Porto boasts plans for the most cosmopolitan tastes without losing its small-town essence, a charisma that it happily did not lose and, hopefully, will not lose even though mass tourism is becoming more and more prevalent, especially in its old town. You can explore the intricacies of its pastel-colored streets while discovering centuries-old architectural pearls, enjoy an exhibition in the oldest museum in the country or train your palate in a Port wine tasting with the best panoramic view as a backdrop.
In this guide, we show you things to do in Porto, from the most essential to the most alternative and off-the-beaten path, with suggested itineraries for a day in the city, for a weekend getaway, or even for a 5-day vacation. We also tell you the best ways to move around the city, where to stay, and even restaurants that we love so that your days in Porto are as incredible as ours have been.
- Basic facts for traveling to Porto
- When to visit Porto
- How to get to Porto
- How many days to spend in Porto
- Things to do in Porto
- Map of Porto
- Area 1: Historic center of Porto
- Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) and Clérigos Church
- São Bento train station, one of the most beautiful in the world
- Church of Santo António dos Congregados
- Rua das Flores
- Mosteiro de São Bento da Vitória Mosteiro de São Bento da Vitória
- Centro Português de Fotografia
- Miradouro da Vitória and Escadas da Vitória
- Museu das Marionetas do Porto
- Mercado Ferreira Borges and Hard Club
- Palácio da Bolsa
- São Francisco Church
- São João National Theater
- Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
- Strolling around the Cathedral: Largo Pena Ventosa, Rua de Sant’Ana…
- Muralha Fernandina
- Funicular dos Guindais
- Ribeira do Porto
- Area 2: Baixa de Porto
- Paços do Concelho do Porto (City Hall)
- Igreja da Santíssima Trindade
- Avenida dos Aliados
- Bolhão Market
- Capela das Almas
- Rua de Santa Catarina and Café Majestic
- Coliseu do Porto
- Praça da Batalha
- Santo Ildefonso Church
- Librería Lello: one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
- Rua do Almada: craft beers, second-hand clothes, books, and independent cinema.
- Lapa Church
- Rua Galeria de Paris: bars to suit all tastes
- Steak’n Shake Mural: Tiles by Joana Vasconcelos
- Igreja do Carmo, Igreja dos Carmelitas and Casa Escondida
- Fonte dos Leões (Lions Fountain)
- Jardim da Cordoaria (João Chagas Garden)
- Rua Miguel Bombarda: the street of art galleries
- Soares dos Reis National Museum: Portugal’s oldest museum
- Crystal Palace Gardens
- Romantic Museum (Museu da Cidade – Extensão do Romantismo)
- Virtudes Park and Virtudes Viewpoint
- Miradouro Bandeirinha da Saúde
- Alfândega do Porto and its museum
- Area 3: Gaia
- Ponte Dom Luís I: the city’s most emblematic bridge
- Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
- Jardim do Morro: our favorite place to say goodbye to the day.
- Calçada da Serra
- Ribeira de Gaia
- Port wine cellars: learning and tasting
- Bordalo II Half Rabbit
- Beira-Rio Market
- Gaia Cable Car
- Area 4: Western area and Boavista
- Area 5: Eastern area
- Where to sleep in Porto
- Where to eat in Porto
- Porto Travel Itineraries
- Transportation: how to get around Porto
- Rent a car in Portugal (to explore Porto surroundings)
- How much does it cost to travel to Porto?
- Useful apps for traveling to Porto
- Tips for traveling to Porto and not being a guiri
- Checklist: what to pack in your backpack/suitcase for Porto
- Liked our guide? Save money and support us!
Basic facts for traveling to Porto
Currency: Euro (€)
Population: 214,000 (in 2021)
Daily budget: From 50€/day per person (approx.) for a weekend trip and the most economical private accommodation options for two people. More info here
Weather: Porto is a city with a rather rainy climate; although it can be visited with rain, it is more enjoyable with sunny weather, so to avoid the masses of tourists, we recommend you to go in May, June, September, or October. More info here
Duration: Minimum 2 days (a weekend), recommended 5 days and, if you can, a week to explore the surrounding areas. More info here
How to get there: There are flights with low-cost airlines from several European cities. We recommend you use flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner and Kiwi and be flexible with dates. If you are coming from Portugal or Spain it may be worth going by car, although you will not use it inside the city, and you will have to find parking space. There are also some public transport options (train and bus). More info here
Getting around: The best option is to walk and/or use public transport. You can buy the rechargeable municipal card Andante for transport or, if you prefer, buy the Porto Card (from 6€/day) with which you will have unlimited access to the public transport network and also discounts on tickets to museums and most emblematic visits (there are Porto Card for 1, 2, 3 or 4 days, you choose). You also have the option of Taxis/Uber/Bolt. More info is in the section How to get around Porto.
Time zone: UTC +1. The time in Porto (Portugal) is one hour less than in the Spanish mainland and Balearic Islands, and the same time as in the Canary Islands or the UK.
Porto, Oporto… what is the real name of the city? The name in Portuguese is “Porto”, which literally means “Port”. Its origin is said to come from Portus Cale (Port of Cale, the name of the “city” founded there), which also gave its name to the country (Portugal). In Portuguese, as in other languages, some city names are said with an article, as is the case of Porto (“o Porto”, which would be “the Port” in English), and from there comes the name we use in Spanish (Oporto) and also sometimes in English. When you visit the city, when talking to local people try to use the Portuguese name (“Porto”). Another curiosity is that nowadays the city neither is nor has a port, since the current port, Porto dos Leixões (one of the most important in Portugal) is located in Matosinhos (which belongs to the Metropolitan Area of Porto, but not to the city). If you want to know a little more about the origin of the name, we recommend this article in Portuguese
When to visit Porto
In our opinion, cities like Porto are ideal destinations to visit during any time of the year, in the sense that rain or shine there are almost always available plans. Still, if you want to make the most of the city there are several factors to take into account, which we try to explain below to help you decide when to visit Porto.
Porto is quite a rainy city, so apart from the central months of the year, it is quite likely that you will have a rainy and/or cloudy day if you visit the city outside that time. In our opinion, in terms of climate, Porto is best enjoyed with sunny days and warm weather, so our recommendation is that you visit the city in May, June, September , or October, avoiding the months with more tourists (July and August).
Here is a summary table of the weather in the city to give you an idea of what you can expect:
|Month||Minimum temperature||Maximum temperature||Rainy days|
|Month||Minimum temperature||Maximum temperature||Rainy days|
The times of highest tourist demand (and therefore, when we will find more people, more lines, more expensive prices, and more complications to go to the most famous restaurants or places) are:
- Summer (July and August)
- Easter Week (March/April)
- Popular holiday weekends (November, December)
So we recommend you avoid those dates if you want to enjoy the city more calmly and with better accommodation prices.
If you want to coincide your trip with Porto’s biggest event and the city’s most important celebration, aim to be in Porto on the night of June 23rd where the “Festa de São João” (patron saint of the city) is celebrated, a festival during the summer solstice in which the streets of the city center are filled with music, the smell of “manjerico” (basil) and fireworks.
Summary: best months to visit Porto
Based on the above, if you are looking to visit Porto with fewer people, good weather, and reasonable prices, the best months are May, June, September, and October.
How to get to Porto
Porto is a well-connected city so you have several options to get there, depending on where you start your trip from.
Flights to Porto
Porto International Airport has connections to many European destinations and is served by low-cost airlines such as Easyjet or Ryanair, so you are likely to find good prices. We recommend you use flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner and Kiwi and be flexible with dates.
How to get from the airport to the city center? Porto airport is located north of the city, about 15km away, and you have several options to get to (or from) the city center:
- By Metro: the purple line takes you to Trindade (where you can get off or change to another line depending on your final destination), and runs from 6:00 to 1:00 every day. The ride to Trindade takes about 20-30 minutes and costs 2€ (+0,60€ for the Andante card that you can reuse on other metro journeys).
- By Bus: you also have several bus lines that connect the airport with different areas of downtown Porto. You have more info about the lines, schedules, and prices on the official website
- By Taxi/Uber: taxis are metered, and a ride between the airport and downtown can cost around €25, depending on time, traffic and luggage. Uber/Bolt are usually cheaper, although the price varies according to demand.
- Private transfer: you can hire a private transfer in advance to meet you at the airport and take you to your accommodation in Porto. It costs between 29 and 52€ per vehicle depending on the size. Book it here
How many days to spend in Porto
Although in most blogs you will read that between 2 and 4 days are enough to see “everything”, in our opinion Porto needs at least 5 days and ideally a week to get to know it well without running from one place to another. Besides, if the weather is good and you feel like going to the beach you can always join a few dips in Matosinhos to the more urban days in Porto.
If you are going to move mainly walking around the city (the old town is perfectly doable on foot) perhaps it is worth buying just the rechargeable card “Andante” for the route you need (the card costs 0.60€ and you can top up trips or day passes, for several areas). If you are going to move around the city a lot and, above all, you are going to enter many of its museums and monuments, it may be worth buying the Porto Card (1, 2, 3 or 4 days, you choose) as you will have free access and discounts in many of the most emblematic places in the city and even in some typical pastry shops. In addition, if you buy the Porto Card + Transport you will have unlimited access to the entire public transport network (metro, train and bus), without having to worry about anything else. You can see what’s included and/or buy your Porto Card at this link.
Things to do in Porto
To make it easier for you to plan your walks around Porto, we have divided the places into 5 areas, based on the tourist areas used by Turismo do Porto, and we have put each area in a different color to make it easier for you to identify. It’s all on a Google Maps map that you can take with you on your smartphone to use during your trip.
Map of Porto
As we told you, we have divided the places into 5 areas, based on the tourist areas used by Turismo do Porto, and we have put each area in a different color to make them easier to identify. It’s all on a Google Maps map that you can take with you on your smartphone to use during your trip.
You can also find here an official tourist map of Porto, you can view/download it in larger size and resolution by clicking on the image:
Area 1: Historic center of Porto
Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) and Clérigos Church
Undoubtedly one of the most famous landmarks of the city, the Torre dos Clérigos and its church are part of an eighteenth-century building of baroque inspiration, and will accompany you at various points and viewpoints in your walks through the historic center of Porto and even from the other side of the Douro River, in Gaia (believe us, every now and then you’ll be looking to see if you see the tip of the tower wherever you are).
This architectural ensemble was created by Nicolau Nasoni and has been considered a National Monument since 1910. The Church and the Tower are joined by the House of the Brotherhood (also known as the Clerics’ Museum) and when you buy the ticket to go up to the Tower you can also enjoy the church and the museum.
It was precisely the Tower or, rather, its 360º views of Porto that brought us (and what attracts most tourists) here. After climbing the 225 narrow steps we reached the highest point of the tower more than 75 meters high to contemplate the panoramic view of the city.
But the views are a long time coming. To create suspense for those who go for the panoramic view, the architectural complex gives us two visits before undertaking the climb. First, we enter the museum to get a closer look at the House of the Brotherhood that lived here between 1754 and 1758. We will enter different spaces that were destined for the daily life of the Brotherhood of the Clerics as the old infirmary that worked until the late nineteenth century to care for the sick of the clergy.
After that, we get to know the interior of the beautiful Igreja dos Clérigos through the gallery that surrounds the entire nave and allows us to contemplate the altar from above (note the dome with the coat of arms of the Brotherhood of the Clerigos).
The Torre dos Clérigos is open from 09:00h to 19:00h (last entrance at 18:30h) and the entrance costs 6€ (free entrance for children up to 10 years old and 25% discount if you have the Porto Card): this ticket is valid to visit freely the Clérigos Museum (Casa de la Hermandad), to see the Church and to climb the Tower; if you want a guided tour of the museum and the church the ticket costs 7,50€ (the climb to the tower is always on your own).
Book in advance your entrance to Torre dos Clérigos in this link and choose the time and number of people.
If you want to see the views of Porto from the Clérigos Tower at night, there is a night entrance from 19:00h to 23:00h that costs 5€ although this option is usually only available from spring to mid-October: confirm in any case if you can go up when you visit the city on this official link or directly at the ticket office.
In this same link you will see that there are also combined tickets with other attractions in the city such as the Serralves Foundation (20,80€ combined ticket) or with the Palácio da Bolsa or the Misericórdia Museum (18€ combined ticket) so if you know for sure that you are also going to go to one of these attractions, buy the combined ticket and save a few euros.
The Porto Card can also be worth it if you are going to enter several monuments of the city such as the Torre dos Clérigos (discount on the entrance) and/or if you are going to use public transport (unlimited access to metro, train and bus lines). There are 1, 2, 3 or 4 day Porto Cards from 6€/day and you can choose the one that only includes discounts and free entrance to attractions(Porto Card) or that also includes unlimited access to public transport(Porto Card + Transport): see what is included and buy yours here.
São Bento train station, one of the most beautiful in the world
Considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the country (and according to the American magazine Travel+Leisure, one of the most beautiful in the world), the atrium of the São Bento train station is worth a visit, even if it’s not just to take a trip on the rails.
Designed by the architect Marques da Silva, the station does not leave you indifferent when you pass by its 19th-century exterior facade, but it is inside that you will find its real treasure. The atrium of the station is covered with 20,000 pictorial tiles by the painter Jorge Colaço that tell part of the history of the country through daily life scenes and the evolution of the means of transport.
It is located in the center of the city and, in addition to admiring its beauty, it is an excellent starting point for a train trip along the beautiful Douro Line (there are trains from São Bento to the picturesque Régua and Pinhão, the latter being our favorite in the Douro Valley). Trains also depart from here to nearby towns such as Miramar (with its beautiful beaches and mansions), Braga, or Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal. If you prefer to know the Douro Valley from Porto by boat, hire here your full day boat cruise from the very center of Porto (Ribeira) to Pinhão, or this other one-day road tour.
Not many people know the legend of the last nun at São Bento station, but if you like ghost stories, read on. It turns out that this station was built on the site where once stood the Benedictine convent of São Bento de Avé Maria, a convent for noble women. When the decree for the extinction of religious orders in Portugal was issued in 1834, it decreed the immediate extinction of the male orders (and the confiscation of their property) and the extinction of the female convents upon the death of the last nun to reside there. It turns out that the last abbess of this convent lived until 1892, 58 years after the decree! and the construction of the station began immediately after her death. Legend has it that, in the hours of little movement and little noise at São Bento station, the prayers of the abbess can still be heard in the station’s corridors.
Church of Santo António dos Congregados
In the same square where the São Bento station is located, Praça Almeida Garret, you can find this church with the facade also covered with blue and white tiles by the same artist of the station tiles, the painter Jorge Colaço.
Built at the end of the 17th century, in the place where there was a chapel dedicated to St. Anthony, on the walls, there are murals by Acácio Lino depicting scenes from the life of St. Anthony since this church was initially intended to be the headquarters of the Confraternity of St. Anthony, patron saint of Lisbon.
A curiosity: the chapel of this church houses the tomb of the mummified body of Pope St. Clement, the only pope who rests away from the Vatican.
Rua das Flores
One of the most beautiful and, precisely for this reason, one of the busiest streets of the historic center, Rua das Flores is a pedestrian street from the 16th century where the baroque style mansions with coats of arms of aristocratic families that settled there in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries stand out.
On the same street, the facade of the Igreja da Misericórdia attracts attention. It was designed by Nicolau Nasoni, the same creator of the Torre dos Clérigos, and has one of the most emblematic baroque facades of the city. If you want to enter the church, the entrance fee is 1,50€ (with your Porto Card you get a 30% discount; students free), from Tuesday to Friday from 9:30h to 12:30h and from 14:00h to 17:30h and weekends from 9:00h to 12:00h.
Rua das Flores was home to many of the finest and wealthiest stores of the 19th-century bourgeoisie. The north of the street was the old jewelry street, visible in many of its facades, while the south of Rua das Flores was occupied by other types of commerce. Today, traditional stores are becoming fewer and fewer, giving way to more and more multinational brand stores, some restaurants, hotels, and local lodging.
If mass tourism has had a negative impact on the center of Porto, Rua das Flores is one of the best examples of it: when we went there it was practically impossible to walk among the number of trolleys and suitcases that flooded the street. It is beautiful, yes, but not always easy to enjoy.
Walking down Rua das Flores towards Rua Mouzinho da Silveira along Rua Afonso Martins Alho where the impressive street art mural of a cat is located, we find the monumental fountain Mouzinho da Silveira from 1875.
Mosteiro de São Bento da Vitória Mosteiro de São Bento da Vitória
The Monastery of São Bento da Vitória is one of the most important religious buildings in Porto, classified as a national monument in 1977. Built between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it had different uses throughout history: it was a military hospital during the Peninsular War and later also a military court. From 1985 to 1990 it underwent restoration works, and since 2007 a part of the building is used for events (theaters, concerts, private events…). You can see the agenda here
There is the possibility to visit the monastery on a guided tour from Monday to Saturday (10:30 and 12:30), for a price of 6€/person (you can buy tickets here).
Centro Português de Fotografia
A visit to the Portuguese Center of Photography is a must for photography lovers. It is located in an impressive building, a former 18th-century prison in Porto, and houses the most important national photographic collection and archive. It also presents interesting temporary exhibitions of national and international photographers, and the António Pedro Vicente museum center takes us back in time through the exhibition of 600 pieces of photographic equipment. It also has the so-called “sala da memória” where we are presented with various important personalities who were imprisoned here, such as one of the most representative authors of Portuguese literature, Camilo Castelo Branco (19th-century, late romanticism). In fact, the square where the Center is located is named after one of his most outstanding works, “Amor de Perdição”.
Admission is free and the Center is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and on weekends from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
Miradouro da Vitória and Escadas da Vitória
It is worth climbing the stairs in the Vitória neighborhood (“escadas da Vitória“) to enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the city. These stairs were formerly known as “Escadas da Esnoga” in direct reference to the synagogue of the “Judiaria do Olival”, a Jewish quarter founded in the 14th century.
The history of Porto and the Jewish history cannot be dissociated since there have always been members of this community either practicing their religion openly or, at the time of the Catholic Inquisition and its persecution, in secret. It is said that being Porto a commercial and liberal city, during the Jewish persecution a large part of the community was protected by the inhabitants of the city and that the Inquisition even complained about the protection that the city offered them, and there were even secret synagogues.
From the viewpoint (Miradouro da Vitória) it is possible to look across the Douro River to Vila Nova de Gaia with its Port wine cellars, the Mosteiro Serra do Pilar, and the Jardim do Morro (one of our favorite spots to watch the sunset); contemplate the photogenic Dom Luís I bridge that crosses the river and already, on this side of the river, the Igreja e Convento dos Grilos, also known as Igreja de São Lourenço; the Paço Episcopal, the famous Sé de Porto, and even the Palácio da Bolsa.
Randomtip: As you leave the lookout along Rua de São Miguel, keep an eye on the facade of the 18th-century Igreja Nossa Senhora da Vitória:
Museu das Marionetas do Porto
Very close to the “escadas da Vitória” is a great plan for kids (and not so little ones): the puppet museum of Porto. Here you can see not only an exhibition of contemporary puppets but also attend a puppet play! If you want to know what plays are on stage during your trip (and for what ages) go to their website.
The entrance to the exhibition of the “Museu das Marionetas do Porto” costs 3,50€ (2€ discount if you have the Porto Card) and is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 14:00h to 18:00h and on weekends from 11:00h to 13:00h and from 14:00h to 18:00h (last admission 30 minutes before closing time).
Mercado Ferreira Borges and Hard Club
The Ferreira Borges Market is a landmark and, in fact, this Historical Monument is classified as a Cultural and World Heritage Site by Unesco. An example of “iron architecture” in Portugal (19th-century), the market was built in 1888 to replace the Mercado da Ribeira, and it never really served the purpose of a market with its various stalls but has always been used for cultural projects, exhibitions, and fairs.
An example of this is the Hard Club, a cultural space in the market that hosts concerts, exhibitions, book and music fairs, and also serves as a studio.
Very close to the market (and the Hard Club) is the Palacio das Artes where there are interesting exhibitions on various artistic techniques, especially sculpture, photography and video. And if you feel like learning (and tasting) about Port wine, next door is the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto with all kinds of wine tastings.
In addition, from the market terrace you have a nice view of the Praça do Infante Dom Henrique (with the monument of the important Portuguese explorer and navigator) and the Palacio da Bolsa to which we will go next.
Palácio da Bolsa
The national monument Palácio da Bolsa is one of the most important (and most visited) architectural attractions in Porto and, in fact, it is still the venue chosen for some official visits, to receive great leaders, and for different types of events. Unfortunately, when we visited Porto it was closed to the public for maintenance works so we were left with the desire to know the treasures hidden inside.
Although there is currently no Stock Exchange in Porto (the Portuguese Stock Exchange is in Lisbon), it did exist in its day and the Stock Exchange Palace began to be built by the architect Joaquim da Costa Lima in 1842 as the Commercial Association of Porto. It houses more than twelve imposing spaces between halls, galleries, cabinets, library, and a courtyard.
One of the most remarkable (and important official assembly halls of the city) is the Arab Hall, designed by Gonçalves de Sousa and inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, but there are many spaces that will surprise you as the glazed Courtyard of Nations or the sculptures of Soares dos Reis (the famous sculptor who gives his name to the oldest museum in the country that we will talk about later). No wonder, then, that the Palacio de la Bolsa is classified by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
You can visit the Palacio da Bolsa on a guided tour from 09:00h to 13:00h and from 14:00h to 17:30h (from April to October uninterrupted hours from 9:00h to 18:30h). Guided tours last just under an hour and the entrance fee is 10€/person(25% discount if you have the Porto Card which gives you discounts on the city’s attractions and unlimited use of public transport). If you prefer, you can book your ticket to the Palacio da Bolsa in advance at this link, choosing the time you are interested in.
Book in advance your guided tour of the Palacio da Bolsa in this link, choosing time and number of people.
São Francisco Church
Very close to the Palacio da Bolsa is what is considered one of the most important religious monuments of the city, the church of São Francisco, which was also declared a National Monument. The construction of this Gothic church began in the 14th century as part of a Franciscan convent but had to be reformed later, in the 19th century, due to a fire. Its interior has three naves covered with gilded carvings in which it is believed that more than 300 kilos of gold dust were used! Such was the ostentation that the church was closed for years due to the poverty that surrounded it. Another attraction is the Tree of Jesse (the family tree of Christ), a polychrome wooden sculpture considered one of the best of its kind in the world, which you can find in the left aisle. Below, in the catacombs, are the tombs of some members of the Franciscan order and members of noble families and also a glazed ossuary.
The entrance to the Igreja de São Francisco costs 7,50€ (25% discount if you have the Porto Card and for students), opens at 9:00h and closes at 17:30h from November to February, at 19:00h from March to June and October, and at 20:00h from July to September.
São João National Theater
Inaugurated in 1798, the building of the National Theater of São João was the first building to be built from scratch in the city to be dedicated solely and exclusively to the presentation of shows. It was designed by the Italian architect and scenographer Vicenzo Mazzoneschi in the beautiful Batalha Square in Porto and quickly became the meeting point of the romantic generation of that time. It was destroyed in a fire in 1908 and the building we see today is a reconstruction designed by Marques da Silva, considered “the last classical architect and the first modern architect of Porto” (we read it on the official website of the theater, in the section dedicated to the history of the building).
You can take a guided tour of the national theater from Tuesday to Saturday at 12:30, 6€/person (50% discount with your Porto Card). To find out which play will be on stage when you visit the city, go to their website and take a look at the agenda. With the Porto Card you will also get a discount on the shows: 50% discount on tickets purchased more than 48h in advance, or 5€ discount if you buy them less in advance.
Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
The main church of the city and one of the oldest monuments, the Sé do Porto is also one of the most visited points.
It was built in the 12th century (the first mass was celebrated in 1120) but did not reach its present imposing size until the 13th century and it was not until the 14th century that the Gothic-style cloister was added. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was rebuilt in Baroque style (it retains only its original rose window) both inside (visible in the altarpieces and chapels) and outside (the portal), details added by someone who will already ring a bell from Torre dos Clérigos and Igreja da Misericórdia de Rua das Flores, Nicolau Nasoni.
The Sé Cathedral of Porto is the episcopal seat of the diocese of Porto in Portugal. It hides a treasure in its “Casa do Cabildo” (accessible from the Cloister) consisting of 150 objects of worship, vestments, silverware, and liturgical books from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries of which there are a few on display. But we most wanted to climb its tower and enjoy the 360º views it offers, which was impossible due to the hordes of people in front of us.
Although we understand that the magnificence of the architecture of the Sé and the views of the historic center that surround it make the visit a must in the city, it was one of the points where we most felt the negative impact of the mass tourism (visible, for example, in groups of free tours of more than 20 people) that Porto is suffering (here we felt it much more than in Torre dos Clérigos, where we thought it would be impossible to climb and it was relatively fast, you can buy your ticket to Clérigos in advance here).
We suppose that the time of the visit also has an influence, so we advise you to go early or late because when we went around 11:00 am there was such a concentration of tourists, free tours, and tuk-tuks that it was impossible to walk, visit or contemplate the Sé quietly.
You can visit the Sé Cathedral of Porto from 09:00h to 18:30h (from November to March from 09:00h to 17:30h). The entrance to the cathedral is free but if you want to enter the Cloister, the Casa do Cabildo and climb the Tower you have to pay 3€/person (35% discount if you have the Porto Card).
RandomTip: Very close to the Cathedral is the Igreja e Convento dos Grilos, also known as Igreja de São Lourenço, and next to it a viewpoint with an incredible view over the old town, over the river and over the promenade of Gaia. Don’t miss it. If you like the art of stained glass and want to know a little more of Porto’s, the Museu do Vitral is next door (open from 10:00h to 19:00 and admission is 8€, 10% discount with the Porto Card) and they invite you to a glass of Port wine. The equally nearby Casa-Museu Guerra Junqueiro offers free tours of what was the home of one of Portugal’s most important early 20th century poets. The building is 18th century, baroque in style, and the project is attributed to Nicolau Nassoni himself. It is a visit quite out of the way and has a nice cafe on the terrace of the courtyard of the house if you want to rest a little.
Strolling around the Cathedral: Largo Pena Ventosa, Rua de Sant’Ana…
The narrow streets surrounding the cathedral, which can lead to the Ribeira de Porto, are worth getting lost in them and venturing into their corners.
You can start at Rua de Dom Hugo and stop at Igreja e Convento de São Lourenço (also known as Igreja dos Grilos) and its fantastic viewpoints. Continue to Largo da Pena Ventosa, with its photogenic colorful little houses, where you can stop for a drink on the terraces. Continue to Rua de Sant’Ana and then on to Escadas do Barredo; all you are seeing is the oldest area of Porto.
Then follow Rua da Senhora das Verdades, go up the Escadas do Codeçal, stop to visit the Igreja de Santa Clara, and go back down the other side of the Muralha Fernandina towards Escadas dos Guindais, enjoying the spectacular views of the bridge and the river.
Randomtip: If you feel like it, have a well-deserved drink at Futbol Club Guindalense, before going down to Ribeira de Porto, either on the funicular, which we’ll tell you about below, or on foot, always with a view of the Dom Luis I bridge.
The Muralhas Fernandinas, of which today only a few pieces are preserved, were the walls built during the 14th century and completed under the reign of D. Fernando (hence its name), to protect the city given the growth it had at the time.
The best-preserved part of the Muralha Fernandina is the one next to the Funicular dos Guindais, although another small vestige can also be seen in the Ribeira, the Postigo do Carvão, so-called because it was the gateway for coal to enter the city.
Funicular dos Guindais
If after touring the entire Porto Cathedral your feet hurt, you don’t have to walk down to the popular Ribeira area: you can take the Funicular dos Guindais! This popular means of transport connects the upper part of the city (where the cathedral is located), leaving from Praça da Batalha, with the lower part of the city, down to the famous Ribeira, and vice versa. The ride goes down (or up) about 60 meters and takes just two minutes while enjoying breathtaking views of the Dom Luis Bridge and the Fernandine walls that served as fortification and defense of the city.
The funicular is open from April to October from Sunday to Thursday from 08:00h to 22:00h and Fridays and Saturdays from 08:00h to 00:00h and from November to March from Sunday to Thursday from 08:00h to 2o:00h and Fridays and Saturdays from 08:00h to 22:00h. The price per ride is 2,50€ per adult, 1,25€ per child over 4 years old and free for children under 4 years old. You can use your Porto Card on the funicular dos Guindais and get a 25% discount.
RandomTip: There is a free alternative to the Funicular dos Guindais, the Ascensor da Ribeira (known as Elevador da Lada), is an elevator that connects the Ribeira with the old town of Porto. Of course, this free plan has a downside: it leaves you halfway and you have to climb some stairs to get to the historic center. In exchange, it leaves you in the neighborhood of Barredo, a very authentic neighborhood of Porto and also gives you a view over the city.
Ribeira do Porto
You have arrived at the postcard of Porto. The set of historic colorful buildings on the banks of the Douro where they rest or sail rabelos (traditional boat in which wine barrels were transported) loaded with tourists is one of the most emblematic places of the city and the most photogenic. Besides being one of the oldest areas of the city, of medieval origin, Ribeira is a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
On a leisurely stroll between Gustavo Eifell Avenue (where you will exit on the funicular or down the stairs of Guindais) to the pier “Cais da Ribeira” you will realize that this area is full of tourists, restaurants, cafes, and terraces with privileged views of Vila Nova de Gaia and it is one of the most popular places to eat, dine or have a drink at sunset.
One of the squares with several terraces is the famous Praça da Ribeira with the statue of São João Baptista, patron saint of the city, celebrated on the night of June 23rd in Porto’s biggest event, the “Festa de São João“, a festival during the summer solstice in which the streets throughout the historic center are filled with music, the smell of “manjerico” (basil) and fireworks.
Be careful, the vast majority of restaurants and terraces in Ribeira have tourist-trapping prices and menus. If you don’t want to be “trapped” we recommend moving away from the shore and explore narrow streets like Rua da Fonte Taurina which has good options like Casa Lopes or Ora Viva that serve traditional food at reasonable prices. If you are looking for something special, don’t hesitate, go to Bacalhau and ask for a table on the terrace. Not only are their dishes the best in the area, the views with which you will eat or dine are also the best in the area.
But what we liked most was getting into the ins and outs of Ribeira, in its labyrinth of labyrinthine streets that invite you to get lost and that tell us about the past of Ribeira and the city, you just have to pay attention.
For example, one of the posters in Ribeira tells the story of the “Ponte das Barcas” tragedy that took place in 1809 during the second French invasion. It turns out that the fear of the French troops pushed thousands of people from Porto who tried to cross the Douro River using a bridge built on barges, the “Ponte das Barcas”, but the bridge did not resist the weight of the crowd, gave way and more than four thousand people died. In 1897, 88 years after the tragedy, the sculptor Teixeira Lopes eternalized that tragic day in a bronze bas-relief called “Alminhas da Ponte” which has become a place of worship for the believers and inhabitants of Ribeira who pray there and pay homage to those who died that day. This tragedy is also remembered today through a memorial in Ribeira itself which consists of a steel sculpture designed by the architect Souto Moura.
Another interesting point in Ribeira is the “Muro dos Bacalhoeiros“, a continuation of the Fernandine wall and one of the best places to have a privileged view of the banks of the Douro. In addition, in Ribeira lived one of the most outstanding personalities of the city, the Duke of Ribeira, a boatman of this area known for having saved several people from drowning and having rescued the bodies of many others due to his knowledge of the river currents. For this feat, after his death, a tribute was paid to him and the square next to the pillar of Ponte D. Luís bears his name and a tombstone was placed on the premises.
From Ribeira de Porto you can do one of the star activities: a one-hour cruise across the six bridges (15€/person). Aboard a Rabelo, of course, the traditional boat used to transport the barrels from the vineyards of the Douro Valley to the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, you will pass over the Arrábida Bridge, the longest bridge in the city, located next to the mouth of the river, to the Freixo Bridge, located at the eastern end of Porto. You will also pass the most photogenic bridge, the Don Luis I bridge (from the 19th century), the Infante Don Enrique bridge (built in 2003), the Maria Pia bridge (designed by Théophile Seyrig, Gustave Eiffel’s partner, in 1873) and the São João bridge (railway bridge, for trains only).
Area 2: Baixa de Porto
Paços do Concelho do Porto (City Hall)
The Paços do Concelho do Porto is the building of the “Câmara Municipal do Porto” (Porto City Hall) since 1957 although its construction began much earlier, in 1920, a project of the architect Correia da Silva that dragged on for several years and underwent modifications to the initial plan by the architect Carlos Ramos, the author also of the neighboring Palácio dos Correios.
The work on the building arose from the plan for the extension of the civic center of the city, designed by the English architect Barry Parker (plan approved in 1916) and was architecturally inspired by the great communal palaces of northern France and Flanders.
In front of the main door of the building, we can find the statue of one of the most outstanding Portuguese romantic writers, Almeida Garret, born in Porto in 1799. The statue was unveiled in 1954 to commemorate the first centenary of the author’s death.
Inside the six-story building of Paços do Concelho, we find a large granite staircase that, upon ascending, leads us to the noble floor and four frescoes that evoke personalities of Portuguese history: Dom Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal; Infante Dom Henrique, promoter of Portuguese maritime exploration (15th century); Afonso Martins Alho, a bourgeois from Porto and negotiator in the first commercial treaty with England (14th century); and Camilo Castelo Branco, one of the most representative authors of Portuguese literature (19th century, late romanticism). In addition, on the balcony of this same floor, we can find four statues that symbolize the riches of the north of Portugal: the Earth, the Sea, the Vineyard, and the Work.
Admission is free and on the first Sunday of each month, there are guided tours at 11:00 am.
Igreja da Santíssima Trindade
The Igreja da Trindade is the church located just behind the town hall (Paços do Concelho). It was built during the 19th century on the initiative of the Ordem da Trindade and opened for worship in 1841. The facade is neoclassical with details of baroque tradition.
It is said that in this church a visionary and thaumaturge named Guilhermina had a vision of the Holy Trinity and angels singing the Tantum Ergo Sacramentum. Another curiosity is that the architect who designed this church in the early years of the 19th century, Carlos Amarante, is buried here.
We did not enter the church but inside there is a large panel depicting the Baptism of Christ, a work of the painter José de Brito.
Avenida dos Aliados
One of the most popular and crowded streets of the city, Avenida dos Aliados is the meeting point for many Portuguese people, especially when it’s time to celebrate. A Christmas tree is illuminated here every year, the countdown to the New Year is on, young people in black suits and capes celebrate the end of their bachelor’s degree at the “Queima das Fitas” and the music is loud at the concerts of the São João festivities, the city’s most important event. It is also often a starting point for the demands of the people of Porto, as this is where most of the demonstrations in the city are held.
This avenue was born from the same plan for the expansion of the city’s civic center by the English architect Barry Parker in 1916 that we told you about in Paços do Concelho, and which led to the expansion of Praça da Liberdade to the north, opening up Avenida dos Aliados and Praça do General Humberto Delgado. In 2005, Avenida dos Aliados underwent a profound transformation by architects Siza Vieira and Souto Moura, making it more versatile (easier to put up and take down stages, for example) but, in the opinion of some locals, also taking away some of its charm (it used to be a large green area with the typical Portuguese cobblestones“calçada portuguesa“).
It is a noble avenue where the best plan is to stroll and contemplate the facades of the modernist buildings of the early twentieth century with art deco traces, now occupied mostly by banks and insurance companies. Here you will find Culturgest, an art gallery of the financial group Caixa Geral de Depósitos, which just by entering and admiring the room that hosts temporary exhibitions is already worthwhile but, in addition, usually exhibits very interesting works (and for free).
Very close to Culturgest and Aliados is the Rivoli Theater, the municipal theater of Porto that hosts plays, dance, music, cinema, “cafés literários” and different types of events. Ideally, you should go to the Rivoli website to see the program for the days you will be in the city. Our friend Joana told us that it was worth going up to the café-concert on the 5th floor but in the end, we didn’t have time to go, we’ll do it next time.
Re-opened in September 2022 after being closed for 4 years due to renovation works, the Mercado do Bolhão is the most famous of the city and occupies an entire block in the center of the Baixa Portuense (bounded by the streets of Sá da Bandeira, Formosa, Alexandre Braga, and Fernandes Tomás), dating back to 1837, when the city council of Porto decided to build a square on this land purchased from the church but did not open its doors until two years later, in 1839.
Bolhão in Portuguese means “big bubble”. The name of the market is due to the existence of a stream in this land that, when crossing a swamp between Rua Formosa and Rua de Fernandes Tomás, formed a large bubble of water. In fact, in the vicinity of the land there was already a water fountain, called, precisely, Fonte do Bolhão.Source: MercadodoBolhao.pt
For several years, improvement works were carried out in the market, such as a definitive structure to replace the existing benches and the great central staircase, but at the beginning of the 20th century, the city officials decided to build a new market outside the city in order to ensure the food supply that would allow the expansion of Porto. The project was abandoned for economic reasons.
It was not until 1914 (the year in which the First World War broke out) that the current building was built. The project designed by architect Correia da Silva (you will be familiar with him because he is the same one who designed the city hall, Paços do Concelho) was an avant-garde work for the time due to the use of reinforced concrete in conjunction with metal structures, wooden decks, and granite masonry. Throughout its history, the market has undergone several changes such as the construction in 1939 (the year World War II broke out) of the transversal gallery, the passage between the upper galleries that divides the central courtyard of the building and establishes the connection between the accesses to Alexandre Braga and Sá da Bandeira streets.
In 2006 the market was classified by the municipality as a Property of Heritage Interest for its architectural, artistic, historical, symbolic, cultural, and social values and in 2013 it was granted the category of Monument of Public Interest.
At Randomtrip where we love markets wherever we go, we curiously visited the iconic building on its reopening, in September 2022, and had mixed feelings. While the monumentality of the market caught us by surprise (no matter how much you read, we doubt you won’t be surprised by its beauty), the direction in which the market is going reflects what we feel in the streets surrounding it: the loss of authenticity.
Currently, the Bolhão market is a modern, orderly and clean market with more than 70 merchants with different products (from fish, vegetables, and fruits to handicrafts or coffee) with their names on each stall, stores around the building, and restaurants on the second floor.
We had the feeling that the stalls are more and more directed to those who pass by, tourists, or those who live in the nearby streets (with high purchasing power) and that it will be increasingly difficult to fit Bolhão into the daily life of most of the local Portuguese people: when we visited it there were several groups of tourists of more than 20 people!
In our opinion, it is a unique and beautiful visit (if you can buy something from the stalls and contribute to the local economy in addition to contemplating the market, even better) but we believe that if the direction of tourism in “Baixa do Porto” does not change, this particular essence of Porto, where the history of the market and the city have been intertwined for over a hundred years, will soon disappear.
You can enter and shop at the Bolhão market from Monday to Friday from 08:00h to 20:00h and on Saturdays from 08:00h to 18:00h (closed on Sundays).
On your way out, don’t miss the “Pérola do Bolhão” store and its incredible Art Nouveau façade, covered in tiles with references to the spice route which is, in itself, one of the tourist attractions of the city of Porto. The store was founded in 1917, witnessing the transformations of the market since the construction of the current building (in 1914) and here you can find a selection of Portuguese delicatessen such as cheeses, sausages, wines, dried fruits or biscuits.
Capela das Almas
The Capela das Almas (Chapel of the Souls), or Chapel of Santa Catarina, will surely catch your attention when you leave (or before you enter) the market. Its façade is covered with 16,000 tiles depicting religious scenes from the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine. Although the building dates from the 18th century, in neoclassical style, the tiles were added later, at the beginning of the 20th century. Its name comes from the image of the Virgin of the Souls inside.
Rua de Santa Catarina and Café Majestic
The shopping street par excellence of the baixa portuense, in Santa Catarina you will find all kinds of stores, especially multinational brands (the more traditional stores have been disappearing giving way to these others), and even a couple of shopping malls.
If after so many stores you feel like resting your legs or if, as in our case, you pass the stores and feel like sitting down and enjoying a coffee, know that you are in the street that hides one of the most beautiful places to do so: the Café Majestic .
This Art Nouveau style café opened its doors in 1921 and to tell its history is to tell the history of the city as it was here that gatherings of politicians, writers, and intellectuals took place during the “Roaring Twenties”. Its architect was João Queirós and this atmosphere between crystal mirrors, marble floors, and beautiful lamps in the most emblematic cafeteria of the city will transport you to a movie atmosphere. They usually host poetry or piano recitals, painting exhibitions, and even book presentations and other types of events.
However, having a coffee that transports you to the “Belle Époque” is not cheap: an espresso costs 5€ (in Portugal coffee usually ranges between 0.70€ and 1€, in special places up to 2€ to give you an idea) and, perhaps, there will be a queue when you arrive and you will have to wait…
Coliseu do Porto
One of the city’s main performance halls with a capacity for 4,000 people, the construction of the Coliseu building, in Art Deco style, began in 1937. It was a project of architects Cassiano Branco and Júlio de Brito and opened its doors in 1941. In 2012 it was classified as a National Monument.
Praça da Batalha
The name of one of the most important and crowded squares of the city says it all and it is said that it was here, in Praça da Batalha (Battle Square) that a bloody fight took place between Portuguese and Saracen troops of Almanzor in the tenth century, winning the battle Almanzor with the consequent devastation of the city.
In the center of the square stands the statue of King Pedro V, responsible for several improvements that led to the modernization of the country in the 19th century (from public health to infrastructure and telegraphs).
It is an almost exclusively pedestrian square full of restaurants, cafes, and hotels and we call your attention to some buildings that stand out architecturally as the central post office (late eighteenth century); the National Theater São João, Renaissance-style; the old cinema Águia Douro; the homonymous cinema, cinema Batalha; the Chave de Ouro cafe; the Hotel Império; and the NH Porto Batalha.
Santo Ildefonso Church
In the middle of Praça da Batalha is this beautiful church rebuilt in the sixteenth century (the previous church was in ruins) that stands out for the tiles that cover it almost completely and for the photogenic staircase to reach it. The tiles of the Igreja de Santo Idelfonso were created by Jorge Colaço (1932), the same painter of the tiles that cover the emblematic station of São Bento and its neighboring Igreja de Santo António dos Congregados, and represent scenes from the religious life of St. Ildefonso and allegories of the Eucharist.
Its interior features an organ with more than 1,000 pipes, impressive stained glass windows, and an 18th-century rococo-carved baroque altarpiece designed by Nicolau Nasoni.
If you want to visit it you should know that it closes on Mondays so avoid going on this day of the week; on the other days its schedule is from 10:00h to 12:30h and from 15:00h to 18:00h (on Saturdays it closes at 20:00h), after that time the iron gates that give access to the staircase are closed.
Librería Lello: one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.
Considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello was inaugurated in 1906 and is currently one of the most sought-after tourist attractions in Porto.
The bookstore is in neo-Gothic style and its beautiful facade formed by a wide semicircular arch does not go unnoticed (also because of the crowds of tourists just in front of it), two figures representing Art and Science will welcome you from the street.
If you notice, underneath“Livraria Lello & Irmão” is written“Livraria Chardron” because the brothers José and Antonio Lello bought the old bookstore/publishing business of Ernesto Chardron in 1894 and kept the name of the original business:
But the real treasure of the bookstore is hidden inside, where the protagonist of the room is the ornamental staircase that gives access to the upper floor. The walls of the bookstore are lined with shelves with more than 60,000 books! and in the broken arches that rest on the pillars, the sculptor Romão Júnior sculpted the busts of great Portuguese writers Antero de Quental, Eça de Queirós, Camilo Castelo Branco, Teófilo Braga, Tomás Ribeiro, and Guerra Junqueiro. No female writers, however.
photos by LivrariaLello.pt
The myths of Harry Potter and Porto:
If you are a Potterhead (fan of the Harry Potter saga) and you come here in search of some magical vestige you should know that the author of the famous saga, the British J. K. Rowling, although she lived in Porto for a season (between 1991 and 1993) in which she was precisely writing the story of Harry, has denied the belief that the Lello Bookstore has inspired the story and confirmed that any resemblance between the library (or any environment) of Hogwarts and the Lello & Irmão bookstore is purely coincidental. In addition to the false relationship with the bookstore, there are also other rumors such as that she wrote in the Café Majestic (this is true), that the name Salazar Slythering comes from Antonio Salazar, the Portuguese dictator (also true) or that the capes used in the saga are inspired by those worn by university students.
However, the fame of the bookstore has made it practically impossible to visit without queuing. The size of the queue will depend on the season in which you visit Porto and the time you visit the bookstore, being better at lunchtime (between 12h and 14h) or in the late afternoon, before closing time. You can buy the ticket physically next to the bookstore, at the “Check in Libreria Lello” or, better yet, buy the ticket in advance online at this link of the bookstore (be careful, both buying the ticket physically and online you will have to queue as you buy the ticket for the day you want to go, not for a specific time).
The entrance fee is 5€ (free for children under 3 years old, although in this case, you will have to buy the ticket at 0€ online anyway) or 15,90€ if you want to enter with priority and save the queue (as in some airlines). You can buy the ticket you want online at the bookstore’s website and it is deductible in what you buy, that is, what you pay for the entrance to the bookstore (either 5€ or 15,90€) is discounted in the price of what you buy at the end. In addition, the bookstore has books in several languages or Lello & Irmão would not be one of the most visited bookstores by tourists from all over the country.
The bookstore is open from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm every day of the week and there are some rules to follow such as having your cell phone on silent, wearing a mask inside and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult at all times, the other rules on the website of the bookstore.
If this is your second time in Porto, if the queue for the bookstore is too long or if you simply don’t plan to go to the Lello & Irmão bookstore during your visit to the city, we propose an alternative plan for book lovers: the Livraria Aberta, the only queer bookstore in the country. It is very close and if you are interested we give you more details in the next point, read on.
Rua do Almada: craft beers, second-hand clothes, books, and independent cinema.
The hipster and modern street par excellence, in Rua do Almada you will find craft breweries (like Baobab, Baixada, or Alvares) where you can not only taste the beer but also eat something delicious, vintage second-hand clothing stores (like Wild at Heart where we bought some sunglasses and a jacket), vinyl stores (like Louie Louie) and even an independent cinema, the Cinema Trindade.
We always try to recommend you a bookstore in each destination and in Porto it was not going to be less. In this area, there are several interesting small bookstores but at Randomtrip we met a very special recent project thanks to our dear friend Humberto that we can’t stop recommending to you. Livraria Aberta (“Open Bookstore”) is the only bookstore currently open in the whole country specializing in LGBTQI+ books. The first queer bookstore in Portugal was born in Lisbon, “Esquina Cor de Rosa”, but closed its doors in 2006. At Livraria Aberta you can find books in Spanish and English, as well as Portuguese of course, and the best part: chatting with Paulo and Ricardo about books, leaving with a recommendation in your backpack and eager to devour it.
The Igreja da Lapa, built between the 18th and 19th centuries, is famous because it houses King Dom Pedro’s heart (at his own request before his death), separated from his body (which was buried in São Paulo, Brazil). It is preserved in a flask with formaldehyde, under lock and key.
In 2022, on the occasion of the bicentennial of Brazil’s independence, it was agreed that the heart would travel to Brazil for exhibition, returning after to Igreja da Lapa where it could be seen by the public for a weekend before being put back into storage.
Rua Galeria de Paris: bars to suit all tastes
And if we think that Rua do Almada is ideal for an afternoon (or early evening) plan, Rua Galeria de Paris is transformed when the sun says goodbye and the moon welcomes you. Both this street and its parallel street (Rua Cândido dos Reis) are known for their nightlife and are full of bars for all tastes so you are sure to find one you like. At Randomtrip we visited Plano B and we liked it a lot.
This area is one of the most important nightlife hotspots in the city, with several bars and nightclubs although you are likely to see a lot of people out drinking and chatting, swarming from bar to bar.
If you pass by in the afternoon, Rua das Carmelitas (perpendicular to Galeria de Paris) has several stores where you can buy some souvenirs, some of which keep their original facade.
Steak’n Shake Mural: Tiles by Joana Vasconcelos
This mural, about 20 meters long, completed in 2016 and inaugurated the following year, includes 8,000 hand-painted tiles by one of the most internationally renowned contemporary Portuguese visual artists, Joana Vasconcelos. Some of her most mediatic works will probably ring a bell, such as “The Bride“(2001-2005), a hanging chandelier composed of 25,000 tampons, or the work “Marilyn” (2009), a pair of heels composed of a hundred pots.
This mural by the artist covers the side facade of Steak’n Shake (a hamburger franchise) and is a partnership project between Fundação Joana Vasconcelos and the franchise. Apparently, the mural is inspired by the symbolism of the filigree and embroidery designs of Viana do Castelo, known as “Viana embroidery“.
RandomTip: If you get hungry when you’re here, just next to this mural is the newest Casa Guedes, Casa Guedes Progresso, and its famous “sandes de pernil” (freshly baked roast pork sandwich). If you prefer to try the famous sandwich at Casa Guedes Tradicional, it is close to the Coliseu do Porto.
Igreja do Carmo, Igreja dos Carmelitas and Casa Escondida
Even if you have not yet arrived in Porto, you have probably already seen some pictures of the most famous church in the city, Igreja do Carmo, due to its impressive tile panel covering the entire side facade.
What you may not know is that there are actually two churches, Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas, belonging to two different orders, in the same building and, in addition, a hidden house (Casa Escondida) between the two.
The Igreja do Carmo, a magnificent rococo-style church, was built in the 18th century on a lot next to the Igreja dos Carmelitas, from the previous century in baroque style, but since it was not allowed to build two churches together at that time, a house was built hidden between the two churches, separating them.
The Casa Escondida do Porto, wedged between churches, is just over 1.5o meters wide and, in fact, is considered the narrowest house in the city and one of the narrowest in the country (narrow but it has three floors, mind you). It is said that the Casa Escondida not only served as a residence (for chaplains, artists working on the decoration of the church, or doctors working in the hospital of the Order) but also as a venue for important secret meetings in the nineteenth century. Thus, the Casa Escondida would have been a refuge where strategic decisions were taken in historical periods in which the city was more vulnerable, such as the time of the French Invasions (1807-1811), the time of Liberalism (1828-1834), during the “Cerco do Porto” (between 1832 and 1833, in which the liberal troops of D. Pedro were “surrounded” by the absolutist forces loyal to D. Miguel, having resisted and made liberalism triumph in Portugal) and even after the Proclamation of the Republic in 1910.
More recently, the Sacristan and the caretaker of the church lived in the Casa Escondida. Currently, and especially after the complex was classified as a National Monument in 2013, it is possible to visit and enter the Casa Escondida through the “Circuito Turístico Ordem do Carmo“.
The entrance for this curious tour costs 3,50€ (40% discount if you have the Porto Card) and you will visit the Hidden House, the Igreja do Carmo, the Catacombs, the Noble Hall, and even the Sacristy where you can glimpse the heritage of the Ordem do Carmo (such as paintings, sculptures, liturgical vestments, and relics). The schedule for visits to the Tourist Tour of the Church of Carmo is every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Fonte dos Leões (Lions Fountain)
The Fonte dos Leões (Lions Fountain) is in the center of Praça Gomes Teixeira and is in fact the reason why the people of Porto know this square as “lions square”. It is a cast iron fountain created in the 19th century by the Compagnie Générale des Eaux pour L’Etranger, the company then responsible for water supply in the city, whose contract (signed by King Luís himself and the minister Fontes Pereira de Melo) included the obligation to build a monumental fountain. After a long process of project approval, the fountain, 8 meters in diameter and 6 meters high, was finally built. The central fountain is painted bronze with four winged lions seated at the ends.
Jardim da Cordoaria (João Chagas Garden)
Jardim João Chagas( more commonly known as Jardim da Cordoaria, due to the presence of Cordoeiros in the area for more than 200 years) is a 19th-century public garden, designed by the same architect responsible for the Crystal Palace gardens (the German Émile David).
It is a good place to rest for a while in the shade after a good walk around the city, next to the lake.
Rua Miguel Bombarda: the street of art galleries
And if Rua do Almada is the hipster street, we could say that Rua Miguel Bombarda is the culture street. Here, beyond small art, ceramics, and illustration stores where you can buy a souvenir for home (at Randomtrip we are unable to go to Porto and not take a look at Ó!Galeria and we always buy something), it also has several art galleries such as Quadrado Azul, Serpente, Galeria Fernando Santos, Presença, São Mamede or Bombarda. Of course, almost all of them are open only in the afternoon, so this is a plan for after lunch.
Perpendicular to Rua Miguel Bombarda is Rua da Cedofeita, so called because of its proximity to the Colegiada da Cedofeita, one of the main shopping streets of the city that is worth visiting more than for shopping, to admire the facades of its buildings built between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries.
Soares dos Reis National Museum: Portugal’s oldest museum
The Soares dos Reis National Museum is the oldest public museum in the country and owes its name to the famous Portuguese sculptor António Soares dos Reis (1847-1889), born in Gaia.
It is located in the Palácio dos Carrancas, a neoclassical palace of the eighteenth century, a private residence of such illustrious personalities as General Soult, the Duke of Wellington, or D. Pedro IV. In fact, the origin of the collections of the museum goes back to the Museu Portuense which opened its doors in 1833 by D. Pedro IV to house the works of art coming from the convents closed by the liberal legislation and its decree for the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal. In its rooms, we can contemplate an important collection of Portuguese paintings from the XVIII to XX centuries (special attention to the works of the so-called “Escola do Porto” of the naturalist period) and international paintings from the XVI to XIX centuries through currents such as Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Naturalism and Realism.
The sculpture collection of the Soares dos Reis National Museum includes works from the 15th to the 19th centuries with special emphasis on the work of the 19th-century Portuguese sculptor António Soares dos Reis where you can find his famous sculpture“O Desterrado“, among many others.
The collection of the Soares dos Reis National Museum is divided into periods, during which we can contemplate not only great works of painting and sculpture but also jewelry, ceramics, decorative objects, and even archaeological pieces representative of Portuguese daily life. The bonus of the visit: the beautiful gardens of the palace where you can take a leisurely stroll.
The entrance fee for the oldest museum in Portugal and its impressive collection is 5€ euros (50% discount if you have the Porto Card, for seniors over 65 and for young people between 15 and 25 years), free admission for children under 12 years. Sundays and holidays free admission until 14:00h. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00h to 18:00h, and closed on Mondays.
RandomTip: If we only had time to visit one museum on our trip to Porto, we would choose this one or, if you prefer contemporary art, the museum of the Fundação Serralves we talk about below, in the western part of the city (area 4). If you can visit both, all the better.
Crystal Palace Gardens
If you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, we have the solution: a walk through the lungs of the city center, the Crystal Palace gardens, among fountains, lakes, and peacocks.
Just don’t look for the palace that gave its name to the gardens because you won’t find it today. The former Crystal Palace, created for a World’s Fair in 1865, is said to have been inspired by the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park, also built to host a World’s Fair a decade earlier, in 1851. The London palace was destroyed in a fire in 1936, and the Portuguese palace was demolished in the 1950s to make way for what you can find today: the Super Bock Arena/Rosa Mota Pavilion.
The Rosa Mota Pavilion pays homage to Rosa Mota, a great Portuguese athlete born in Porto who became the Olympic champion in the 1988 Seoul Games in the marathon. It is in this multifunctional space with its huge futuristic style dome that sports competitions are held (it is also known as the Sports Pavilion) and large concerts by national and international artists, as it can accommodate up to 5,400 people.
You can also climb the hemispherical dome of the Super Bock Arena/Pavilhão Rosa Mota at the Porto 360 viewpoint! After climbing 150 steps, you will have an incredible view (of course, 360º) of the entire city of Porto, some of the most emblematic buildings of the city, the Douro River, and Gaia on the other side. In addition to the amazing views from the top of the dome, the ticket includes a visit to the interior of the pavilion where you will learn about the history of the old glass palace.
You can access the Porto 360 viewpoint and climb the dome from Tuesday to Sunday until sunset, on a guided tour lasting approximately 40 minutes (you cannot do it on your own). The tours are for a maximum of 13 people with a guide (minimum age 6 years old). You can buy the ticket for the 360º viewpoint physically at the Super Bock Arena/Pavilhão Rosa Mota ticket office or if you prefer online, without defining the time, only the day, on this website. The ticket price is 12,50€ with 50% discount for children under 12 years old. Access to the viewpoint is through Gate 3 of the pavilion and you can check more info on this website, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +351 933 088 331/ +351 220 503 257.
The Crystal Palace Gardens, open since 1860, were designed by the German landscape designer Émile David and each species is classified by its scientific name and origin. In the park of approximately 9 hectares, we can find several gardens (of aromatic plants, medicinal plants, …) around its central axis, the Avenue of the Linden trees, and a garden dedicated to Émile David.
On your walk along the various paths, surrounded by trees, you will also come across an open-air auditorium (the Concha Acústica), a municipal library, and the chapel of Charles Albert of Savoy, King of Sardinia who died in Porto during his exile after he was overthrown. We will tell you about this historical figure in the next point, the Romantic Museum, since precisely on the slopes of the gardens of the Crystal Palace is his former residence, now converted into a museum.
It is precisely at the Crystal Palace Gardens where cultural events are held, such as the Porto Book Fair (usually held in late August) and other exhibitions and fairs. But in our opinion, the best of the Crystal Palace Gardens are its views thanks to where they are located, in the upper part of the city. These gardens have several viewpoints from which we can enjoy a good panoramic view of the Douro and its bridges.
The entrance to the Crystal Palace Gardens is free and you can enjoy them from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm from April to September and from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm from October to March.
Romantic Museum (Museu da Cidade – Extensão do Romantismo)
The Romantic Museum of Porto is located right on the slopes of the Crystal Palace, in a majestic eighteenth-century house that was the former residence of a bourgeois family of the nineteenth century, which they called Quinta da Macieirinha. One of its illustrious inhabitants was Charles Albert of Savoy, King of Sardinia and father of Victor Emmanuel II, considered the first king of Italy, whose chapel you will see on your walk through the Crystal Palace Gardens. When the monarch was overthrown, he went into exile in Porto and it was in this house that he lived until his death in 1849. It is now a house museum dedicated to the memory of the exiled king and where you can approach the daily life of the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century.
The entrance fee to the museum is 2,20 € (free for children under 14 years), and free admission every weekend or any day of the week if you present your Porto Card. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 17:30, and Sundays from 10:00 to 12:30. Closed Mondays and holidays.
Virtudes Park and Virtudes Viewpoint
One of our favorite spots to end the day in Porto is the Parque das Virtudes, in the promenade of the same name (Passeio das Virtudes) for the panoramic view it offers, which can only be improved by the colors of the sunset.
The Park has a viewpoint with a privileged view over the river, the Arrábida Bridge, the Alfândega (Porto’s Customs House), the Crystal Palace gardens, and the mouth of the Douro River. It is also one of the few places in the city where you can admire the Fonte das Virtudes (Fountain of Virtues) that gives it its name and the terraces of the Jardim das Virtudes, which go down to Miragaia, an old fishermen’s neighborhood.
In addition to the views, there are a lot of people wanting to enjoy this “Portuguese outdoor movie”, with a glass of wine or beer in hand, so the good vibes are guaranteed.
The Parque das Virtudes is located in what used to be the Companhia Hortícola Portuense (designed by landscape designer José Marques Loureiro), the park was acquired by the Porto City Council in 1965 and restored in 1998. Here lives the largest Ginkgo Biloba L. in Portugal, a tree from the 18th century, originally from China, measuring about 35 meters, classified as a tree of public interest in 2005.
The fact that it is a vertical park, that is to say, it is developed in terraces downwards, means that almost from any point of the Parque das Virtudes you have an incredible panoramic view.
RandomTip: A great plan around here is to go to Musa das Virtudes (craft brewery) right in front of the viewpoint and have a bite to eat. The beers are great and the tapas are exquisite (when we went there the resident chef was amazing). If you prefer to enjoy the beer on the lawn enjoying the sunset, order a Musa to go.
Miradouro Bandeirinha da Saúde
This not-so-well-known viewpoint, Miradouro Bandeirinha da Saúde, hidden among the old fishermen’s houses of Miragaia, also hides an interesting story behind its name. It turns out that the name of this lookout is due to the “sanitary flag” that was raised on the granite pyramid you can see there with the aim of alerting ships and their navigators of the limits of ship docking in times of plague while awaiting inspection by the sanitary authorities. The “Bandeirinha da Saúde” thus functioned as a signaling method to prevent epidemics (in this case, the spread of the plague) from entering Porto 400 years ago. The unknown viewpoint is located right in front of the Palácio das Sereias (or Palácio da Bandeirinha), one of the most important buildings in this area of Porto, and offers magnificent views.
Armazém is a very original space that transformed an old warehouse (armazém, in Portuguese) into a space with antique and second-hand stores, a bar and terrace where you can have a drink, and even an art exhibition area!
It is located right in front of the Alfândega do Porto, a building we will be talking about in a moment.
Alfândega do Porto and its museum
Recognized by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, the historic building of the Alfândega Nova do Porto (Porto Customs House) is an architectural and heritage reference. It is a 19th-century building with 36,800 m2 that enjoys a privileged location with doors open to both the historic center of Porto and the Douro River.
In fact, Porto Customs had so much commercial movement in the 19th century by the sea that it justified its connection to the Portuguese railway network by creating the Alfândega do Porto railway station (better known locally as Porto-Alfândega). In 1888 the station was inaugurated and the following year it was proposed to continue the Alfândega railway branch to the Port of Leixões (in Matosinhos), currently one of the most important ports in the country and the most important in the north. This extension was opposed by several traders and industrialists from Porto, arguing that this connection was not a priority (other connections would be more advantageous for the region) and that the Alfândega branch line did not have the capacity to increase traffic. After the inauguration of the Port of Leixões, the Porto Customs Office lost its importance as a goods terminal, which made its railway connection be considered. This loss of importance, together with the reduction of freight traffic and the difficulty of the track layout for a possible extension, led to the closure of the railway branch in June 1989.
Since 1993, a rehabilitation project has been underway under the supervision of architect Souto de Moura (2011 Pritzker Prize) to transform the Alfândega into a dynamic, modern, and multi-faceted cultural space without trying to obviate its elements of a customs area.
Currently, the Museum of Transport and Communications (MTC) occupies the historic building of Alfândega Nova do Porto and aims to bring us closer to the history of the Alfândega and the role of transport and communications in the evolution of modern society.
Admission to the museum is 3€ (50% discount if you have the Porto Card), and free admission for children under 6 years. The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday, from 10:00h to 13:00h (last entrance until 12:00h) and from 14:00h to 18:00h (last entrance until 17:00h); weekends and holidays from 15:00h to 19:00h (last entrance until 18:00h); closed on Mondays.
Area 3: Gaia
Ponte Dom Luís I: the city’s most emblematic bridge
The Don Luis I Bridge is the co-protagonist, together with Ribeira de Porto, of the most famous postcard of Porto that offers a beautiful panoramic view from Ribeira de Gaia.
The photogenic 19th-century bridge (inaugurated in 1886) is the most spectacular and well-known bridge in the city and is already considered a symbol of Porto.
With almost 400 meters, the bridge Don Luis I crosses the Douro River linking the city of Porto to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia. It is based on a project by the engineer Téophile Seyrig, partner of Gustave Eiffel (the engineer who gave his surname to the famous Parisian tower) in their construction company, “Eiffel et Cie”. Seyrig had been quite successful 10 years earlier as project manager of the first railway arch bridge linking the two banks of the Douro, the Maria Pia bridge. In fact, if you take the six bridges cruise, by rabelo (traditional boat), from Gaia (15€, 50 minutes, check this link) you will pass under both iron bridges.
It does not take much architectural knowledge to notice similarities between the three projects, Maria Pia Bridge, Dom Luis I Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower, just take a look for example to the large arches and the material used, iron. Out of curiosity, the Bridge Dom Luis I is three years older than the famous tower of Paris.
The Don Luis I bridge has two floors and you can -and should- walk across both of them, as there are specific lanes for pedestrians. In fact, it is essential that you cross this bridge on foot if you want to enjoy one of the best views that the trip will give you. Stop and watch the rabelo boats sailing along the Douro and the Ribeira de Porto, in front of the Ribeira de Gaia, changing color as the hours go by.
However, be careful because despite being enabled for it, none of the levels is exclusively for pedestrians: on the upper level of the bridge (the longest, almost 400 meters) also circulates the Porto subway, and on the lower level (a shorter walk, about 175 meters), vehicles.
It is the most famous of the six bridges that cross the Douro in Porto, known as the city of six bridges. In fact one of the most sought after activities is the cruise across the six bridges from Gaia in a traditional boat, the rabelo, It costs 15€/person, lasts 50 minutes and you can do it in the morning or in the afternoon, take a look here.
Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar
The Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar is the first thing you will see when you cross (walking or by metro) the upper level of the Don Luis I bridge to Gaia: an imposing white, circular church surrounded by a balcony with breathtaking views of Porto and the Douro. The 17th-century monastery is classified as a National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
The strategic location of the monastery gave it special importance both during the invasions of the Napoleonic troops and in 1832-33 as a military base during the liberal struggles.
The monastery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from November to March and from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm from April to October. It is closed on Mondays. The price to enter the cloisters and the exhibitions is 1€ and to go up and visit the dome is 3€. “Cartão Jovem” (Portuguese) and over 65 years old have a 50% discount, and free admission for children under 12 years old.
Jardim do Morro: our favorite place to say goodbye to the day.
The Jardim do Morro, in Gaia, has become our favorite place of the trip to enjoy the sunset. So much so that we repeat it every time we visit the city.
This garden is very close to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar and you will also see it when you cross the bridge on the upper level from Porto to Gaia: the monastery is on the left and the garden on the right. If you want you can cross the bridge on foot or if you prefer, by metro, getting off at the Jardim do Morro stop. If you have the Porto Card, you have unlimited access to the metro during the day or the days you contract it.
In the Jardim do Morro, once a month during the spring and summer months (from April to September), an alternative market is held in the garden itself, the MAR market (Mercado Alternativo do Rua). In this market, you can buy local crafts, drink a craft beer with a view, listen to live music, enter an art workshop, get a tattoo and even get a haircut. As we told you, this market happens only once a month and at Randomtrip we were very lucky and went to the last one of the year 2022, on September 18th. To find out which weekends there is a flea market, visit their Facebook page.
To enjoy the sunset there is to feel that you have gone to the summer cinema and that the film is one of the most beautiful sights of the city.
Calçada da Serra
Below the Jardim do Morro is the Calçada da Serra, a small alley overlooking the bridge with some quaint little houses. It is worth going down from the Jardim do Morro to the Ribeira de Gaia this way.
Ribeira de Gaia
The Ribeira de Gaia offers the best views of the Ribeira de Porto and the Dom Luis I bridge and it is from here that we took the picture of one of the most spectacular panoramic views of Porto and one of its most famous postcards.
If you are in Ribeira de Porto and you want to cross to Ribeira de Gaia, the best way is to cross the lower level of Dom Luis I bridge, walking as we did or by car (Note, to get to Mosteiro Serra do Pilar or Jardim do Morro coming from Porto you have to cross the upper level of Dom Luis I bridge, walking or by subway).
If you are in the Jardim do Morro and want to go down to the Ribeira de Gaia you can also do it walking or by taking the Gaia cable car (with the Porto Card you will get a 10% discount on the Gaia cable car).
If you prefer to do the cruise in rabelo passing through the six bridges from Gaia it is also possible: it lasts 50 minutes and you can hire it at this link (15€/person).
Randomtip: If you feel like having a drink with a view of the Ribeira de Gaia, at Randomtrip we enjoyed a very good Porto Tonic at Espaço Porto Cruz and we loved it.
Port wine cellars: learning and tasting
In Gaia the star activity is to visit a port wine cellar and, of course, to taste it. Walking through the different areas of a winery with that characteristic smell while learning about the production of the famous port wine, the characteristics that distinguish it, and how to taste it to appreciate all its nuances is something that should not be missing in your visit to the city.
Wine tasting: visit one of Gaia’s wineries
At Randomtrip we have already visited a few wineries and we suggest several depending on how much time you want/can invest in the visit (there are longer tours than others); what kind of tasting you want to do (port wine or also cheese and chocolate); and with whom you are going to visit (for example, there are tastings that do not allow minors).
- Visit and wine tasting at the Calém winery (from 15€/person): a tour of one of the most famous wineries in the city for 30 minutes with a guide in English, followed by entrance to the interactive museum to learn about the history of the winery and subsequent tasting of 2 wines (15€/person); 3 wines (17€/person); or tasting of wines, chocolates and cheeses (35€/person). Children under 6 years old enter for free and from 6 to 17 years old pay 7€ in any of the modalities. Book and choose your tasting here. In addition, the winery Calém offers another activity which is a live fado show at the winery at 18h (which also includes wine tasting). More info and reservations at this link.
- Visit to the Poças winery (from 15€/person): 50-minute tour of the winery with an English-speaking guide. The winery offers different types of tastings, from Standard tasting of 3 wines (15€/person); to tasting of 4 Oenologist wines (18€/person); tasting of 4 Golden Years wines (28€); and tasting of 4 Old Times wines (50€). Children under 11 years old are not admitted (from 11 to 17 years old, 11€/person in any tasting). Choose your tasting and book here.
- Visit to the Burmester winery (from 13€/person): ideal if you do not have much time as it lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on whether you choose a tour (with English speaking guide) with a tasting of two wines (13€/person); three wines and chocolate tasting (17€/person); or all of the above plus cheese tasting (35€/person). Children under 6 years old enter for free and from 6 to 17 years old pay 6,50€ in any of the modalities. More info and reservations here.
- Visit to Cockburn’s winery (from 15€/person): tour and taste at the 1815 winery for 1h30 with English-speaking guide. The winery offers different types of tastings, from tour with tasting of 3 wines (15€/person); tour and tasting of wines and chocolate (23€/person); tour with tasting of premium wines (35€); and tour with tasting of Vintage wines and cheeses (60€). Children under 18 are not admitted. More info and reservations for this winery here.
- Visit to Graham’s winery (from 35€/person): the visit lasts 1h45 and, in addition to the tour of the winery (in English) and wine tasting, we will enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of Porto from the terrace. The winery offers 3 different types of tasting: Classic tasting of 3 Port wines (40€); Tasting with 3 Premium Port wines (50€); and Tasting with pairing including chocolate, cheese and even cream cake (35€). Children under 18 get in for free. More info and reservations at Graham’s winery here.
- Visit to the Real Companhia Velha winery + tourist train ride (14€/person): with this ticket you can visit some of the most emblematic points of the city aboard the tourist train and also enter the Real Companhia Velha winery, get to know it and taste its wine. We think it is a good option if you come with children over 4 years old (7€ the ticket; children under 4 years old are not admitted) as it will be almost 2 hours of fun. More info and reservations here.
WOW: World Of Wine
The WOW: World of Wine is a recently opened complex of museums, restaurants and bars in Gaia with incredible views of Porto. Entering the shopping area is free but to access any of the 7 museums, you have to buy a ticket. The 7 museums are the following: The Wine Experience (an immersive experience in the world of wine with tasting included); Porto Region Across the Ages (about Porto’s historical and cultural heritage); Planet Cork (about the cork industry in Portugal, the largest cork producer on the planet); The Chocolate Story (tells the story of chocolate with tasting included); Pink Palace (a space dedicated to rosé wine); and finally The Bridge Collection; and Porto Fashion & Fabric. You can enter one or two of these museums in the combined ticket that we recommend here or, if you have the Porto Card, you will get a 10% discount on the pack 2 museums, single or family ticket.
Curiosities: Did you know that Port wine is not Port wine?
Did you know that Port wine is not technically from Porto? Most of the wine is grown further inland, in the Douro Valley region (an area we highly recommend you visit, we will soon publish a guide about it). In that area, there are many wineries, with very good “normal” wines with “Douro” designation of origin.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, England and Portugal had special trade agreements that led many English people to settle in Portugal and to dedicate themselves to the cultivation and export of wine (initially further north, in Viana do Castelo, and later in the Douro Valley looking for more corky wines). The fastest way to transport the wine was by the Douro River (in the iconic Rabelo boat), hence the port of Porto became the ideal place to export the wines, and the wine acquired the name “Vinho do Porto”/”Port wine”.
To better preserve the wine during the sea voyage, a little brandy was sometimes added to it, fortifying it and preventing it from spoiling. Although this process is not the one followed today, it was the precursor of what today defines Port Wine (previously it was added for transport, now it is added during the fermentation process).
To add more spice to the story, and as you can see, the wineries are actually not even in Porto: they are on the other side of the river, in Gaia (which does not belong to Porto), where the wine ages, in theory, due to climate reasons.
In short: if you are interested in learning more about Port Wine, we strongly recommend you visit the beautiful Douro Valley region for a few days. If you don’t have much time, you also have the option of taking a day tour from Porto.
Bordalo II Half Rabbit
On a corner of Rua Guilherme Gomes Fernandes we came across this giant rabbit (Half Rabbit), a work by the famous Portuguese artist Bordalo II, from his series Big Trash Animals. The artist creates these giant animals with garbage (according to Bordalo II himself, the same material that kills them) in an attempt to make us reflect on consumerist habits and their environmental impact.
If you get hungry, you can stop by for a stroll at the Beira-Rio Market, a traditional market refurbished in 2017 to adapt it to tourism by including plenty of stalls where you can eat or drink something.
Gaia Cable Car
The Gaia Cable Car connects the lower part (next to the river) with the upper part (where the Jardim do Morro and the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar are located). The one-way trip costs 6€ per person (3€ for children between 5 and 12 years old) and lasts only 6 minutes.
In our case, we made the trip to go back up to Jardim do Morro after walking along the Ribeira de Gaia, and although the views are nice (as you can see the Ribeira do Porto, the Dom Luis I bridge and the rooftops of the Gaia wineries), we found it quite expensive.
If you have the Porto Card you will get a 10% discount on the Gaia cable car.
Afurada is a fishing village in Gaia, where life is simpler and quieter, with colorful and cheerful streets. From the dock of Afurada you can enjoy an incredible view of the Douro, the Arrábida bridge and the Foz do Douro area at any time of the day. From here the view is different and the place is much more typical, familiar, and with good fish restaurants. Take the opportunity to walk up Rua de São Pedro, where you can see this fishing area from a different perspective. Afurada is an excellent place if you want to taste good grilled fish.
It is also from Afurada, specifically from its marina, where the sailing trips depart on the Douro river. You can book your 2-hour sailing trip (glass of wine included) at this link (40€/person) or, if you prefer, the same sailing trip but at sunset (55€/person).
Area 4: Western area and Boavista
Casa da Música
The Casa da Música, besides being Porto’s main concert venue, is also a work of contemporary architecture in the city. The building was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, with the aim of being inaugurated in 2001, the year in which Porto was the European Capital of Culture, but the project was delayed and the Casa da Música was only inaugurated in 2005.
If you want to attend a concert at Casa da Música, on the website you can find the schedule and if you have the Porto Card the concert and the guided visit to Casa da Música have a 50% discount. If you just want to visit it, the guided tour is 10€ (25% discount with the Porto Card). The value of the guided tour is discounted if you buy tickets for a concert.
The Agramonte cemetery, built in 1855 to house numerous people who died due to a cholera outbreak, is the second public cemetery built in Porto. Although initially, it was not a place seen with good eyes (public cemeteries were where people of lower classes ended up, more so in this case due to the cholera outbreak) the cemetery today houses different personalities, has a memorial to the victims of the Baquet Theater fire and a chapel worth visiting.
Biodiversity Gallery: Museum of Natural History and Living Science
Housed in Casa Andresen, in the Botanical Garden of Porto, the Biodiversity Gallery is considered one of the best museums for children in the city, so if you are traveling with kids it is a must-see. Here art intersects with biology and natural history, stimulating a variety of sensory experiences for visitors (young and old), deliberately and carefully conceived to celebrate the diversity of life.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00h to 13:00h and from 14:00h to 18:00h (last entrance at 17:30h). The entrance fee is 5€ but you have 50% discount with the Porto Card. If you are under 18 years old and over 65 years old you will also have a 50% discount. Free admission for children under 4 years old.
If you want to visit and stroll through the botanical garden, it is open every day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm from November to March and from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm from April to October and admission is free.
Serralves Foundation: Park, Cinema, and Contemporary Art
The Serralves Foundation is considered one of the cultural institutions of reference in Portugal and one of the most (if not the most) relevant in the north of the country. It is particularly our favorite museum in Porto.
Here you can see several exhibitions at the “Museo de Arte Contemporâneo“, a space designed by the architect Álvaro Siza Vieira (Pritzker Prize) that hosts both exhibitions of important national and international artists as well as dance, music, and performance shows. Also designed by Siza Vieira is the“Casa do Cinema” (House of Cinema) which will familiarize you with the work of one of the most important Portuguese filmmakers, Manoel de Oliveira, a native of Porto.
In addition to the museum and the cinema house, Serralves also has a beautiful park, the “Serralves Park” designed by Jacques Gréber: 18 hectares dotted with several works of art.
Inside the park, there are two other attractions of the foundation. One of them is the “Casa Serralves“, a unique example of art deco architecture that took us back to a Wes Anderson movie (if you’re a fan, you’ll know what we mean when you see the pictures):
In the park, you will also find the “Treetop Walk”, a wooden walk through the trees, or rather, through the treetops that will allow you to experience all the biodiversity of the park up close.
The general ticket for the Serralves Foundation will allow you to enter the five spaces (museum, park, treetop walk, Serralves house, and cinema house) and costs 20€. If, as in Randomtrip, you don’t have time to enjoy everything you would like, you can buy a partial ticket for the Museum of Contemporary Art and Park (without treetop walk) which costs 12€ (10€ for residents in Portugal). With the Porto Card you have 20% discount on the entrance fee.
Children under 17 years old, over 65 years old and students have a 50% discount and if you have traveled by train (with CP, Comboios de Portugal) to get to Porto, you have a 25% discount on the entrance ticket! Just present your Alfa or Intercidades ticket (not valid for 1st class tickets) and when you prove that you have arrived a couple of days ago in the city (they are flexible) you get the discount ticket at the Foundation. More info here.
Combined tickets are also available with other Porto attractions such as the Torre dos Clérigos, Palácio da Bolsa and even with the Museu do Côa and Museu do Douro in the Portuguese Douro Valley.
As previously mentioned, Fundação Serralves would be, along with the Soares dos Reis National Museum, the museum we would choose to visit if we only had time to visit one museum in the city. It is up to you to decide if you want to visit the oldest museum in the country and travel back to the 19th century (Soares dos Reis) or reflect on current issues stimulated through more contemporary works by national and international artists (Serralves).
Miradouro Santa Catarina (Chapel of Santa Catarina e Senhora dos Anjos)
Still off most tourist routes, the quiet viewpoint of Santa Catarina offers a nice panoramic view of the Foz do Douro (the mouth of the Douro River into the Atlantic Ocean). It is a good place to enjoy a sunset if the weather is good.
Foz do Douro
Foz do Douro, an area known simply as Foz by the locals, is the meeting point of the Douro River with the Atlantic Ocean, and a recommended visit to include in your Porto itinerary. Don’t miss its fortress (Forte de São João Batista), its beaches (such as Praia do Carneiro), its lighthouses (such as Farolim de Felgueiras), the Castelo do Queijo and the Parque da Cidade (the largest urban park in Portugal).
Matosinhos is the beach area par excellence, if you feel like a dip or a drink at sunset by the sea, this is the place for you. It is located half an hour by metro from the center of Porto and is also an excellent place to eat fresh fish. Matosinhos also has some architectural gems by Siza Vieira (Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, the Piscina das Marés, the Leça da Palmeira Promenade and Souto de Moura (Matosinhos Promenade), both Pritzker Prize winners, which make the visit worthwhile.
Besides being ideal for a dip in the beach in the summer months, Matosinhos is a year-round surfing area, so if you practice surfing you know where to go. If you don’t surf and would like to learn, book your 1h30 surf lesson in Matosinhos here (there are lessons for adults and children). If you dive, you should know that the coast of Matosinhos is home to several shipwrecks, the most surprising being a German submarine from the Second World War, so if you dare, contact the Submania dive center.
If you come to Matosinhos to enjoy fish or other local gastronomic delights, we recommend the restaurants O Valentim, Ó Mar, O Gaveto, and Lage Senhor do Padrão. If you prefer something lighter or original, Companhia das Conservas offers creative proposals with preserves from Matosinhos.
If you want more options and to know everything you can see in Matosinhos, we will soon publish a guide about the city.
Book your surf lesson in Matosinhos here and take advantage of this trip to try something new.
Area 5: Eastern area
Marques de Oliveira Garden (Jardim de São Lázaro)
Jardim Marques de Oliveira, more commonly known as Jardim de São Lázaro, is Porto’s oldest municipal garden, dating back to 1834. It is one of the most frequented gardens in the city, thanks to the large shadows generated by its leafy trees, and has a small lake in the center.
RandomTip: Precisely next to this garden is the mythical Casa Guedes Tradicional and its famous “sandes de pernil” (freshly baked roast pork sandwich) so if you get hungry it’s an excellent option to have a snack:
Rodrigues de Freitas Avenue
Every Sunday Rodrigues de Freitas avenue closes to traffic and opens to people. There you can find improvised badminton courts in the middle of the street, dance classes, kids on bikes, or a skateboarding contest. All this accompanied by music, either brought by DJs who bring their equipment or families with the loudspeaker from home.
Bairro Herculano is a small “neighborhood” with a central street and several perpendicular ones. It was built in the 19th century (1886), in the midst of the industrialization of the city of Porto, which brought many people from the surrounding areas to work in the city. This increase in population generated the need to create accommodation for all these people, and they began to create ilhas (islands), groups of equal or similar houses that shared some services (such as bathrooms), and were usually connected to the “main house” of the family that hired these people to work.
The Bairro Herculano is one of the few remaining ones with this typology, in the center of Porto but hidden among other buildings, with low houses and narrow streets, full of flowers and hanging clothes, where the neighborhood knows each other. It looks like a village within the city. It is worth a visit.
Miradouro das Fontainhas
The neighborhood of Fontainhas is another of those ilhas where people who came to work in the city used to live, explained in the previous point, in this case with incredible views of the Douro river. The hillside area was badly damaged during the rains a few years ago, and during the lockdown, some of the people who live there began to cultivate the land giving rise to some community gardens.
In addition to learning about this part of Porto’s history, we can enjoy the views from the viewpoint, where we will also find a statue paying homage to the carquejeiras, women who did a very hard job carrying the carqueja (a plant used to burn and heat the bread ovens and some houses in the city) on their backs from the river to up here.
From this viewpoint, you can see the Freixo Bridge, located at the eastern end of Porto. From this bridge also depart cruises of the six bridges: this 2-hour cruise with lunch on board (25€/person) and this 2-hour cruise with dinner on board (35€/person).
Estadio do Dragão (FC Porto’s Stadium)
If you are a soccer fan, you might want to add to your visit to the city the stadium of the official team of Porto (FC Porto), known as Estadio do Dragão (in reference to the dragon that appears on the club’s crest) and inaugurated in 2003. The entrance fee is 15€/person (10€/children between 5 and 12 years old) and includes a visit to the museum and the stadium.
Where to sleep in Porto
The general recommendation if you are going to visit the city is to try to stay in the area delimited by areas 1 (Historic Center, in brown) and 2 (Baixa do Porto, in green) included in our map, to be able to walk to most of the touristic places without losing too much time:
Within that area (quite large), if you want to rest at night you should avoid noisy streets, such as large avenues with several lanes or streets with many restaurants and bars (such as Rua Galeria de Paris), since in good weather people stay outside drinking with the consequent noise.
Here are some suggestions for sub-areas and accommodations:
Where to sleep in Ribeira
Ribeira is the most touristy area of Porto, with its photogenic colorful little houses by the river. Because of this, it has a multitude of accommodation options (as well as restaurants and stores) but also a lot more crowds and noise. Also, to get from here to Baixa you will have to climb a hill or two. It is one of the best areas to stay in Porto.
Here is a selection of accommodations. You can see more options in Ribeira here
- Guest H4U – Porto River View (from 55€ night): apartment for two people (4 with sofa bed) and city view.
- Ribeira do Porto Hotel (from €80/night): double rooms with river view
- Oporto Home – River View (from 90€/night): modern apartment for 2 people (4 with sofa bed) with a river view
- Liiiving in Porto | Ribeira Boutique Apartment (from 90€/night): apartment for 2 people (4 with sofa bed) overlooking the river, the Ferreira Borges market, and the Palácio da Bolsa.
- Porto River (from 150€/night): apartments and studios, some with river views
- Exmo Hotel by Olivia (from 175€/night): excellent 4-star hotel with double rooms, city views (the most expensive rooms have river views), and breakfast included.
- Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel (from 165€/night): 5-star hotel in the heart of Ribeira, the most expensive rooms with river view and even a balcony, and breakfast included.
Where to Sleep in Baixa do Porto (City Center)
The other excellent option to stay in an area with a lot to offer and close to everything is the Baixa of Porto, which is the area above Ribeira where some of the main tourist spots are located (Aliados, Bolhão, the Cathedral…). It is also an area with some busy and noisy streets, so try to avoid places with many bars/restaurants nearby if you want to have a good rest at night.
Here we leave you some options, and you can see more accommodations in Baixa here.
- Sweet Swell (from €45/night): double rooms with private bathroom, relatively close to Bolhão
- Oporto Local Studios (from 50€/night): modern studios for two people with a view of the city, next to Avenida dos Aliados
- Sé Boutique Apartment (from 60€/night): self-catering apartment for two people (4 with sofa bed) and views of the city, located next to the cathedral.
- SIZE flats (from 70€/night): 2-bedroom apartment (4 persons) with kitchen, very close to Torre dos Clérigos
- Almada Wine House (from 75€/night): self-catering studio for two people, between Avenida dos Aliados and Torre dos Cléricos
- BO – Fernandes Tomás (from 90€/night): self-catering apartment for 2 people, in Bolhão area
- Oporto Street das Aldas – River View – Adults Only (from 100€/night): small studio for 2 people with river view and kitchen, next to the cathedral.
- Infante Sagres – Luxury Historic Hotel (from 120€/night): double rooms with city views. Next to Avenida dos Aliados
- Intercontinental Porto (from 200€/night): 5-star hotel with unbeatable location
- Monumental Palace (from 250€/night): impressive 5-star hotel with an indoor pool and spa, right in the middle of Avenida dos Aliados
Where to sleep in Cedofeita
Cedofeita is the area to the left of Baixa, where you will find the “hipster street” Miguel Bombarda (with art galleries and small alternative stores). It is a good area to stay if you don’t want to be in the center but very close to everything, in a “trendy” area.
Here are some options, and you can see more accommodations in Cedofeita here.
- Bombarda Palace Studio (from 55€/night): small studio for 2 people with a kitchen and balcony
- Sunny Home (from 60€/night): studio with balcony, city view, and kitchen for two people.
- Downtown Porto Flat (from 80€/night): studio with balcony and kitchen for two people.
- Porto Insight Apartment Cedofeita- Balcony & Parking (from 90€/night): apartment with terrace and kitchen, for 2 persons
- Rosario’s Boutique Apartments (from 90€/night): self-catering apartments for two people.
- Rosario Luxury Suites (from 100€/night): suites with balcony and garden views
- Canto de Luz (from 140€/night): modern design rooms with views of the city, breakfast included, 5 minutes from Porto’s city hall
Where to sleep in Gaia
Another excellent option for your trip to Porto is to stay in Gaia, on the other side of the river, where the Port wine cellars are located. This area has the disadvantage that you will have to cross the river every day (although it does not take long and there are several public transport options) to see the main attractions of Porto, plus it is a very touristy area and therefore very busy.
Here we leave you some options, and you can see more accommodations in Gaia here
- CHARM by YoursPorto (from 55€/night): double rooms with balcony and city view.
- Meet in Porto (from 60€/night): small self-catering apartments, one of them with terrace and river view.
- Douro River Apartments (from 75€/night): small studio for two people with kitchen and excellent views of the river and the Ribeira de Porto.
- Porto View by Patio 25 (from 80€/night): small studio next to the D. Luis bridge, with terrace and excellent views of the river and the Ribeira de Porto.
- Vincci Ponte de Ferro (from 95€/night): you will notice this accommodation when you cross the D. Luis bridge above, as it is right next to it and from the bridge, you will see its swimming pool and restaurant. Double rooms with excellent views
- The House of Sandeman (from 100€/night): accommodation inside the famous Sandeman winery, double rooms overlooking the river and the Ribeira de Porto.
Where to eat in Porto
A mandatory gastronomic experience in Porto is to try a francesinha (short for French, in Portuguese) which consists of a slice of bread (homemade) on top, another slice of bread on the bottom, and various types of meat and sausages (cooked ham, mortadella, beef, pork, …) inside. This hot sandwich is covered on the outside with slices of cheese, a delicious sauce (most of the time, spicy) made of tomato and beer, and, usually, a fried egg on top. To make it even “lighter”, the francesinha is usually accompanied by homemade french fries as a garnish.
Randomtip: Accompany the francesinha with a fino (beer cane in Porto), sparkling water or coke, as fizzy drinks help digestion. If you can, it is almost better to try it at lunch time than at dinner time, although at Randomtrip we have already had a francesinha for dinner and we can tell you that we slept great…
Apparently, its name comes from, you guessed it, France! The francesinha is a variation of the famous French croque-monsieur. It is taken very seriously in Porto and it is common for people from Porto to debate about which one is their favorite although there is never a consensus! At Randomtrip we’ve tried a few and here are our favorites.
Where to eat a francesinha in Porto?
- Café Santiago: one of the most legendary places in the city to eat francesinha and, for this reason, it is always full. It is at the top of the ones we have tried, they are very tasty. Francesinha with egg and fries 10,50€.
- Bufete Fase: considered the best francesinha by many people we know in Porto. Of all the francesinhas we have tried, we think this is the one with the tastiest sauce, spicy as we like it. The place is only open during the week at lunchtime (Monday to Friday from 12:00 to 16:00) and the fries are not homemade, which in Portugal is sacrilege.
- Café Velasquez: Our friend Joana’s favorite francesinha and we can attest: it is spectacular. If it wasn’t for being so far away, I think we would have repeated it.
- Francesinha Café: When locals are debating about the best francesinha in town, this name tends to come up a lot. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try it, next time.
- Lado B Café: Vegetarian people, donR