Porto or Oporto is the second-largest city in Portugal only second to Lisbon, the country’s capital. Due to its massive globalization, it’s been recognized as a gamma-level global city that makes it to be the only global city in the country along with Lisbon. Being one of the oldest European centers, the heart of the town, the Historic Centre of Porto, Luiz I Bridge, and Monastery of Serra do Pilar” has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1996 and it is also a national monument of Portugal. Porto is that old good grandpa that offers everything from ravishing architecture to rich culture to good food, and obviously wine. Although best known for Douro River and obviously Port wine, Porto, Portugal surprises its visitors with charming culture and colossal architecture.
The eminent São Francisco Church with its baroque interior, the former stock market building – Palácio de Bolsa will baffle you with their grandeur and on the other hand, the iconic metal bridge – Luiz I Bridge whispers the story of the past crossing the rocky banks of Douro. Excellent Port wine in Gaia, cobbled alleys, cute cafes, narrow tiled buildings, excellent gastronomy – Porto, Portugal is surely destination that no one would want to miss out on. It is easy to walk around the city and the friendly people around are always ready to help you. Planning a trip to Porto anytime sooner? Here you go with some of the best place recommendations in Porto that are truly unique and worthy to visit.
Let’s Talk About Some Of The Important Things First.
Where It Locates:
Porto locates on the north-west coast of Portugal along the Douro River Estuary.
How To Reach:
From the United States, there is no direct flight to Porto, Portugal. But you can obviously get direct flights to the country’s capital Lisbon from Chicago, Boston, Miami, New York, New York City, Washington DC, and San Francisco. From Lisbon, it takes only about 3 hours by train to travel to Porto.
The port city by its main airport Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport is connected with most of the major European cities. By road also it has connectivity to all the major Portuguese cities as well as some European cities. And Railways connect this city with Lisbon very well.
If you are traveling from Asian countries, you have to first take a flight to Lisbon or other European cities and then plan your visit to Porto. From Africa and Australia too, there is no direct flight as of now. You have to take connecting flights to reach this beautiful city.
Best Time to Visit:
Spring is the best time to visit Porto. Fall is the next best season. During both of these seasons, the weather is sunny and warm. And moving around the city is pretty convenient. Summer months are a bit warmer but the sea breeze keeps the city cool and bearable. Winter is wet in this city and it gets a lot of rain in the month of April. So planning a trip in April is not a good idea. In a nutshell, May and June are the best months to head to this port city.
How Long To Stay:
You can get done with all the sightseeing in Porto, Portugal in 2 days. At least 2 to 3 days are a must to explore this fairy tale city. But if you want to explore beyond the city, the surrounding places, you might need 7 to 8 days. In your extended tour, you can visit Aveiro, Braga, Guimarães, and all.
Now let us get to the main content of the article that is the best places to visit in Porto, Portugal. Let’s dive in:
Best Places To Visit In Porto, Portugal:
Torre dos Clerigos:
The Clerigos Tower is probably the most iconic symbol of Porto, Portugal. It is monumental for the city’s skyline. This 76-meter-tall historic landmark and the baroque Clérigos church is the most prominent place to see in the city. The construction of the church began in 1732 and was finished around 1750. Climb the 240 steps to get to the top of the tower. It may seem to be a bit tiring, but upon getting to the top you will be able to see the ravishing view of the city, the river, and the coastline. The beautifully decorated façade of the church with baroque motifs, the almost elliptic floor plan of the church nave make this church one of the most stunning churches in Portugal. In fact, this church is one of the first baroque churches in the country to go for a baroque elliptic floor plan.
There is also an exhibition space in the Clerigos Building where you will see the Irmandade dos Clérigos Collection and Christus Collection.
Luis I Bridge:
This double-deck metal arch bridge that crosses the Douro River between Porto and Gaia is again one of the greatest landmarks in Porto city. The bridge was designed by Téophile Seyrig who is an eminent German engineer. The bridge was opened in the year 1886 and at its construction, the 172 meters span was the longest of its type in the world. Today, the bridge works as a road bridge.
The nearby Maria Pia Bridge which is also designed by the same architect acts as a railway bridge and it was built much earlier than the Luis I Bridge. It is one of the most beautiful metallic arch bridges in the world and is also a famous UNESCO World Heritage site that you must visit while in Porto, Portugal.
Sao Bento Station:
Train stations are mostly used for their functional purposes. But there are also such train stations in the world that are so mesmerizing for their architectural elements, that you would want to stay there forever. Sao Bento Station is one of such alluring train stations.
Locating in the heart of the city, the station’s French Beaux-Arts architecture allures the visitors with its 20,000 azulejos (tin-glazed ceramic tiles). And these tiles together depict the past historical stories of Portugal. These tiles were placed over a massive span of 11 years! It is surely a part of Porto’s masterpiece landmarks. You need to stop for a few minutes to admire the decoration, the aesthetic, and the craftsmanship that has made this wonderful station a piece of art.
You will also get to see this type of azulejos work in Porto Cathedral.
Cais da Ribeira:
Right next to the river Douro lies this fantastic neighborhood of Ribeira which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since its restoration in 2001, this historic heart of Porto offers a melancholic walk along its labyrinth of narrow alleys and brightly painted colorful 18th-century houses. The riverside promenade also is a buzzing meeting point of all the locals and tourists alike and is always bubbling with cheerfulness and joy.
This place has also some of the most pretty looking restaurants, bars, and cafes where you can have delicious food. The relaxed atmosphere, medieval buildings, labyrinth of winding alleys, and pleasant views of the bridge and Douro River – Ribeira area is a must-visit when in Porto, Portugal. The view of the buildings during the sunset when the rays of the setting sun fall upon the colorful arrays of buildings along the river, it just looks so vibrant and picturesque.
Vila Nova de Gaia:
Vila Nova de Gaia or simply Gais locates just on the opposite bank of the Ribeira. This sister city of Porto is best known for its massive Port wine industry. You can easily reach here by crossing the Ponte de Dom Luís I and take part in several tours and tastings offered by the wine cellars. The fortified wine arrives here from the east and gets stored in oak barrels in the warehouses. The guided tours offer you a speech about the history of the age-old wine industry and you get to taste Port too.
There are about 60 Port lodges in Gaia and among them, 20 are open for the visitors. So you have to choose which port lodge you want to visit. Some of the most famous lodges are Cockburn, Croft, Graham’s, Osbourne, etc. some of the lodges also offer introductory films and museums that give you an insight about the Port and its evolution. Walk through the cool, damp cellars and taste world-famous wine.
Also, Gaia has some of the loveliest beaches, a 16th-century monastery naming Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, that are worth visiting. Take a quick cruise along the Douro River, visit Casa-Museu Teixeira Lopes, and when you are tired have some good food at the beautiful outdoor seating restaurants of Gaia.
Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal:
Among so many things to do in this Old-school city, do not forget this one of the oldest bookshops in the world along with the Bertrand in Lisbon. The architectural style of the library is a mixed style of Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau elements and the interior has an Art Deco architecture. Decorative archways, lateral stained-glass windows, pinnacles, detailed woodwork, stuccowork, and a forked staircase are the main features of the library.
One of the most intriguing rumors about this library is that this library was the inspiration behind J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. She lived in this city for around 10 years and she used to come to this library, sit on the second floor, and had her cuppa coffee. You can even find similarities between the staircase of this library turned bookstore and the staircase as described in Hogwarts. If you are not even interested in buying books, you can enter the place for free and admire the aesthetic of the building.
Praia de Matosinhos:
This beach is one of the most favorites among the locals and can be reached within a few minutes by opting for public transportation. A wide expanse of sandy beach that allows you to bask in the sun or to enjoy surfing and swimming, Praia de Matosinhos beach, lying on the northern bank of Douro estuary welcomes you also to witness a pleasant sunset. The beach is large and its proximity to the central Porto makes it the most visited beach in the area. There are cafes and restaurants on the beach too. As Matosinhos is famous for its large fishing fleet, you will also find delicious BBQ fish restaurants in the town.
After the sun sets, Porto wakes up with its bars and nightlife. And if you are looking for a cozy, quaint bar in Porto, Portugal to sip some local wine, this is the place you need to head to. The most peculiar thing about this bar is that it is housed in a chapel and the name ‘Capela Incomum’ literally means ‘uncommon chapel’. So it is really a unique experience to sit and taste some authentic wine sitting outside a chapel that has been transformed into a bar.
You get a wide variety of Portuguese wines, mostly from the Douro and Minho regions. And the staffs are knowledgeable enough to enlighten you about the history of every variety you have for a drink.
Other than all of these, you can really set day trips to Aveiro, Braga, and Guimarães if you have time in hand. The city’s restaurants are affordable and they serve delicious food. Porto, Portugal is naturally charming. Its beauty is not artificial, it is so spontaneous and so rustic. The locals are friendly and you would feel like you have come to a place that you have known for ages. So set a visit to this outstanding city in Portugal and you will fall in love with its aura before you even realize.