Porto has been through quite some changes in recent years – and although it had always been on my bucket list, I somehow never made it there. Now it’s been almost a bit too late, once an insider tip among the upcoming European cities, Porto has become a popular destination for a city trip. Nevertheless, I was still impressed by Porto and I’ll be happy to present you now my personal Porto Travel Guide with my favourite Porto sights. I immediately felt at home in Porto, like in Lisbon. As a half-Brazilian speaking Portuguese, there was no language barrier and I had so much fun enjoying the Portuguese hospitality.
Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal, but you can still reach a lot in walking distance. The only drawback are the very steep hills throughout th city, if you want to walk back to your accommodation after a long day of sightseeing – depending on where you are staying. In this case, you can still use public transport, taxis or Uber, all at very reasonable prices. In general, Porto is a very affordable city! Let’s talk about the top sights in Porto then: What not to miss in Porto!
Porto Sightseeing – The Travel Guide with all highlights
Cais de Ribeira
Ribeira is the harbour district of Porto – and sooner or later you will end up here anyway: Life unfolds at the Cais de Ribeira, even in winter. In the evenings, you can enjoy the great vibe by the river Douro with street musicians, popcorn carts and bustling bars and restaurants. Many of them are kind of tourist traps, but sitting at the quay with a glass of Douro wine and watching the sunset is priceless. At Bacalhau (a little off the beaten track and a bit less touristy), they served local wine (which the Douro valley is famous for!) and re-interpreted traditional Portuguese bacalhau dishes. I’m a huge fan of bacalhau! Bacalhau is salted cod, mostly served boiled with potatoes and vegetables, a dish you shouldn’t miss if you visit Portugal!
And in the dark and narrow alleys behind the promenade, you can still enjoy the typical atmosphere of the harbour district!
Ponte Dom Luis I – The Dom Luis I Bridge
Probably the most remarkable and impressive of all Porto sights: At the end of the Cais de Ribeira, the gigantic Ponte Dom Luis I thrones over the Douro and connects Porto with the opposing Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge can be crossed both on the top and on the bottom. As a pedestrian, you can cross the bridge on both levels and enjoy the panoramic view over Porto.
Torre dos Clérigos
People suffering from claustrophobia will perhaps not make it to the top of the clock tower of the Igreja dos Clérigos (or Clérigos Church). The last bit of the staircase is very narrow and the viewing platform is more of a narrow walkway around the top of the tower. The spaces fills up quickly, so it’s best not to fear body contact with strangers, otherwise you won’t be able to move around the tower to get all views over Porto.
On busy days, access is limited, but even on calmer days, the Torre dos Clérigos will fill up quickly. But you will be rewarded with the finest view over Porto: The Torre dos Clérigos is the highest church tower in Portugal and one of the most popular landmarks of Porto.
Estacão São Bento
Can a train station be a landmark? Yes, definitely! Especially if the interior is covered over and over with hand-painted azulejos, the typical tiles found all over Portugal. The white-blue tiles in the station hall of Estacão São Bento extend from the floor to the ceiling and are simply marvelous.
The station itself is a terminus, from here you can take trains to the rest of Portugal and to the Douro Valley. If you are travelling by train anyway and don’t want drag your luggage along through the whole city, you won’t need to look further for a place to stay: The Passenger Hostel* is located inside the amazing terminal building, with a very stylish interior. It offers everything from dorms to large family rooms in maisonette style.
Palacio da Bolsa
The Palácio da Bolsa, the palace of the stock exchange, is full of splendour. In the past, big deals were initiated here – and there was cheating involved! The big halls seem to be covered with handcrafted wooden panels – but it’s mostly fake! It’s only cheap, painted plaster! A remarkable and impressive technique that was also used in the Livraria Lello.
The Palácio da Bolsa can only be visited during a guided tour. Guided tours are available in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English. Tickets can be bought in advance on the Palácio da Bolsa website.
Rua das Flores
The Rua dos Flores (Flower Street) is something like the more traditional shopping street in the old town of Porto. In contrast to the Avenidas dos Aliados, it is less spectacular, has less to no mainstream shops like the Rua Santa Catarina, but you can still see traces of the Old Porto here. Small local shops with goods for everyday use, traditional cafés and a lot of art: even the electricity boxes are painted here. Unfortunately, the Rua das Flores has also been a victim of gentrification – established, old shops like this bookstore have to leave the Rua dos Flores because of rising rents.
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the Douro, is home to the port wineries that have made Porto famous (or vice versa). Don’t miss out on a port wine tasting when you are in Porto. I’ve written an entire blog post on where to go best to a port wine tasting in Porto.
One of Porto’s most famous indoor markets, located in the city centre. At the moment, the Mercado do Bolhão is undergoing some restouration work some of the stands have moved to a temporary place. Here you can stock up on the typical delicacies of Porto: sardine cans in all variations, bacalhau (salted cod) and wine. As an alternative, there is also the Mercado Bom Sucesso a little outside of the city centre near the Casa da Música.
Porto is located by the sea, a fact even I had forgotten while being fascinated by the Douro panorama and the hills of the old town. By bus or tram, you will reach the districts Matosinhos and Foz do Douro at the Atlantic coast in only 20 to 30 minutes. I was surprised how different Porto is here – rough sea and the wild Atlantic ocean.
In Foz do Douro, you will find the Pergola da Foz at the promenade – a tourist attraction, but I thought it lacked a bit of charm.At the beach, there are also some bars. A few are open even during winter time and you can enjoy the salty fresh air here while having a galão.
and I couldn’t have been happier with it. An simple room with high ceiling, old wooden floors and a folding door to the balcony – bright and sunny. The hotel is small, people are very friendly and as it was low season, it wasn’t fully booked. To me, it was the perfect mix of good location, price and style. (By the way, when you click on the link, I get a small commission if you book after clicking. You will pay the same amount, but you can support a small blogger like me. And you will earn lots of good travel karma!)
Arriving in Porto / Public transport in Porto
Porto is becoming more and more popular, which is also reflected in the numerous flight connections. TAP is the main carrier in Porto and there are many direct flights to other European cities and some intercontinental flights as well.
In the city, you will get along well with public transport. It’s inexpensive, and there are buses, trams and subway lines. I haven’t used it that much anyway as many things easy to reach by foot, and I love to explore cities walking. There are also cheap day tickets for public transport.
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