Porto is a vibrant and lively coastal city located in northern Portugal. This colourful community lies along the stunning Douro River and offers visitors a taste of culture unparalleled anywhere else in the country. Although Porto is a bit of a trek from other popular destinations like Lisbon and The Algarve, it is an area you do not want to miss.
Porto completely blew us away and it happened almost immediately. Even David, who is not typically much of a “city guy”, fell in love with this magical place. Everything from the food to the local people to the exquisite street art had a remarkably different feel than the rest of Portugal. It was pure magic. In this post, I will outline all of our favourite things to do in Porto and why I think you’ll love them too.
I read a quote before we visited and it rang true as we strolled the cobblestone streets enjoying the live music, the smells of the local restaurants, and the evening breeze off the river.
If Lisbon is the heart of Portugal, then Porto is the soul.
It’s hard to put into words, really, but there is something about the way this city makes you feel as you wander around that stays with you long after you’re gone. If you are debating whether or not to make the trip up north, let me offer you some perspective.
We loved Lisbon. It was bustling with fantastic food, impressive shops, and incredible architecture. If given the choice to go back to only one city in Portugal, however, we would choose Porto every single time.
Without further ado, here are our favourite things to do in Porto, Portugal!
Walk Along The Cais da Ribeira
The Cais da Ribeira is a lively riverfront promenade in Porto, Portugal. The cobblestone street, which is often full of local vendors and performers, stretches out along the bank of the Douro River. Located in the old town near the Dom Luis I Bridge, this vibrant street is a perfect way to get a feel for the city.
There are several restaurants, shops, and side streets in the area where you can shop, eat, and even do a port tasting. The river views and pastel houses of the neighborhood are sure to charm you in a way you didn’t even know you’d been craving.
Try a Port Tasting
Portugal is known all over the world for being the birthplace of port wine. Created in the Douro Valley, only about 1 hour from Porto, there are several tasting shops located around the city. The best place to go for a tasting(or 4!) is actually in the neighboring city, Vila Nova de Gaia. It is located on the south side of the Douro River, just west of the Dom Luis I Bridge and across from Porto’s Old Town.
Although in an entirely different city, it is within walking distance of Old Town. Here, you will find a never-ending row of port cellars offering tours and tastings. Some of our favourites were Caves Cálem, Sandeman, Churchill’s Lodge, and Taylor’s Port. But you are sure to have a good experience wherever you go!
Visit The Dom Luis I Bridge
The Dom Luis I Bridge is a monumental sign of Porto and makes for an incredible photo op. The double-decker metal arches span the Douro River connecting Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, which is the neighboring city known for its port cellars.
Although you can cross the bridge by vehicle, we would highly recommend walking it instead. The views of Old Town from above the water are stunning and you can make your way up to the best viewpoint over Porto after reaching the other side.
Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
The Monastery of Serra do Pilar is a former monastery with a killer view of the city! Actually located in the neighbouring city, Vila Nova de Gaia, it is a short walk across the DomLuis I Bridge from the Old Town of Porto.
We visited around 10 am and enjoyed the panoramic scenery of the Douro River, The DomLuis I Bridge, and all of Porto from this fantastic spot. From the bottom of the bridge, it takes about 10 minutes to walk up the hilly cobblestone streets to the monastery. Alternatively, you can take a gondola up from the port cellars inVila Nova de Gaia.
One of the best things to do while in Porto is to visit some of the many historic sites. The city is full of culture and old architecture, and many of these buildings are well worth the visit.
A few of my favourites during our trip were The Clérigos Tower, Bolsa Palace, andPorto Cathedral. If you have time, I would highly suggest paying a few euros to get into the Porto Cathedral. You can make your way through all the different levels and rooms before emerging onto the roof with a gorgeous view of the city and the Douro River!
Farinhas Pizza is some of the best pizza David and I have even had not only in Portugal, but anywhere in the world. Everything from the hand-tossed dough to the romantic atmosphere is incredibly impressive. The friendly owner actually came out to chat with us on our second visit (in two days😉) and the entire staff was absolutely lovely.
They have several inventive topping combinations including incredible vegan options! Do yourself a favor and add this pizza to your list of things to do in Porto. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
TIP: If you plan to go for dinner, get there right when they open to get a table!
Walk the Streets
One of my personal favourite things to do was simply to walk the cobblestone streets andadmire the old architecture while exploring the little shops along the way. We did a big walking loop of all the previously mentioned things to do in Porto and really enjoyed seeing the city in-between monuments.
You will find everything from clothing and local artist shops to port cellars and family-owned restaurants lining the colourful avenues. Make sure to wear a pair of good walking shoes!
BONUS: Go to The Douro Valley
While not technically in Porto, The Douro Valley is a must-visit while you are in the north of Portugal. There are several day tours available from the city. Most of them include wine and port tastings, lunch, and even boat tours down the Douro River.
If you have a vehicle or a camper van, you can visit the Douro Valley on your own. There are several vineyards in the region that will let you stay the night for free in your camper if you buy a bottle of their wine. Many even offer warm showers, a restroom, and electricity. It’s a fantastic deal!