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Ribeira seen from the Dom Luís I Bridge

A Guide to Porto: the best things to do

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A Guide to Porto: the best things to do Top attractions, activities & museums

Nestled by the ocean, “Capital do Norte” (“Capital of the North”) is the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway synonymous with decompression and gastronomy.

Porto undoubtedly has a lot to offer and you’ll find plenty of things to do, from wine tastings to cruises, historical visits and fun activities !

What to do in Porto? Captain Ulysses has Captain Ulysses has drawn up the list of the top attractions in the “Capital of the North”: feel free to pick any idea you like to plan an unforgettable stay in Porto!

Content — What to do in Porto?

👉 How the get around Porto?
👉 Top monuments & activities in Porto’s historic center
👉 Top monuments & activities in Porto’s other districts
👉 Day tours in the surroundings of Porto
👉 Visiting Porto with children

💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
> Want to know more about the history of Porto? Captain Ulysses warmly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
> Accommodation, flights, citypass… You’ll find all the Captain’s tips & recommendations at the end of the article!

How to get around Porto?

Better be warned: the city of Porto was built on the steep banks of the Douro River! While strolling in the historic center of the city is undoubtedly quite pleasant, you’ll propably quickly tire of Porto’s steeply sloping streets and might be tempted to take local transport instead of walking. The good news is: you’ll have plenty of options to get around the Capital of North,

depending on your budget and your needs. :

  • Public transport: the public transport network (metros, trams & buses) 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.
  • Hop-on hop-off bus tours: quite handy, they serve Porto’s main landmarks. They’re a great option if you don’t feel like walking for miles on end. You’ll also be able to learn about the history of the city from the bus’ built-in audio guide system (available in multiple languages). The Captain recommends this hop-on hop-off bus tour which includes a river cruise and a port wine cellar tour.
  • Other means of transports: bikes, electric bikes, segway, tuk-tuk, train

What to do in Porto’s historic center?

Dom Luís I Bridge

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dom Luís I Bridge spans the Douro between Porto and the neighboring city of Vila Nova de Gaia (where you’ll find the vast majority of Port wine cellars). Built between 1881 and 1886, this iconic bridge was the work of a disciple of Gustave Eiffel (who built the Eiffel Tower in Paris), the Belgian engineer Théophile Seyrig.

The monument was named after the King Luis I of Portugal, who actually inaugurated the bridge in 1886. It comprises two levels which are both accessible to pedestrians. Captain Ulysse warmly recommends going for a walk on the upper walkway at sunset: the view of Porto is quite simply stunning!

💡 Practical information 💡
You can explore the bridge on your own or opt for a guided tour of Porto’s city center if you’re into historical anecdotes. Captain Ulysse recommends two tours in particular: this free guided tour or this 3-hour guided tour available in English, Portuguese, German, French, Spanish.
The bridge is also magnificent seen from the Douro: the Captain warmly recommends embarking on the 6 bridges cruise, which is quite inexpensive and offers a magnificent panorama of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. If you are traveling during the high season or the school holidays, you should definitely book your ticket in advance: the cruises fill up quickly!

Clerigos Church & Clerigos Tower

Located in the heart of the city, the Clerigos Tower ( Torre dos Clérigos in Portuguese) is one of Porto’s most iconic attractions.

The 75.60 meter-high Clérigos Tower was at the time of its construction in the 18th century the highest tower in Portugal. The Clérigos Tower is part of a vast religious complex which includes:

  • the Clerigos Church, a Baroque architectual masterpiece
  • the Clérigos Tower, from the top of which the view of Porto is simply stunning
  • the House of the Brotherhood Clérigos Pobres (Poor Clerics), which now houses the Clerigos Museum.

💡 Practical information 💡
The Clerigos Tower is located a stone’s throw from the Livraria Lello and ten-minute-walk from the Palacio da Bolsa. It is open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (the opening hours vary on December 24 and 25 as well as on December 31 and January 1).
On site, the entrance ticket to the Clérigos Tower is €5 per person, but be warned: the Clérigos Tower is one of the most touristic monuments in Porto and the queue at the entrance can be very long. To avoid having to wait, Captain Ulysse strongly recommends buying a skip-the-line ticket online for an additional €1.
👍 The Captain’s tip: the Porto Card entitles you to a 50% discount!

Livraria Lello

The Livraria Lello is one of the Captain’s absolute favorites in Porto. Nestled in the city center, it is unanimously considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world!

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter saga, openly admitted drawing inspiration from the Livraria Lello when writing the famous wizard’s adventures. And it is admittedly hard not to fall in love with this stunning bookstore built in the early 20th century and seamlessly blending Baroque and Neo-Gothic influences! Inside, the forked staircaise and the stained glass windows are absolutely sumptuous.

💡 Practical information 💡
More than any other monument in Porto, the Livraria Lello attracts vast crowds of tourists throughout the year and you will have to be patient if you wish to visit the bookstore! To avoid waiting too long, Captain Ulysses recommends:
• waking up bright and early to be at the ticket office when it opens at 9:30am sharp
• opting for a private or a group guided tour including entry into the bookstore

Palacio da Bolsa

Built in the 19th century, the Palacio da Bolsa is an architectural masterpiece nestled in the heart of Porto’s historic center, a few minutes from the Douro.

Home to the Commercial Association of Porto, this iconic building seamlessly blends English and Neo-classical influences. While the whole palace is absolutely stunning, the Arab Room, covered with stucco decorated with gold leaf is the highlight of the visit!

💡 Practical information 💡
All visitors must join a guided tour of the Palacio da Bolsa. Several tours are offered each day in multiple languages, the visits fill up very quickly: the Captain therefore strongly advises you to book your tickets beforehand, either on site or online.

Porto Cathedral

Perched on a hill a stone’s throw from the Douro, the Porto Cathedral ranks high on the list of Porto’s top tourist attractions!

Originally built in the 12th centurt, the Cathedral was enlarged, rearranged and embellished several times over the following centuries. On the side of the monument, the beautiful loggia was designed by Niccoló Nasoni, architect of the Clérigos Tower.

The cloister and the interior of the Porto Cathedral are well worth the visit. From the top of the building, the panorama of the city is quite simply gorgeous!

💡 Practical information 💡
The opening hours of the cathedral vary according to the seasons: from July to September:
• 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday / 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays
• in October and from April to June: from 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and from 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• November to March: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Admission to the cathedral is free, but you will have to pay €3 to visit the cloister and enjoy the view from the top of the monument.

Church of Sao Francisco

Built between the 14th and 15th centuries, the Church of Sao Francisco, located a stone’s throw from the banks of the Douro, is a Gothic and neo-baroque masterpiece and undoubtedly one of Porto’s most iconic landmarks.

The visit includes access to the Dispatch House of the Order, the catacombs, as well as the interior of the church, covered with talhas douradas (extravagant gilded woodwork).

💡 Practical information 💡
Opening hours vary with seasons:
• from November to February: 9 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.
• from March to October: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
• from July to September: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Admission is €7.50. The Captain’s tip: entry to the church is included in the Porto Card.

The other iconic churches in Porto

When it comes to charming churches, Porto is undoubtedly well stocked! Feel free to push the door of the churches that you’ll come across while strolling around the city: you’ll no doubt find quite a few gems!

Among the best-known churches in the city, be sure to have a look at the Igreja do Carmo, the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, the Igreja de Santa Clara and the Chapel of Souls. The latter is actually one of the most “intagrammable” spots in Porto!

Sao Bento Railway Station

Located in the very center of Porto, Sao Bento Station is famous for its stunning azulejos, (polychromatic tiles)!

Built between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the station is a prime example of the French “Beaux-Art” style, characterized by symmetry and exactitude. The Portuguese architect José Marques da Silva, who was in charge of the construction work, intended to build an architectural masterpiece… so much so that he completely lost sight of reality and simply forgot to include counters in the original blueprint of the railway station! He was withdrawn from the project in 1909…

Just like the Livraria Lello, the Sao Bento Station profoundly inspire JK Rownling, who lived in Porto for a few years.

💡 Practical information 💡
The station is open all day and admission is free. Harry Potter enthusiasts can opt for a guided tour of Porto in the footsteps of Harry Potter, which includes the visit of the Livraria Lello and the Sao Bento Railway Station.

Ribeira Square & Cais da Ribeira

Located in the Ribeira district, on the banks of the Douro, the Ribeira square and the Cais da Ribeira (Ribeira quay) are perfect for a nice stroll and a glass of Port wine on the terrace of one the many bars and restaurants!

Lined with picture-postcard buildings, the Ribeira square and the Cais da Ribeira rank undoubtedly very high on the list of Porto’s most charming sights.

Street artists – often very talented – perform there summer and winter, for the pleasure of visitors and locals alike!

💡 Practical information 💡
While the area is very pleasant to have drinks by the Douro, Captain Ulysses recommends moving away from the banks of the river to have lunch or dinner: the restaurants in the area are quite expensive and often disappointing.

Douro river cruises

Porto is undoubtedly synymous with Douro and it’d be a shame to leave the “Capital of the North” without embarking on a Douro river cruise.

Depending on your budget / your needs, you’ll be able to choose between a variety of cruises on the Douro: traditional cruise, sailboat, jetboard…

💡 Practical information 💡
If you’re only staying in Porto for a long weekend, the Captain recommends the six bridges cruise.
If you’d rather embark on a more thrilling river cruise, the Captain recommends: a guided sailing experience or a jetboat experience.
Porto is often crowded with tourists. The Captain therefore strongly advises you to book your activities in advance!

Avenida dos Aliados

In the heart of Porto, the 250-meter-long Avenida dos Aliados connects the historic center and the modern districts of the city. You’ll find on the avenue Porto’s City Hall, as well as countless stunning Art Nouveau buildings.

The Avenida dos Aliados is a focal point of Porto’s cultural life: great crowds regularly gather on the Avenida dos Aliados to celebrate major events (New Year’s Eve, Saint John’s Eve, the victories of FC Porto ⚽…).

💡 Practical information 💡
You will find on Avenida dos Aliados (or nearby) a few hotels/restaurants which the Captain recommends:
Porto’s Hard Rock Café
• the Monumental Palace
• the InterContinental Porto

Bolhão Market

There’s nothing like a trip to the local market to discover local food and specialties! The bad news is that the historic Mercado do Bolhão is currently under renovation and will remain closed for the forseeable future. The good news is that a few shops/stalls have been relocated to the the basement of the La Vie shopping center, a few blocks away.

Although it’s quite small, the Mercado Temporário do Bolhão is perfect to eat on the go and taste local specialties (cheese, cold cuts, fresh fish …). If you’re staying in an appartment / Airbnb, you can even do your foot shopping here so you can cook at the appartment.

💡 Practical information 💡
The Mercado Temporário do Bolhão is located in the La Vie shopping center, a stone’s throw from the historic market.
To find out more about Porto’s rich culinary culture, foodies should definitly consider embarking on this food tour in the city!

👉 For more delicious tips and recommendations, check out the Captain’s article: where to eat in Porto?

Soares dos Reis National Museum

Attention, art lovers: you should definitely check out the Soares dos Reis National Museum!

Named after famous Portuguese sculptor Soares dos Reis, a native of Vila Nova de Gaia, this small museum nestled in a beautiful palace exhibits fine collections of Portuguese art from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The museum also is also home to vast collections of decorative arts: the Captain actually fell in love with the Namban screens illustrating the arrival of Portuguese explorers in Japan.

💡 Practical information 💡
The museum is located west of the city center, close to the Clerigos Tower and the Livraria Lello. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission is €5 full price. The Captain’s tip: the Porto Card entitles its holders to a 50% discount!

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Located west of Clerigos Tower and the Livraria Lello, the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Gardens of the Crystal Palace in English) are a haven of peace in the heart of the city.

Created in the 19th century, these magnificent gardens are perfect for a nice walk among locals. Be sure to admire the view of Porto, the Douro and Vila Nova de Gaia from the terraces: the panorama is absolutely breathtaking!

💡 Practical information 💡
Admission is free The gardens are open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from April to September and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from October to March.

What to do around Porto’s city center?

The Port wine cellars in Villa Nova de Gaia

Attention, wine lovers! You absolutely can’t leave Porto without visiting the city’s world-famous Port wine cellars!

The vast majority of the Port wine cellars are located in Vila Nova de Gaia, accross from Porto’s city center, on the other side of the Douro. Dozens of Port wine companies have opened their cellars to the public but they’re not all worth the visit.

Captain Ulysses recommends two cellars in particular: Taylor’s and Graham’s. If you’re budget is tight, you can also opt for more touristy but less expensive cellars such as Calem, Porto Cruz or Sandeman.

💡 Practical information 💡
Visits fill up quickly so Captain Ulysses highly recommends booking your tickets in advance:
Graham’s
Taylor’s
Calem
Calem: visit with tasting + fado show

Foz do Douro & Serralves Foundation

With its idyllic beaches, its Sunday fishermen, its posh villas and its lush gardens, the district of Foz do Douro is a haven of peace, nestled along the oceanfront. This maritime district is the perfect place to discover another side of Porto.

Among the top sights in Foz do Douro, be sure to check out the district’s boardwalk, stunning beaches, Castelo do Queijo and Felgueiras Lighthouse.

The Serralves Foundation is undoubtedly the district’s best known attraction. It comprises a museum of contemporary art, an Art Deco building and vast gardens dotted with sculptures by famous artists.

Foz do Douro is also home to the Sea Life Aquarium.

💡 Practical information 💡
Getting to Foz do Douro : the Captain warmly recommends taking the city’s charming historic tram. In the city center you will find a tram stop in front of the Church Sao Francisco. Find out more and book your tickets here. Otherwise, you can also rent bikes or electric bikes.
Serralves Foundation : The Serralves Foundation is one of the most iconic points of interest in Porto and the queues at the entrance can be long. To avoid having to wait, the Captain recommends booking your ticket online.
SeaLife Porto Aquarium : as with the Serralves Foundation, it is possible to save time by booking your ticket online. Find out more here: ticket to the aquarium.

Casa da Música

Built between 1999 and 2005, the Casa da Música is a symbol of the city’s cultural renewal. This large, resolutely contemporary concert hall was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas as part of the “Porto 2001 – European Capital of Culture” project.

Nestled in the Boavista district, to the north of the city, the Casa da Música is well worth a visit. If you’re staying long enough in the city, the Captain recommends attending a concert. You can also opt for a guided tour of the building.

💡 Practical information 💡
Check the official website of the Casa da Música to check the schedule and the prices of tickets. You can also book a guided tour (between €10 and €21 depending on the option you choose).

What to do around Porto?

If you’re staying long enough in Porto, it would be a shame not to explore the surroundings of the city, where you’ll find countless attractions.

👉 Find out more on day-tours around Porto in the Captain’s dedicated article: What to do around Porto?

Aveiro: with its canals and colorful houses, this picturesque town located 75 kilometers south of Porto is well worth a visit. To get to Aveiro, you can: take the train, rent a car for the day or opt for an organised day tour.

Sao Jacinto natural reserve: while it is unfortunately somewhat difficult to access from Porto, the Sao Jacinto natural reserve is the perfect spot for hiking and/or surfing enthusiasts! To get to Sao Jacinto from Porto, two options: renting a car or combining train + ferry + biking/walking for 4km.

The Douro Valley: if you are a wine and nature lover, be sure to head for the Douro Valley, where you’ll discover stunning terraced vineyards providing the grapes for the production of Douro wines and Port wines. To get to the Douro Valley, you can: rent a car or book a day tour (+ cruise included)

Braga & Guimarães: Braga and Guimarães are two charming historic towns located some fifty kilometers north of Porto. The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located a stone’s throw from Braga. You can either drive to Braga and Guimaraes, take a train or opt for an organized day trip.

Coimbra: 125 kilometers south of Porto, Coimbra is a mythical city that is well worth a visit. While Captain Ulysses highly recommends staying in Coimbra overnight, you can still visit the city from Porto during the day. Again, it is possible to get to Coimbra by car or train, or opt for an organized day tour (including a visit to the famous pilgrimage site of Fatima).

Visiting Porto with children

👉 Find out more about family-friendly visits and activities in Porto in the Captain’s dedicated article: Visiting Porto with children

World of Discoveries: nestled on the banks of the Douro, World of Discoveries is an interactive museum and theme park dedicated to the great discoveries of Portuguese navigators in the 15th and 16th centuries. For your information, tickets are cheaper online than on site (€13 compared to €15), so remember to book your tickets in advance: skip-the-line ticket to World of Discoveries.

Sea Life Aquarium: located in the Foz do Douro district, Porto’s Sea Life Aquarium is the 2nd largest aquarium in the country. The aquarium is home to penguins, giant turtles, sharks and manta rays. As with World of Discoveries, tickets are cheaper online than on site. The Captain therefore recommends booking your tickets in advance: tickets to the Sea Life Aquarium.

FC Porto Stadium: built to host the UEFA Euro 2004 held in Portugal, the Estadio do Dragao (Dragon Stadium) is the stronghold of the famous FC Porto football team. Fnd out more about opening hours and admission fees here.

Zoo Santo Inácio: located in Vila Nova de Gaia, Zoo Santo Inácio is home to 800 animals belonging to some 260 different species, including lions, Siberian tigers, snow leopards, penguins and pygmy hippos. To save time, you can book your tickets online: Zoo Santo Inácio tickets.

Harry Potter-themed Porto tour: you may not know it, but JK Rowling started writing the Harry Potter saga while living in Porto. The famous author actually drew inspiration from some of the city’s iconic attractions (Livraria Lello, Sao Bento Railway Station…) To go follow Harry Potter’s footsteps in Porto, Captain Ulysses recommends joining the guided tour (in English), or exploring the Livraria Lello, the Sao Bento Station and the Café Majestic on your own.

Bike rides in Porto: if your children are bursting with energy, why not give them the opportunity to exercise? If you’d rather explore the city on your own, the Captain recommends renting bikes or an electric bikes (find out more in the section “getting around Porto” at the very beginning of this article). Otherwise, you can also opt for a bike tour of Porto with a local guide.

If you have more time to visit Porto

If you’ve visited all the attractions listed above and still have time to visit Porto, Captain Ulysses recommends exploring the following sites and monuments:

  • Casa do Infante
  • Portuguese Centre of Photography
  • Tram Museum
  • Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!


Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in Porto!

🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodation in Porto, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels: there’s plenty to choose from. The Captain particularly recommends:
– youth hostels: The Passenger Hostel and Urban Garden Porto Central Hostel
– budget and mid-range hotels: Decanting Porto House and Porto Charming Hotel
– high-end hotels: NH Porto Jardim and The Yeatman.

🎟️ 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’d rather avoid public transport, you can also book a private transfer at very reasonable prices.

🚌 Local transport: you’ll probably 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, sightseeing 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.
When it comes to getting around Porto, you have plenty of other options: bikes, electric bikes, segway, tuk-tuk, 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.


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