Top 21 Things to Do in Porto
Along the picturesque Douro River, Porto stands as a testament to Portugal's rich history, vibrant culture, and undeniable charm. Fortunate enough to call this city home for over five years, I realized the essence of Porto goes beyond the well-trodden tourist paths. This article reveals the 21 must-do experiences that will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the heart and soul of this enchanting city. Porto offers a unique blend of old-world allure and contemporary energy that captivates every visitor, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems and culinary delights to breathtaking viewpoints.
Best Activities to do in Porto:
1. Clérigos Tower and Church: A Glimpse of Porto's Skyline
The Clérigos Tower and Church, an architectural masterpiece designed by Nicolau Nasoni, commands attention with its Baroque elegance. Climbing the tower's spiral staircase rewards you with a panoramic view of Porto's red-tiled rooftops and the Douro River weaving through the city's landscape. Tickets prices to access the Tower, Church and Museum range from 5€ to 7.50€ depending on the season and if you're integrating a guided tour
2. Livraria Lello: A Booklover's Paradise
Livraria Lello, often considered one of the world's most beautiful bookstores, transports you to a world of literary wonder. Its ornate wooden interiors and grand staircase inspired J.K. Rowling's depiction of Hogwarts' moving staircases. Whether you're looking to buy a book or not, you'll find this bookshop magical. An entrance fee of 5€ can be used as a discount for any product you acquire. We only advise you to go at an off-peak time to avoid the queues and have the place for yourself.
3. Ribeira District: Where History and River Converge
The Ribeira district epitomizes Porto's character - being one of the city's oldest areas, it is also one of the most beautiful. Cobblestone streets lined with colourful houses lead to the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, connecting Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverfront, dine at traditional seafood restaurants, and feel the city's heartbeat while enjoying the landscape over the river.
4. Francesinha: A Culinary Indulgence
No visit to Porto is complete without savouring a francesinha. This hearty sandwich layers steak, cured ham, sausage, melted cheese and egg, all doused in a savoury sauce. Pair it with a cold Super Bock beer and french fries for a truly local experience. If you want to try this Portuguese delicacy for the first time, here are some excellent ones: Café Santiago, Taberna Londrina, Brasão and Santa Francesinha.
5. Mercado do Bolhão: Market Vibrancy
With some traders operating here for over 50 years, this is by far Porto's most iconic market. Stepping into Mercado do Bolhão immerses you in the bustling energy of a traditional market. Fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, aromatic spices, and lively conversations create an authentic glimpse into Porto's daily life.
6. Port Wine Cellars: Tasting Porto's Elixir
Visiting Porto and not seeing the Port Wine Cellars is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Cross the Dom Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, where centuries-old cellars house the famed Port wine. Take a guided tour to learn about wine-making and indulge in tastings that showcase Porto's deep-rooted viticulture.
7. Miradouro da Vitória: Sunset Splendor
Miradouro da Vitória, a hidden gem, offers breathtaking sunset vistas away from the crowds. Perched atop a staircase in the Miragaia neighbourhood, it's an ideal spot to savour the fading sun's warm embrace.
8. Get Lost in Santa Catarina Street: Shopper's Paradise
There's no better place for an immersive shopping experience than Santa Catarina Street. Lose yourself in the vibrant energy of this bustling avenue, which boasts a diverse array of stores, from international brands to charming local boutiques. Santa Catarina Street allows you to indulge your inner shopaholic, find unique souvenirs, or enjoy a stroll amid Porto's urban charm. So, whether hunting for the perfect keepsake or embracing the local vibe, getting lost in this street is a delightful Porto pastime.
9. Serene Strolls around Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
Amidst the heart of Porto lies the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, a haven of tranquillity and natural beauty. Strolling through these meticulously manicured gardens is a must-do in Porto, expecting to find peacock families, ducks and some other birds. This park offers a serene escape from the city's hustle and bustle with its lush greenery, vibrant flowerbeds, and ornate pavilions. Whether you are seeking a peaceful place to read, relax by the lake, or enjoy a leisurely walk, these gardens provide a delightful respite.
10. Casa da Música: Modern Architectural Marvel
A testament to Porto's contemporary spirit, Casa da Música is a striking concert hall designed by Rem Koolhaas. With a dynamic and innovative calendar, there's always something happening at Casa da Música, so head there and catch a performance ranging from classical symphonies to modern experimental tunes.
11. São Bento Station: Art in Transit
Step into São Bento Station and be transported through time by its mesmerizing tiles. São Bento Station is more than a transportation hub; it's a canvas that narrates Porto's history through its intricate azulejos. Admire the captivating scenes that adorn the station's walls. This historic train station narrates Portugal's history through intricate blue and white designs. It's a must-visit for a quick dose of cultural and artistic immersion in Porto.
12. Jardim do Morro: Douro Sunset Haven
Accessible by a short tram ride or by walk from the centre of Porto, Jardim do Morro offers panoramic views of Porto's riverside landscape and historical area. This garden is a serene escape that promises tranquillity for a sunset moment: sipping a drink lying on the grass. The proximity to Serra do Pilar is a huge plus since the night views from this monastery are even better.
13. Fundação Serralves: Art and Nature Fusion
Fundação Serralves is an important national institution that conveys historical and cultural heritage. The Serralves Park is a great diversity of spaces that seamlessly blends contemporary art with lush gardens. Explore thought-provoking exhibitions at the museum and stroll through the park to appreciate the harmonious interplay of art and nature.
14. Jardim das Virtudes: Sunset and Scenic Views
For a mesmerizing Porto sunset and stunning city and riverscape, Jardim das Virtudes is the perfect spot. This charming garden perched on a hill offers an unforgettable view as the sun sets, painting the city in a warm, golden hue. Don't miss this serene and scenic experience; grab some good friends, snacks, and a drink (or two) and enjoy your afternoon like a local would.
15. Rua das Flores: A Picturesque Stroll Through History
For an enchanting journey through Porto's past and present, don't miss walking down Rua das Flores. This charming cobblestone street, adorned with colourful facades and decorative balconies, is a picturesque slice of the city's history. As you stroll, you'll encounter quaint shops, inviting cafes, and hidden squares. It's a delightful place to embrace the local atmosphere, soak up the architectural beauty, and perhaps indulge in window shopping or a coffee stop. Rua das Flores captures the essence of Porto's historic streets, where every corner tells a story and every step reveals the city's unique character.
16. 17º Restaurant & Bar: Sip and Savor Nighttime Panoramas
For an unforgettable evening in Porto, visit the 17º Restaurant & Bar. This rooftop gem promises a delightful combination of flavours and views. Located atop a historic building, it offers an extensive drinks menu, including cocktails crafted with a local touch. However, it's the panoramic night vistas that truly steal the show. As the city lights up below and the Douro River shimmers, you can savour your favourite drink while soaking in the enchanting ambience. Whether celebrating a special occasion or simply looking for a memorable night out, 17º Restaurant & Bar delivers a tasteful and visually stunning experience.
17. Manteigaria - Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata: Savor Portugal's Sweet Delight
To truly savour the essence of Portuguese pastry, a visit to Manteigaria is an absolute must. Located in the heart of Porto, this establishment specializes in crafting the nation's beloved treat - pastel de nata. These delectable custard tarts, with their flaky crusts and creamy fillings, are nothing short of culinary perfection. Whether you're enjoying one as a mid-morning snack, an afternoon indulgence, or a sweet ending to your day, Manteigaria's pastéis de nata are a taste of Portugal's culinary soul, making this experience one of the best things to do in Porto.
18. Galerias de Paris: Porto's Nightlife Epicenter
For an unforgettable night out in Porto, head to Galerias de Paris - 3 historic parallel streets with a nightlife excitement hub. Located in the city centre, you can find bars, clubs, and trendy eateries; it caters to every nocturnal desire. Whether you're into cocktails, live music, or dancing, Galerias de Paris is where Porto's nightlife thrives. So, gather your friends, don your party attire, and let the vibrant energy of Porto's nightlife sweep you away at Galerias de Paris.
19. Douro delight: Rabelo Boat Ride
Embark on a traditional Rabelo boat ride along the Douro River. As you sail beneath the bridges and past the terraced vineyards, you'll gain a unique perspective of Porto's connection to the river.
20. Church Facades in Porto: Architectural Marvels
Don't miss the chance to marvel at the exquisite facades of Porto's churches. From the Igreja do Carmo to Capela das Almas, these architectural gems showcase a rich blend of styles and history. Whether you're an architecture lover or simply appreciate fine craftsmanship, these facades offer a unique glimpse into Porto's heritage.
21. Concerts at Hard Club: A Night of Musical Magic
For music enthusiasts, a visit to the Hard Club promises a night of rhythmic revelry like no other. Whether you're into rock, pop, electronic beats, or indie vibes, the Hard Club hosts an eclectic array of concerts that cater to diverse musical tastes. The venue's unique industrial-chic ambience adds to the overall experience. With its state-of-the-art sound system and dynamic stage setups, the Hard Club guarantees unforgettable performances. So, check out their event calendar, grab your tickets, and immerse yourself in the electrifying atmosphere of a live concert in Porto.
Oporto Travel guide: Things to do in Porto
Porto, with its eclectic blend of history, culture, and contemporary flair, captivates the soul of every visitor. Having embraced the city's rhythms for over five years, these 21 experiences provide a gateway to understanding Porto's essence. Whether you're soaking in the sunset hues from Miradouro da Vitória, sipping Port wine in ancient cellars, or relishing the culinary pleasures of francesinha, Porto rewards those who seek its hidden gems and cherished traditions. With its timeless charm and vibrant energy, this Portuguese gem will etch unforgettable memories in your heart, much like it has done for all who have come before.