City trip Porto: The Ultimate Guide
Porto is the second city of Portugal. The port city is located on both sides of the Douro River and near the Atlantic coast. Porto has a special atmosphere and a beautiful old centre. The historic city centre is even included on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.
In Porto you will find numerous historical sights such as buildings and bridges, interesting museums, atmospheric terraces, bars, clubs and restaurants and more than enough opportunities for shopping. In addition, the city is of course known for its delicious port wines and excellent Portuguese cuisine.
Relaxing is also fine in and around Porto. There is a beautiful green park in the city centre and you can sunbathe on the beach or take a walk on the beach. Or grab a terrace along the water and enjoy the sun and the view of the river. In short, Porto is an excellent destination for a city trip for a day, weekend or full week.
- 1. City trip Porto: characteristics of the city
- 2. The historic centre of Porto: Ribeira
- 3. Famous bridges in Porto: Luis I Bridge & Porto Bridge
- 4. The churches and cathedrals of Porto
- 5. Other historic buildings in Porto
- 6. Visit the most beautiful museums of Porto
- 7. A piece of the Netherlands in the Portuguese port city: Casa da Música
- 8. Praça da Liberdade & Livrario Lello
- 9. Combine a city trip to Porto with a day or weekend at the beach
- 10. Foz do Douro: cosy and luxurious neighbourhood in the west of Porto
- 11. Relax in the green during your city trip to Porto
- 12. On a city trip to Porto: dining, going out, shopping
- 13. Overnight stay in a hotel in Porto
- 14. Travelling to Porto and transport in the city
- 15. On a city trip to Porto? Read here our tips
- 16. Book a city trip to Porto: compare providers
1. City trip Porto: characteristics of the city
Do you want to go on a city trip to Porto for a day, weekend or week? Do you want to know what there is to do in Porto? The characteristics of the city can be found in the table below. In this article we have listed the most popular sights of Porto for you.
City trip PortoCharacteristics
|Number of inhabitants Porto||0.2 million|
|Number of international tourists per year||1.6 million|
|Flight travel time (direct flight)||2 hours and 45 minutes|
|Time difference with the Netherlands||In Porto it is 1 hour earlier than in the Netherlands|
|Distance from Utrecht||2000 kilometers|
|Best travel period||Summer, spring, autumn|
|Activities||City, culture, art, history, shopping, beach|
2. The historic centre of Porto: Ribeira
In Ribeira, the historic centre of Porto, it is fine to stay. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops. In addition, you will come across all kinds of historic buildings. The centre has a special atmosphere with wide main streets, narrow alleys and cosy squares. The old center is characterized by historic buildings with colorful facades and red roofs, several towers and a unique location on the river Douro. Porto is built on hills and therefore some streets are very steep. This gives it a charming appearance and beautiful views.
Ribeira lies on the river Douro. The river quay is known as the Cais da Ribeira and has many bars, restaurants and shops. There are also several historic port boats moored at the quay. These concrete boats were formerly used to transport port and now serve as tour boats. In the evening you can go out at the Cais da Ribeira.
The historic centre is listed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO and is also called the open-air museum of Portuguese culture.
3. Famous bridges in Porto: Luis I Bridge & Porto Bridge
Luis I Bridge
The most famous bridge of Porto is the (Ponte DomLuis I Bridge Luis I). The steel bridge connects the parts of the city north and south of the Douro river. The bridge was built around 1885 and named after the then Portuguese King Louis I. The Luis I Bridge consists of two road decks 44 meters above each other. The lower part is intended for car traffic, the upper part for the metro. You can also enter the bridge on foot. From the upper deck you have a beautiful view over the river and the city.
3.1. Arrábida bridge
3.2. Porto Bridge
The Porto Bridge Ascent is a unique experience as it is the only concrete arch accessible to the public.
4. The churches and cathedrals of Porto
Porto is full of beautiful buildings. Very impressive is for example the Church of Sao Francisco (Igreja de São Francisco). It was originally a Gothic church, but later parts were added in baroque style.
Some highlights of the Church of Sao Francisco are the vestibule, the Baptistery with a depiction of the Baptism of Jesus in the altarpiece, the beautiful rococo carving inlaid with gold leaf and the Jesse tree with the family tree of Jesus. The interior of the church is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
4.1. Clérigos Church
The Clérigos Church (Igreja dos Clérigos) was designed by the Italian architect Nasoni and built in Baroque style. The high bell tower is a well-known landmark and rises high above Porto. The church is definitely worth a visit and the tower guarantees a beautiful view. You have to climb 225 steps up to a height of 75 meters.
4.2. Porto Cathedral
The Porto Cathedral (Igreja da Sé) is a historic building from the 12th century and is situated on a hill. It was built in Romanesque style and later several elements in Baroque and Gothic style were added. The cathedral was used as a fortress in the past and this is clearly visible on the battlements.
Traders in the church are the funeral chapel of João Gordo, the gold painted pillars, the marble altar and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament with silver altarpiece. There is also a treasury where you can admire the art treasures of the cathedral. Next to the cathedral is a beautiful gothic cloister.
4.3. Igreja de Santa Clara
We're closing the line with Saint Clara Church. A beautiful mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences. The church and its women's monastery were built in the 15th century. Inside you will find an impressive rococo interior with a lot of gilded woodcarving.
5. Other historic buildings in Porto
Porto is an old town with many historic buildings. The list of popular sights includes the castle walls of Fernandina. The walls were built to replace the old metal defensive wall that had become too small for the growing city. The Muralha Fernandina has a total length of 2,300 meters and an average height of 9 meters. You can take a walk over the wall. Along the way you will come across several battlements, bastions and towers. From the wall you have a nice view.
5.1. Exhibition palace Palácio da Bolsa
Another recommendable is the Fair Palace (Palácio da Bolsa), designed by the Portuguese architect da Costa Lima. This building played an important role in the history of Porto. It was the place where foreign guests were welcomed. During a guided tour through the Palace of the Bourse you will pass by the courtyard with its glass dome, the Hall of the Nations with a large chandelier, the Portrait Gallery and the Arabian Hall with beautiful Moorish decorations.
6. Visit the most beautiful museums of Porto
Porto is rich in many beautiful museums. Visit for example the Serralves Museum for modern art. The modern building is located in a large park. Inside and outside in the park you will find a collection of modern paintings, sculptures and installations. The collection changes regularly. Activities are regularly organized for the whole family.
6.1. National Museum Soares dos Reis
Are you a fan of historical art? Then the National Museum Soares dos Reis is a must. It was already opened in 1833 as a museum of paintings and prints and is housed in a neoclassical house. The museum is named after the famous sculptor Soares dos Reis. In the Soares dos Reis Museum you will find paintings by Fernandes, Pousão and de Sousa, sculptures by Soares dos Reis, Lopes and de Macedo and glassware and porcelain.
6.2. FC Porto Museum
One of the best museums in town is the FC Porto Museum. Even if you're not a football fan, a visit to the stadium is great fun. The museum has even been declared one of the best museums in Europe in 2016. Thanks to original exhibitions and technical tours de force, you can discover the 120-year history of the football club in the museum. You can also book a guided tour of the stadium. Walk through the players' tunnel, sit down on one of the visitors' chairs and touch the grass on the pitch.
7. A piece of the Netherlands in the Portuguese port city: Casa da Música
In 2001 both Porto and Rotterdam were designated Cultural Capital of Europe. One of the results of the cooperation between the two cities is the Casa da Música. The building was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. According to the New York Times, the Casa da Música is one of the best concert halls of the last century.
The concert hall has sloping walls and ascending floors. You can of course attend a concert or cultural performance, but a guided tour of the building is also possible. Casa da Música has two main rooms and several smaller rooms. The large hall can accommodate 1,238 people. In the small hall there are 300 seats and 650 standing places. There is also a restaurant.
8. Praça da Liberdade & Livrario Lello
In the heart of the centre, in the district of Clerigos, lies the Square of Freedom, or Praça da Liberdade. This square connects the old part of Porto with the modern part of the city. In the middle of the square stands a 10 meter high statue of King Peter IV. At the end of Praça da Liberdade lies Porto's main thoroughfare: Avenida dos Aliados.
8.1. Livrario Lello
In Clerigos you will also find the Livrario Lello. This is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and is counted among the best in the world. The shop is located in a beautiful historic building in neo-gothic and art-nouveau style. The interior with beautiful spiral staircase, warm colors, many ornate details and stained glass ceiling is impressive. The writer J. K. Rowling is said to have found inspiration in the bookstore for her stories about Harry Potter.
9. Combine a city trip to Porto with a day or weekend at the beach
If you are going on a city trip to Porto for a full week, it is recommended to take a day or weekend at the beach. There are several beautiful and large beaches in the vicinity of the city. The beaches are both north and south of the Douro. You can take public transport to the coast, but a bike ride along the river is also a nice experience. The most beautiful and popular beaches of Porto are
- Praia da Forno
- Praia de Nossa Senhora da Guia
- Praia Lavadores
- Vila do Condo
A visit in spring or summer guarantees lazing in the sun and swimming in the sea. In the other seasons you can enjoy beautiful sunsets and beach walks.
10. Foz do Douro: cosy and luxurious neighbourhood in the west of Porto
Foz do Douro is a beautiful and quiet neighborhood west of the city center. It is an exclusive neighborhood with many luxury houses and a picturesque atmosphere. Here you walk through the small steep streets with colorful houses. You can also choose to walk on the promenade or grab a terrace along the water. The view over the ocean is magnificent.
The district of Foz do Douro is lovely and quiet during the day, but very lively at night. There are several cosy restaurants and bars where you can eat and go out. One of the most beautiful sights in this district in Porto is the Farol do Molhe lighthouse. Other recommendations in Foz do Douro are:
- The fort Fortaleza de São João da Foz
- The gardens of Passeio Alegre
- Stand image of the Man at the Rudder
- Covered market Mercado da Foz
The district also has several beautiful beaches:
- Praia da Luz
- Praia do Homem do Leme
11. Relax in the green during your city trip to Porto
On the west side of the city center you will find a beautiful green park: Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. The gardens offer peace, relaxation and shade on hot days. Originally they were the gardens of a crystal palace. This palace has now disappeared and been replaced by the Pavilhão Rosa Mota, where concerts and events are organised.
The gardens are situated on a hill and there are several beautiful viewpoints and vistas. There are also all kinds of plants, flowers and trees and a number of large fountains. The perfect place to recover from all the impressions you get during a city trip to Porto.
12. On a city trip to Porto: dining, going out, shopping
If you go on a city trip to Porto, you can choose from hundreds of bistros and restaurants to eat. The food in Porto is of excellent quality and the prices are very affordable. Often, the less fuss, the higher the quality of the food. On the menus are both Portuguese and international dishes.
Eating in Porto means a good meal with a good wine or of course with port. There is a lot of choice in meat and fish dishes. Traditional dishes that you should try once when you are on a city break in Porto are:
- Francesinha (Portuguese sandwich)
- Bacalhau (Cliff Fish)
- Tripas à moda do porto (traditional foods)
- Pastel de Nata (Sweets)
Shopping is also excellent in Porto. In the city centre you will find several shops. From the famous large department stores to luxury boutiques and expensive fashion boutiques. The main shopping street is the Rua da Santa Catarina. There are also numerous shopping centers, such as Via Catarina, Centro Commercial de Foz and Centro Commercial Aviz. There are regular markets in the city where you can buy delicious Portuguese products.
There are plenty of places to go out in Porto. When it's warm outside you can sit on the terrace with a drink and a snack until the late hours. When it's a bit colder, you just dive into a cozy bar or dance club. There is also plenty to do on the streets. Locals and tourists just stand outside with a drink and the music sounds from different boxes.
Ribeira is a neighborhood with a lot of nightlife. You will find many terraces here and in spring and summer it is crowded day and night. The streets Gaieria de Paris, Candico dos Reis and Conde de Vizela are the center of the entertainment area in Porto.
13. Overnight stay in a hotel in Porto
If you're going to Porto for a day, weekend or full week, you can stay in a hotel. You can choose between a simple guesthouse and a luxury hotel in Porto. Throughout the city you will find hotels in all price ranges. Do you want to be cheap? Then you can book a room in a hostel. You can already book a bed from 18 euros per night. Don't want to spend the night in a hotel in Porto? Then you can also stay at a campsite in the area or in a bed & breakfast.
14. Travelling to Porto and transport in the city
On a city trip to Porto? For a city trip of a day or long weekend in Porto, the airplane is the preferred means of transport. From several Dutch airports you fly in less than 3 hours to the Portuguese port city. Porto airport, Porto Airport, is located 11 kilometres northwest of the city centre. From the airport you can get to the city centre within half an hour by metro, bus or taxi. In the city itself you can move yourself with the leg cart, because the center is compact. There are also taxis, metros, buses and trams and you can rent a bike.
A trip by car from the Netherlands to Porto is possible, but a little drive. By road the distance is over 2000 kilometers. You are soon about 22 hours away. A train trip will also cost you about a day. Of course you can take a day or weekend to Porto by car or public transport if you are on holiday in the area.
15. On a city trip to Porto? Read here our tips
- Sturdy shoes: Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes during the city trip. During a day or weekend and certainly during a week in Porto, you usually walk a lot.
- Porto Card: Would you like to visit several places of interest during your city trip to Porto? Then you can choose the Porto Card. With this card you can make unlimited use of public transport in the city. You have free access to 11 attractions and museums in Porto. You also get discounts on many other attractions and in cafes, restaurants and shops.
- Best travel period: You should visit Porto in spring, summer or autumn. Then the temperatures are very pleasant. In the summer you can enjoy a day at the beach, in spring and autumn the temperature in the city is a bit more pleasant. In winter it is also quite nice with an average lowest temperature of 14 degrees. There is no terrace, but it is nice and quiet in the city.
16. Book a city trip to Porto: compare providers
The port city of Porto guarantees a nice city trip! Discover the historical sights, shop in one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, enjoy the sun on a terrace along the water, take a trip to the beach and enjoy the Portuguese cuisine. There is plenty to do in Porto!