Porto is a fantastic city to visit on a holiday in Portugal. But, besides the many things to do and see in Porto, there are some great nearby destinations one can easily access on day trips. Northern Portugal will amaze you with its historical towns, incredible nature, port wines and unique dishes. If you can stay longer than 2 days in Porto, I’d recommend you choose at least one of the close by destinations that appeals to you and go on a day trip. It might just make you want to explore even more.
Here is a list of suggested day trips from Porto including wine tours, hiking, towns and UNESCO Heritage Sites. We’ve been to most of these places during our one month stay in Portugal and can vouch for them. I’ll start the list with the destinations that can be easily reached by public transport and continue with the ones for which I’d recommend joining a guided tour or renting a car.
Disclaimer: I didn’t include Lisbon, Sintra or Algarve on the list and this was intentionally. They are all wonderful destinations, but any of them is too far away from Porto for an enjoyable day trip and deserves at least a weekend.
Top 10 day trips from Porto
1. Aveiro & Costa Nova – day trip from Porto to the only town build on water canals in Portugal
Aveiro is a peaceful town on scenic water canals, which got the nickname of “Venice of Portugal”. Maybe this name is a bit misleading, but it is still very charming and has its own character.
The first tourist attraction you’ll see in Aveiro will probably be its train station, beautifully decorated with white and blue azulejos. On the short walk to the city center keep your eyes wide open as you might spot some interesting Art Nouveau building built a century ago by the rich Portuguese returning from Brasil.
Once you get to the town center, hop on a moliceiro, a colorful boat pretty similar to a gondola and take a tour of the canals in the old town. The guide will also give you some information and hints on what you can do later on your own. After getting to know more of the small town on your own terms and a fresh seafood lunch, you might also want to check the rainbow-striped wooden houses in Costa Nova and see the sunset on the beach.
How to get from Porto to Aveiro on a day trip: the urban train will do the job in 1 hour and 20 minutes from São Bento station or 1 hour and 10 minutes from Campanhã station. A return ticket only costs 7€ and trains depart almost hourly. From Aveiro to Costa Nova you’ll probably want to take a taxi as buses are not frequent and take much longer.
2. Espinho – one of the easiest day trips from Porto, including a pleasant coastal walk
Espinho is a small town close to Porto known for fishing and perfect beaches. On a more traditional note, Espinho also hosts an impressive outdoor market each Monday. Expect to find there anything from food to clothes and handcrafts. This market can be found right in the middle of the city.
While walking towards the coastline, keep an eye on the colorful narrow boats traditionally used for fishing. In the early hours of the morning, before 9 am, there’s a noisy open-air fish market. If you get there later, you can simply join the locals for a suntanning session, swim or surf lesson.
Besides the golden beaches that you won’t find in Porto, but can freely enjoy in Espinho, the main attraction is a coastal walk. This is done by following a flat wooden boardwalk and is pleasant even for the less active persons. However, if you don’t want to walk on foot all the way to Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto, one can always just catch the train back to Porto from Granja, Aguda or Miramar.
How to get from Porto to Espinho on a day trip: the journey by train from São Bento or Campanhã takes 20 to 25 minutes and costs less than 2€. You’ll be able to see the sea during the entire journey.
3. Guimarães – one of the best day trips from Porto for history buffs
Another easy day trip from Porto is to Guimarães, also known as the place where Portugal was born. The historic center is home to some interesting buildings, winding medieval roads and pretty cafes. But the real highlights of the town are set on the sacred hill of Guimarães. This is where Castle of Guimarães and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza stand.
The castle of Guimaraes dates back more than 1000 years. Inside it, the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, was born. Even if you’ll probably be disappointed as the castle is in ruins now, you can still climb the walls and enjoy sweeping views over the town and the surroundings. Close by, one can also see the small chapel in which the future king was baptized.
In the afternoon, take Teleférico de Guimarães to the top of Penha mountain for even more spectacular views from the mirador at the top. There are also some nice trails in the middle of nature. Back in town, you can discover some more hidden treasures of Guimarães and enjoy a toucinho do céu before returning to Porto.
How to get from Porto to Guimarães: the urban train is again the best choice. The journey takes a little over an hour and a return ticket costs 7€.
4. Braga – a day trip that combines religion and history
Braga is thought to be Portugal’s oldest city with a 2000 years old history. It is the third-largest city in the country and has an university, Roman ruins, an 18th century palace, pretty squares and great restaurants. The city center has a lively and youthful ambiance, thanks to the great number of students.
But the most popular site is a religious one, Bom Jesus do Monte, a Catholic shrine with zig-zagging baroque stairs that pilgrims used to climb on their knees. Even UNESCO recognized its value as a world heritage site. Braga is at the same time a modern city and a religious center of Portugal. Thus, it is also one of the best places one could visit on a day trip from Porto.
Tip: For lunch try bacalhau a Braga, a regional dish made out of fried codfish and thick slices of potatoes.
How to get from Porto to Braga on a day trip: the urban train gets from Porto to Braga in around one hours and a return ticket only costs 7€.
5. Foz de Douro & Matosinhos Beach
Technically still in Porto, this coastal suburb has a distinct feeling and atmosphere. Visit the covered local market selling seasonal products, walk along the promenade and enjoy the view while crunching some perfectly roasted chestnuts. Don’t miss the lighthouse and the white arches of Pérgola da Foz.
A little farther is Praia de Matosinhos, known for beautiful beaches and tasty seafood. The two locations are joined by a scenic coastal walk. In Matosinhos, there are over 200 restaurants specialized in freshly caught fish dishes. If you don’t mind the chilly waters, even in summer, you can join a surf lesson.
How to get from Porto to Foz de Douro on a day trip: this time the best option is the 1930s tram that’s a tourist attraction by itself. It costs 3€ each way. If you’re on a budget, bus 500 takes you at the same place and only costs €1.60. The same bus will take you to Matosinhos, if you don’t want to walk.
6. Amarante – a day trip to the main center of Minho region, famous for vinho verde
Amarante is one of the oldest towns in Portugal, dating back to the 12th century. Set in the middle of Minho wine region, the town is famous for its vinho verde and smoked meats. The locals have even an unique way of serving it, in small bowls instead of glasses, just like a soup. An attractive riverside town, at the foot of the mountains, it’s hard not to fall for its beauty.
The main sights of this medieval location is the arched bridge, rebuilt in the 18th century after the original one from the 13th century. One of the local sweet treats (traditionally very hard to bite) and with a pretty indecent shape is related to a legend of San Gonzalez, that built the bridge, the town and helped old ladies get married. But, of course, everything came at a price.
With a mix of history, architecture and penis shaped cakes, symbol of fertility, Amarante is one of the best day trips one could take from Porto. Even if it’s a small countryside town, it’s also home to an one star Michelin restaurant, in case you’d like to splurge on a fancy lunch.
How to get from Porto to Amarante on a day trip: There are regular buses from Porto Bus Station to Amarante. The journey takes around 50 minutes. You can book tickets online here.
7. Coimbra – one of the most beautiful day trips from Porto
Home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, everything in Coimbra seems to revolve around its temporary residents, the students. The city is far less touristy than Porto, but still full of history and charm. I’d dare to say it was my favorite city in Portugal, if I could stop thinking about the beautiful sunsets in Porto and Lisbon.
Coimbra has probably the most beautiful parks we’ve seen during our month in Portugal. Start with Penedo da Saudade, full of poems from former students, and continue with the peaceful oasis Jardim da Sereia and the botanical garden with a real bamboo forest. Many places in town are connected to love stories of former inhabitants, like Pedro and Ines bridge or the mysterious Quinta das Lágrimas.
Other historical gems are Santa Cruz church, part of which was turned into a pretty cafe and Santa Clara-a-Velha Convent. As a city of students, in Coimbra evolved a different and unique form of fado, sang by groups of male students. Some songs were dedicated to girls, while others are about knowledge and life.
How to get from Porto to Coimbra on a day trip: A train from São Bento or Campanhã will take you to Coimbra B. in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Coimbra B is a little out of town and you need to change with a different train for a few more minutes. Another option is Flixbus from Porto Camelias. But the bus station is out of the town center. Book your tickets here or join a guided tour if you want to leave the planning to somebody else.
8. Douro Valley – the no. 1 of all the day trips from Porto
If you are not staying long in Porto and you can only go on a day trip, this would be the one. A trip to the north of Portugal would be incomplete without a tour of the Douro valley.
The Douro river, once a wild and turbulent river was used for centuries to transport the sweet and strong port wine from the heart of the valley to Vila Nova de Gaia. But don’t worry, it was tamed by the construction of 8 dams and now it’s perfect for a peaceful ride on a rabelo boat.
On a day trip to Douro Valley, you’ll be able to admire the captivating rolling hills full of vineyards and almond trees. This area supplied for centuries the grapes for the best port wines that brought Portugal international recognition. You’ll see the names of the major companies in Porto proudly displayed on the surrounding hills. Visiting at least one of these vineyards is a must, in order to find out more about the history of port, wine production and taste it right there, where it was born.
How to get from Porto to the Douro Valley on a day trip: it is possible to get to Douro Valley by train, but it takes longer and you can’t do much in one day. If this is all the time you can dedicate to Douro Valley, I’d suggest a guided tour that includes some wine tasting, a boat trip, view points and lunch.
9. Paiva Walkways and 516 Arouca Bridge – one of the day trips from Porto nature lovers will not want to miss
Paiva Walkways and Arouca suspended footbridge are located just outside Arouca, 80 km away from Porto. The 8 km path is a bit challenging, but will reward one with outstanding beauty, a peaceful woodland, tumbling waterfalls and pristine gorges. It’s now accessible for almost everyone, as a wooden boardwalk was build along the trail that meanders through the UNESCO Arouca geopark. There are quite a few stairs on the way. Thus, it will still test one’s physical state.
The trek takes around 2.5 hours to complete. If you decide to do it, remember to pack some snacks, a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. At the start of the path, one can also cross Arouca suspended footbridge, the newest attraction in the area. This is the second longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. While crossing it, enjoy the breathtaking view over the valley and Aguieiras waterfall.
How to get from Porto to the Paiva Walkway on a day trip: There’s no public transport to the bridge and pathway. If you don’t have a car, you could join a small group tour from Porto, as we did. The guide took care of the tickets, transport and an awesome traditional lunch. Of course, he also gave us a lot of useful information about the area and much more.
10. Peneda-Gerês National Park – one of the best day trips from Porto for nature lovers
The only national park in Portugal, Peneda-Gerês National Park includes mountains, forests, emerald lakes, waterfalls and secluded villages frozen in time. It is an excellent place to check out the wildlife in the Iberic peninsula, as well as traditional granite houses and centuries old castles. Another option is a trip to Termas do Gerês, a spa town where the waters are thought to ease several ailments.
Some of the local species you might spot here are the Iberian wolf, ibex and wild boar. Be also prepared for a rewarding bird-watching session and try to identify part of the 15 different species of bats. Even if you’re not lucky enough, the vast park is also home to scenic peaks, wild streams, dense pine forests, granite boulders and flower-covered meadows.
The best way to experience the natural landscape is on foot, but you can also take a 4×4 tour if you don’t have much time at your disposal. Camping is also allowed in specific parts, as well as swimming in some of the natural pools.
How to get from Porto to Peneda-Gerês National Park: Public transport is scarce in the region. An organized full-day tour or a rental car are far better choices.
Final thoughts on the best day trips from Porto
The number one day trip from Porto is to Douro Valley and there is a reason for it. If there’s only one day you can allocate for day trips, this should be it. But if you can’t afford a guided tour, there are more affordable destinations where you can get by public transport. My favorite was Coimbra, but, depending on your interests, it might not be the ideal option for you. Aveiro, Guimarães, Braga, Foz de Douro, Amarante, Espinho are all wonderful and can be reached by public transport. If you have more days to spare, but would like to spend them in nature and guided tours are not an issue, then Peneda-Gerês National Park and Paiva Pathways are two great options.
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