Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and one of its most colorful. The city is considered to be the capital city of food in the country with abundant of seafood restaurants along the Douro river and home to one of the finest port wine, a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley.
Without further ado, here is the ultimate guide to having a great time in Porto, Portugal from cool things to do to eat the best seafood in the city.
Things to Do Map
When to Go
June to August is the best time to go with the warm weather, longer days and with a lot more happening outside than other period but it comes with more tourists, expensive accommodation, and warm weather.
September to October is the best time if you prefer to avoid the crowds and would like to save cost while enjoying the city at its best still.
Where to Stay
Porto - Urbana Hostel - 22.21 USD/Night
How to Get Around
Metros are the best way to travel around the city. It is well connected and relatively cheap.
Right from the airport, you can get an Adante card at one of the machines near the entrance. The cost per trip will depend on the zone you are traveling to but if you want to go to the city center from the airport, you will have to pick Zone 4 and each trip will cost you 2.5 EUR. With one trip purchased, you can travel to any station within one hour of you validating the ticket. You must validate the ticket every time you enter the metro station as there will be people waiting to check in case you have not validate the card.
The Adante card can also be used on the city buses as well you can navigate the city with both types of transport.
If you have to catch an airplane late at night or early morning, I would recommend getting an Uber. For 13 EUR, I was able to get Uber to the airport at 4:45 AM right on time for my flight at 7 AM.
Best Things to Do in Porto
Have Pastries for Breakfast
Porto is an amazing place if you like pastries, both salty or sweet. There are a bunch of great pastry place in Porto but my favorite is A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves. Their famous puff pastries come in both salty and sweet. I would recommend you try the original veal flavor or chocolate if you are into sweet pastries.
If you like tarts, you can not go wrong with Nata Lisboa. There most well-known pastries are their sweet custard tarts that you can buy for later or have for breakfast. With a good cup of coffee and delicious pastries for breakfast, you are ready to explore the city.
Check out Livraria Lello
Photo by WASD42
Livraria Lello is no ordinary bookstore. Despite it being one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, it is also the bookstore that inspired Harry Potter’s author JK Rowling to visualize and create the Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts. The curvy interior of the store with skylight illuminating the wooden staircase and bookshelves make the place quite a sight to behold.
Visit the Clérigos Church
Clérigos Church is the Baroque church that is considered to be the landmark of the city. With its narrow tower that gives you a panoramic view of the city from above, the church is a must visit for photographers or travelers who are interested in architecture.
Admire the Portuguese Craftmanship at Porto Sao Bento Train Station
The main train station are usually not a tourist attraction but the one in Porto is an exception. The walls of the Porto Sao Bento train staion is decorated with approximately 20,000 azulejo tiles, dating back to 1905, all of which form beautiful murals on 3 sides of the building's walls. The murals allows you to take a peek at the Portuguese mastery of craftmanship back in the days.
Try Francesinhas at Café Santiago F
Photo by Filipe Fortes
Café Santiago F is a family run cafe that has become one of the best places to try the famous sandwich, francesinhas in Porto. The place is always plagued with long queues but if you get there around 11:30 AM for an early lunch, there will be plenty of place for you. The Francesinha here is amazing and definitely worth the wait. With its multi-layered meats and sausages combining with the secret orange sauce (one might call it, the "Moist Maker" 😉), with one bite, you will know why this is considered the best sandwich in the world.
Enjoy the View of Porto from Miradouro da Vitoria
Miradouro da Vitoria is one of the best lookout viewpoints in Porto. Not too far from the Clérigos Church, you can stroll down the small alleyway of the city and until you approach an opening with the view of the Port below and all the Wine Cellar hill-side signs scattered around the other side of the river. It is one of the best photo spot out there.
Visit the Bolsa Palace
If you have time to spare, I would recommend you to take a 40 minutes tour around Bolsa Palace or former stock exchange building. Its spectacular interior of the place will make you wonder if you were really standing inside a former stock exchange building.
Stroll along the River at Ribeira Square
Ribeira Square is the perfect place to stroll along the side of the Douro river heading towards the Luis I bridge. The square gives you a great view of the Douro and its many bridges. There are also many restaurants and cafes here for you to sit and relax but if you are looking to try seafood, I would recommend skipping here and going to Matosinhos as it will be cheaper and fresh.
Visit the Porto Cathedral
This Roman Catholic church located in the historical center of Porto, is one of the oldest and most well-known churches in Porto. Its location, on top of a hill dominating the city, serves as a good spot for a panoramic view of the city. With its Baroque exterior, stunning Romanesque facade and nave with a little touch of Gothic style on the inside, the church is a must-visit for travelers who are interested in the history of the city.
Walk Across the Luís I Bridge
You can walk this bridge from either the top level or the bottom level. It is worth walking both levels but the view from the top is by far the best lookout point you can get in Porto. You will have a panoramic view of both sides of the river and from up above, you can see the beautiful detail of the city you wouldn't see on ground.
You can either get a cable car or walk, but if you can, I would recommend walking since you might be able to stumble upon a view like I did.
Try Port Wine from the Opposite side of Douro River
Porto is well-known for its fortified wine and along the Douro River, the opposite side from Ribeira are plenty of famous wine cellars you can indulge yourself in. You can either get a tour through one of these wine cellars or simply find a restaurant, sit and enjoy the unique texture of sweet Porto wine.
Eat Fresh Seafood at Matosinhos
If you are craving for seafood, the cheapest place to go with the most local vibe and fresh seafood is Matosinhos, 30 minutes metro ride away from the city center. Take a metro to Mercado station and walk towards the coast and you will find plenty of seafood place to eat (even on Sundays).
A particular place I like is Marisqueira dos Pobres restaurant located near the coast in Matosinhos district. For 9 EUR, you can choose what kind of seafood you want and they will prepare it fresh for you. The dish will come with the seafood you ordered plus delicious seasoning, colorful toppings, potatoes, and salads. It was definitely worth the price IMO.
Enjoy local cuisine at Restaurante O Buraco
If you want to try local food near the city center, you can go to Restaurante O Buraco located near the hostel recommended in this guide. The restaurant serves all kinds of Portuguese traditional food and it is popular among both the locals and tourists alike. The place is very small and almost always crowded so prepare to wait or get there as early as you can. The place opens from 12:00 - 15:00 and 19:00 - 22:00 on weekdays, 12:00 - 15:00 on Saturday and close on Sunday.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.