Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal and one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Located on the banks of the Douro River, Porto has a rich and diverse heritage that reflects its centuries-old history.
From its UNESCO World Heritage old town to its famous port wine to its vibrant nightlife, Here are 15 must-sees and do when you visit this amazing city.
Explore the Ribeira district
This is the oldest and most picturesque part of Porto, where you can admire the colourful houses, the medieval streets, and the stunning views of the river and the Dom Luís I Bridge. You can also find many cafes, restaurants, and bars where you can enjoy the local cuisine and atmosphere.
Visit the Clérigos Tower and Church
One of the most iconic landmarks of Porto is a baroque masterpiece that dominates the skyline. You can climb the 225 steps to the top of the tower and enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The church is also worth a visit, with its beautiful interior and sculptures.
Taste the port wine.
Porto is the home of port wine, a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley and aged in the Vila Nova de Gaia cellars across the river from Porto. You can visit some of the most famous port wine houses, such as Taylor's, Sandeman's, or Graham's, and learn about the history and production of this unique drink. You can also sample different varieties of port wine, from white to ruby to tawny.
Discover the Lello Bookstore
Photo by Ubsplash (L) and Wirestock/Freepick
One of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and a must-see for any book lover. The bookstore features a neo-gothic façade, a stunning spiral staircase, and a stained glass ceiling. It is also said to have inspired J.K. Rowling, who lived in Porto in the early 1990s, for her Harry Potter series.
Admire the São Bento Railway Station
Not just a train station but a work of art. The station is decorated with over 20,000 azulejos, the traditional blue and white tiles typical of Portuguese culture. The tiles depict scenes from the history and legends of Portugal, as well as landscapes and monuments of Porto.
Enjoy the art at the Serralves Museum
Photo by Leandro Silva (L) and Pixabay
It is the most visited museum in Portugal and one of Europe's most important contemporary art museums. The museum showcases works by national and international artists, from painting to sculpture to photography. The museum is also surrounded by a beautiful park, where you can relax and admire nature and architecture.
Experience the nightlife at Galerias de Paris
Porto's main nightlife area is where you can find a variety of bars, clubs, and restaurants. You can enjoy live music, DJ sets, cocktails, and tapas and mingle with the locals and tourists. The street is also full of performers and artists, adding to the lively atmosphere.
Visit the Palácio da Bolsa
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This is the former stock exchange of Porto and one of the most impressive buildings in the city. The palace was built in the 19th century and features a neoclassical style with Moorish influences. You can take a guided tour of the palace and see the magnificent rooms, such as the Hall of Nations, the Court Room, and the Arab Room.
See the Porto Cathedral
Porto's oldest and most important religious building symbolizes the city's history. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and has undergone several modifications, resulting in a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles. You can admire the façade, the cloister, the chapels, and the silver altar.
Walk along the Douro River.
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Porto is to walk along the river, either on the Ribeira side or the Vila Nova de Gaia side. You can see the boats, the bridges, the monuments, and the hills and feel the breeze and the sun. You can also take a boat tour or a cruise on the river and see the city differently.
Shop at the Mercado do Bolhão
This is Porto's most famous and traditional market, where you can find fresh and local products, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, bread, and flowers. You can also taste some of Porto's typical dishes, such as the francesinha, a sandwich with cheese, ham, sausage, and steak covered with a spicy sauce.
Watch a show at the Casa da Música
This is Porto's main concert hall and a remarkable example of modern architecture. The building is futuristic and geometric and stands out in the cityscape. You can tour the facility and see the halls, studios, and exhibitions. You can also watch a show, from classical music to jazz to rock.
Relax at the Crystal Palace Gardens
This is one of Porto's most beautiful and peaceful places to enjoy nature and the views. The gardens are on a hill overlooking the Douro River and the sea. You can walk along the paths, see the fountains, statues, and flowers, and visit the Romantic Museum in a 19th-century mansion.
Eat a pastel de nata
This is the most famous and delicious pastry in Portugal and a must-try when you visit Porto. The pastel de nata is a custard tart with a flaky crust and a creamy filling sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. You can find them in many bakeries and cafes, but one of the best places to eat them is Nata Lisboa, where they are freshly baked and served warm.
When to visit?
Porto is a city with a mild and pleasant climate that can be visited all year round. However, there are some differences between visiting in wintertime or summertime, depending on what you are looking for.
In wintertime, you can enjoy the city's Christmas markets, the New Year's Eve fireworks, and the Fantasporto film festival. You can also experience the cosy and festive atmosphere of the city, with its lights, decorations, and music. The downside is that the weather can be rainy and cold, and some places may be closed or have shorter opening hours.
Porto is more lively and vibrant in summertime, with more tourists and activities. You can enjoy the city's festivals and celebrations, such as the São João, the biggest party of the year, where people hit each other with plastic hammers and release balloons into the sky. You can also enjoy the sun and the beach; Porto has several beaches nearby.