Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its old center is an UNESCO Heritage site, but port wine was the one that made the city world-famous. We spent 10 days in Porto and, although we are far away from seeing it all, we can make a list of the best things to do in 3 days in this incredibly charming city, from watching the magical sunsets to port tasting in Vila Nova da Gaia and visiting architectural gems. If you’re traveling to Portugal or Spain and wonder if you should add Porto to your itinerary or not, don’t overthink it! This city is simply stunning and I’m sure you’ll have a great time there, no matter your interests.
Porto in short
Porto lies in the north of Portugal, on the banks of the Douro Estuary. It has a long trading history, especially when it comes to wine. The city is absolutely wonderful and it would be almost impossible not to find something you like about it. It has medieval walls, magnificent churches, traditional azulejos, lively atmosphere, an unique wine. And that’s just the beginning.
READ ALSO: 25 STUNNING PLACES TO VISIT IN PORTUGAL (+MAP)
Porto vs. Vila Nova de Gaia. What is the difference?
Porto is set at the north of Douro. In the old city are located most of the cathedrals and historical landmarks. At the south of the Douro River lies Gaia, the place where the port wine was deposited and matured for centuries. All the port making companies still have their cellars there. In order to reach it, one has to cross Luis I Bridge. The lower level takes visitors to the port wineries, while the upper level connects Ribeira to Jardim de Morro and some of the best places to see the sunset in Porto. From this point of view, Porto is very similar to Budapest, with Buda and Pest separated by the Danube River.
READ ALSO: BUDAPEST – VISITING THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN 2021
Is 3 days in Porto enough?
Three days in Porto are definitely not enough to see the entire city and experience all it has to offer. But this first trip will give you a glimpse into it and you’ll can decide for yourself if you want to return and see more of it or not. As for us, I can say that we spent 10 days there and would love to go back and enjoy more of the wonderful atmosphere and notable sights.
In three days you can see the best of the old town, go port tasting in Vila Nova da Gaia, watch wonderful sunsets, go to the beach, enjoy fresh seafood and local dishes. Three days will give you enough time to see the main sights without running around. If you can stay more time, there are also some great day trips from Porto you can choose from.
If you don’t have 3 days you can dedicate to Porto, I’d suggest at least two days, in which you only choose 2-3 places to see per day and just wander around the backstreets and enjoy the quirky details the rest of it. I really don’t think Porto is a city you can enjoy in one day or as a day trip from Lisbon. If you travel to the capital of Portugal and think about seeing Porto on a day trip, just don’t do it! Porto is large and is worth a city break by itself. There are many great day trips you can take from Lisbon, but this isn’t one of them.
READ ALSO: TOP 10 DAY TRIPS FROM PORTO FOR CITIES, WINE, NATURE AND MORE
How to get to Porto?
Porto has its own International Airport less than 10 kilometers away. The city is well connected to many European cities, making it easy to visit even for a weekend getaway. Some of the airlines that fly to Porto are Air Berlin, Easy Jet, Transavia, Ryanair, Wizzair or TAP. A metro ticket from the airport to the center of Porto costs €2.50 and a taxi around €10. Check out the best flight deals on Omio now.
If you are already in Portugal, you can get to Porto by train, by bus or by car. Several trains a day from Lisbon will take you to São Bento, right in the middle of the city or at Campanhã, the largest train station in Porto. There is also a direct train connecting Faro, in Algarve region, to Porto. Travelers have access to free wifi while on board. Use Omio to book trains to and from Porto.
The major cities in Portugal and even Spain are also connected to Porto by buses. These might be even more affordable than the train. Tickets from Lisbon to Porto start from €5. Browse Flixbuses into Porto.
READ ALSO: 35 THINGS TO DO IN LISBON IN THREE DAYS
How to get around Porto?
Porto is much easier to navigate on foot than Lisbon. It is hilly, but the slopes are milder and the magic around will most probably make you go exploring even more than you had initially thought. Also, there are many quiet corners and neighborhoods waiting to be discovered. Remember to bring comfy walking shoes!
The metro and bus system connects the city center to the suburbs. A single journey starts from €1.20 with an Andante Card. If you plan to use public transport, make sure to get the card as soon as possible, as a single journey starts from €2 without one. It is valid for one year and you can top it up at the machines in the stations. The main attractions in Porto are also connected by a tourist bus line with an open-top. Book your ticket here.
If you don’t want to be exhausted at the end of the day, it’s worth checking out Porto Card for 1-4 days, which gives you access to the public transport, free access to several museums and a wine cellar, as well as over 150 other discounts to attractions like Clérigos Tower and Palácio Da Bolsa. The card also includes metro access to OPO airport, buses and trains to Foz de Douro and nearby seaside towns. You can buy a Porto card for 1, 2, 3, or 4 Days on GetYourGuide here.
Taxis, Uber, Bolt and FreeNow are also readily available and reasonably priced.
READ ALSO: COIMBRA – THE BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE WITH MAP (PORTUGAL)
Where to stay in Porto?
The cost of staying in Porto ranges from €20/night in a hostel or AirBnb to over €100/night in a hotel in the Ribeira district. I would recommend staying as close to the heart of Porto as you can afford. Good reference sites are Clerigos Tower or Luis I Bridge. Take into consideration also that Ribeira might be a little too noisy at night. Depending on your budget, here are some options to choose from:
The Editory House Ribeira – Ribeira
B The Guest Downtown – Baixa
Oportolazaro Apartment – Baixa
Oporto Invictus Hostel – Baixa
Casa Antiga – Cedofeita
Almada Apartments – Cedofeita
Oporto Sky Hostel – Cedofeita
Catalonia Porto – Bonfim
Moov Hotel – Bonfim
What is the best time to visit Porto?
Porto enjoys great weather for an European destination all year round. Spring and autumn boast lovely weather and fewer tourists than the summer months. Summers are hot, but bearable. In fact, most tourists choose this season. Winters are colder, but compared to the rest of Europe, the weather will still be mild (5-10 degrees). You might not need a winter jacket most of the season.
We visited to Porto in October. We did have two rainy days, but the rest of them were sunny and dry. In the evenings it got a little but chilly and a sweater is a good idea.
Best 30 things to do in Porto in 3 days, Portugal
Here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Porto on a 3 days city-break in Porto you can choose from. Read them, but also take your time to explore, as there are so many picturesque spots around every corner that it would be impossible to list them all. If you have more time to spare, take a look at the best 10 day trips you can take from Porto, as it makes for a great base.
1. Marvel at the spectacular buildings covered in azulejos
The centuries old buildings covered in azulejos are part of what makes Portugal’s northern city so special. Brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the middles ages, the colorful tiles were widely adopted by Portugal and became one its most ubiquitous features. From simple geometrical shapes, they started to depict legends, battles and cultural events. Nowadays, they are both beautiful decorations and a fascinating record of history. Besides admiring the outside walls, you can also go inside, see their amazing interiors and learn their history.
While you’ll see fabulous azulejos everywhere, here are some we recommend you make time to especially check out:
1.1. Admire São Bento train station
More than 20000 blue and white tiles decorate the interior of São Bento train station. They show scenes from the history of Portugal, as well as local trades. Due to this, São Bento was voted several times one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. If you didn’t see it on arrival, take the time to see it while you’re in Porto.
1.2. Check out Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas Descalças (on Rua do Carmo)
These two churches in different architectural styles are separated by a hidden house only 1 meter wide. The narrowest in Porto, it used to host secret meetings during the Siege of Porto (1830s). Afterwards, it was inhabited until the 1980s. As a fun fact, the tower on the church on the left was moved in order to facilitate the construction of the second church.
1.3. Chapel of Souls (Capela das Almas on Rua de Santa Catarina)
Located near Mercado do Bolhão, this church is not only Instammagrable, but it also has hourly religious services to comply with the changing schedule of the traders.
1.4. Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
The facade of this 18th century church is covered in over 11000 traditional white and blue azulejos. Entrance is free, so you can also check the altarpiece designed by Nicolau Nasoni.
2. Take a free walking tour
I’m a huge fan of free walking tours. I’ve went on many around the world and they’re usually great. The guide in Porto was friendly, funny and knew a lot of secret stories and hidden places. Book a Sandeman’s or Porto Walkers free tour and don’t forget to tip the guide at the end of the tour, depending on your possibilities and how much you enjoyed it. At the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the city, its history and people.
If you’re not a fan of walking, here’s an E-Bike tour, you can join to explore the medieval streets of Porto, amazing viewpoints and highlights.
3. Walk along Rua das Flores
Flowers’ Street is the most beautiful and liveliest streets in Porto, with band playing live music, shops, hidden street art and coffee tables out in front of the many restaurants and bars. It got its name by one of the goods sold here, flowers. Aristocratic houses from the 17th century still line the street, bearing coat of arms of former owners. Their ornate balconies can’t be ignored either.
4. Climb the Clérigos tower
Clérigos tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Porto. It dominates from afar the city skyline since 1763. The 75 meters high tower is also one of the best places to visit in Porto for incredible panoramic views. Entry costs €6. You can see the baroque church for free and the entrance fee also gives you access to the museum. Even if the best part is the bell tower, they are both worth a look. In order to get to the viewing platform, you’ll have to climb 230 steps.
Purchase your tickets here so you don’t have to wait in line.
5. Visit Porto Cathedral
The 12th century fortress-like cathedral in the center of Porto is the most important religious landmark of the city. Besides its age, it impresses through the mix of architectural styles, Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic. When it was built, almost 800 years ago, it also had a defensive role, hence the buttresses, arrow loops, crenellations and the general aspect of a fortress. On the inside, the cloisters are decorated with traditional blue tiles. Entry to the Cathedral costs €3.
6. Step into the famous Livraria Lello (the Harry Potter library)
Livraria Lello, in the center of Porto, is visited daily by hundreds Harry Potter fans and not only. Besides supposedly being one of the sources of inspiration of J.K. Rowling, that once lived in Porto, the bookstore itself is also beautiful.
In peak season, it might not be worth it to wait for a few hours in line, if you’re not a huge fan, but it’s still worth a look and the employees will most probably let you take a photo from the door. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful libraries in in the world and you’ll be surprised a wizard is not coming down the stairs.
Entry costs €6 at the door or €5 on their website. If you buy a book, the entrance fee will be deducted from its price. On the website, there’s also a Priority Entrance ticket which allows you to skip the line, but costs €15.9.
7. Praça da Liberdade
The large Freedom Square and nearby boulevard feel a world away from the narrow streets in the old town. It separates the old and new parts of the town. Here one can see the neoclassical Palácio das Cardosas, a former 18th century convent turned into a hotel, an equestrian statue of Pedro I of Brazil and the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world. The freedom from the monarchy and the establishment of the republic were declared here.
8. Take in the views from Miradouro da Vitória
Close to Clérigos Tower, hidden on a side street, there’s Miradouro da Vitória. This has become one of the most popular places to watch the amazing sunsets in Porto. Apparently the seagulls also like the views over the cathedral, the terracotta rooftops, the Douro and Gaia from up there. Why wouldn’t we love that?
9. Have a spicy cachorrinho at Gazela da Batalha
Gazela is one of the most popular bars in Porto and despite its not so appealing aspect, it’s almost always piled up with locals. Tourists are lucky to catch a spot here and try a spicy sausage and cheese in crusty bread along with a beer or glass of wine. The prices are affordable, especially as it’s right in the center.
10. Explore Mercado do Bolhão
The largest and most famous market in Porto is open since 1914. On weekends, here one can find anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to cakes, meat, smoked and canned fish. The market is currently closed for renovation but should reopen in 2022. Until then you can sample some delicious cakes at Confeitaria do Bolhão, a 100-year-old café two doors away. Opposite the market, you’ll find the best pasteis de nata in Porto at Mantegaria. Just like in Lisbon, they have a window shop so you can watch real time how the delicious dessert is prepared.
11. Take the 6 bridges boat cruise
A touristic but fun activity to do in Porto is to take a 50-minute boat cruise along the Douro River. This takes tourists under 6 famous bridges, including the one designed by Gustav Eiffel, which is not Luis I Bridge, that connects Ribeira to Vila Nova da Gaia. It is the abandoned Maria Pia Bridge, 10 years older than Luis I Bridge. The audio guide is available in several languages and will give you insights into the port cellars, famous landmarks and, of course, the 6 bridges.
Book the six-bridges sightseeing boat tour with a glass of port by traditional rabello boat in advance!
12. Check out Muralha Fernandina
Just next to Luís I Bridge, there’s a stretch of Porto’s defensive walls from the 14th century. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, so it’s worth a look and the informative panels around will give you more a glimpse into medieval Porto. The wall can also be seen from the bridge or Vila Nova da Gaia, but it’s even better to appreciate them from closer.
13. Discover Porto’s Ribeira
Ribeira, one of Porto’s most popular quarters is known for cobbled narrow streets, fancy seafood restaurants with views of the Douro. Although the riverside area, Cais da Ribeira, will probably entice you, don’t miss the backstreets, that are equally attractive, but with far less people. Just behind the beautiful blocks from the waterfront, there’s a maze of alleyways lined with ancient houses and street art murals.
14. Ride Funicular dos Guindais
Almost parallel to the Fernandina wall runs a funicular that connects Ribeira to the elevated city center. You’ll be tempted to take it on the way up, but be tempted as it’ll be packed on this direction. If you want a less crowded experience, better take the funicular downhill.
15. Cross Luis I Bridge
The iconic bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova da Gaia, where the port wines made in Douro Valley are kept and matured. It has two levels and one can cross on foot any of them, but the top one is better when it comes to the views. Cross it to get to the cellars during the day and to Jardim do Morro just in time to catch some of the most atmospheric sunsets in Europe. The bridge was not designed by Gustav Eiffel, but by one of his apprentices, thus it has a similar style and design. This doesn’t make it any less unique.
16. Take the scenic cable car Teleferico de Gaia
Opposite the funicular that connects Ribeira to the upper old town, there’s a cable car that takes tourists up and down in Vila Nova da Gaia. It travels from Cais de Gia by the riverside to Jardim do Morro, the best place for sunset views in Porto. It costs €6 one way / €9 return.
17. Have a cocktail at Porto Cruz rooftop bar
At the end of the day, there are few places left on Vila Nova da Gaia side where you can enjoy nightlife. Porto Cruz roof top bar is the exception. During the day, you can sample port wines at the lower levels. In the evening, you can enjoy a cocktail containing port with great views over Gaia and Porto at its rooftop bar.
Interested in more nightlife hubs? Take a Porto bar crawl for €20 with others just like you.
18. Watch the sunset from Jardim do Morro
The best place to watch the sunset from, in my opinion, is Jardim do Morro, located at the top level of Vila Nova da Gaia. Some might say that Mosteiro da Serra de Pilar, next to it, is a little bit higher and you can see it better, but it doesn’t boast the same atmosphere and romantism. Live performers and the affordable counter selling wine and cocktails are a nice addition. A dinner picnic with incredible sunset views is the best end for a busy sightseeing day.
You can easily see the sunset from Luis I Bridge, Jardim do Morro and the Monastery of Serra do Pilar during the same evening. They’re all right beside each other. Let me know if Jardim do Morro is your favorite also or not!
19. Go port tasting in Vila Nova da Gaia, opposite Porto
You shouldn’t leave Porto without sampling the beverage that made the city famous. This is one of the best things to do in Porto, or better said Vila Nova da Gaia. All the wineries in the Douro Valley have their cellars here. So it’s pretty easily to find one where you can taste some different types of Porto and learn a little bit of its history.
One of the best places to do so is Porto Cruz, that offers port tastings for affordable prices, but is also organized as a small museum, where you can see some tools and watch movies showing how the wine is made, transported and its importance for the city centuries ago and now.
If you want to taste wine made my different companies, book this tour that takes tourists to three cellars. Ferreira, Cálem, Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Burmester, Pocas or Taylor’s are also popular choices. Our all times favorite port wine was the pink one from Croft. And we did taste many there and at home.
READ ALSO: DOURO VALLEY: BEST THINGS TO DO IN PORTUGAL’S FAMOUS WINE REGION
If you want to find out more about port wine, visit World of Wine or take a full-day tour of the Douro Valley which includes port tastings, a traditional lunch and a Douro River cruise.
20. Try vinho verde (green wine)
Everyone has heard about port wine and that Porto is one of the best places to sample it. But another type of wine made in the area is vinho verde, a crisp and light wine that has been fermenting for less than three months. It is not really green , but usually white, although I’ve heard that it can also be red or rose. It slips down easily and, contrary to port wine, it’s a great fresh summer beverage.
21. Eat typical Porto foods
Besides seafood and pasteis de nata, Porto has its own flavors and signature dishes. Here are some of the dishes one should try while in Porto:
- Francesinha – a sandwich filled with steak, ham and sausage, topped soft fried egg and covered in melted cheese and tomato sauce. Some crispy chips usually accompany it, just in case you thought this is proper for a light dinner. It definitely doesn’t look too attractive, but it’s Porto’s most famous dish. Some like it, some don’t, but in order to decide which is your tribe, you should give it a try first. We had it at a small bar, where we hid from the rain and it was actually quite good.
- Pastéis de bacalhau – salted cold cakes sometimes filled with cheese, best eaten warm as a snack.
- Cachorrinho – the Portuguese hot dog. A spicy sausage in crispy bread, with mustard and other toppings. The best is at Gazela.
- Caldeirada de peixe – a Portuguese fish stew
- Fresh seafood – the place to go for this is Matashinos beach. There are over 200 seafood restaurants doing their best to lure customers in.
- Pastéis de nata – as everywhere in Portugal, this dessert is omnipresent, but the best place to have them is at Mantegaria in Bolhão.
Tip: in Portugal, when eating out, the waiter will usually bring out a few starters that you didn’t order. Don’t think they’ll be on the house as in Greece. They’ll appear at the end on your bill. If you don’t want them, just say it before touching them.
Take a cooking class and learn to make your own pastéis de nata or francesinha at home.
Go on a food tour with a local, get immersed in the Portuguese culture and learn where to find the best food in the city.
22. Marvel at the interiors of Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace)
The Bolsa Palace can only be visited on a 45-minutes guided tour, but I don’t anyone would enjoy it otherwise anyway. In order to visit, you’ll have to go there and check at what time a place in a language you understand will take place. The ticket costs €10 and can be bought online or on site.
Unfortunately, there is no fixed schedule. It changes daily, depending on the visitors the visitors that go there early. Tours take place every half an hour, but in different languages, you might be lucky and go on the tour right away, or have to wait for several hours. When we were there, the next English tour was in hour and a half, which gave us enough time to see the area and return.
The most beautiful room in this 19th century neoclassical building is the elaborate Arab Room, which took 18 years to build. Other impressive rooms are the glass-dommed Hall of Nations, the courtroom and Gallery of Portraits to name a few.
23. Check out the Church of São Francisco
Igreja de São Francisco, right next to the Stock Exchange Palace, was first built in 1245, but later destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in the 15th century. Later on, its interior was covered with 100 kilograms of gold. The exterior is rather plain. Taking a peek inside costs €8.
24. Take a street art tour
Porto abounds in street art murals. Some of the most known ones are the Half Rabbit in Gaia and the Blue Cat on Rua das Flores. If you want to see even more of this side of Porto, take a street art tour by tuk-tuk for €25.
25. Find peacocks in the gardens of Crystal Palace Gardens
One of the best places to enjoy a peaceful sunset with great view is the Crystal Palace Gardens. Just as you enter the park, you’ll be welcomed by curious peacocks walking around freely. In the middle of the park, there’s a dome building, which is not the Crystal Palace, but the Superbock stadium. The actual palace was torn down in 1961.
Walk farther to the riverside and check out the gardens designed in the 19th century, with fountains and allegorical sculptures. Check out the plants around you: gingko biloba, pines, beech trees, camellias and rhododendrons. The views over the Douro River and Vila Nova da Gaia are some of the best in Porto. Bring a picnic basket with you and enjoy the sunset views!
26. Attend a fado show in Porto
Fado music originated in the Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon. However, the melancholic rhythms speaking of fate, heartbreak and social injustice spread across Portugal. It became one of the most precious Portuguese cultural treasures and earned a spot on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage list.
27. Shop for goods and souvenirs
Look for a small souvenir to remind you of your trip to Porto. Depending on your budget and wishes, you can find anything from the already traditional fridge magnets to colorful ceramic tiles at Fleur de Lis Tiles. Vintage clothes, accessories, homeware and authentic art pieces are also on display in the many shops lining the streets of Porto.
28. Ride the historic tram from Bolsa Palace to Foz
This might not be the cheapest way to reach Foz, but the 1930s-style tram has its own charm and is an attraction by itself. After visiting Palacio da Bolsa, hop on the tram that takes you along the Douro River to Foz. Take in the scenic views on the way to Foz.
The yellow trams are usually associated with Lisbon, but they were actually first introduced in Porto. A tickets costs €3. If this is too much, you can also consider taking the 500 bus, which is a little bit cheaper, but lacks the historic atmosphere.
Get a combined ticket for the tram, funicular and open-top bus!
29. Walk along Foz Promenade
The trendy Foz district is set in the estuary of Douro, right where it meets the ocean. It’s a lovely place for a walk, with a promenade along the seafront, an Instagrammable white pergola and a quaint fortress. Right off the shore, a small lighthouse has been guiding ships in and out of the Douro for over 100 years.
30. Go to Matashinos Beach
Follow the coastal walk to Matashinos beach, where you’ll find over 200 restaurants selling fresh caught fish and seafood. This is also a nice place to watch the sunset, dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean or have a quick tanning session in the mild afternoon sun.
Porto is a great destination for a city break. It has a lively atmosphere and a myriad of attractions. It will be really hard to leave the city. However, Porto is also a good base for day trips in the north of Portugal. The most common and rewarding one id to Douro Valley, where the product that made the city famous, port wine, has been produced for centuries. The area is so beautiful and important for the history of the region that it got a spot on the UNESCO Heritage site list. Check also this article for more day trips from Porto suggestions!
So here you have the! The best 30 things to so and see in Porto in 3 days. Don’t feel pressured to see them all, as not all of them will probably align with your interests. Choose the ones that you really want to see, check what’s around them and have fun!
Planning a trip to Porto? Pin this best 30 things to do in Porto post for later!
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