20 must-do things to do in Porto

La nuit à Porto

Visiting Porto, a cosmopolitan and vibrant city, means getting your fill of sensations. Follow our guide to make sure you don’t miss out on any of its highlights!

Porto is first and foremost a tangle of colorful buildings nibbling away at the banks of the Douro, watched over by the towers of the cathedral. Or that nostalgic air, steeped in saudade. But it’s also a city in the throes of change, offering multiple facets. Everywhere, the vestiges of a prosperous past rub shoulders with popular alleyways and a few contemporary architectural gems.

The spirit of the city reflects its allure. To visit Porto is to immerse yourself in the traditions of an authentic Europe, interwoven with the cultures of today. The locals seem as at home in traditional taverns as they are in the stands of the Dragon stadium. And their joie de vivre is infectious!

So, to experience the best the city has to offer, discover the best things to do in Porto.

1. Take a mini-cruise on the Douro

Croisière sur le Douro - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – saiko3p

Here’s a great way to visit Porto: by water! A majestic river, the Douro crosses the city before joining the verdant wine-growing valleys. And it’s undoubtedly from its waters that you can enjoy the most beautiful views of the city.

There is a must-do mini-cruise in Porto, called the

. This trip, lasting just under an hour, follows the historic route of the « Rabelo », the traditional Portuguese boats on which the famous Port wine was transported to the city’s cellars.

Along the way, you’ll pass under 6 bridges (hence the name) and travel upstream to the coast (Foz do Douro).

2. Explore the Douro Valley

La vallée du Douro - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – LuisPinaPhotography

If you’re staying in Porto for 3 days or more, you absolutely must visit the Douro Valley. Sometimes dubbed the « enchanted valley », it offers some very beautiful scenery indeed. The river winds its way between sun-drenched hills sculpted by terraced vineyards.

There are two ways to visit the Douro Valley:

Going on a

Depart Porto early in the morning. During the day, you’ll visit two wineries, where you’ll taste Port wine. A typical regional meal is provided for lunch, while a boat cruise to Pinhão (in the heart of the valley) concludes the excursion before returning in the late afternoon.

Renting a car: head for Régua and take the N222 to Vila Nova de Foz Coa. This is said to be the most beautiful road in the world. Along the way, you’ll come across a number of fine estates and agricultural cooperatives offering tastings of their products (Douro wine, port wine, olive oil, almonds…). Take advantage of your stay to buy these products at lower prices.

3. Visit the port wine cellars

Les caves de porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – saiko3p

As you may have guessed, the city gave its name to the famous beverage known as port. Although this « mutated wine » comes from valleys further up the Douro, Porto is home to some famous wineries.

To be precise, you’ll find them in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia, on the shore opposite Porto. And without a doubt, a visit to the wineries is one of the must-do activities in Porto! Of course, you’ll also have the opportunity to taste a few samples of the delicious sweet wine.

The most famous wineries are those of Calèm. You can choose a

(€14) or opt for the

(23€).

The Calèm wineries are the most popular, so book your tickets in advance. You can also visit other wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia: the

winery

Poças winery

winery or the

.

4. Listen to traditional fado

Ideal Clube de Fado

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Pacopac

Fado was declared intangible cultural heritage in 2011, and is one of the main gems of Portuguese music. After a day of sightseeing, relax at a traditional fado concert. We particularly recommend the show atPorto’s Ideal Clube.

Let yourself be carried away by the songs of the Fado for an hour, while enjoying a glass of port.

5. Stroll through the Ribeira district

Le quartier Ribeira - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Heracles Kritikos

If you set off with one image of Porto in mind, this is it. The Ribeira district, on the north bank of the Douro, has a postcard feel to it. Once a dilapidated area, it’s now a colorful and lively tourist attraction and Porto’s must-see.

Yet it has managed to retain that authentic, popular « je ne sais quoi » that makes the city so charming.

So take the time to sip a drink at a riverside café. And don’t forget to stroll along the narrow streets, admiring the narrow, colorful facades!

6. Taking in the sights in Porto

Porto vue d’en haut

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sean Pavone

What better way to immerse yourself in a city than to admire it from above? Porto lends itself particularly well to this exercise, with its tiled roofs and spectacular bridges. The first option is to take the Dom-Luís pedestrian bridge. This « iron gentleman », built by a disciple of Eiffel, spans the Douro, linking Ribeira and Vila Nova de Gaia.

Afterwards, you can try the funicular (for which the

also includes streetcar and bus access) that leaves from the foot of the bridge, in Ribeira, and climbs to higher ground. During the brief ascent, you’ll admire several of the city’s most emblematic monuments.

The final option is to climb to the top of the Torre dos Clérigos, to the Church of the Clerics. From here, you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view over the rooftops of Ribeira.

7. Enter La Sé, Porto Cathedral

Les lieux de culte

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Farbregas Hareluya

A thousand-year-old city that flourished in the Middle Ages, Porto is brimming with spectacular monuments. Faithful to the Christian tradition, it boasts a fine collection of churches. The must-see, of course, is La Sé, Porto’s cathedral. Its silhouette overlooks the narrow streets of Ribeira. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore its magnificent cloister.

If you’re interested in places of worship, you’ll find churches around every corner. But we have a soft spot for theIgreja do Carmo, whose walls are adorned with dazzling azulejos.

8. Discover the FC Porto museum and Dragon stadium

Stade du Dragon - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – O Laparoto

If you’re a soccer fan, you’ll be familiar with FC Porto, one of Europe’s top clubs. As you can imagine, the city’s inhabitants are particularly attached to their team and support it wholeheartedly.

The atmosphere in the stands of the Estádiodo Dragão (Dragon Stadium) is truly exhilarating! So, fan or novice, attending a match is one of the most entertaining things you can do in Porto.

If no match is scheduled during your stay, you can always visit the excellent FC Porto museum, which offers the chance to climb into the stands of theEstádio do Dragão.

9. Francesinha and other delicacies

Francesinha et autres délices - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – AS Food studio

The francesinha, or « little French girl », is undoubtedly Porto’s most typical dish, and is eaten in every tavern. Inspired by our croque-monsieur, hence the name, it’s a more gourmet variant. The sandwich is coated in cheese and covered in sauce. And above all, the locals aren’t afraid to slip in three or four different meats!

But Porto has more than one trick up its sleeve when it comes to sandwiches. Cafés and stalls compete with each other to offer delicious pork sandwiches (slow-cooked for 24 hours). To discover our favorite, head for Casa Guedes, a must-visit family-run address in Porto.

10. Visit the Mercado do Bolhão

Mercado do Bolhão

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Sean Pavone

Let’s stay on the gourmet side of Porto with a visit to the famous Bolhão market. Built over several floors, this large semi-covered market embodies the essence of Porto, where the atmosphere is as lively as it is nostalgic. From fish stalls to florists and greengrocers, the visit is a cocktail of colors and images.

So, even if you’re not planning to buy anything, it’s still a must-do in Porto. If you want to delve a little deeper into Porto’s gastronomic culture, you can take a guided tour of the Bolhão market and taste some cod. And then, why not indulge in a little pasteis de nata?

11. Enter the Lello Bookshop

Librairie Lello - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – F8 studio

The Lello bookshop is unlike any other, and once you’ve stepped through the door, you’ll never want to leave. With its glass roof, wood panelling and grand staircase, the place is truly magical.

No wonder, then, that legend has it that this setting inspired author J.K. Rowling to invent the world ofHarry Potter… Whether true or not, the Lello bookshop is a must-see in Porto!

12. Admire the architecture of the Palacio da Bolsa

Palacio da Bolsa, Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – saiko3p

The Palais de la Bourse is one of Porto’s finest monuments. Built in the mid-19th century in a neo-classical style, it was home to the city’s first trade association. Today, it still houses the headquarters of the Porto Chamber of Commerce.

A

30-minute tour of the impressive rooms includes the Pátio das Nações, an interior patio, the Sala das Assembleias Gerais (General Assembly Hall), the Sala Dourada (Golden Hall, due to the gold leaf covering its ceiling) and the Salão Árabe (Moorish Hall), inspired by the Alhambra in Granada. This room alone is worth a visit.

13. Rua Miguel Bombarda, the arty epicenter

Rua Miguel Bombarda

Photo credit: Flickr – jaime.silva

If you’re a fan of street art and contemporary creations, as well as cool cafés, don’t miss Rue Miguel Bombarda. Here you’ll find a jumble of great art galleries, pleasant terraces and alternative boutiques.

What’s more, the street’s walls are a veritable open-air street art museum, making it as cheerful as it is lively. It’s an inspiring walk to take in Porto!

14. Admire Porto’s azulejos

Les azulejos - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – AlexelA

In Porto, azulejos, Portugal’s typical hand-painted cement tiles, can be seen on every street corner. Blue-painted earthenware adorns the walls of many churches, while many buildings are adorned with colorful motifs.

If you visit Porto by train, you’ll discover a spectacular fresco at the São Bento station. It tells the story of Portugal on more than 20,000 tiles!

If you’re feeling like an artist, it’s possible to learn how to paint azulejos in dedicated workshops. And what better souvenir than a work of art created by your own hands using an ancestral technique.

15. See the Casa da Música concert hall

La Casa da Música - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Flickr – Paolo Margari

Whether you’ve come to see a concert, or simply to admire its architecture, the Casa da Música is a must-see in Porto. In fact, this great block of white concrete with its astonishing geometric shapes is well worth a visit in itself.

But if you’re going to go there, you might as well take the opportunity to see a concert! As it happens, the venue offers a fine musical program all year round.

16. Shopping Rua Santa Catarina

Shopping Rua Santa Catarina

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fotokon

Would you like to do a little shopping while enjoying the atmosphere of the city? Then make your way to Rua Santa Catarina, THE street to visit in Porto for some great finds. Take it from the Place de Batalha, and admire the Santo António dos Congregados church along the way. As you stroll along, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping.

And for a well-deserved break, take a seat at Café Majestic. This café is a true Porto institution, and a must-see!

17. Going out in Porto and enjoying the nightlife

La nuit à Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – ESB Professional

As you’ll have gathered, Porto’s singular charm is due in no small part to its vibrant atmosphere. And there’s no better way to feel the pulse of the city than to go out at night! To begin your nocturnal odyssey, you can start with the bars and restaurants of Ribeira.

Then take a stroll through Baixa, a historic district in the process of reinvention, brimming with cool bars. Finally, for the real night owls who want to dance the night away facing the ocean, the discotheques of Foz do Douro are just the thing!

18. Stroll through the gardens of the Palácio de Cristal

Jardins du Palácio de Cristal

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Patrycja Mejer

There’s nothing like a bit of greenery for a breath of fresh air between two visits to Porto! The park of the Palais de Cristal is the ideal place to do just that. Built in the 19th century, these formal gardens are perfect for a romantic stroll.

What’s more, because they’re perched high up, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and the river. As for the UFO-like Pavilhão Rosa Mota dome, it hosts matches and concerts outside construction periods.

19. Surfing and sunbathing in Foz do Douro

Surf et bronzette à Foz do Douro

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fotokon

Porto opens onto the ocean at Foz do Douro. Suddenly, the atmosphere is completely different, with sandy beaches, lighthouses and fishing boats. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle without leaving the city, don’t hesitate to spend half a day in Foz do Douro. To get there, you can walk along the Douro on a 7 km stroll starting from Massarelos(see itinerary).

You can relax on the beach or even try your hand at surfing at Matosinhos. Finally, as we said, the area is also home to some great nightclubs.

20. Attend the Saint-Jean festival

La fête de la Saint-Jean - visiter Porto

Photo credit: Shutterstock – rui noronha

Saint John, or São João, is Porto’s patron saint. And the least we can say is that the city knows how to pay tribute to him! Every year, throughout the month of June, the streets come alive with balls and fireworks.

As for June 24, the exact date of the festival, it’s a real apotheosis! To enjoy this unique atmosphere, we recommend visiting Porto at this time of year.

How to get to Porto

Although you can reach Porto by car or coach, flying is by far the quickest option. It’s also often the cheapest, thanks to the many flights offered by airlines.

What’s more, as Porto is a popular destination for the French, there are direct connections with many French cities. So you can leave from Paris, Lyon or Marseille as well as Lille, Toulouse, Nantes and many others.

To find the cheapest flight on the dates that suit you, consider using a flight comparator like Ulysse. And, of course, it’s easy to get to Porto from other cities like Lisbon by train, coach or car.

Getting around Porto

Porto is a city that can be discovered on foot. The old town is on a human scale, so you can get from one part of the city to the other in no time. What’s more, the Dom Luis bridge allows you to cross the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia.

If you are planning to use public transport, in particular the typical tramway, you can opt for the

. This pass allows you to use public transport and enjoy more than 150 advantages and discounts, including free access to 6 museums and 50% discount on a port wine cellar. There’s also a

of this pass.

Finally, if you’re planning to visit Porto’s surroundings on your own, and in particular the Douro Valley, we recommend renting a car locally for the day. To find your car, you can search for it on Rentalcars.

Where to sleep in Porto?

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation and neighborhoods in which to stay when visiting Porto. The first option we recommend is to stay in the Baixa district, which corresponds to the historic city center. Ribeira is also a good option for enjoying both the typical side and the nightlife. Finally, Boavista is perfect for those on a tight budget, while Ceidofeita will delight those looking for a more hipster vibe.

To find your hotel, you can do a search on this hotel comparator. And don’t forget to check out the vacation rental offers on Airbnb.

Porto is not only a beautiful city with a rich heritage, but also a place rich in experiences. There’s so much to do in Porto, you’ll have no trouble putting together the perfect little program!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Porto,pt