12 Best Things to Do in Porto, Portugal

|   Last Updated on January 21, 2021

Among European countries, Portugal is the first and oldest nation-state in Europe. Lisbon is the largest city and second to this is Porto – the world’s port wine capital.

Either you’re a wine lover or a history buff, Porto can satisfy all your senses.

Here are some of the best things to do in Porto, Portugal that you can’t miss trying.

1. Stroll Along Dom Luis I Bridge and Appreciate One of the Best Ironworks of All Time

Why it’s important

Long ago, it was the longest iron arch in the world. It was designed by German Architect Teófilo Seyrig, a student of Gustav Eiffel.

It was established in 1886 and was named after King Luis I who happened to miss the bridge inauguration for an undetermined reason until to this day.

Why you should make a stop here

This iconic bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. You can cross it by foot, car, bus or subway and enjoy the breathtaking view of River Douro.

The picturesque view is one of a kind and worth posting on the gram.

If you visit on a windless day, you can see the reflection of the bridge on the water. You can also see the boats passing along the river beneath you.

What you shouldn’t miss

Dom Luis I Bridge has 2 decks and both are for pedestrians and cars. You can either cross the bridge from the upper deck or lower deck.

You can spot some of the popular structures around Porto from afar.

It is the best point to watch the sunset and enjoy the city lights at night.

2. Explore Livraria Lello, One of the World’s Oldest Bookstores

Why it’s important

It was opened in 1906 by the brothers Jose and Antonio de Lello. Since then, it became a tourist destination and landmark in Porto.

It was once a favorite hangout for literary scene in Portugal.

It was considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and one of the top places to visit in Portugal.

Why you should make a stop here

A great place to escape and discover some of the oldest and rarest books in the world. It only takes 5 minutes by foot from Porto’s city center.

It has a small coffee shop inside where you can enjoy a variety of coffee, port wine, and cigar.

Aside from this, you will be amazed by its neo-Gothic architecture.

If you are a Potterhead, you will extra-love this place because a lot of people say that it was a direct inspiration of Harry Potter’s author, J.K. Rowling to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry setting design.

What you shouldn’t miss

You can’t miss to see every detail of the Livraria Lello. From the floor to the intricate stained-glass skylight design of the ceiling.

The bronze pillar decorated with Portuguese literary figures and the curvaceous staircase covered in red that gives you a picture-perfect setting.

If you are a literary enthusiast, make sure to buy an old book.

3. Take a Walk in the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal

Why it’s important

Created in 1860 by German landscaper Emile David. It was Portugal’s version of Crystal Palace in London but later demolished in 1956.

It was replaced with a huge dome (Pavilhao Rosa Mota) that serves as a sports arena and a multi-purpose events center.

Why you should make a stop here

The best place to breathe some fresh air and unwind. Enjoy walking with someone or meditate alone in the botanical garden.

It has a unique landscape and photographic environment.

Every area was classified into different trees and flowers. It is a famous place to have a picnic with families, couples and groups.

What you shouldn’t miss

Have a first look experience of some of the most popular exotic trees and plants.

From here, you can overlook the ravishing view of Porto, Gaia and Douro River.

You can also make a wish in the fountains or watch some peacocks walking around the rose garden.

It has exceptional sculptures that depict real-life stories.

4. Have a Good Time at Parque da Cidade

Why it’s important

It is regarded as one of the “city’s lungs”. It has a naturalist style which creates a rustic atmosphere.

It was designed by a Portuguese landscape architect, Sidónio Pardal. He was inspired by the chief architect of the famous New York central park.

Why you should make a stop here

It is the biggest urban park in Portugal. It offers many scenic viewpoints that attract many tourists to visit. You can walk around, have a little workout or picnic.

It has sports fields, sand volleyball courts, dining options, cycling and walking paths.

The whole area was wisely arranged with fun activities for everybody. If you are traveling with your children, this spot is known to be child-friendly.

What you shouldn’t miss

Take time to do birdwatching and mingle with ducks, geese, cormorants, gulls, starlings, and many other birds.

You can find them at the lake located in the central part of the park. Parque da Cidade is perfectly located between the city and beach area.

You can smell the breeze of the Atlantic Ocean.

If you’re lucky, you can also see some cool park rangers patrolling on white horses.

5. Have an Encounter With the Most Important Religious Edifice in the City at Porto Cathedral

Why it’s important

It has been declared as a National Monument. It was built by French nobleman, Bishop Hugh back in the 12th century.

It has a touch of both Baroque and Romanesque style.

The cathedral has undergone many renovations through the years but still maintained its ancient semblance.

Why you should make a stop here

It is where some of the most important events happened in European history such as the King’s weddings and baptism.

It is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage.

It has 2 towers crowned with cupolas and a wide square in front of it.

The outside architecture displays a simple design, but it has surprising things to offer inside the cathedral.

What you shouldn’t miss

Take a shot and admire the chapels inside the cathedral. One of the famous ones is the silver chapel.

It has a remarkable story behind it. Aside from this, you can’t miss the cloister designed with Azulejos (blue) tiles depicting religious stories.

Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the treasury. It has a collection of Early Christian artifacts and art like Silk Ceremonial gowns, leather bounded bibles, crowns, and altarpieces.

6. Taste Some of the Best Local Food at Mercado Bom Sucesso

Why it’s important

It was constructed in 1952. It became the center of commerce in Porto but as decades passed by, it became less trendy compared to modern establishments.

In 2013, it was refurbished by FA.A Architects. It has an urban concept design divided into a four-star hotel, offices, fresh market, and food services.

Why you should make a stop here

It is an all-in-one place where you can experience the best of both traditional and modern vibe.

It is not a typical market for it offers unique food experiences as it allows you to compose your preferred dish.

It has 44 stalls where you can try gastronomic cuisines from various Portuguese regions.

What you shouldn’t miss

Try traditional Portuguese gourmets and desserts cooked by incredible chefs around Portugal.

At the same time, you can also try other countries’ delicacies. While eating, you can listen to live band shows and occasionally, they are presenting some art exhibits too.

If you are into cooking, you can attend some cooking workshop.

You can also do a little shopping for souvenirs and don’t forget to grab some organic fruits and vegetables at the Fresh market for an affordable price.

7. Be Serenaded at the Casa da Musica

Why it’s important

An exclusive building dedicated to music. It was built in 2001 to celebrate Porto’s privilege to be regarded as the European Capital of Culture. It is the city’s symbol of modernization and culture. It has 12 floors and a top floor restaurant designed by architect Rem Koolhaas.

Why you should make a stop here

The trapezoid building creates a striking impression for every locals and tourists. Inside, you can find the “shoe-box” concert hall and the great grand auditorium.

The curtain-like glass walls, sophisticated staircase, the black and white tiles at the roof terrace, the dramatic floor design give you a perfect architectural adventure.

Every corner is instagrammable.

What you shouldn’t miss

You can’t miss to see the amazing performances of talented musicians. You can listen to all types of music including classical, jazz, acoustics, electric and many more.

You can also visit the terrace, bars, and educational areas. At the rooftop, you can view the city while enjoying your food. It is an open area where you can chill and relax.

8. Enjoy the Greatest Wiew of Porto at the Garden of Morro

Why it’s important

It was inaugurated in 1927 which later became an attraction. It serves as an avenue that connects the upper deck of Dom Luis I bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia.

It was placed at the same spot where a hill was once standing. This garden has undergone many renovations to improve its beauty and was innovated comparatively to urban parks.

Why you should make a stop here

This is where you can see the greatest view of River Douro and Porto.

The landscape that replicates the hill curve brings you to another level of excitement as you go up.

It has bars and restaurants where you can grab a bite after a long walk. You can also sit under the tree or on the grass while having some wine.

It is one of the best places to enjoy the sunrise or sunset.

What you shouldn’t miss

Take time to visit the Moistero da Serra do Pillar, an old monastery just around the garden.

It has an antique design and it showcases some temporary exhibitions.

The view right beside the monastery is overwhelming. If you can stay late at night, you can bring a blanket and do stargazing.

9. Experience the History at Palacio da Bolsa

Why it’s important

It was built from 1842 to 1910 and was became a venue of Stock exchange between merchants.

It has a neoclassical design and was formed by the ruins of the former St. Francis convent which was burned down in 1833.

This historical building was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage.

Why you should make a stop here

This is where Queen Elizabeth II was welcomed in Portugal when she visited back in 1957. Its beauty was honored to receive major events in history until this day.

If you love paintings, you can find them on the walls and up in the ceiling. There are magnificent sculptures placed everywhere. The interior of this palace contains a variety of artistry. Visitors often enjoy looking at the national coats of arm of several countries along the hallway.

What you shouldn’t miss

Have an extra-ordinary trip and reminisce the 1001 Arab night ambiance at the Arabian room inside the Palace.

It was surrounded with gold making it look so extravagant. As of today, it serves as a music concert hall.

If you get a chance to watch a concert, make sure to buy a ticket. You will not regret it.

10. See the Most Prominent Monument in Porto, the Church of São Francisco

Why it’s important

Established in the 14th century to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi. It is known as the “Gold church” due to its intricate gold design.

The church has become part of history as it stands firm for thousands of years surpassing war after war.

Why you should make a stop here

It is regarded as one of the oldest churches in Portugal. It was classified as UNESCO World Heritage.

It has a rich interior presenting a Baroque style. You will be amazed by the gold plates covering the entire church which was estimated at around 650 pounds.

When it comes to its exterior design, it displays a gothic style from the structure of the building to the granite staircase that leads up to the main door.

What you shouldn’t miss

Visit the most famous altarpiece of the church where you can the “Tree of Jesse” created in 1718.

It presents all the generation hierarchy of Jesse, King David to Jesus Christ.

To make it more thrilling, take a walk at the catacombs of the city (underground galleries) where some of the late Franciscan friars and famous personalities were buried.

11. Spend a Night at Cais da Ribeira

Why it’s important

Declared as a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 1996. Perfectly located at the riverbank of Douro where important historical trade business happened.

You can catch a glimpse of some old ships left by merchants ages ago. It is known to be the liveliest area of Porto.

Why you should make a stop here

If you are a night person, this place is best for you. It was listed as one of the best streets in the world.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.

Take a walk and appreciate the scenic view of the old narrow streets. Colorful lights make the whole place lively.

It is a must-stop as recommended by many.

What you shouldn’t miss

Take a river tour by riding a boat or cruise ship. Explore the amazing view of Douro River passing under the famous Dom Luis I Bridge.

This is the most surreal experience that you can try.

12. Taste the Best Wines at Graham’s Port Lodge

Why it’s important

This port lodge was established in 1820 by W & J Graham. For almost 200 years in the wine industry, they were known as one of the pioneers and best producers of port wines in Portugal. This family business has been passed from generation to generation but retained its finest quality.

Why you should make a stop here

You will be amazed by the procedure on how to make the best wine. You can see their equipment as well as the big oak barrels of wine containing aging port wines.

What you shouldn’t miss

Visit their tasting room and try different kinds of wine such as Classic, Premium, Vintage or Tawny Ports. If you are interested to buy one, you can go to their lodge shop and choose the best gift-packed wines decorated with wine accessories.

You can’t miss to try their Vinum Restaurant Wine Bar. It serves fresh fish from the local Matosinhos harbor daily.

You can also enjoy a variety of tapas, pintxos or sweet pastries.They have a little museum where you can learn more about the owners’ success.

Last Updated on January 21, 2021


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