10 Best things to see and do in Porto, Portugal

10 Best things to see and do in Porto

Porto, Portugal’s second largest city after its capital Lisbon, is a diverse city full of pleasant surprises. Positioned on the banks of the Douro River, this charismatic city is home to historic buildings and ornate architecture, set in narrow winding streets. Mixed with old Port wine cellars, friendly locals and a vibrant dining scene, there is plenty of appeal for all.
If you only have a short time in Porto, there are many places that you cannot afford to miss. Here are our top 10 best things to see and do in Porto.

1. Dom Luís I Bridge 

The Dom Luís I Bridge is one of Porto’s most iconic structures and hard to miss. Spanning the beautiful Douro River, this two level bridge connects the downtown Ribeira district of Porto with the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia. The lower level is strictly reserved for vehicle traffic, and the top level for pedestrians and the metro. Take the time to walk across the top level of the Dom Luís I Bridge for fabulous views of Porto’s old town and the river.
2. The Church of Sāo Francisco

The Church of Sāo Francisco is one of the most prominent buildings in Porto. Originally a small church and convent in 1245, its Romanesque origins were transformed into one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in Porto. The austere Gothic exterior leads into a dazzling display of baroque finery on the inside, with the ornate walls covered in over 100kg of gold leaf.

3. Drink port – Porto Wine Cellars

A visit to Porto is not complete until you’ve sampled its delicious and famous Port Wine. There are dozens of Port wine cellars across the city where you can enjoy a guided tour and tastings of the finest vintage Ports, whilst learning about the history of the house. We recommend visiting Vila Nova de Gaia, the historic district set on the banks of the Douro River, for a tasting of the region’s famed drop in one of the most famous cellars of Porto.

4. Take a Douro river cruise

Porto marks the start and end point of a Douro river cruise through the World Heritage-listed Douro Valley. Cruise this truly timeless waterway, visit the vineyards and discover the region’s most enchanting towns and villages on board Emerald Radiance.

5. Ribeira

One of the most beautiful and liveliest districts in Porto’s historical centre is Ribeira, located on the banks of the Douro River. Although one of the oldest districts of the city, it is also one of the most authentic and picturesque, with a network of narrow cobbled laneways and colourful and beautifully decorated facades. Savour some of Portugal’s delicious local dishes at one of the many traditional restaurants with outdoor terraces, and soak up the evening entertainment whilst admiring the views over Dom Luís I Bridge.

6. Sāo Bento Train Station

Sāo Bento Train Station is one of the world’s most beautiful train stations and worth a visit even if you don’t arrive by train. Built in 1900, and opening in 1916 to the general public, this station was named after a Benedictine monastery that once occupied its space in the 16th century. 

Don’t miss the incredible azulejos, the beautiful blue and white tile work that line the walls of the train station and depicts Portugal’s history. Designed by artist Jorge Colaço in 1930, the 20,000 tiles showcase the Portuguese history of its royalty, transport and historic battles such as the Battle of Valdevez in 1140. 

7. Porto Cathedral

Close to the Sāo Bento Train Station in the upper part of Porto is the Porto Cathedral, one of the most important religious edifices in the city.

Built between the 12th and 13th century, the historic, fortress-like Romanesque church is one of Porto’s oldest buildings and also one of the most popular tourist destinations. Admire the interior Gothic style cloisters, lined with stunning azulejos tiling as well as the two cupola-topped towers, featuring a beautiful rose window.

Don’t forget to admire the breathtaking views from the cathedral’s terrace over the city and Douro River.

8. Crystal Palace Gardens

If you love gardens then the Crystal Palace Gardens (Palácio de Cristal), designed by German landscaping architect Émile David in the 19th century are worth a visit.

These beautifully landscaped gardens are the perfect respite and offer picturesque views of the city. Wander through the mosaic of small gardens, admire the fountains and sculptures and sit under the cypress and olive trees. You will also find the Porto Romantic Museum, the Port Wine Museum, as well as a domed sports pavilion here too.

9. Foz

For beautiful beaches, wonderful architecture and great restaurants, be sure to visit Foz do Douro, one of Porto’s most intriguing neighbourhoods and home to some of the most expensive mansions. Situated in Porto’s west, where the Douro river enters the Atlantic Ocean, you can enjoy gentle walks along the beach and promenade with an ice cream in hand and if the weather is warm enough, take a dip in the clear blue sea.

You can easily spend half a day in Foz. Visit the Felgueiras lighthouse, stop by the Fortress São João Baptista da Foz, a stronghold constructed in the late sixteenth century to safeguard the mouth of the Douro and visit Forte de São Francisco Xavier, also known as Castelo do Queijo (Cheese Castle), due to the wedge of rock it stands on.

10. Climb the Clérigos Tower

For some of the best views over the city and river, climb the 200 steps to the top of Clérigos Tower. Standing 76 metres tall, Clérigos Tower was built in the 18th century and is the tallest campanile in Portugal. 
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