Porto is an enchanting and historic city on the coast of Portugal, only 3 hours drive out of Lisbon. While many would only visit Porto for a day or two, Porto is a city that can easily occupy you for a week!
Porto is a city made for explorers and photographers with its charming, colorful, and beautifully authentic sights. The architecture and design are mesmerising, and river Douro makes it for a gorgeous setting.
I visited Porto for a 7-day travels with my sister. Our visit was absolutely 100% enjoyable, 110% relaxed and 120% fun! When it was time to go home, we got way too sad about it. Porto must be one of my favorite European cities and I am already excited about returning to Porto in some 5 or 10 years.
Before visiting Porto you must know that locals are obsessed with the Porto football team. FC Porto are the second most successful in Portuguese fotball and they even have a museum dedicated to their legacies that you can take a look at during your stay in Porto.
1. Cais de Ribeira
Cais de Ribeira is the place that makes Porto a postcard-perfect setting. It is known by colorful facades on the houses, cute cafés and a picturesque piazza.
You can sit in a café on Cais de Ribeira and listen to great live music since there are many amazing street musicians in Porto just waiting to take the stage.
Most cafés have beautiful views on Vila Nova de Gaia that are worth slowing down for. Drinking your morning coffee with such an amazing view feels a bit like the world has stopped.
2. Louis I Bridge
The absolute symbol of Porto, Louis I Bridge is the most famous bridge in the city. It rises to almost 45 meters and connects Cais de Ribeira with Vila Nova de Gaia – the place where all the amazing port wines are being stored.
Louis I Bridge opened in 1886 and was conceived by Theophone Seyrig who was one of Eiffel students. However, this is not the Eiffel bridge as some brief visitors might assume – the Eiffel bridge is located down the river Douro and you can spot it if you go on a Douro river cruise.
It is absolutely obligatory to take a photo in front of the iconic bridge, preferably from Cais de Ribeira that offers the perfect spots for the perfect shots.
You can cross Louis I Bridge either on the bottom deck or by walking on the top level, which is also used by Porto's light railway.
For me it was really beautiful and remarkable to walk on the top level of bridge up because the views from the Louis I Bridge are just breathtaking! It doesn't matter whether you are looking at Cais the Ribeira and Porto Cathedral or Vila Nova de Gaia, you will be absolutely thrown by the beauty of the city.
3. Centro Historico
There is nothing better than just getting lost on the streets of Porto. In my perspective, Porto is a city best enjoyed slowly, on foot. We strolled through the city map-less but discovered little treasures and slices of authentic Portuguese life on every corner.
The city center of Porto is a World Heritage site with medieval walls, breathtaking Baroque churches and a Romanesque Cathedral.
Many streets are narrow and steep but the facades and old houses are mesmerizing to observe. There are countless souvenir shops that you can look into, churches to find, and amazing boutiques to discover.
4. Wine cellars
Visiting a wine cellar is without doubt a must if you visit Porto! There are plenty to choose from in Vila Nova de Gaia, but we visited the Calem Wine Cellar and our experience was remarkable.
Guided tours of the cellar are offered and the tour guide explains where grapes are grown and how they make different kinds of port wine. There are three different colors or kinds of port one and these are ruby, tawny and white.
At the end of the tour you can have two or three tastings of different port wines.
One of the best things is that there is a shop at the end of the tour and you can purchase the wines you tried or any other wine from the wine house. I think port wine makes a great gift if you aren't sure what to bring home.
5. Serralves Museum & Gardens
Serralves is a contemporary museum on the west of Porto with high-profile temporary exhibitions. It's a nice place to spend a few hours, especially if you are an art lover like me.
Besides the museum, there are wonderful huge gardens and a park that you can stroll.
Find a villa, Casa de Serralves that was build between 1925 and 1944 with famous designers crafting the interiors.
6. Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitos
Igreja do Carmo stands almost right by Igreja dos Carmelitos; in between is just a house – and not any house: one of the narrowest houses in the world! It is only one meter wide, barely enough for it to have two small windows. It used to inhabitated but it is today a museum.
There are different explanations about why there is a narrow house in between both churches. A humorous explanation is that it was built to prevent any relations between the nuns of Igreja dos Carmelitos and the monks of Igreja do Carmo. Another legend says that back when the churches were built, there was a portuguese law that prohibited two churches be built one by the other. So the logical solution was to separate them with a (super narrow) house.
Whichever story is true, Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitos are not to be missed. The churches were constructed in the 18th century. Notice the beautiful blue paintings on the side facade on Praca de Carlos Alberto that is so typical of Porto.
7. Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is the part right across the river Douro from Porto city center. It is a place with most alcohol per square kilometer in the whole world! In Vila Nova de Gaia, wine cellars can be found just one by the other, inviting you to take a guided tour of the winery or try their port wine in the bar.
Even if you're not a wine lover, it's nice to try some port wine as it is so famous in Porto. It is quite different from regular wine as it's mixed with the best brandy in the early stages and therefore sweeter and stronger that regular wine. If port wine is too strong for you, you can try some delicious sangria or port & tonic made from it.
8. Porto Cathedral
Sé do Porto or the Porto Cathedral is located on a hill in the city center by the Louis I Bridge, in the oldest part of Porto. The cathedral was built in 12th century but it was restored and renovated many times since.
Visit the interiors of the cathedral, including the chapels and treasure rooms. You can get great views of the historical center of Porto from the upper floor of the cathedral.
9. Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is where J.K. Rowling used to spend a lot of time when she lived in Porto and before she wrote her first Harry Potter book. Many claim that the library from Harry Potter books was inspired by Livraria Lello.
During summer, the line for getting into the bookstore can be quite long. We decided to visit it on Monday, came there at 11 a.m. (it opens at 10 a.m.) and waited for three full hours before it was finally our turn to step inside. Due to the pandemic, the number of visitors in the bookstore was limited which ended in people waiting for hours to get in and only having about 20 to 30 mins of visit. Hence, I advise you to visit the bookstore early in the morning. If you want to be on the safe side, arrive to the bookstore 30-60 minutes before it officially opens. This way your waiting time will be the shortest.
Nevertheless, the bookstore is something special. The building has an Art Nouveau design with some Gothic elements. Inside there is a sinuous wooden staircase, ceiling piping and stained glass skylight that are simply stunning.
There is a small entrance fee to pay but you can use the ticket toward your purchase in the bookstore if you decide to buy a book from there. Their collection of books is exclusive and there are beautiful Livraria Lello book editions that you can go for.
10. Praia International
Porto has an endless sandy beach just outside of the city that's perfect for long walks or group sports. Praia International is also one of the best beaches in the world for surfing beginners since the waves are not too high but just right.
You can get a 2-hour surfing lesson for only 20 EUR. Don't hesitate to try: you can learn a whole lot in those 120 minutes, believe me!
Close to the beach there are many cafés and simple restaurants. If you walk along the beach and then turn to the streets by the beach, you can eat in some first-class seafood restaurants and hip cafés.
You can get to the beach with city buses numbers 500, 200 and 201, they all depart from the city center. Or if you have a hop on hop off ticket, different bus companies also take you to the beach. A great option is also to take an Uber, it costs approximately 5-10 EUR to the city center.
Let me know what is your favourite place or sight in Porto! Are you eager to visit now that you've read my blog?