Porto is probably one of the most beautiful and characteristic cities in Europe, but not among the most famous compared to Barcelona, Prague or, without leaving Portugal, Lisbon.
Although it must be said that in recent years, since Ryanair has introduced new low-cost flights from all over Europe to the Portuguese town, it is becoming one of the most popular destinations.
In fact, it had to “pull itself together,” especially in the most touristy corners, reviving areas that had been over time neglected and forgotten. However, if you feel like exploring and getting to know the more authentic Porto, don’t worry because in the renowned “La Ribera” neighborhood, the two aspects of this fishing town still coexist: on the one hand you will encounter houses with peeling walls and shabby narrow streets, on the other hand, restored craft stores and “tourist catching” establishments.
What to do and see in Porto
That said, I would like to propose an itinerary for you to do in two or three days in Porto, without missing any of the main attractions and activities.
I like to refer to it as a “gem city” – it’s tiny, you can walk around it, and it’s very cozy.
I think it is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway, on a fairly tight budget and a safe destination for women traveling solo. But let’s cut to the chase, below I point you to the 10+1 things to do and see in Porto.
1. Explore the Ribera neighborhood
In my opinion, the first thing to do to get in touch with a new city is to explore its most distinctive and iconic neighborhood. In this way, you will begin to discover its customs and traditions and begin to move among its people and learn about its typical cuisine. Lose yourself in the neighborhood’s narrow streets while admiring its pastel-walled houses and flower-decked balconies.
Also, visit the magnificent Porto Cathedral: from its square you can enjoy an excellent view of the city’s oldest quarter.
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Ticket cost: Cathedral + Cloister + Tower, from €3.00.
2. Visit the Bolhão neighborhood and the Capela das Almas
Another characteristic neighborhood of this city is Bolhão, famous for its “mercado” (a must if you want to taste one of the many local delicacies) and the monument to Almeida Garret. You can end your tour in this neighborhood by visiting the wonderful and iconic Saho Bento Station. It is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world and attracts thousands of tourists every year. What makes it so special? Its walls are covered with more than 200,000 azulejos, in which the history of Portugal is told!
3. Buy a book in the Lello Irmao Library.
Without a doubt, the Lello Irmao is one of the 10 most beautiful and ancient libraries in the world and considered the most beautiful in Europe. It is said that J. K. Rowling herself, author of the Harry Potter saga, drew inspiration for her novels at this bookstore during her stay in the city. It was later used by the set designers of the saga about the English wizard as a location in some filming.
To enter the library, you must buy an entrance ticket. I recommend that you buy it online, to avoid having to wait in double lines once you are there, and gain access in the early hours of the day. As much as accesses are staggered every half an hour, there is no time limit to stay inside, so if it gets to the maximum number of customers, waits can get even longer.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 09:30-19:00
Ticket cost: €5.00 (which will be discounted to you on the purchase of a book).
4. Visit the Palácio da Bolsa and enter the Igreja de Sao Francisco
Two more mandatory stops on your tour. What will leave you surprised by the Church of St. Francis is the contrast between the simplicity of its exterior (and of the saint to whom it is dedicated) and the splendor of its interior. The color that stands out most in its decor? Gold!
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday. November to February 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. / March to June and in October 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. / July to September 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Ticket cost: €7.50 including a visit to the catacombs and the Treasury Museum.
5. Cross the Dom Luis Bridge and enjoy the view of the city
Work of engineer Téophile Seyrig, one of the disciples of Gustave Eiffel(author of the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris), this is the iron bridge that joins the two banks of the Duero River, connecting the Ribera neighborhood to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia.
From here you will have a privileged view of the city and one of the best spots to watch an unforgettable sunset. You can get there from behind the Cathedral or by getting off at the metro stop “Jardim do Morro,” on the bank of Vila Nova de Gaia.
6. Admire the sunset over the city from the Jardim Do Morro
It is right here where, every day, hundreds of tourists and locals gather, waiting for the most magical moment of the day (or are you more of a sunrise fan?). It is a hill located right in front of the Jardim do Morro metro stop and at the side of the Dom Luis Bridge, in Vila Nova de Gaia, from which you can admire one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life.
7. Visit Vila Nova de Gaia and try port wine in one of the Caves.
On the other side of the Duero River is Vila Nova de Gaia, an ancient fishing and merchant town, where the famous “Port” wine is born , thanks to its climate and the ideal exposure for aging wine. Therefore, even today, along the banks of the river you can admire the characteristic boats with visible barrels and find countless wineries (caves) where this sweetest wine is produced and sold. The most famous? Caves Calem! But I suggest you go a little inner town if you want to find some wineries that are more authentic, less expensive/touristic and frequented by locals.
8. Visit the Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau
You can’t say you’ve been to Portugal without tasting at least once the “pastel de bacalhau,” a kind of croquette stuffed with a mixture of cod and cheese. I am crazy about them and have tried more than one, however, the one from the historic Casa del Pastel, in Vila Nova de Gaia, was my favorite. Although it must be said, overpriced (€5.00 for a pastel that normally never costs more than €2.00). The experience and the unique location are worth it, though.
9. Visit the Cristal Palace Gardens
It is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic green spaces in the city. It is divided into 3 different areas: Romantic Gardens of the Crystal Palace, the Quinta de Maiairinha and the Quinta Tait. In addition to enjoying a moment of peace in contact with nature (it is considered the “green lung of Porto“) you can enjoy an extraordinary view of the city and the Duero River from one of several view points within the park.
10. Try the Francesinha
If you have a weak stomach, skip this point! It is one of the most famous typical dishes of Portuguese cuisine, originating precisely in the city of Porto. It is a sandwich, similar to the French croque-monsieur, filled with different kinds of meat and sausages, covered with melted cheese and accompanied by a typical tomato, beer and chili sauce. As if that were not enough, it can be served with French fries and/or topped with a fried egg. The restaurant in Porto where to eat the best francesinha in the city turns out to be BRASÂO CERVEJARIA ALIADOS.
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10+1. 10+1 The most "Instagrammable" places in Porto
Let’s face it, we (almost) all take a look on Instagram to find out what are the “coolest” and Instagrammable places in the cities we visit. Therefore, since I finished the itinerary with the best things to do and see in Porto, I’ll reveal some must-see spots if you want to take sensational photos in Porto:
- Passeio das Fontainhas (one of the most renowned spots!).
- Steak n Shake in Praça Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 6 (famous for the mural by Joana Vasconcelos, composed of 8,000 hand-painted azulejos)
- The famous “Porto” sign in blue block letters…is located in the Bolhao neighborhood, right at the foot of the Almeida Garret monument.
As always, I’ll leave your itinerary on Google Maps, ready to be saved and shared!
Save your itinerary in Porto!
Are you ready to venture solo into this amazing Portuguese town?
Remember that you can always count on my support in organizing your solo trip through the services of my “My Friend In” program. I’ll be waiting for you!