This list of the best places to visit in Porto will help you not miss anything important in one of the most charming and surprising cities in Europe.
Known for its bridges over the Douro River and for its famous wine, Porto is a small city that is easily traveled on a weekend and, furthermore, has nothing to envy its neighboring Lisbon.
Stroll through the Ribeira at sunset, get lost in the Bolhao Market, climb the Torre de los Clérigos, watch the sunset from the Luis I bridge, eat a francesinha or a Bacalhau a Brás and have a glass of wine in one of the the wineries of Vila Nova de Gaia are just some of the many things to do in Porto.
Based on the time we spent in this city during our 4-day Porto and Guimaraes trip, in which we wrote this guide of tips for traveling to Porto, we have made this list of what we consider to be the 10 essential places to see in Porto. Let’s start!
1. Lello e Irmão bookstore
La Lello e Irmão, located in a neo-Gothic building from 1906, in the heart of the city, is one of the most beautiful bookstores we have seen in the world and one of the most essential places to visit in Porto.
A source of inspiration for writers like JK Rowling, who spent two years in the city and relied on it to create some scenes from her successful novel series “Harry Potter”, this two-story bookstore will transport you more than 100 years ago thanks to its impressive wooden staircase that will lead you to the second floor and the natural light that passes through the stained glass window located on the ceiling.
Once inside, in addition to enjoying all its modernist and neo-Gothic details, we recommend you look for a book on its full wooden shelves to take the best memory of this magical place.
Due to the large number of tourists that the store collapsed and prevented the staff from working, a price of 5 euros was put at the entrance, which is discounted if you buy any book.
A good way to start your visit to the city and learn about its interesting history is to book this free tour of Porto for free! or this more complete tour that includes all the entrances, both with a guide in English.
Visiting hours: every two days from 10am to 8pm.
2. Church and Clerigos Tower
The Clerigos Church, built between 1735 and 1748 in its own baroque style, is another of the most beautiful places to see in Porto.
Built on the “hill of the hanged”, where the executions were carried out, the church has in its 76-meter tower the best viewpoint in the historic center and serves as a reference point so as not to get lost in the city.
During the climb of the 240 steps you will see 49 bells that form a chime, and although it requires a good physical effort, the privileged views that are obtained from the final part more than compensate.
Although the entrance to the church is free, the climb to the tower costs 5 euros or 6 if you book this fast entry in advance.
Before paying the entrance to the Torre de los Clérigos, it is advisable to check if it is profitable to buy the Oporto Card that includes public transport and discounts of up to 50% in many city attractions such as this tower.
Visiting hours: every day from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
3. The Ribeira
The walk at sunset or dusk along the banks of the Douro, a World Cultural Heritage Site, between the Don Luis I Bridge and the Arrábida Bridge is one of the best experiences in Porto. This walk is one of the most famous and crowded places in the city, thanks to the beautiful colored facades of the buildings and the terraces that fill up with people to eat a good cod or have a glass of Porto wine with views of the Douro. and Vila Nova de Gaia, located opposite.
During the tour you will see on the shore several rabelos, traditional Portuguese ships that were used to carry barrels full of port wine from the vineyard area to the wineries of Vila Nova de Gaia.
A good way to enjoy the best views of the Ribeira is to book this cruise on a rabelo along the Douro River that passes under the six main bridges of the city and is considered one of the best tours and excursions from Porto.
Once you get off the ship, you have a few meters away the Casa do Infante, built in 1325 and the place where the great discoverer Enrique el Navegante was born.
4. Cathedral, one of the places to visit in Porto
The Sé or Porto Cathedral, located in the upper part of the city, in the Batalha District, is one of the oldest buildings to visit in Porto and the most important on a religious level.
This 12th-century church, which has a sober exterior, falls in love with its beautiful Gothic-style cloister decorated with tiles from the 14th century that show religious scenes. From this area you can access the Casa do Cabildo, where religious objects considered as “the treasure of the cathedral” are exhibited.
In the Plaza de la Catedral there is a column that was formerly used to execute criminals and a terrace from which you get magnificent views of the city, the Douro river and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Another of the churches to see in Porto located near the Cathedral is that of San Lorenzo dos Grilos, built between the 16th and 18th centuries, it stands out for its simplicity and houses the Museum of Sacred Art and Archeology.
This area is also perfect to try delicious local food such as Pulpo al Lagareiro at O Buraquinho da Sé restaurant or la francesinha and Bacalhau a Brás at Petisqueira Voltaria, two of the best restaurants where to eat in Porto cheap and well.
Visiting hours: every day from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 14:30 to 19:00.
5. Bolhao Market
In the market you will find all kinds of stalls to eat and sell quality products, from fruit, meat, vegetables, fish (especially cod), to flowers. The market is spread over two floors, with a large interior patio that fills up as the day progresses, so it is best to go first thing. And even if you do not intend to buy anything, it is interesting to visit the daily transfer and learn about the life of the locals.
Near this market is the pedestrian Santa Catarina, the quintessential shopping street in the center of Porto that goes from Praça do Marquês de Pombal to the modernist style Majestic café and the most famous in the city. During the walk, in addition to restaurants, shops and a shopping center, you will pass some tiled churches such as the beautiful Chapel of Souls.
A good place to stop for a snack on this street is the Fábrica da Nata, which makes delicious cakes, similar to those of Belém.
A good way to learn about history and not miss anything from this part of the city is to book.Visiting hours: Monday to Friday from 7am to 5pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 7am to 1pm.
6. Palacio de la Bolsa
Declared a National Monument in the country, this neoclassical-style building has a large central courtyard covered by a glass structure that lets in natural light.
To go up to the second floor you will go through a granite and marble staircase that will take you to several richly decorated rooms such as the General Assembly Hall, covered in wood, the Golden Hall, covered in gold leaf, the Courtroom of style French Renaissance and the picturesque Arab Room, inspired by the Alhambra in Granada.
Next to the Palace, there is the Church of San Francisco, built from 1245 and another of the essential places to visit in Porto. Inside, in the Baroque style, there are three naves covered with golden carvings, the beautiful polychrome wooden sculpture of the Jesse Tree and the catacombs, which have an extensive ossuary.Visiting hours of the Palace: every day from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from April to October, the rest of the months from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Church visiting hours: every day from 9am to 5pm from November to February, until 7pm from March to October and until 8pm from July to September.
7. Vila Nova de Gaia
To get to Vila Nova de Gaia we recommend crossing the Don Luis I metal bridge, opened in 1886 and one of the symbols of the city. Also, if you cross it upstairs at sunset you will enjoy an incredible sunset over Porto and the Douro.
Once in Vila Nova de Gaia, you can take a walk along its riverside with fantastic views of the colorful facades of the Ribeira, until you enter a winery to learn about the entire process of making wine with the DO designation of origin. Among the best known are Cálem, Croft, Graham’s, Sandeman or Ferreira. In all, the guided tour ends with a taste of some of its magnificent wines.
A good way to learn about the history of the neighborhood and that includes visiting one of the most famous wineries is to book this tour with a guide in English. Another interesting option for wine fans that does not include a tour of the neighborhood, is to book this guided tour of the Cálem winery or this one to the Sandeman winery, both with a guide in English specialized in port wines.
8. San Bento Station
Built at the beginning of the 9th century on the remains of an old convent, this station impresses with its hall decorated with more than 20,000 tiles that show moments in the country’s history.
The best time to visit it is at sunset when the sun shines its tiles and creates a magical atmosphere.
After seeing the station, you can take a walk along Avenida dos Aliados, the most important in the city, which has Praça da Liberdade, the Town Hall and white modernist buildings, its main tourist attractions. As a curiosity you can enter the McDonalds that still preserves the modernist style inside, making it one of the most beautiful in the world.
Near this avenue is also the Casa da Guitarra in Porto where you can book this fado show, the traditional Portuguese song, to put the icing on a day of visits.
9. Gardens of the Crystal Palace
This Romanesque-style park, opened to the public in 1860, is perfect for walking among nature and enjoying incredible views of the Douro River and its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.
Among its most outstanding places are the Emílio David Garden, the Avenue of the Tilos and the Avenue of the Chestnut Trees, the forest and a series of thematic gardens such as that of Aromatic Plants, Medicines, Roses and Feelings, among others.
10. Barrio Do Barredo
Somewhat run-down, this neighborhood located between the Cathedral and the Douro shore, is full of narrow streets and stairs, buildings that look like they’re going to fall, and balconies with clothes hanging. Its melancholic air, its smells and colors will make you go back in time and discover special corners that do not appear in the guides. The Torre do Barredo and the “Escadas do Barredo” are some of them, which will make you only think about meeting this magical city again.