and more crowded streets, but it is still a fantastic time to visit, as well as the best time of yea to enjoy the surrounding beaches.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
The clothing style in Porto is pretty laid back and casual. There are quite a few cobblestone streets, so we recommend avoiding heels. Rather, opt for comfortable walking shoes that can be dressed up or dressed down. The weather tends to be temperamental in Porto, so be prepared with some light layers.
IS IT SAFE?
We felt extremely safe exploring Porto! Violent attacks and petty crime are uncommon, but as always, be aware of your surroundings when you’re in markets, on busy streets, and when using public transportation. Always keep your valuables secure and out of reach.
Porto is one of the most walkable cities in Europe. However, if you find yourself in need of a ride there are a number of options. The public transportation system includes the metro and buses, both of which are safe, clean and reliable. A bus ride costs 1.80 EUR and the metro costs 1.20 EUR per ride. The Andante Card is a rechargeable card you can purchase if you choose to take public transportation often. Aside from the metro, Ubers and taxis are widely available, with taxis generally being the most expensive option.
HOW LONG SHOULD I STAY?
The city is small enough to cover in a few days, but intricate enough to explore for weeks. If you plan to visit Douro Valley, we recommend staying in Porto 3 to 4 days in total.
What About Money
The Euro (EUR) is the currency used throughout Portugal and other European countries. We recommend exchanging and/or withdrawing euros at an ATM or local bank once you arrive in Portugal to get the best conversion rate. Avoid exchanging money at the airport.
Portugal is known as one of the cheapest destinations to visit in Europe! You can expect to pay 6 – 15 EUR / meal, 1 – 5 EUR / snack, 2 – 3 EUR / beer, 0.5 – 1 EUR / bottle of water. Many places do not accept credit cards or bills larger than 20 EUR, so always be prepared with cash (EUR).
Tipping is not expected, but it is always appreciated! Be sure to keep small coins on hand specifically for tips.
This riverside neighborhood is one of the most photogenic areas in Porto, and probably the most famous. Home of colorful, picturesque houses, the Luiz I bridge, and a number of famous monuments, this is an area that you have to explore! You can expect bustling and lively energy day and night, as tourists explore the many restaurants, shops, boutiques, live music, and gorgeous views. Because of its popularity, Ribeira tends to be more expensive than other neighborhoods, but the views, the atmosphere, and the close proximity to the Port houses definitely make up for the price!
This trendy and charming neighborhood is the place for those who want to know the artistic and young side of Porto. It has an art district at Rua Miguel Bombarda, full of art galleries, conceptual stores, and many trendy bars & restaurants. It is conveniently located right next to Baixa, where most monuments are located, but still far enough away from the tourist attraction for a quiet time in Porto. If looking for a quiet, romantic vacation, look here for accomodations.
Baixa, commonly known as Downtown Porto, is the best area to stay in if you want to be in the middle of everything! It is the heart of the city, close to famous sights like the Lello bookstore & the Clérigos tower, a lively restaurant scene, and Porto’s nightlife district! As you can imagine, this neighborhood is popular with the young, social travelers, as they party the night away among the streets of Galerias de Paris, Rua Cândido dos Reis, Praça Guilherme Fernandes and Rua José Falcão.
FOZ DO DOURO
This sophisticated, seaside neighborhood is perfect for a relaxing beach vacation. Located about 20 minutes away from the city center, Foz do Douro is free from most tourism and is home to the best beaches in Porto. The hotels tend to be a bit more expensive than those in the city center, so you may want to make a day trip out of it. This is also the perfect place to grab a seafood dinner and watch a breathtaking sunset over the Atlantic ocean.
Where We Stayed
Selina Porto & Cowork
Centrally located in the heart of the city, this boutique hotel provides everything you can imagine at a very low cost. You can stay, eat, work and socialize without ever leaving the property! Don’t let the word hostel scare you, as this gorgeous spot offers private rooms, private bathrooms, bars, restaurants, incredible amenities, and a very social vibe. They embrace the term hostel by promoting socialization, friendships, adventures, free tours and a welcoming community. This Selina in particular offers a gorgeous outdoor café and lawn, with incredible food, a gorgeous bar, frequent live music, and is the perfect place to meet like-minded travelers.
Eurostars Porto Douro
Nestled in an unbeatable location against the Douro River and only a few meters from the most important attractions in Porto, this traditional and classic 4 star hotel has comfortable rooms at an affordable price.
If you are looking for luxury in the heart of the city, this 4 star hotel might be the one for you. It boasts a beautiful contemporary style, and you can choose from three different room types: Standard, Executive, and Superior. There’s also an on-site restaurant, bar, and a 24-hour reception to help you organize trips around the city or answer any of your questions.
Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, this luxe wine hotel and spa is the swankiest pick in the city! The Yeatman is set amongst seven acres of hilly vineyards, and an on-site bar with live music 3 days a week. Its two two Michelin stars are well deserved, but don’t just take our word for it!
This 5 star boutique hotel opened in 2017 and has already won 3 prestigious awards: a World Luxury Hotel Award in 2018, a Prix Villégiature | Awards and a Seven Star Award. Centrally located in the heart of Porto, this hotel offers an infinite pool overlooking the Douro river, a gorgeous on-site spa, an Instagram-worthy terrace, and some of the best breakfast around.
1872 River House
As one of the best boutique hotels in Porto, this 19th-century row-house is perfect for a romantic, couples getaway. The guest house is situated on the banks of the Douro river, about 500m away from D. Luis bridge and less than a 10 minute walk from the city center.
Things To Do
GET LOST WANDERING THE CITY
Before embarking on day trips and activities, our first recommendation is to simply get out and explore. The city is packed with medieval walls, gleaming Baroque churches, compact streets, Cathedrals, gardens & more. It is a place to stroll through lazily & map-less, discovering little treasures, pockets of beauty, and slices of authentic Portuguese life on every corner. Stop to eat local delicacies, sip on port & tonics, admire the breathtaking Douro river & socialize your way across the city – it will be difficult not to have an incredible time! Below, we have highlighted our walking route from day #1, as well as a few of the must-not-miss stops along the way.
Start the day at Base Rooftop, overlooking the Clerigos Tower → Get pictures in front of the Clerigos Tower → Visit Porto Cathedral → Follow the street art trail → Explore Cais da Ribeira → Wander to the Church of Sao Francisco → Stop by the Bolsa Palace → Eventually make your way across the Luis I Bridge → Visit one of the many Port wine lodges → Take a long walk over to the Fishing Dock Afurada
Built between 1754 and 1763, this iconic site in Porto is a must-not-miss! The 250-foot tower, also known as Torre dos Clérigos in Portuguese, is a national monument that showcases the cultural and religious history of Porto during the 18th century. For 6 EUR, you can climb the 225 steps to the top of this gorgeous monument and witness one of the best views of Porto! However, our recommendation is to actually head to Base Rooftop, just across the street, where you can grab some cocktails and relax on the lawn overlooking the tower.
Also known as the Sé, this gorgeous, fortress-like church is the largest in the city and one of Porto’s oldest monuments. The church was originally built between the 12th and 13th centuries, and is situated on a hilltop standing watch over the city. While the exterior of the church is remarkable (featuring Romanesque, baroque and gothic architecture), most travelers say the inside is absolutely exquisite and definitely worth checking out.
CAIS DA RIBEIRA
The Cais da Ribeira, a riverfront promenade along the Douro in the vicinity of the Luis I Bridge, is considered one of the liveliest parts of town! It is the perfect place to see the neatly stacked pastel-colored houses facing the water, and to eat at one of the many waterfront restaurant terraces. While this is a gorgeous place to spend some time, you should expect it to be full of tourists (which also means more expensive prices).
CHURCH OF SAO FRANCISCO
Built in the 15th century, the Gothic Church of Saint Francis is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike its plain-looking exterior, the interior is lavishly designed in a Baroque style. The church took around 50 years to build and almost every inch is covered in gold – reportedly more than 800 pounds! The church is located right next to the Palácio da Bolsa in the heart of Porto, and costs just a few euros for entry.
PALACIO DA BOLSA
Built in 1842, this massive building is one of the most-visited sites in Porto. The palace is located in the historic center of Porto and is renowned for its exquisite neoclassical façade and ornate gilded Arabian Hall. If you choose to do a tour, you can expect a breathtaking interior almost entirely covered from floor to ceiling with paintings, sculptures, and architectural decoration. The palace originally served as the city’s stock exchange, a place to woo European bankers and investors by showcasing Portugal’s economic might.
CRYSTAL PALACE GARDENS
Boasting green shrubbery, winding walkways, bright flora, bubbling fountains, and even roaming peacocks, this is one of the best places in the city to relax and take in views of the Douro river. The 24-acre botanical garden has free entry, and is conveniently located in the center of Porto. Everything from the flower varieties and the avenue of lime trees, to the sculptures, fountains, and walking trails beckons for your attention.
DOM LUIS I BRIDGE
This iconic, arching, iron bridge straddles the Douro River, connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge was completed in 1886, after being designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel (mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower), and was the longest iron arch in the world at the time! Today, the bridge accommodates cars on the lower level, the metro on the upper level, and pedestrian walkways along both levels. Not only will this bridge take you across the river to Porto’s famous port lodges, but it also provides breathtaking views of the river and the city.
More Things To Do
SPEND AN AFTERNOON IN FOZ DO DOURO
This trendy seaside district, located just a few miles west of Porto, is known for its sandy beaches, hip restaurants, and pounding surf. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon soaking up some sun, witnessing the raw beauty of the Atlantic Coast, and experiencing some of the best sunsets in the area. It is accessible via Uber or taxi (10-15 minutes, 5 – 7 EUR), the iconic #1 tram (20 minutes, 4 EUR), bus line 500, and even walking (about an hour). If you aren’t quite ready to go back to the city afterwards, head to the nearby Matosinhos for some fresh seafood and gorgeous beaches.
HEAD TO THE PORT WINE LODGES
Port wine tasting in Porto is an absolute must and an extremely rewarding experience. In Portugal, port wine is more than an alcoholic drink, it’s actually a huge part of Portuguese culture and history and absolutely fascinating to learn about. While tastings are available all around the city, it is best to taste port at one of the original Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia, located just across the River Douro from the old city center of Porto. These famous Port houses, including Calem, Graham’s, Pocas, Cockburn’s & more, are the original warehouses that store the fortified port wine, after being harvested from the Douro Valley vineyards. We recommend setting up a tour & tasting in advance of your trip. During the tour you will learn about the fascinating and complex production and blending of port wines, you will see the huge wooden vats and extremely old oak barrels holding decades-old wines, and you will try a variety of Port wine (with the optional food pairings, which we highly recommend!).
CRUISE THE DOURO RIVER
For a relaxing break from the city, take a boat trip up the Douro River! The river stretches 557 miles into Spain, though tours focus almost exclusively on the section around Porto where the city’s six famous bridges can be seen. Hour long tours usually run about 15 EUR.
TAKE A TOUR OF THE DOURO VALLEY
Porto has long been a hot destination for wine lovers, as it is located about one hour away from the Douro Valley. Dating all the way back to 1756, the Douro Valley is one of the world’s best known and oldest wine regions! Port, a sweet dessert wine, hails from this region, and the mountainous Douro Valley is filled with dozens of exceptional vineyards. We highly recommend booking a full day wine tour to get the ultimate Douro Valley experience (and to avoid driving). Tours run around 100 EUR per person, generally last around 8.5 hours, and include visits to two or more vineyards, a boat cruise along the river, lunch, music, and an incredible time. We went on this AirBNB tour, with Manuel & his family, and cannot stop raving about it!
EXPLORE AFURADA FISHING VILLAGE
Located a quick boat ride or 30 minute bike ride from the city, this small Portuguese fishing village is the perfect place to experience authentic Portuguese culture. Be sure to come hungry, as this village is known for its fresh seafood! All throughout Afurada, you will see seafood like sea bass, cod, and shad being cooked on open grills on the footpaths of popular restaurants. That’s precisely where you want to be! Pick any restaurant that is packed with locals and go for grilled fresh fish or a beautiful seafood stew, accompanied with a chilled green wine. Another great option in Afurada is to book a sailing trip that will take you all around the Douro river.
EAT YOUR WAY ACROSS THE CITY
Porto is a great city for food lovers, emphasizing fish, meat, olive oil, bread, tomato, herbs, and spices. The food in Portugal is made with simple ingredients that are impeccably prepared, with Cod, grilled sardines, sea bass, and shellfish as some of the most common staples. Other popular dishes include cozido à portuguesa (boiled stew), peixinhos da horta (breaded and fried vegetables), and cured ham. A few must not miss items include the prego (beef sandwich), the bifana (pork sandwich), and probably the most famous, the francesinha. A messier and tastier version of a Croque Monsieur, the Francesinha was created in Porto and continues to be one of the most loved sandwiches in the city. It consists of bread, layered with pork, ham and steak, then topped with melted cheese, tomato, beer gravy, and an optional egg. Overall, the food scene is incredible! See our list of recommended restaurants below. We also highly recommend doing a food tour, time permitting.
If shopping is your thing, there’s a few must-not-miss spots to check out! For high quality, affordable & trendy local jewelry, definitely head to Stone by Stone. While there, we recommend wandering around all of the shops on R. Das Flores. Another must-not-miss is a stop at the Bolhão Market. This popular, local market has been around since 1914, and is full of fresh produce, meats, fish, bread, flowers, and local handicrafts.
FIND DAZZLING STREET ART
If you are interested in street art, get ready to be impressed in Porto! We recommend strolling down the streets Rua de Miguel Bombarda, Rue da Madeira, and Escadas do Codecal, where many of Porto’s buildings are decorated with street art and murals. Additionally, Porto is well known for its Azulejo tiles, which are unique to Portugal and used to decorate buildings, streets, and homes. If you want to learn more about the street art scene in Porto, we recommend booking a street art tour.
This centrally located bakery, café, and breakfast spot is bursting with mouthwatering, local Portuguese treats! From the most traditional bread to the sweetest desserts, Padaria Ribeiro offers a wide range of items with the stamp of 100 year old, high quality history. Our must-not-miss items include the ham & cheese sandwich, the empanadas, and the classic pastel de nata.
This trendy restaurant is known as one of the most instagrammable restaurants in the world! While they don’t take reservations, this all-day brunch spot is a must on your trip to Porto or Lisbon. You can expect a modern, avant-garde space with an industrial look, offering brunch classics like Eggs Benedict, Pancakes, French Toasts, Banana Bread and more.
Considered one of the top fine dining restaurants in Porto, this Michelin star spot serves the best Mediterranean cuisine in town (well, we think so at least). This gorgeous restaurant, located within a park in the city center, offers multi-course tasting menus, as well as an a la carte menu.
Besides being a luxury hotel, The Yeatman is also home to a two-star Michelin restaurant and is one of the best places to go for a fine dining experience. You can choose between three tasting menus that are expertly paired with wine from Portugal’s different regions.
Off the beaten path, at the mouth of the Douro river, is Pedro Lemos’ eponymous restaurant, where the chef serves tasting menus of five or seven courses, as well as an à la carte option. Seafood and game feature heavily on the menu, with degustation dishes including foie gras ravioli, farm-raised quail with mushrooms and asparagus, suckling pig or sea bass.
For no more than 20 – 40 EUR per person, this downtown Porto restaurant offers a delicious mix of good food, a lively atmosphere and inspiring décor. Don’t miss ‘The Flow’ charcuterie board, composed of roasted veggies, fresh focaccia, olive oil, an array of olives, burrata cheese, smoked meats, sausages, prosciutto, sheep and goat cheese, cornichons, & more. We give this charcuterie board a 10/10!
MUST-NOT-MISS: CASA DE CA DA BOA NOVA
In our opinion, this two Michelin star restaurant is the best restaurant in all of Portugal. Between the food, the wine, the service, and the views, it is an unforgettable experience from beginning to end. Enjoy a truly marvelous culinary experience in this restaurant occupying a property declared a National Monument and located on the rocks above the beach right by the water’s edge. The perfect setting for locally inspired cuisine that is only available via a tasting menu that features either 6, 12 or 21 dishes. Book reservations as far in advance as possible. Trust us, this is one restaurant you do NOT want to miss! Check our our full review of this restaurant linked here!
This seafront Irish bar, located in the beach district of Foz, is considered the best and most famous pub in Porto! With its cozy interior, ocean views, and social vibes, this is a great spot for all generations to sip on drinks and make new friends.
Champanheria da Baixa
Porto’s first Champagne Bar is the place to be and be seen! It has a relaxed atmosphere and offers a range of sparkling wine, champagne by the glass, champagne cocktails, and delicious bites. It’s a cross between casual and sophisticated, with a large terrace area outside and a cozy bar area inside.
Once Upon a Time in Paris
Situated on one of the busiest streets in Porto’s nightlife scene, Galerias de Paris, this bar will take you back to the bohemian scene in Paris in the 1920’s. You can expect fantastic drinks, alluring décor, and vintage French sophistication, making it the perfect spot to socialize all day and night.
The Gin House
Since 2012, this cocktail spot has been popular among the gin lovers, pouring over 160 different labels of the liquor! The bar has a sophisticated shop front, a modern atmosphere, and 3 unique areas to relax in – the bar, the dance floor, and an outdoor terrace. The gins vary from aromatic, chilled, sweet and fruit-based gins, to the more classic dry labels.
MUST-NOT-MISS: HOT FIVE JAZZ CLUB
Located in the historic center, this well-known musical night spot provides an exceptional evening of live jazz and blues music from Wednesdays to Sundays. There is a varied menu of appetizers and drinks, a cozy setting, and an inspiring environment.
- American Express credit cards are generally not accepted
- Have cash! Many places do not accept CC nor bills > 20 EUR
- Stay at least 3-4 days
- Douro Valley is a MUST
- Dinner Reservations are essential!
- Plan your trip to Porto around the São João Festival. It happens every year on the night of the 23rd of June. Watching the fireworks is a highlight, and the streets are packed with people!
As the second largest city in Portugal, this charming and laid-back city is the perfect place to take a break from the fast-paced, museum-packed cities nearby. Whether you are relaxing on the beach, strolling through the lively Ribeira district, sipping Port wines in the Douro Valley, or exploring the numerous monuments, you are bound to have an incredible time. We hope you have enjoyed our post and can’t wait to hear about your Portugal adventures! Bu sure to check out our Lisbon travel guide, Belem travel guide, and our full review of Porto’s best restaurant!