Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, Porto’s Ribeira district, nestled on the banks of the Douro, is one of the city’s highlights! Follow the guide!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
🧐 Want to know more about Porto’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
💤 Looking for an hotel in Porto? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Porto? Advice & recommendations
🏛 Planning your trip to Porto? Be sure to check out Captain Ulysses’ complete article on what to see and do in the city: a Guide to Porto
👶 Planning a family adventure to Porto? Discover all of the Captain’s top tips in the article: Exploring Porto with the Kids: Family-Friendly Activities
The Ribeira district in a nutshell
On the banks of the Douro, Ribeira is undoubtedly the most iconic area in Porto. And for good reason: located in the lower town, it is home to many of the most emblematic monuments in the “Northern Capital”, including the Porto Cathedral and the Palacio da Bolsa.
Ribeira is a lively district where you’ll find countless restaurants, bars and shops, while many street artists give performances by the Douro for the greatest pleasure of locals and visitors alike.
In short, the district of Ribeira is the perfect spot for a nice walk by the river… To discover Ribeira, nothing better than putting away your map and getting lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the neighborhood.
Follow the guide!
Visiting the Ribeira district: the best things to do
The quays of the Douro: the Cais da Ribeira and the Cais da Estiva
In the heart of the Ribeira district, the quays of the Douro — from west to east the Cais da Estiva followed by the Cais da Ribeira — rank very high on the list of the Captain’s favorites in Porto.
Lined with historic and colorful buildings, the quays of the Ribeira district exude charm and authenticity.
Many cruises on the Douro depart from here. During high season in particular, the boats fill up at high speed. The Captain therefore recommends booking your tickets in advance:
– 6 Bridges Douro River Cruise
– OR Hop-on Hop-off bus + river cruise + Port cellar tour
Ribeira Square (Praca da Ribeira)
Nestlef on the banks of the Douro, the Ribeira Square (Praça da Ribeira in Portuguese), which dates back to the Middle Ages, is one of the oldest squares in the city.
It is now lined with shops, cafes and restaurants. Street artists – often very talented – perform there summer and winter.
On the square, you”ll find three beautiful sculptures:
- A monumental three-story-high fountain dating from the 1780s and bearing the coat of arms of Portugal
- A statue of Saint John the Baptist made in 2000 by the Portuguese sculptor João Cutileiro and located in the niche of the fountain
- the “Cubo da Ribeira” (the Cube of Ribeira in English), a statue by the artist José Rodrigues surmounting the remains of a 17th century fountain
Dom Luis I Bridge
Built at the end of the 19th century, the Dom Luis I Bridge (or Luis I Bridge) marks the limit of the Ribeira district to the east.
Inspired by the work of Gustave Eiffel, this huge steel bridge spans the Douro River between the municipalities of Porto and Villa Nova de Gaia (where most of the Port wine cellars are located).
It comprises two levels:
- the lower level accessible to pedestrians and to cars
- the upper level reserved for the metro and pedestrians
The view from the top level, especially at sunset, is simply stunning!
💡 Find out more 💡
Find the complete history of the bridge and all the advice of Captain Ulysses in his detailed article on the Dom Luis Bridge.
Sao Bento Train Station
Get ready to be amazed by the station’s sumptuous azulejos (blue and white earthenware tiles typical of the Iberian Peninsula)!
North of the Ribeira district, the São Bento Station is a masterpiece of azulejos art.
Constructed at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, this extraordinary railway station is a must-see landmark in the “Capital of the North”. However, it’s wise to swing by early in the morning to steer clear of the relentless stream of tourists throughout the day.
💡 Find out more 💡
For the complete scoop on the history and architecture of this iconic monument, head on over to Captain Ulysses’ in-depth article on São Bento Station.
The Palacio da Bolsa
To the west of the Ribeira district, the Palacio da Bolsa (“Stock Exchange Palace” in English) is well worth a visit!
Built by the Associação Comercial do Porto , the Commercial Association of Porto, in the 19th century, this majestic palace is an architectural masterpiece blending English and neo-classical influences.
The highlight of the visit: the sumptuous Arab Room, a vast room entirely covered with stucco decorated with gold leaf.
Heads up! The Palacio da Bolsa tour is exclusively guided and it’s wise to reserve a spot well ahead of time—preferably the day before—to ensure availability.
💡 Find out more 💡
Discover all the hidden gems of this gorgeous palace in Captain Ulysses’ thorough article on the Palacio da Bolsa.
The Church of Sao Francisco
A stone’s throw from the Palacio da Bolsa, to the west of the Ribeira district, the Church of São Francisco is an architectural gem blending Gothic and Baroque styles.
Built between the 14th and 15th centuries, the church was expanded over the centuries and underwent major renovation works in the 18th century.
The visit includes:
- the Dispatch House of the Order, which now houses a small museum of sacred art
- the catacombs nestled under the church
- the São Francisco Church, completely adorned with rococo gold leaf.
💡 Find out more 💡
Discover the complete history of the edifice and Captain Ulysses’ expert advice in his in-depth article on the São Francisco Church.
The Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
Overlooking the banks of the Douro on the heights of the district of the Ribeira, the Sé, the Cathedral of Porto, is a 9-century-old church-fortress.
The complex architecture of the building, blending Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles, is the result of its long history.
The cathedral cloister and its accessible rooms are truly a must-see. The treasure room houses a quaint collection of religious items.
💡 Find out more 💡
For the full scoop on this renowned landmark in the Northern Capital, head over to Captain Ulysses’ in-depth article on the Porto Cathedral.
The Casa do Infanta
A 2-minute walk from the Palacia da Bolsa, the Casa do Infante is an old customs house built in the 14th century. It’s also known to be the Henry the Navigator (also called the Infante Dom Henrique), Prince of Portugal, was born in this very house in 1394.
The Casa do Infante now houses a museum tracing the history of the building, and exhibits Roman remains discovered on site during archaeological excavations.
Entry to the Casa do Infante is included in the Porto Card (€2.20 per adult without Porto Card – free entry on Saturdays and Sundays).
The São João National Theatre
In the heart of the Ribeira district, the São João National Theatre ( Teatro Nacional São João in Portuguese), in Praça da Batalha, is a beautiful theater hall built at the end of the 18th century and inspired by Italian theatres.
Completely renovated in 1995, the São João National Theatre remains the city’s main theater today.
Exploring the Ribeira district by night
If the Ribeira district is magnificent during the day, it is perhaps even more beautiful at nightfall.
Captain Ulysse warmly recommends strolling on the Dom Luis I Bridge at sunset to admire the view of the banks of the Douro. The panorama is quite simply stunning!
Getting to the Ribeira district
The closest public transports are:
- metro: São Bento station (line D)
- tram: Infante stop (line 1)
- bus: many bus lines run in the Ribeira distrcit. The hop-on hop-off tourist buses also make a stop on the avenue.
- funicular: between the Dom Luis I Bridge and the Praça da Batalha.
Accommodation in the Ribeira district
The Ribeira district is one of the nicest, but also one of the most expensive in Porto.
If you’re running on a tight budget, Captain Ulysses recommends moving away from the historic center to find a more affordable accommodation.
Otherwise, you will find here a selection of the best accommodation in the Ribeira district.
Food & drinks in the Ribeira district
To relax after a long day exploring Porto, nothing better than a drink by the Douro. To enjoy the view while sipping a good cocktail, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends the Cafe do cais.
As for food, the Captain recommends moving awat from the banks of the Douro, where the prices are quite steep and the food is often disappointing. The Captain recommends 2 restaurants in the area:
Looking for tips to plan your vacation in Porto? You might be interested in these articles:
👉 A Guide to Porto: the best things to do
👉 Day-tours around Porto
👉 Visiting Porto with children
👉 Where to eat in Porto? The Captain’s restaurant recommendations
You can also find all of the Captain’s articles on Porto’s must-see sites and monuments here.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Porto!
👉 Looking for a place to stay in Porto?
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in Porto!
🛏️ Accommodation: When it comes to reserving your stay in Porto, Captain Ulysses wholeheartedly recommends using Booking.com. or Expedia. You’ll find a wide range of options, from cozy youth hostels to luxurious boutique hotels. Here are the Captain’s personal suggestions:
– Youth hostels: Gallery Hostel / The Passenger Hostel / Rivoli Cinema Hostel
– Budget-friendly hotels: Moov Hotel Porto Centro / Rex Hotel / Decanting Porto House
– 3 and 4-star hotels: Village Aparthotel By BOA / Mo House / Fontinha Porto
– Upscale hotels: Pestana Vintage Porto / Yeatman Hotel / InterContinental Porto
🎟️ Activities: museums, monuments, guided tours, boat tours, excursions… there’s plenty to do in Porto! To avoid wasting time in endless queues, especially during high season, the Captain strongly recommends that you opt for skip-the-line tickets and book your activities in advance. You can book all your tickets and tourist activities on GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
⛵ Cruises: Porto is undoubtedly synymous with Douro! It’d be a shame to leave the “Capital of the North” without embarking on a Douro river cruise. If you’re only staying in Porto for a long weekend, the Captain recommends the six bridges cruise. If you have more time, then he highly recommends the Douro Valley cruise with wine tasting & lunch.
🎫 Citypass: valid from 1 to 4 days, the Porto Card includes unlimited access to city transport (including to get to/from the airport), free entry to 6 museums and a selection of discounts in museums, attractions, Port wine cellars and shops.
🚐 Transfers: you can take the metro at the airport to get to the city center (1/2 hour). But if you prefer to avoid public transport, you can also book a transfer at very reasonable prices.
🚌 Local transport: you’ll propably quickly tire of Porto’s steeply sloping streets and might be tempted to take local transport instead of walking. The public transport network is convenient and easy to navigate. You can buy your tickets directly at metro stations and bus stops (be careful, you will need to take 1 Andante card per person).
You should also know that access to public transport is included in the Porto Card. Otherwise, the hop-on hop-off bus tours are great options to explore the city. You can also opt for a pass including access to hop-on hop-off buses, the funicular as well as tramways.
Among other means of transport, you can also try the bicycle, the electric bicycle, the segway, the tuk-tuk, the small train …
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.