If you’re looking for a travel destination that’s rich in culture and full of beauty, look no further than Porto, Portugal.
This seaside city is the perfect place to explore the many wonders of Portugal, from its vibrant art and architecture to its stunning stretches of coastline.
Experience picturesque Porto (or Oporto), Portugal's beautiful second city just 280 km north of Lisbon. Offerings here include a unique blend of semi-Mediterranean climate and Atlantic Ocean influences for an idyllic atmosphere all year round; summer sees temperatures as high as 38°C during heat waves while winters are mild with occasional cold nights dropping below 5ºC.
Built on the bank of the Douro River with a 2000 years old history, no wonder its historic city center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996!
From the romantic city of Porto Portugal comes the popular export-Port wine! Celebrated around the globe for its unique flavor and aroma, each sip transports you straight to this sun-kissed city.
One of the first things you’ll notice when visiting Porto is its unique cityscape. Here, old and new blend together to create a dynamic cityscape unlike any other.
The old part of the city is filled with narrow streets lined with historic buildings that boast beautiful baroque and neoclassical facades. Meanwhile, modern-day buildings offer contrasting views of glass and steel against the backdrop of more traditional architecture.
It’s a sight to behold!
Of course, no visit to Porto would be complete without sampling some of their delicious cuisine. From fresh seafood dishes like octopus fillets to hearty stews made with local ingredients like chorizo sausage and red bell peppers, there’s something for everyone here.
And don’t forget about the pastries—Portuguese pastries are some of the best in all of Europe! Be sure to sample as much as you can while you’re here; you won’t regret it!
Be entranced by the romantic appeal of Porto, as you take in its breathtaking skyline from one of many scenic miradouros or chic rooftop terraces.
Let your imagination soar like birds over majestic cathedrals and baroque churches - with gorgeous gardens at every turn! Take a magical ride on iconic Tram 1 for postcard-worthy views to Foz do Douro's serene oceanfront vistas; all within minutes!
Last but certainly not least are the landmarks in Porto that make it such an iconic destination. From churches like Church of St. Francis (which boasts elaborate gold interior décor) to historic bridges like Dom Luis I Bridge (the double-decker bridge spanning the Douro River), there are plenty of sights to see here that will leave long-lasting memories for visitors.
Let's take a look at the most popular attractions and things to do in Porto Portugal.
1. Explore Cais da Ribeira district
The Cais da Ribeira in Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site along the Douro river in the vicinity of the Dom Luis I Bridge, is a vibrant area. Its picturesque waterfront is lined with colourful houses and filled with popular cafes, restaurants, and shops.
A Historical Perspective
Cais da Ribeira was once an important port for trading ships from all over the world. Its strategic location along the Douro River made it a key stop for sailors looking to restock their supplies or find new trade routes.
This history is still evident today; many of the older buildings have been restored to their original appearance and are now open to visitors as museums or cafes.
The current landscape also reflects its past; narrow cobbled streets lead down to the riverfront, where you can find a variety of colorful boats bobbing up and down in the water. On warm days, it’s not uncommon to see locals fishing off these vessels or simply enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of being out on the water.
A Modern Hotspot
Today, Cais da Ribeira has become one of Porto’s most popular tourist destinations. It boasts an array of restaurants offering a variety of local delicacies such as Pastel de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) and Bifana (grilled pork sandwiches).
Be sure to take the historic Funicular Dos Guindais up from Cais da Ribeira to the upper part of the historic center to see Porto landmarks such as Porto Cathedral and São Bento Station and more.
There are also several souvenir shops where you can pick up unique gifts or mementos from your time in Portugal.
On top of that, it’s also home to some of Porto’s liveliest nightlife venues—making it perfect for those looking for both relaxation and entertainment during their stay.
Read also: Top Attractions & Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal
2. Port Tasting In Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto
Have you ever wanted to explore the rich history of Port wine? Now is your chance! Caves Ferreira invites you to visit its facilities in Vila Nova de Gaia at the Douro river south bank, and embark on a journey through time.
Founded centuries ago by a winemaker's Portuguese family, Ferreira is the only Port wine producer that has remained true to its roots. Throughout its long history, From the 18th century in Douro Valley until today, their steadfast commitment to excellence and heritage remains unwavering.
Let’s dive into what makes this place so special.
A guided tour of Caves Ferreira will take you on an interactive journey through 250 years of Portuguese winemaking tradition. You will have a chance to learn about the production process, get to know how Port wines are classified and blended, and view a collection of artifacts used in the production of Porto.
Additionally, you can see original branding instruments used to brand the casks as well as traditional cooperage instruments.
At the end of the visit, you will be able to taste wines of various categories, like Tawny, Ruby, and White - accompanied with tasty snacks presented by Ferreira sommelier. The tasting offers an opportunity for travelers both young and old to learn more about this unique product while engaging their senses.
For those who are looking for something truly unique, Ferreira also offers private Port wine tastings as well as food pairing experiences that provide an opportunity for guests to learn more about this exquisite beverage while enjoying delicious food created specifically for these events.
Whether you choose a standard tour or opt for a private experience designed just for you and your group, it's guaranteed that there will be something for everyone!
Read also: Top Attractions & Things to Do in Sintra, Portugal
3. Exploring Porto with the iconic Trams
What could be nicer than discovering the city of Porto by driving through it on nostalgic well-maintained trams? These trams are often used by locals as well as tourists to avoid the city's steep slopes. The trips are not long and the distance is easy so that everyone can enjoy the historical beauty of the city.
Tram 1: this is the longest route that will take you along the river bank to Foz do Douro. This tram station stops at the Porto Tram Museum, where you can see the restored trams and learn more about them.
Next, this route will take you to the wonderful gardens of Passeio Alegre, from where you can continue to the beaches of Porto and admire the sunsets while walking along the lovely seaside promenade Pergola da Foz.
Tram 18: while this route will take you closer to the extensive gardens of the Crystal Palace and, like the previous one, also stops at the Tramway Museum.
Tram 22: (temporarily out of service) with this route you can discover the historic center of the city with its impressive buildings.
Follow the official website for exact information around and about the routes.
Read also: 11 must-see Places for Everyone visiting Madeira Portugal
4. Dom Luis I Bridge
Dom Luis I Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in Portugal. Located in the city of Porto, this bridge was built by engineer Teófilo Seyrig (who had previously worked with Gustav Eiffel.
The Porto structure designed by Gustave Eiffel is the Maria Pia Bridge) between 1881 and 1886, and it has become a symbol of the city's industrial heritage.
Spanning the Douro River, Dom Luis I Bridge provides stunning views of both the old and new parts of Porto. Dom Luis I Bridge is named after King Luis I who ruled Portugal until 1889.
The arch-shaped bridge spans over 350 meters with two levels: an upper deck for trains and a lower deck for road vehicles.
When it first opened in 1886, it was the longest iron arch bridge in Europe. Today, it continues to be used as a main gateway for commuters coming from Vila Nova de Gaia into Porto and vice versa.
Dom Luis I Bridge is more than just a practical means of transportation; it also has significant cultural value for Porto residents and tourists alike.
The bridge is renowned for its beautiful views that span across both sides of the riverbank—from Ribeira, Porto's historic district on one side to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side, where some of Portugal’s best port wine cellars are located.
In addition to offering splendid views, the bridge also serves as an excellent backdrop for photographs; locals often come here to shoot wedding photography or scenic Instagram posts!
Read also: Tour of Pena Palace, Sintra Portugal
5. Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
Perched atop a hill, the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar offers stunning views of Porto's historical center, Gaia and its gorgeous bridges stretching across the Douro River. This impressive site is steeped in history and provides an unforgettable experience to all who visit it!
The monastery itself features intricate and impressive architecture, most notably its circular church and cloister which are highlighted by their perfect circles.
In 1996, the majestic Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar was recognized as a global landmark of great historical significance by UNESCO and proclaimed an official World Heritage Site.
Take a brief stroll from the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge and you'll be rewarded with one of greatest spectacles – a stunning panorama across Porto.
It is especially recommended at sunset to ensure the best sensations.
Read also: Best Tourist Attractions in Portugal
6. Porto Cathedral
Perched atop the cityscape, the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto) stands proudly as a beacon of faith and devotion for Porto. With its grand scale that captures attention from all angles, it is no wonder why this majestic structure reigns supreme among religious monuments in the city.
This spectacular Porto Cathedral has evolved over the centuries and displays a combination of different architectural styles; predominantly Baroque, but also Romanesque and Gothic.
Visiting Porto Cathedral should definitely be on every traveler's list when visiting Porto as experiencing its grandeur in person is something one can not forget easily.
Inside you will find a silver altar surrounded by beautiful Sacred Art Museum and Gothic cloisters that create an experience nothing short of magnificent.
Make sure to climb up all the many stairs to the top where the bell tower is located, and you will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire city of Porto and its surroundings.
The entrance ticket to Porto Cathedral also includes a visit to the Bishop's Palace, located a few steps from the cathedral.
Once built as the official residence of the Bishops of Porto, the palace now serves as a municipal building, included in the Unesco world heritage site due to its significant Rococo and Baroque architecture.
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7. São Bento Train Station
Built in the 20th-century, São Bento Railway Station has become one of the most beloved architectural monuments of Portugal.
Furthermore, São Bento Train Station is not just a transport hub, inside the station is a beautiful mosaic facade made with more than 20,000 azulejos—small glazed ceramic tiles depicting important moments in Portuguese history including battles, monuments, folklore and even traditional dance.
Many visitors to the São Bento Train Station come solely to appreciate the stunning artwork on display. It's a fantastic example of how architecture can be both architecturally beautiful and highly meaningful—a true testament to Portuguese culture and society.
São Bento Train Station is an absolute must-see in the city center. Take a few moments to discover São Bento Station's beautiful main hall and use it as your starting point for some amazing rides!
Visit nearby towns such as Guimarães, Braga or Viana do Castelo via train - all are just waiting to be explored. Enjoy taking day trips through Portugal's picturesque Douro Valley region while gaining wonderful experiences that will last forever!
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8. Climbing the Historical Clérigos Tower in Porto
The Clérigos Church and its bell tower, the Clérigos Tower (Torre dos Clérigos), are the most iconic symbols of the city of Porto.
This Baroque church was built in the 18th century, and is famous for its 75 meter tall tower which is also the highest bell tower in Portugal and is visible from different parts of Porto.
Clérigos Tower was designed by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni and completed in 1763. It is an example of Baroque architecture with Rococo influences, characterized by intricate stonework and ornamental sculptures.
The architectural style has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status, along with several other landmarks throughout Porto.
One of the main attractions at the Clérigos Tower is climbing up to the top floor! From street level, it looks intimidating due to its height - but don't worry, visitors can take their time going up the 240 steps leading up to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking all of Porto and its surrounding areas.
There are also a few small resting spaces along the way so don't be shy about taking a break before heading back down again!
Visitors who don't feel like doing any climbing can still enjoy a visit to this historical site.
Clérigos Museum houses an interesting collection of artifacts including religious relics such as statues, paintings and sculptures dating back centuries ago!
Additionally, there are guided tours that take place every day where visitors can learn all about this fascinating landmark from experienced tour guides who know everything there is to know about it!
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9. Exploring Livraria Lello, Portugal’s Most Famous Bookstore
From the outside, Livraria Lello looks like any other bookstore. But step inside, and you’ll quickly see why it has become a must-see destination for travelers in Portugal.
Founded over a century ago by two brothers, Livraria Lello is one of the oldest bookstores in the world. It’s also been voted one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world—and rightfully so.
The interior is ornately designed with stained glass ceilings and beautiful wooden carvings that adorn the walls and staircases. Its centerpiece is a spectacular red staircase that spirals up to a second floor balcony lined with bookshelves filled with thousands of titles. It definitely lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world!
In addition, Livraria Lello has hosted several famous authors over the years including JK Rowling (who is rumored to have been inspired by this place while writing her Harry Potter series).
Today, Livraria Lello remains just as popular as ever with tourists from all over the world coming here to admire its beauty and browse through its selection of books (which now includes books written in English).
It has even become something of an Instagram hotspot due to its photogenic nature—so don't forget your camera! The store also offers guided tours which give visitors insight into both its history as well as some fascinating anecdotes about famous authors and celebrities who have visited here throughout its lifetime.
Whether you’re looking for some literary inspiration or simply want to soak up some Portuguese culture, this iconic spot is definitely worth visiting during your stay in Porto!
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10. Visit Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo
Standing almost side by side with only a narrow house of just one meter wide separating them.
Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo can be found situated among the grandiose sites of Porto, close proximity to iconic venues like Clérigos Tower and Lello Bookshop - perfect for a full tour of the city's most remarkable landmarks.
The Igreja dos Carmelitas has a facade made from granite with huge arched entrances and a single bell tower adorned with azulejos tiles.
Inside its main nave, six ornately decorated side chapels make up the interior along with the organ that has been thoughtfully restored to bring it back to its original grandeur.
A white ceiling provides a certain lightness to the atmosphere which is further enhanced by its many large windows.
Whilst its neighbor Igreja do Carmo wears its outstanding azulejo-covered exterior with statues atop its entrance. Igreja do Carmo is a true work of art, boasting intricate gilded carvings and gorgeous statuary in its side chapels.
The main altar glitters with grandeur while several stunning oil paintings enhance the overall splendor of this beautiful church.
Together, the two churches make for an incredible sight not to be missed while in Porto!
11. Casa da Música
Located in the heart of Porto city, high atop the Avenida da Boavista lies one of the most beautiful modern music venues in the world - Casa da Música.
Built during 2002–2005 as a part of Porto’s city regeneration and festivities for its hosting of European Capital of Culture in 2001, this impressive feat of engineering sits at an altitude 72 meters above sea level and has since become a must-visit destination for any traveler to Porto.
Its unique design was created by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and offers both grand concert halls - where complex music pieces come to life - as well as smaller auditoriums that are graced with performances from up and coming musicians alike.
Casa da Música proves itself to be an institution worth its award-winning reputation each year as it hosts mixed genres including classical, jazz, fado, and electronic music.
12. Crystal Palace Gardens (Jardins do Palácio de Cristal)
Crystal Palace Gardens in Porto offers an opportunity to explore sprawling gardens and breathtaking views all in one place. Covering about 8 hectares, the park boasts winding walkways and stunning views of the River Douro.
The name of the park harks back to the Crystal Palace that used to stand there until it was replaced with a domed pavilion which houses a sporting arena and events center.
You can find lush greenery throughout the park such as araucarias, rhododendrons, camellias, beech trees, and ginkgoes as well as various sparkling fountains and statues which adds character to these wonderful gardens.
As you explore further you can get lost amongst the several themed gardens including the Aromatic Plant Garden, Garden of Feelings, and a lovely Rose Garden. Best of all, these peace-filled oases are free for everyone to enjoy!
13. Discover the Charms of Porto at Foz do Douro
If you’re looking to fully discover the beauty and history of Porto, you need look no further than Foz do Douro. Located at the mouth of the Douro River, this place, where Porto's beautiful beaches are located, offers an incredible quality of life with breathtaking views that make it a great romantic destination.
Take a stroll through the Jardim do Passeio Alegre, an idyllic huge garden with lush greenery, ponds, and fountains. Be sure not to miss a walk under the Pergola da Foz, a lovely seaside promenade, perfect for sunsets as well as romantic walks.
Swim, sunbathe or just relax on the lovely golden sand beach of Ingleses (Praia dos Ingleses).
Additionally, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, pubs and beach bars around that provide delicious snacks throughout the day while offering amazing views of the ocean and its surroundings.
And if you’re looking for something even more active, there are several surf schools dotting this beach where you can learn more about this popular sport from experienced instructors.
14. Exploring Serralves Foundation Complex
Located in the culturally-rich city of Porto, the Serralves Foundation is widely regarded as one of the most important cultural centers in Portugal.
It features sprawling gardens and a contemporary art museum that houses rotating exhibitions, and an auditorium used to host concerts and other public events. Visitors to this magnificent foundation will not only be dazzled by its stunning architecture and lush grounds, but also learn about Portugal’s rich artistic heritage.
Aside from its many educational and cultural activities, Serralves is famed for its collaboration with a network of global institutions and for holding renowned international art events such as the Remix Festival.
Ultimately, it provides an unbeatable experience by blending ornamental sophistication with progressive ideas about creativity and innovation.
The first thing one must do is visit the Serralves museum. This world-renowned museum features some of the best contemporary art from around the world, making it an absolute must-see for art lovers everywhere.
The museum itself was designed by the renowned architect Alvaro Siza Vieira and opened in 1999 to much acclaim.
Its impressive collection showcases both European and North American works from the 1960s up until today, while its temporary exhibitions feature some of the most innovative artwork from across the globe.
Casa de Serralves
Casa de Serralves is a majestic villa located within the Serralves Foundation. This 19th-century palatial property was built as a summer residence for the Cabral family.
Casa de Serralves is an impressive piece of architecture that combines classic 19th century principles with contemporary design features to create luxury and sophistication.
The Gardens of Serralves
In addition to its museum, Serralves also offers visitors an opportunity to explore its lush gardens. This sprawling 18-hectare public park provides visitors with a great place to relax and enjoy nature.
These gardens are home to a variety of plants and flowers, making them a great place to take a stroll or simply sit back and bask in nature’s beauty.
There are also several ponds located within the park that provide perfect spots for bird watching or simply admiring nature’s bounty.
Cultural Events at Serralves
Serralves isn't just about gazing at art or enjoying nature; it also hosts numerous cultural events throughout the year as well!
From music festivals such as Primavera Sound Festival, which takes place annually each May, to film screenings during summer months, there is always something going on at Serralves that will pique your interest!
15. Palácio da Bolsa
Palácio da Bolsa, or the Stock Exchange Palace, is the principal building of the Portuguese Stock Exchange located in Porto.
The exterior is a stunning example of neoclassical style which makes an impressive feature when viewed beside the adjoining St. Francis Church.
Inside, every inch of this elegant palace is exquisite with a beautiful marble and granite staircase and two magnificent rooms - the Golden Room which is covered with gold-leaf and the Arab Room, inspired by the Alhambra and spanning 300 meters filled with intricate Moorish decorations.
This stunning Palácio da Bolsa, declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, was built to impress and it definitely delivers!
And finally... Porto is a wonderful city full of history, which is definitely worth visiting, and therefore, adding to your travel list is a must. From enjoying the famous Port wine to exploring the historical monuments, there is no shortage of attractions and things to do in Porto, we only covered the main ones.
And in order to save money, it might be worth considering options for buying a Porto card.
Hopefully this article will help you not to miss the most iconic places in Porto Portugal! Have a good trip!