The best places to Visit in Porto – Our Porto Sightseeing Guide
A rising star of European city break destinations, Porto is a northern Portuguese city that’s full of charm, history; and most of all, beauty. It’s honestly one of the most picturesque cities we’ve been to! With a compact city centre where you can walk to everything on foot, to a vibrant food and nightlife scene, and some great photo opportunities, you’ll soon find out why it’s quickly becoming a holiday hotspot.
In our guide, we share the very best places to visit in Porto, from its iconic bridges, to the top attractions of the city centre. We’ve also included a few recommendations on things to do just outside of the tourist hub. Did you know that you can get to the beach in only half an hour!? Read on for our complete Porto sightseeing guide.
Sail underneath Porto’s 6 bridges on a boat tour
The best way to see Porto’s many bridges, is from the river. Every day you’ll see fleet of tourist boats gliding under each of 6 bridges near the mouth of the River Duoro. It’s a great way to see these impressive bridges, which each have a unique design. Nothing beats the view of Porto’s colourful rows of buildings from the water.
There are a few boat operators that offer the group ‘6 Bridges Tour’, and you can also opt for a smaller tour on a private boat. Tours typically last 50-minutes, taking you up the mouth of the river to Freixo Bridge, then towards Arrábida, where the Duoro River meets the sea. The 6 bridges boat tour was a highlight of our trip!
We recommend booking a tour with Tomaz do Douro. They have good reviews and it only costs around 15 euros per person.
Marvel at Porto’s many amazing churches
We can’t think of many cities that have as many beautiful churches as Porto. As with most historic European cities, Porto’s selection of religious buildings are a key sightseeing attraction, but with a slight difference. Many of the churches here are decorated with ornate tiles, forming together to create a colourful mural. The entire outer walls of buildings such as Carmo Church are brought to life by these unique patterns.
Here are the top churches we recommend adding to your Porto sightseeing itinerary:
- Chapel of Souls
- Church of Santo Ildefonso
- Clerigos Tower Church
- Monument Church of St Francis
- Carmo Church
Walk across Dom Luis I Bridge
Luís I Bridge (Ponte Luis I in Portuguese) is the star attraction in Porto. It’s where you’ll want to spend a lot of your time, being the most scenic area of the city. Its river banks are surrounded by scenic viewpoints, markets, bars and restaurants. However, to really experience Luis I Bridge, you have to walk over it!
Walk from the Porto side of the bridge, all the way to Vila Nova de Gaia on the south side of the river. There are pedestrian walkways on either side, so you can stop and take pictures as much as you like. The metal-arch architecture of the bridge is stunning, as are the river views.
In addition to walking over the top of the bridge, you can across on the lower level. This gives a good view of the underside of Luis I Bridge. Therefore, we recommend crossing the bridge on the top level and then returning via the lower level, or vice versa.
Vila Nova de Guia
When visiting Porto, you’re most likely staying in Porto itself, on the north side of the river. Walk across Luis I Bridge and you’re in an area called Vila Nova de Gaia. This equally as beautiful area is home to a number of quaint bars, restaurants and shopping stalls. Most notably though, it’s where most of Porto’s wine cellars are located. Rows upon rows of cellars occupy the river bank.
Vila Nova de Gaia has a long promenade that you can walk down, gazing at the scenic river views and enjoying a drink on a public bench. We personally found the scenery to be better on this side of the river. You can see Porto to the north, in its full glory, with colourful buildings and grand church turrets.
Tour Porto by cable car
Whilst visiting the south side of the River Douro, be sure to hop aboard the cable car. This short but beautifully scenic ride takes passengers from the top of Luis I Bridge, down to the dock area below. It’s a short journey, but it’s well worth checking out for the incredible overhead views of the river.
You can buy a one-way or return ticket for the cable car. We personally recommend walking over the bridge from Porto, exploring the Vila Nova de Gaia area, then returning to the top of the bridge using the cable car.
Book a Port tasting experience
A Port cellar is one of the best places to visit in Porto, whether you like Port wine or not. After all, it’s in the name of the city and the drink is known worldwide! Whilst in Vila Nova de Gaia on the south side of the river, stop by one of the many Port tasting experiences. Calem and Sandeman cellars are the top-rated options, but there are lots to choose from.
Generally, a port tasting experience costs around 15 euros per person. It starts with a guided group tour of the cellars, where you can learn how Port is made through interactive exhibits. The tour ends with a tasting session in a nicely decorated bar area, sampling the Port wines you’ve just learnt about. We loved this experience and recommend it for anyone! It’s very good value.
Visit the world’s most beautiful book shop
If you’ve spoken to someone that’s been to Porto or you’ve done some research, you’ll known that Livraria Lello is one of the most recommended places to visit in Porto. This unique book store was built in 1869 and is quite possibly one of the most beautifully designed book shops in the world. With a grand interior of red carpets, intricate wooden furnishings, stained-glass windows and a grand spiral staircase, there’s nothing quite like it.
There are a couple of myths surrounding the book shop. For example; it was said to be where JK Rowling got inspiration for ‘Hogwarts’. However, she hasn’t actually visited. Nevertheless, it’s still worth a visit in our opinion. The design is mesmerizing and a book lovers dream. The only downside is the large crowds it attracts. We recommend booking a time slot for your visit on the official Livraria Lello website before arrival.
Enjoy a traditional Pasteis de Nata at a famous bakery
You can’t visit Porto, or Portugal for that matter, and not try one of its famous custard tarts, known locally as Pasteis de Nata. These perfectly baked pastries have a flaky exterior, with a rich, creamy custard filling in the centre. They’re so good, you’ll have one every day you’re there! It’s tradition to visit a café mid-afternoon for a daily Pasteis and expresso, which usually cost €1 each.
For the very best Pasteis de Nata that Porto has to offer, stop by Manteigaria, Castro – Atelier de Pastéis de Nata or Nata Lisboa. We visited all three of these popular bakeries and liked Manteigaria the best. Let us know your preference in the comment section below. 😊
See the best views of the city from Virtudes or Vitória viewpoint
One of the best places to visit in Porto for panoramic views of the city is Virtudes Park, which overlooks the river to the west. It’s a favourite spot for locals to hang out at sunset, as they enjoy a beer and catch up with friends. It has a small grassy area where you can sit down and admire the view, and a few park benches. The best time to visit Virtudes viewpoint is just before the sun goes down. Buy a drink from the nearby convenience store and join the locals!
The other must-see viewpoint in Porto is Vitoria, located at the top of a staircase on the way down to the river-front area. Also a great place for sunset but popular at any time of the day, this spot gives you panoramic views of Porto’s many terracotta-rooved houses and grand churches.
Walk down Aliados Avenue to Liberdade Square and take photos by City Hall
Aliados Avenue is one of the most famous and historic streets in Porto. It features a wide road and pathway with grand buildings on either side. Liberdade Square sits at the bottom of the road, leading all the way to the instantly recognisable City Hall building. Its sidewalks are occupied by designer fashion stores and grand hotel entrances. Its skyline is populated by the turrets of buildings that have withstood centuries.
Think of Aliados Avenue as Porto’s answer to the Champs Elysee in Paris, or Las Ramblas in Barcelona. It’s an iconic street that you can’t miss off your Porto sightseeing itinerary. We recommend walking the street at your leisure, stopping by the grand city hall building to take photos in front of the ‘Porto’ sign.
Visit Porto’s iconic cathedral
There are many churches in Porto; they’re seemingly everywhere! Nevertheless, if there’s one church you can’t miss off your itinerary, it’s Porto Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 12th Century at the highest part of the city, Se, overlooking the many buildings and Duoro River from its hilltop location. Known as the most important religious building in the city, it’s well worth visiting for its grand appearance, Baroque style and amazing views.
It boasts an intricate labyrinth of cloisters, chapels and staircases inside. Outside, you’ll find a large square with statues, which is often the congregation point for wedding parties, tourists, and those attending mass.
Wander through Crystal Palace Gardens (Jardins do Palácio de Cristal)
Crystal Palace Gardens is one of the top places to visit in Porto for those that want to escape the bustling crowds and busy atmosphere of the city centre. It’s completely free to visit and is located just a 20-minute walk from Sao Bento train station in the centre of Porto. Not really a botanical garden, but visually impressive nonetheless, Crystal Palace Gardens is a well maintained park that overlooks the River Douro. Colourful flowers, fountains, walking paths and a lake occupy the centre of the gardens.
You then have a scenic hillside area that overlooks the river banks below. The green scenery, quiet atmosphere and serenity of Crystal Palace Gardens will make it a favourite Porto sightseeing spot for anyone that loves nature.
Watch a live performance at Casa da Musica
Casa da Musica is Porto’s premier concert hall. Designed by architect Rem Koolhaas and having opened its doors in 2005, the building is an architectural masterpiece. It’s is a nine-floor-high asymmetrical polyhedron covered in plaques of white cement, with tall glass windows and a long staircase leading up to its entrance. It’s well worth stopping by just to see the unique structure from the outside, even if you don’t fancy booking a live performance.
For the complete experience of Casa da Musica and to see the inside of the building, with its intricate glass designs and panelling, book a performance on the official website. Casa da Musica is one of the best places to visit in Porto for those that loves the arts.
Eat ‘til you’re full at Bom Sucesso Food Market
Located a quick taxi ride or metro trip from Porto centre, Bom Sucesso Food Market is a super popular place to eat for both locals and tourists. It has two levels of food booths, restaurants and snack stalls, offering a wide range of cuisine options. The atmosphere is cool too, with a vibrant clash of friends and families catching up for a beer, any day of the week. Some of the food options include seafood, vegan health foods, poke bowls, pasta, sweat treats, traditional Portuguese tapas, burgers, pizza, gourmet hotdogs, Mexican cuisine and many more. There’s a lot of variety so you’ll find something you’ll like, no matter your taste.
We recommend combining a trip to Bom Sucesso market with Crystal Palace Gardens, the neighbouring Porto Shopping City mall, or Casa da Musica concert hall. They’re all within close proximity of each other.
Stop by one of the local beaches
Little do most visitors know, one of the best places to visit in Porto is actually the beach. Although it’s a city break destination, it’s very close to the coast. So much so, you can reach one of its beautiful beaches within half an hour. Foz do Duoro is the main Porto beach, with a long beach strip known as Praia dos Ingleses. A bus or taxi is the best way to get there. You can also walk, but it’ll take you around an hour and a half.
There’s also Praia do Matosinhos, which is our personal favourite. This is a larger beach that’s very popular with locals on weekends. It doesn’t feel as crowded and is very easy to get to by Metro.
We recommend a beach day for anyone visiting Porto for 4 days or more. It’s the perfect escape from the busy city, giving you a different experience of Porto life. All beach areas have a long promenade that you can explore on foot.
Marvel at the impressive architecture of Bolsa Palace (Palácio da Bolsa)
Previously part of the historic St Francis Church of Porto, which is located next door and was recommended in our church sightseeing options above, Palácio da Bolsa (Bolsa Palace) is a masterpiece of a building that started construction in the mid-1800’s. Designed in the Neoclassical style, as displayed by other buildings in the city, Bolsa Palace is a great example of Portuguese architecture. It’s beautiful to look at outside, but inside is where the beauty truly lives.
You can visit Bolsa Palace as part of a private or self-guided audio tour, exploring the palace at your own leisure. It’s one of the top places to visit in Porto, as recommended by most tourist guides.
Enjoy a drink or meal with a view under Luis I Bridge, at Cais da Ribeira
Cais da Ribeira is one of the best places to visit in Porto to soak in the full atmosphere of the city. Every day of the week, from morning until midnight, it’s an eclectic collection of tourists that want to see the beautiful riverside views under Luis I Bridge. Quite possibly the most popular spot in Porto, Cais da Ribeira, has rows of tall, colourful buildings that overlook the Douro River.
The promenade is also home to market stalls and a number of bars, cafes and restaurants. And most notably, it’s the docking area for the many boat tours that depart down the river on the hour, so you’ll often see crowds of people waiting to depart. We visited the Porto riverside area at least 3 times during our stay. It’s a place that you’ll love and will want to return to every day of your trip.
Climb to the top of Los Clerigos Tower for panoramic views of Porto
An iconic symbol of Porto and a building that can be seen across the skyline from various points in the city, Clerigos Tower is a key attraction for your Porto sightseeing itinerary. The Baroque-style church stands a towering 75m high and was built in 1750. It’s an unusually ‘thin’ church that’s instantly recognized for its unique design and intricate stone carvings on its façade.
You’ll no doubt come across Clerigos Tower whilst walking through the city centre. When you spot it, stop by to take pictures and marvel at its design. You can also queue up and pay to climb up to the top of the tower. It has one of the highest vantage points in the whole city!
Experience the vibrant Porto nightlife scene
When you’re all done with Porto sightseeing for the day and are looking to continue your adventure into the evening, the colourful streets of Galeria de Paris and Rua de Cândido dos Reis is the place to go. The vast majority of Porto’s big bars are all located on these two streets. This makes your night out very easy! On warm summer evenings, people like to drink outside and socialize between the narrow streets.
The neighbourhood is a mix of basic bars selling cheap Super Bock beer and showing the latest football matches, to high-end cocktail bars, craft breweries and late night party venues. Much like the Porto food scene, there’s a bar that everyone will enjoy. We personally recommend Bonaparte Downtown, Adega Sports Bar and The Gin Club.
Chill out in Cordoaria Park
Jardim da Cordoaria is one of the best places to visit in Porto for relaxing walks, a picnic, or taking a step back from sightseeing for an hour. Situated in the heart of the tourist area near Clerigos Tower and Carmo Church, Cordoaria has a number of park benches, walking trails and a plenty of shaded areas. One section of the park has rows of towering trees, creating a beautiful setting for your walk.
Admire the art and design of São Bento train station
We’ve been to many train stations… Not many of them are quite as beautiful as São Bento in the historic centre of Porto. Built in the late 1800’s, this grand central station is the city’s main transport hub, but it’s also a work of art. Its atrium entrance is three stories high and is covered in approximately 20,000 azulejo tiles, many dating back to 1905–1916. Much like the blue tiles you’ll find throughout Porto and Portugal’s other cities, the tiles form together to create the image of historic events. The most notable mural is of the Battle of Valdevez.
Stop by São Bento Station to marvel at its grand entrance at any time during your stay. It has one of the most awe-inspiring interiors of all Porto’s buildings!
Take a tour or watch a football match at FC Porto
The people of Porto live and breathe football. It’s a core part of the local culture, and to really experience how passionate they are about the game, you have to stop by an FC Porto home match at Estádio do Dragão (Dragon Stadium). The stadium has a capacity of just over 50,000, with an energetic home crowd. We recommend booking tickets for a match well in advance of your visit as they sell out fast.
If FC Porto aren’t playing during your visit, instead, why not stop by the stadium for a tour? Tours run every day, taking you on a journey into the history, stadium and success of one of Portugal’s biggest football teams. You can easily reach Estádio do Dragão using the local Metro system.
Check out the neighbourhood of Bolhão
Bolhão is a popular neighbourhood situated to east of the city centre. Known for its weekend market, beautifully designed churches and vast array of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants, it’s a busy place that always has a lot going on. It’s also a top choice area to stay in Porto, with some excellent hotel options.
We recommend stopping by the Bolhão neighbourhood on an afternoon. Go for lunch in the famous Majestic Café, browse the market, and see the church known as Chapel of the Souls, or Santo Ildefonso at Batalha Square. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Porto for high street shopping! We spent lots of time enjoying the many bakeries and cafes here.
That concludes our complete guide on the best places to visit in Porto. We’ve included the main attractions and some of our own favourites, but there’s a lot more to see in this majestic Portuguese city. Part of the enjoyment of any visit is simply wandering around its narrow, cobblestone streets, finding a corner café to enjoy a drink, or having a drink with a local in a tiny wine bar. Have fun exploring everything it has to offer yourself! If you have any of your own recommendations, be sure to leave a comment below. 😊
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.