Top 30 attractions in Porto – descriptions and photos

Porto

Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is built on granite cliffs above the Douro River in the north of the country. Porto affects the eye with its maze of beautiful streets and old buildings, abruptly running down to the medieval harbor. It’s hard not to be enchanted by the narrow streets, the beautiful arches and the city promenade with its many ancient ships carrying wine. Porto, which Europeans call Oporto, is one of the main financial and economic centers of the northwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula.

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Video: Porto

Highlights

Once upon a time there was a Roman settlement of Portus on one shore and Calus on the opposite shore. In the early Middle Ages, the city became known as Portucale.

Portugal’s most famous product, port, was named after this very city, as the wine was exported from Vila Nova di Gaia, on the other side of the river. Beginning in the 1850s, winemakers began aging the wine in Porto’s warehouses, and since then about 60 wineries have climbed the mountain near the harbor. Tours with tastings are arranged there.

The people of Porto have always prided themselves on their ability to work hard, but the buzz in the bars and restaurants at night proves they know how to relax as well as work.

The Douro River is spanned by beautiful bridges and steep slopes are lined with colorful houses with red tile roofs.

Things to see and try

Porto is an architectural cocktail. It’s best explored on foot, though you have to climb the many hills. The city has an amazing vitality. There’s modern architecture, art galleries, chic stores and restaurants, and even a new subway – the tunnels for three lines were drilled into the granite cliffs.

With its headwaters in Spain, the Douro River has always been Porto’s chief source of wealth. The river valley is lined with vineyard terraces. Excellent table wines and the famous Port wine are produced here. Traditionally, port was delivered to the city in oak barrels that were loaded onto the local barcos rabelos, flat-bottomed boats with square sails. And in the city the barrels were reloaded into the cool and humid cellars of Vila Nova di Gaia (this town is opposite Porto, on the other side of the river). Port wine is still stored in the same warehouses today, but now the barrels are transported in trucks.

The city had its origins on the riverbank, but has long since moved beyond the ancient walls. Praca da Liberdade (Liberdade Square), which is the center of the city today, is high on a hill. There is a central tourist office behind the town hall (Rua Clube dos Fenianos 25, Tel: 223-393-472, www.portoturismo.pt) . From Liberdade Square walk west along Clerigos Street and climb to the bell tower of the Clerigos Baroque Church (Igreja de Clerigos; daily October-March 10am-12pm, April-July, September 9.30-13pm, 2.30-19pm, August 10am-19pm) .

A couple of blocks east of the church and south of Liberdade Square is the spacious and very beautiful Sao Bento station (Estai;ao de Sao Bento) – too beautiful to be considered just a station. It was built in 1916. The waiting room is decorated with magnificent tiled panels depicting scenes from the history of the city.

South of the station is the Cathedral Quarter. The Romanesque cathedral of the XII century (Se; April – October daily 8.45-12.30, 14.30-19.00, November-March Mon-Sat till 18.00) looks rather gloomy and severe – a fortress rather than a church. In the XVIII century, an attempt was made to give the cathedral a more modern look. That’s when the baroque decorations appeared. Upon entering the cathedral, notice the baroque silver altar and the rosette above the entrance. In this granite cathedral in 1387 King João I married Philip Lancaster, thus cementing the sacred union between Portugal and England – the sanctity of which is especially felt in Porto, where numerous English firms are involved in the port wine trade.

Nearby, on Rua de Dom Hugo, is the Casa-Museu Guerra Junqueiro; Fri-Fri 10am-12.30pm, 2pm-17.30pm, Fri-Sat 10am-12.30pm, 2pm-6pm, Sun 2pm-18pm, admission paid, free at weekends. This is the house where the famous Portuguese poet lived in the 18th century and today you can see his manuscripts, furniture and art collection. On Largo 1 Dezembre, you can visit the Church of Santa Clara (Igreja Santa Clara; Mon-Fri 9.30-11.30, 15.00-18.00), a great secret of Porto that is not easy to find. A modest Renaissance façade hides a sumptuous Rococo interior.

The cozy coastal neighborhood of Cais da Ribeira is very popular with tourists and residents alike. Porto’s historic waterfront is now listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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There are many fish restaurants here. From here the boats depart and the piers are located under picturesque bridges. From here you can take a week-long cruise on the Douro River to Regua. The beautiful King Luis I Bridge (Ponte Dom Luis I) was built in 1886. It goes over the colorful houses of Ribeira and goes directly to the Vila Nova di Gaia wine cellars.

On a hill overlooking the river is the neighbourhood of the Bolsa, named after the elegant 19th-century Bolsa Palace (Praga do Infante Dom Henrique; April to October 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., November to March 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., entrance fee; www.palaciodabolsa.pt). Of course, the richly decorated neoclassical palace no longer has a stock exchange, but tourists have a chance to see the luxurious interiors. The palace’s main attraction is the Arab Hall (Salao Arabe), reminiscent of Granada’s Alhambra palaces.

Nearby on Rua do Infante D. The most beautiful church in town is the Church of Sao Francisco, daily Feb. to May 9 am – 6 pm, June to September 9 am – 7 pm, July to August 9 am – 8 pm, November to January 9 am – 5.30 pm, entrance fee is charged. Behind the austere Gothic facade hides a stunning gold Rococo interior. Gilded ornaments and decorations cover all the walls of the church from floor to ceiling. Note the gilded and painted wooden sculpture from the 18th century. “The Tree of Jesse” on the north wall. From this sculpture you can study the genealogy of Christ.

Opposite the church is an interesting little museum where relics of the old monastery are kept. Here you can also visit the catacombs.

Near Bolsa is the Casa do Infante (Casa do Infante; Fri-Sat 10.00-12.00, 14.00-17.00, Wed 14.00-17.00, admission paid, free on weekends) . Supposedly this is where Enrique the Navigator was born. The people of Porto are very proud of it. The city has always been very closely connected with the sea. The navy was assembled here, which recaptured Ceuta in 1415. The patriotic citizens of Porto donated the best meat from their stores and ate their own tripe for the navy as it went to war with the Moors in North Africa. For this they earned the nickname “tri peyrouche,” meaning “tripe eaters.

Other interesting museums in Porto are northwest of the city center. Suares dos Reis Museum (Rua Dom Manuel II; em 14.00-18.00, Wed-Sun 10.00-18.00, admission paid) is a remarkable art gallery located in the 18th century Carrancas Palace. You’ll see paintings by Josepha de Obidos and sculptures by Antonio Soares dos Reis. Note the magnificent sculpture O Desterrado.

The Romantico da Quinta da Macieirinha (Rua Entre-Quintas 220, west of the Clerigus Tower; Tues-Sat 10.00-12.30, Thu 14.00-17.30, admission paid, free on weekends) houses a collection of 19th century art and furniture, which belonged to the last king of Sardinia.

Fans of modern art and architecture should visit the Fundagao Serralves, Rua D. Joao de Castro 210, about 3 km west of the Clerigouche Tower; Fri-Fri 10.00-17.00, Sat, Wed 10.00-19.00, admission paid, www.serralves.pt) .

This museum consists of two parts. The first is a gloomy modern building built by the famous local architect Alvaro Siza Vieira. The second is a magnificent pink Art Deco mansion from the 1930s, surrounded by a beautiful garden and a park where wild goats live. Both parts of the museum host temporary exhibitions of Portuguese and foreign artists.

If you want to try some good port, go to the Port Wine Institute (Mon-Sat 16.00-24.00; www. ivp.pt), next to the Crystal Palace, at the end of Rua de Entre-Quintas. It’s a wonderful place with a beautiful view of the Douro River all the way to its confluence with the Atlantic Ocean. Another fantastic place is Graham’s Port Visitors’ Centre (May – September daily 9.30-18.00, Tues by appointment, October – April Mon-Fri 9.30-13.00, 14.00-17.30) .

Vila Nova di Gaia.

The lower level of the bridge of King Luis I leads to the wine cellars of the Vila Nova de Gaia. These low buildings occupy the whole south bank. Familiar and less familiar names await you here: Taylor, Osborne and Ramos Pinto. Restaurants line the modern promenade, from where you can enjoy a very beautiful view of Porto.

Although no longer required by law, most port wine is still blended, stored and aged in the wine cellars of Gaia (that’s how the coastal town is called) .

Almost all of the wine cellars were founded in 1703 after the Treaty of Methuen, under which England agreed to lower import duties on port wine. Most producers offer tourists free tours and tastings.

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Metro Porto

Most of the ancient city is best explored on foot by walking through the center or down to the colorful Ribeiro neighborhood on the northern bank of the Douro. However, the local metro will not only save you from endless traffic jams (such as on Boaviste), but will also allow you to quickly reach the most interesting parts of the city. One of these attractions is the luxurious new Casa da Musica concert hall. Another, which on some days draws huge crowds, is the Dragao soccer stadium, where the world-famous local team Porto train. The metro also takes you across the river to Vila Nova di Gaia. The trains are clean and quiet and it’s easy to buy tickets. Just don’t forget to stamp them before boarding the train.

Streetcar Museum

Take a look at the romantic old streetcar at the foot of the hill in the Bolsa district. It takes you to the Museu do Carro Electrico where you can see the very first streetcar introduced in Porto in 1872.

Excursions along the coast

Porto’s closest beaches are in the west. The Douro River has a large sandbar here. It flows into the ocean at Foz do Douro (Douro estuary) . In the nineteenth century, the Fauche was a popular resort, but now the water here is heavily polluted.

But you can still enjoy a pleasant day and evening on its beaches and in its restaurants, and take the scenic old vintage streetcar (no. 18) from the city to the Castelo do Queijo.

A little to the north begin the beach resorts of the Costa Verde in Minho. The water is not the warmest, but it is clean. The closest resorts to Porto (only 27 km to the north) are Vila do Conde and Povoa do Varzim. Vila do Conde is prettier and cozier than its neighbor.

You can easily walk to Povoa do Varzim. It is a busier and more built-up resort, where there is even a casino. A visit to Rates, with its magnificent 11th century Romanesque church, is a must.

When to visit

In spring or autumn.

Not to be missed

  • Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. This lovely little neighborhood, home to many architectural landmarks, is ideal for walking.
  • The Douro River Valley, with its extensive vineyards, is known for its production of port wine; several vineyards can be visited here.
  • The city cathedral, built in the Portuguese Gothic style, commemorates the Portuguese victory over the Muslim armies in 1510. The cathedral bell, considered one of the finest in the world, is called “golden” for its magnificent voice.
  • The Church of St. Francis is an original temple built in honor of St. Francis of Assisi in 1383, then enlarged and finally completed in 1425.
  • The church is the best example of Gothic architecture in Porto.

Need to know

Porto is the center of production of Port Wine, a wine that is named after this city.

What to see in Porto in 3 days – Top Sights

Porto is the second largest center of Portugal and the northern capital of the country. Porto is not like Lisbon; the only similarity is that both are on the coast. Porto has a very special atmosphere, unique historical architecture, footballing spirit and stunning views.

Porto is Portugal's second largest center

There are so many sights in the city that it is impossible to visit them all in a few days. They are literally located at every step. To simplify your task, we have compiled a selection of the most interesting sights of Porto with photos and descriptions.

So, what to do and see in Porto to get the brightest impressions?

1. Take a walk around the Ribeira quarter

The best place to start sightseeing in Porto is the atmospheric Ribeira neighborhood. Many tourists fall in love with this quaint neighborhood and understandably so, since every house is interesting. Strolling along the promenade or the narrow streets and enjoying the authentic beauty of the cozy homes with brightly tiled roofs, this is the place to be for a real Portuguese experience.

Ribeira walk

There are plenty of little cafes overlooking the waterfront in the Ribeira quarter – and at reasonable prices. Be sure to stop in and, best of all, try the signature Portuguese francesinha sandwich, baked in the open oven right in front of you.

In the evening, the Ribeira quarter turns into the most romantic place in the city, so if you’re going to Porto with someone you love, go here for dinner or an evening stroll.

From the Ribeira promenade you can take a river cruise on the Dora or walk to the Don Luis Bridge, which offers a beautiful view of the neighborhood.

For your information. Detailed information about Porto, its beaches and prices in the city are presented in this article.

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2. Admire the view from the Don Luis Bridge

Don Luis Bridge in the evening

The Don Luis Bridge, designed by a pupil of Eiffel himself, is one of Porto’s main attractions. You could say that this bridge for Porto is like the Eiffel Tower for Paris. Its unusual silhouette is often depicted on Portuguese port wine labels. In the evening, when the lights come on, the bridge takes on a special charm. To visit Porto and not take a picture of it is simply unforgivable.

Travelers are unanimous in saying it offers the best views of Porto, the Douro River, and the Ribeira neighborhood, with its red-orange rooftops. Photographs of such a magnificent panorama are like postcards. But the landmark is interesting in its own right, with its unusual two-tiered design: the lower tier is used by cars and the upper one by subway trains. There are sidewalks for pedestrians on both levels. From the lower tier local daredevils jump into the water, charging tourists one euro each for their exploits.

Photo of the view from the Don Luis Bridge

The Don Luis Bridge connects the city center to Villo Nova di Gaia, where they hold port wine tastings at the historic winery. Therefore, the final point of the walk can be planned here. Be sure to walk across the bridge, look at the panorama that opens up – it will give you a special experience.

From the upper level you can take the elevator that will take you down to the Porto seafront. For those who buy a cable car ticket, fliers are sometimes given out for wine tastings of wines produced in Portugal. The trip costs 6€ one way.

Getting to the attractions is most convenient by metro. Get off at the Jardim do Morro or Sao Bento stations and then walk a short distance.

3. Go to a soccer match at the FC Porto Stadium

Soccer match at the FC Porto stadium

Everybody knows that Portugal is a soccer country. A visit to the home stadium of the legendary soccer club is therefore worthwhile even for those who are not fans of this sport. Who knows, maybe after visiting this stadium you too will become an ardent fan!

The grandiose stadium Dragau was built for the European Championship in 2004. During this time, it has already hosted five matches of the championship. Here everyone can experience the sports and soccer atmosphere of the city. Many people think it is one of the main modern attractions of Porto and Portugal in general.

Top view of the FC Porto Stadium

If you can’t buy a ticket to a match, you can just look at the stadium outside and inside, visit the soccer museum and book a tour in English. Inside, there is a Porto Club store, which sells numerous souvenirs for soccer fans at fairly high prices.

It is most convenient to get to the stadium by metro. Get off at the Estádio do Dragão (yellow line) station.

  • Location: Via do Futebol Clube do Porto, Porto 4350-415, Estádio do Dragão Stadium
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00 – 19:00.
  • Web site: www.fcporto.pt.

4. Visit the FC Porto Museum

The FC Porto Museum is located inside the Dragão Stadium we wrote about above. From what tourists have told us, this museum is of great interest to all, and for soccer fans it is a feast. You can also learn a lot about sport in Portugal.

At the FC Porto Museum

This is a very large and informative museum with lots of trophies, artifacts, and interactive screens. Even if you don’t know anything about FC Porto, you will still realize and feel its significance. It is best to book a tour which includes a visit to the stadium. They will tell you about the history of FC Porto and show you the inside and the soccer field itself.

Visit FC Porto Museum

Allow at least an hour and a half to visit the museum. The combined museum and stadium tour costs 15€ for an adult, 10€ for a child under 16, and free for children under 4. A visit to one museum will cost 12 € for an adult and 8 € for a child. Pensioners over the age of 65 enjoy discounted tickets.

  • Address: Estádio do Dragão, Porto 4350-415.
  • Open Mon-Fri 10:00-19:00.
  • Ticket price (stadium tour + museum): 15€.

5. Climb the bell tower of the Church of Clerigos

Torre dos Clérigos Bell Tower and Church

Portugal’s tallest bell tower, the Clerigos, should be a must on the list of things to see in Porto in 3 days. This tall tower (75 meters) can be seen from various points in Porto, so it is considered one of the most recognizable structures in the city. It used to serve as a landmark for ships that entered the harbor.

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The bell tower belongs to the baroque church of the same name, built between 1732 and 1748, which is also very beautiful, interesting and worth visiting. In 1910 it was officially recognized as a national treasure of Portugal.

To climb to the bell tower on the narrow stairs is not an easy task. The observation deck is also quite cramped, but it offers a stunning view of the city. So it is definitely worth the climb.

  • Address: Rua Sao Filipe Neri, Porto 4050-546.
  • Cost to visit: 6€ during the day (until 7pm) and 5€ in the evening (from 7 to 9pm). Children under 10 years old are free, students 50% off. The day ticket includes a visit to the museum.
  • Opening hours: 9:00-19:00 (tower + museum). The tower is open until 23:00.
  • Website: www.torredosclerigos.pt.

Note! The city of Sintra with many unique castles of Portugal is described in this article.

6. Conquer the Arrábida Bridge on the Porto Bridge Climb tour

Conquering the Arrábida Bridge on the Porto Bridge Climb excursion

If you have 3 days to see the sights of Porto and you like extreme entertainment, be sure to become a “climber” on the Arrábida Bridge. The organizers of the project Porto Bridge Climb offer everyone from 12 years old to overcome the 262 steps of the arch on the bridge structure, climbing to a height of 65 meters. Prepare for the fact that the ascent will be exciting, but completely safe and not extreme.

All groups (one person and up) are accompanied by an experienced guide. You can book a ticket for the climb in advance, but it’s better to come straight to the place: there is a schedule of climbs. Allocate about an hour for the ascent and descent and wear comfortable sports shoes.

From the top of the structure you can see the ocean and the city from an unusual angle. Also, a pleasant surprise awaits everyone who climbs to the top. If you want the most incredible experience, climb the bridge during sunset.

  • Location: Ponte da Arrábida, Porto.
  • Prices: climbing in a group of 1 to 4 people for 17,5€ each, in a group of 5 people for 16€.
  • Official website: www.portobridgeclimb.com.
7. See the Carmo and Carmelite churches, separated by the narrowest building in the world

Carmo and Carmelite Church

One of Portugal’s most beautiful churches, the sumptuous Rococo Carmo Church, is located on the Teixeira Square, in the historic center of Porto. Right next to it rises the Carmelite temple. The churches are built so close that it seems as if they are one big temple. But in fact, they are separated by a house only 1 meter wide, which is considered the narrowest building in the world.

Most of all, the Church of Carmo, built in the 18th century, fascinates tourists with traditional tiles of Portugal – tiles “azulejo”, in appearance reminiscent of Gzhel. The walls of the church are decorated with the largest mosaic paintings with images of Carmelites, which is impossible not to admire. Moreover, the temple is decorated with statues of evangelists and sculptures of prophets. Its interior decoration is no less rich. That is why the church is considered one of the most significant sights of Porto and its surroundings.

It is worth noting that the splendid beauty of the Carmo Church is underlined by a splendid fountain with sculptures of lions, which is located on the square in front of the temples.

Address: Rua Carmo, Porto, Portugal.

8. Visit the “Harry Potter library” Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello is a beautiful historic bookstore

The Livraria Lello is actually a beautiful historic bookstore from the 1890s that features a unique wooden staircase – almost the same as the one in Hogwarts in Harry Potter. According to some versions, this is the staircase J.K. Rowling was inspired by when she described the Hogwarts library.

The Livraria Lello store in Porto is considered the third most beautiful bookstore in the world, so many travelers and Harry Potter fans want to see it. This is why there are often queues at the entrance and because of the large number of visitors it gets crowded inside the store.

  • The entrance costs 5€: you can spend the money to buy a book but most of the books are in Portuguese, although you can find some in English too.
  • Address: Rua Carmelitas 144 | Vitória, Porto 4050-161.
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-19:40, Sat-Fri 10:00-19:00.
  • Web site: www.livrarialello.pt.
9. Take a picture of the Porto City Hall building

The famous Porto Town Hall began to be built on the town square in 1920, although it looks much older. The building has six floors, not counting the basement. The main decoration of the city hall is its 70-meter tower with chimes, which can be reached by climbing 180 steps.

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Porto Town Hall

The town hall is considered one of the most photogenic buildings in Porto. It blends in harmoniously with the square’s overall appearance and enhances its somewhat pompous beauty. Take a closer look at this monumental building and you can see the myriad of decorations: sculptures, columns, and arches. Note that the windows of the Town Hall are made in many different forms: rectangular, round, oval.

To take the best photos, come to the town hall in the early morning, when the area is not yet crowded with tourists.

Location: Praça General Humberto Delgado, Porto 4000-172.

10. Tasting port at Vinicola Ramos Pinto

Vinicola Ramos Pinto

While in Porto, it is worth tasting the famous local port. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by its taste and take a bottle or two home with you.

The best place to try it is at a historic winery such as Casa Ramos Pinto which was founded in 1880 by the Ramos brothers. Here you can visit the winemaking museum and see how port is made and stored. A tasting of two budget port wines is included in the tour price. For a fee you can taste young wines, vintage and elite port wines.

Vinicola Ramos Pinto wine tasting

You can get to the winery from the Don Luis Bridge by taking the cable car or the stairs. Combine a visit with a walk through the Ribeira district.

  • Address: Avenida Ramos Pinto 400, Porto 4400-266.
  • Price: from 7€ depending on drink selection.
  • Opening hours: 10:00-18:00.
  • Web site: www.ramospinto.pt.

Read what else to try in Portugal besides wine in this article.

11. enjoy the peace and vastness of Porto’s city park

View of Parque da Cidade do Porto from a quadcopter

If you’ve had your fill of architectural sights and are looking for something to see in Porto amidst the natural beauty, visit the Parque da Cidade do Porto. A stroll through this spacious park can be combined with a beach vacation on the Atlantic Ocean coast, as one side of the park overlooks the waterfront.

Birds in the park that are not afraid of people

It’s a place to take a quiet break from the bustling city and enjoy the picturesque paths and lawns while breathing in the fresh breeze. In the ponds of the park swim different birds (ducks, geese, etc.), which are not afraid of people. It is not for nothing that visitors have nicknamed this park the green oasis of Porto.

The park is quite far from the center, so it is better to get there by subway or bus number 500. Allow about half a day for a visit.

Where you can find it: Avenida da Boavista, Porto 4100-121.

12. Understand the city’s metro system

If you want to change your ideas about the metro, go down to the Porto Underground. However, the word subway doesn’t quite fit here, because the metro trains in Porto mostly ride on the surface. You can ride it comfortably to the airport, train station, beach, and many sights.

Porto Metro Map

But note right away that paying for tickets in Porto is quite complicated. First you have to buy a card for 60 cents and add some trips to it. The cost per trip will be from 1.2 € within one zone to 5.5 € within all transport zones, the day pass is 7 €. The whole metro system is divided into zones: as soon as you change to another branch, you need to reapply your pass.

This is what the metro train in Porto looks like

A peculiarity of the metro in Porto is that trains of different lines can run on the same tracks. Therefore, check the direction indicated on the train itself, so you do not have to go all over the city in search of your station.

This is the program we offer to those who want to see the sights of Porto in 3 days. But of course you can make a completely different itinerary, focusing on your interests, the northern capital of Portugal has interesting places for all tastes.

All prices and schedules on this page are for January 2021.

All attractions in Porto, described in the article, are marked on the map in Russian.

Walking around Porto with a local guide and taking pictures from the air – in this video.

Author: Vlada Marsheva

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