So you only have a weekend in Porto and are trying to figure out what to do with your time. This is a complete itinerary to hit the top spots in Porto, the second largest city in Portugal and home of Port Wine. Porto has many amazing sights to see, so it will be packed, but follow along to see what this beautiful city has to offer. From the city center to the Ribeira, it will take you all around Porto.
Know Before you go:
When to go:
Porto is a place where you can spend time anytime of the year, but summer is the best. June to August is when you will have the best weather in Porto, the negative is that is when it’s the most crowded. If you go in the border months of April/May or September/October, you will have the good weather, but less crowds.
Where to Stay:
There are many places to stay in Porto, however the city is on a hill and after sightseeing all day you don’t want to stay too far away from everything. If you stay in the historic center near the Avenida dos Aliados you will be close to everything. There are also several hotels down by the riverfront.
We stayed at the Hotel Pestana Porto – A Brasileira and was in great location. They also have another location right on the riverfront as well.
How to get around Porto
Most of the main sites in Porto are within walking distance. I recommend starting at the top and walking down. It’s easy to get a taxi or uber. If you want a good all around tour, they have a few hop on hop off buses that you can use to get around.
We didn’t end up using public transportation, but if you are think about getting the Porto Card. You can use it to get unlimited pic transport as well as to get into several museums. For 2 days its €20.
Don’t forget to take one of the old trolleys. There are 3 main ones. If you get the Porto card, it does not cover the trolleys, but you can buy tickets from the driver for only €2.50. I would not recommend trying to use the trams to get around the city as they are infrequent. That being said, the locals know the schedule and you can see them getting on and off.
#1 – Goes along the river from the Ribeira, past the museums, to the Jardim do Passeio Alegra in a historic car.
#18 – Starts at Carmo Church and goes down the waterfront and then back up the hill. This one has the least tourist sights and would recommend the others above this one.
#22 – This tram takes a loop around central Porto, hitting the main sights like Carmo Church and St. Ildefonso church.
Things to know:
- The town is covered in Azulejos which are white and blue tiles, often depicting the past. You will see these in Porto and throughout all of Portugal.
- There are three main regions in Porto for tourists:
- Ribeira – down along the river front. You will find lots of narrow streets and outdoor cafes in the region. Make sure to check out the Sao Francisco Church and go on a boat tour.
- City Center – Around Avenida dos Aliados. Lots of monuments and sights surrounded by small little streets.
- Vila Nova de Gaia – this is the neighboring city of Porto across the River. If you don’t have time to make it to the Duoro Valley, this is the next best place to try the Port Wine. Many of the large wineries have a tasting house here too. Try Sandman and Croft.
- Go on a 6 bridge boat tour to see Porto from the river.
- Make sure to take note of the different tiles in the pedestrian areas. Portugal uses pavers instead of cement in many of the pedestrian areas, displaying patterns or designs.
What to see and do around Porto:
Porto – Day 1
Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies)
This is the main urban street of Porto and Praca da Liberdade (Liberty Square) with the City Hall of Porto is at the bottom of the hill. We stayed at Hotel Pestana and it is literally a block from the street. Don’t forget to visit the Imperial McDonalds. It was named because it took over the Imperial cafe that was previously a famous cafe. It’s probably the only McDonalds that you will go to with a chandelier.
Rua da Fabrica
Make your way up the Rua da Fabrica that was named for the tobacco factories that were once a major industry for this town.
This is one of the highlights of Porto and dates back to the 18th century. It was initially built as two separate churches to prevent contact between the monks and the nuns who used to live there. It’s side is covered in azulejos.
Praca de Gomes Teixeira
The centerpiece is the Fountain of Lions. Bordered by the University of Porto that was founded in 1911 and the Carmo Church. During the summer, you will probably see some street performers here.
Lello & Irma Bookstore
For all Harry Potter fans, you probably already know that J. K. Rowling worked in Porto for a year and the town has inspired different parts of the book. This bookstore is said to have inspired Hogwarts. Because of the popularity, it does cost money to get inside, however if you purchase something this can be applied to the purchase. They have lots of Harry Potter Memorabilia for Harry Potter Fans. To get in, make sure to get your ticket at the shop two doors over on the left before you get in line, otherwise you will be waiting in life for no reason. It does take some time, so plan ahead for this. Also for all Harry Potter fans, you will likely see many university students walking around town in uniforms very similar to those worn at Hogwarts.
Clerigos Church and Tower
It was built in the 18th century. The tower can be seen from all over Porto. To go inside the church is free, if you want to climb the tower it cost a few euros. It’s about 230 steps to the top and depending on how busy it is you may have to wait to climb. After you leave the church, wander down the hill to see more Azulejos and cute shops. If you are lucky, you will see the trolley come barreling down the hill.
Sao Bento Train Station
This is the main train station in Porto. The station entrance is beautifully decorated with over 20,000 tiles (Azulejos) that show historical scenes from the Duoro region. Be sure to actually go into the train station to see the trains come and go.
Church of Saint Ildefonso
Small church that was completed in the mid-18th century. Front is made up of more than 11,000 azulejo tiles.
Dom Luis I Bridge
End the day with sunset on top of the Dom Luis I Bridge. It is one of the most iconic sights of Porto. A student of Gustal Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower) designed the bridge. This is a great vantage point to see the town of Porto. Make sure to walk all the way over to Vila Nova de Gaia for all the great views of Porto.
Porto – Day 2
Start the morning off early at the Porto Cathedral and its viewpoint square before it gets busy. This cathedral was built in the Romanesque style in the 12th century and is one of the oldest sights in Porto. Henry the Navigator, one of the stars of Portugal’s history, was baptized here.
Explore the side streets
From the cathedral if you go down ramp in front of the Cathedral, it will lead you through many small streets. If you go in the morning, you may be able to catch the locals still going about their day.
After wandering all the small streets, visit the Misericordia Church. Hint the cafe to the left of the church has really good fresh squeezed orange juice. The architect who designed the Clerigos church also designed this church. Unfortunately it was closed when we went so cannot comment on the inside.
Henry the Navigator Square
One of the main squares in Porto. The statue in the middle is of Henry the Navigator who was born in Porto. The Stock Exchange Palace and the Sao Francisco Church border the square.
Stock Exchange Palace
Many reviews say it’s amazing, but in order to go through you have to do a 30 min guided tour. When we went, there was long line and would have had to wait over 2 hours to do a tour.
Sao Francisco Church
Right next to the Stock Exchange. This is one of the churches that you have to go in. It does cost money, but is only a few euro and is worth it. It was built in the 18th century in the Gothic style. The interior is amazing and make sure to visit the crypt. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos inside.
Cais da Ribeira
Walk along the Duoro river. Make sure to walk all the way down to the Dom Luis Bridge where they have a few boats that show how Port Wine used to be delivered to Porto down the Duoro River. This is where you catch a river cruise. There are lots of cafes and restaurants along the street, make sure to try some fresh seafood.
6 Bridges River Cruise
Make sure to go on a river cruise to see Porto from the river. The cruise lasts about an hour and tickets can be purchased on the waterfront. If you want to do a Hop on Hop off bus tour it can often be combined with a river cruise.
Visit Vila Nova de Gaia
After your river cruise, head over to Vila Nova de Gaia. You can either walk along the Dom Luis I bridge or if your tired you can take uber/taxi for only a few euro. Enjoy seeing Porto from the other side of the river and head to a Port House.
What to do if you have more time:
If you have another day in Porto, I highly recommend taking a tour of the Duoro Valley if you haven’t yet. The Duoro Valley is where the Port Wine vineyards are. You can rent a car and drive yourself. Of if you want to relax for the day, take a tour. We arranged on Expedia a private tour, there were group ones as well.
If you don’t have enough time to make it all the way to the Duoro Valley, but you are still looking for other things to do around Porto; I recommend checking out the coastline. There is boardwalk that you can walk along to see the sites.
The Majestic cafe is almost 100 year old cafe and is a very popular sight in Porto. There is a long wait and the food is expensive. We went for a cheaper option along the street, you can try it if you have the time.