Weekend in Porto, Portugal

What to see in Porto in a Day

Porto is an atmospheric, provincial and traditional city in the west of Portugal.

It is a constant rival of Lisbon: the inhabitants of the two cities do not stop arguing about where the food is tastier and the views are more beautiful. It was hard for me to choose, so I decided to remain neutral.

Tourists often stop in Porto when they travel through northern Spain and Portugal. The city is also a stopover when flying to the island of Madeira. In my opinion, Porto is worth spending a few days in. But if you’re just passing through or on a connecting flight, a day is enough to get an impression of the city. Even with a small travel budget, you’ll see a lot: Porto has dozens of free attractions.

The main attractions are close by – you can walk through the center and see the most important things. I made a 9 km route, on which I walked myself. During the walk you can see the ornate Almache Chapel, walk across the bridge, which looks like the Eiffel Tower, buy a book in the store where Joan Rowling invented Harry Potter, and watch the sunset while standing under the bridge.

It’s worth the price of an all-day metro ticket.

What you’ll see.

How to get from the airport to downtown Porto

To calculate the fare, visit the Metro website.

At night you can take bus number 3, it goes downtown to Trindade station. Tickets for all buses can be bought from the driver.

The route is

The church of St. Ildefonso seems to tower above the whole city. It was built in the 18th century in the Baroque style, but it looks unusual: the façade is lined with traditional white and blue azulejo tiles. The gray stone combines with bright blue and white gospel scenes – the church looks beautiful and mysterious, especially against the background of gray clouds. I think it has a special charm in inclement weather.

I’ve been many places, but these facades remain some of the most incredible for me so far. Even the rich interior pales in comparison to the building itself. But inside it’s beautiful, too: the gray walls are gilded, and the bright stained-glass windows shine even in cloudy weather.

Freedom Square is the main square in the city. It’s where locals and tourists spend their summer evenings. It is a large and spacious square with buildings, as if built of white sand. In good weather, the beautiful roofs, towers, windows and balconies shine and sparkle.

Here is the photogenic town hall, a monument to King Pedro IV, who gave Portugal its constitution, office buildings, cafes and restaurants. During the World Cup or European Football Championships a fanzone can be found on the square. Also in front of the town hall there are big letters – Porto. Tourists stand in line to be photographed in front of them.

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The Lello Bookstore is known for being the place where Joan Rowling ran away from her Portuguese husband, whose life with him didn’t work out. Some say that she wrote her first Harry Potter book here. Whether that’s true or not is unknown, but perhaps this store was the inspiration for her story: the interiors here are just like the book. Interestingly, in Porto, university students wear the same robes as the heroes of the fairy tale.

stands the entrance to the Lello bookstore

Ribeira Square is bright and authentic – you can feel the spirit of Porto. Multicolored houses stand close together, and I love the way the different styles, colors, and textures of the houses blend together. If you look at the square from afar or from the bridge, the houses seem to be built on top of each other. But it is this contrast that makes the square mottled and unlike anything else.

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I suggest wandering around the streets near the square and going into the little courtyards to see how the locals live. At the time I visited, there was some kind of festival going on there and every yard was decorated with garlands and flags.

The square is on the bank of the River Duero. It overlooks the Don Luis Bridge and the opposite bank.

The houses stand close together and the people in them live their lives, completely oblivious to the passing onlookers

Ponte de Don Luis is the bridge over the River Duero that connects Porto with the neighboring town of Vila Nova di Gaia. If you don’t know, it seems like an extension of Porto. I suggest you visit this city as well and walk across the bridge, which was designed by an Eiffel apprentice. The bridge resembles the Eiffel Tower and, despite its gray appearance, blends in perfectly with the colorful Porto.

I suggest walking along the upper pedestrian tier because it offers an incredible view of the two cities and the river that separates them. Going up to the railing was a little scary for me – for those who are afraid of heights, walking across the bridge will be a challenge.

The view of the bridge, which really does look like the disassembled Eiffel Tower. There are streetcars and people walking on the upper level and cars and a small walkway on the lower level.

You get to the Jardin des Morraux right from the bridge. In the garden you can meet the sunset or have a snack in the middle of a long walk. There stands the 16th century Serra do Pilar Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At night it is beautifully illuminated. You can appreciate its evening charm from the Ribeira square.

There are vantage points in the garden and near the monastery that offer a view of the bridge. I suggest the first one: there are no benches near the monastery and in hot weather there is nowhere to hide from the sun.

It’s worth the ticket for the port wine tasting.

It was interesting to walk around the cellars between the huge wine barrels. During the tasting they talk about the basic rules of port wine drinking. I found the drink to be pungent and strong, but at the same time flavorful and full-bodied. I tasted port in several other restaurants in Porto, but I never drank it again after the trip. In the wine cellar store, the prices are 10-15% higher than in a regular store.

What to see in Porto in 3 days – Top attractions

Porto is the second largest center of Portugal and the northern capital of the country. Porto is not at all like Lisbon: the only similarity is that both of these cities are on the coast. Porto has a very special atmosphere, unique historic architecture, a 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 make your task easier, 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 most vivid impressions?

1. Take a walk in the Ribeira quarter

The best place to start sightseeing in Porto is the atmospheric Ribeira neighborhood. Many tourists fall in love with this distinctive neighborhood, and understandably so: 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.

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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 can be found in this article.

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 also 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. So 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 enormous Dragau Stadium was built for the European Championship in 2004. During this time five European Championship matches were held there. Here everyone can feel the sports and soccer atmosphere of the city. Many people consider it one of the main modern attractions of Porto and Portugal in general.

Top view of the FC Porto Stadium

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

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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 many 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 know nothing 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.

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 bridge of Arrábida. The organizers of the project Porto Bridge Climb offer everyone from 12 years old to climb the 262 steps of the arch on the structure of the bridge, rising to a height of 65 meters. Prepare for the fact that the climb will be exciting, but completely safe and not extreme.

All groups (from one person) are accompanied by an experienced guide. You can book a ticket for the climb in advance, but it’s better to come right to the place: there is a schedule of climbs. Allocate about an hour for 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.
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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 the 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 it gets crowded inside because of the large number of visitors.

  • 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 Town Hall

The famous Porto Town Hall started 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.

Porto Town Hall

The town hall is considered one of the most photogenic buildings in Porto. It is in harmony with the general appearance of the square and accentuates its somewhat pompous beauty. Take a closer look at this monumental building and you will see a huge number 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.

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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.

What else to try in Portugal, besides wine, read 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. This is a great way to get 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 need to buy a card for 60 cents and add a few trips to it. The cost per trip will be from 1.2€ within one zone to 5.5€ within all transport zones, a 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 that you don’t have to drive all over the city looking for 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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