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10 Things To Do In Porto Portugal

10 Things To Do In Porto Portugal

There are so many things to do in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. With roughly 200,000 inhabitants it is less than half the size of it’s rival city and capital of Portugal, Lisbon. But arguably Porto’s smaller size is part of its charm.

During your stay you will find a city with a rich history and fierce pride as it shoulders an economic crisis that shows its scars in vacant and crumbling buildings among expansive gilded churches. The contrast is intriguing and you will find yourself wanting to learn more while enjoying all of the amazing food, history and panoramic vistas that Porto has to offer.  

Here are a few must-do things to do in Porto that will help you get to know the city and understand why a visit here is well worth your efforts.

10 things to do in Porto Portugal

1. Discover the Portuguese Tile – Azulejo

Azulejo are the famous tiles that adorn many of the interior and exterior of the buildings in Portugal. In Porto you will find samples everywhere you look.

But don’t miss the interior of the train station. The tile murals are not only beautiful but they also depict important stories about the history of Porto.

Things to Do in Porto: Tiled Church Exterior

Tiled Church Exterior

What to Do in Porto: Porto Train Station Tile

Tile Inside Porto Sao Bento Train Station

Porto Guide: Sao Bento Tile

Tile in Sao Bento Train Station

2. Cruise down the Douro River

There are many operators that will take you for a tour of the Douro River for about 10 Euros. You will be treated to a view of the six bridges in the area and magnificent views of the city.

Most operators throw in a visit to a wine cellar for a sampling of Porto’s famous Port Wine. There is also an option to take a longer trip along the river to the Douro wine region where the Porto grapes are grown.

Things to Do in Porto: Duoro River

Douro River View

3. Meet the little French girl – Francesinha

Porto has a lively café culture. You will find several restaurants lining the major city streets and the majority of them will invite you to try Porto’s most famous sandwich — the Francesinha (roughly translated as the “little French girl”).

Don’t let the name fool you, this “little” sandwich will cost you 2000 calories. It is piled high with sausage, ham, beef,, and cheese and is swimming in a slightly spicy beer sauce, usually surrounded with fries. For one of the best head to Cafe Santiago.

franceshina

The many ingredients of the Francesinha Sandwich

4.  Taste the Wine

Or more accurately, the famous Port wine. You can get a sample at any number of restaurants in Porto, but interestingly all of the Port Wine is actually aged and stored across the Duoro River in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Tours and tastings are available at each of the wineries. You can also view replicas of the boats (rabel0s) used to transport the wine from the Duoro Region where the grapes are grown and pressed.

Things to Do in Porto: Wine Maturing in Porto Winery

Wine Maturing in Porto Winery

What to do in Porto: Rabelo formally used to transport wine

Rabelo formally used to transport wine

5. Take a Porto Walking Tour

There are several tours available but we chose to book through Get Your Guide. They have a variety of walks highlighting different areas of the city. You will need to be prepared to hike up some hills to see some of the cities most impressive sights.

 

Highlights include the ancient wall that once surrounded all of Porto, gilded churches, and one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Well, you be the judge.

Porto Things To Do: View of River from the Ancient Wall

View of River from the Ancient Wall

What to Do in Porto: Santa Clara Church Ceiling

Santa Clara Church Ceiling

Things to Do in Porto: Porto Street

Getting to Know the Streets of Porto During the Tour

Things to Do in Porto: Bookstore

The Beautiful Interior of Bookstore Livraria Lello (Photo Credit: Nido Huebl)

6. Lose yourself in the side streets

There are stone steps and narrow cobbled streets that beg to be explored throughout Porto. Each neighborhood has a slightly different look and feel. It’s fun to just wander along listening to music and neighbors calling out to each other and smell amazing things coming from the kitchens (you can learn more about them by taking the walking tour).

Things To Do: Porto side street

Colorful Porto Side Street

THings to Do in Porto: Former Jewish Quarter

Former Jewish Quarter

What to Do in Porto: Narrow Stairway in Porto

Narrow Stairs Wind Up the Hills Throughout Porto

7. Sample the fresh seafood

There are plenty of options as the Portuguese love their grilled fish. The area best known for seafood is Cascais, accessible by bus or metro. Or you can also head to the hundred year old Mercado do Bolhão.

There the chef will assist you in picking out fresh fish from the vendor next door and grill it for you. There are also restaurants grilling fish outside of their restaurants in the summer.  Difficult to go wrong!

What to Eat in Porto: Fresh Grilled Fish

Fresh Grilled Fish

8. Discover the Street Art

There are examples of tagging on buildings in Porto, as in most cities. But if you look closer you will also find works of art. One of the best known street artist, Hazul, signs his trademark work, which often depicts wildlife or religious themes.

Porto Street Art

Porto Street Art

Porto street art on stairway

Artwork at the Top of a Steep Stairway

Things to Do in Porto: Hazul street art

Hazul – Porto Street Artist

9. Take a food tour

What better way to get to know a city than to be guided to the best the area has to offer by a local? For 55 euros Andre of Taste Porto Food Tours will introduce you to chefs, food vendors and restauranteurs and treat you to 6 different tastings.

Some options: Porto’s best slow cooked pork sandwich, Chaves pastries (flaky pastries that come in savory and sweet varieties) and local wines, pastries, cured meats and cheese. Andre’s passion for Porto and the food is infectious. And he’ll give you great recommendations about things to do and places to eat while in Porto.

Things to Eat in Porto: Mercado do Bolhão

Mercado do Bolhão

What to Eat in Porto: Sardines

Sardines – A Local Favorite

What to Eat in Porto: Eclairs

10. Visit the San Francisco Church

The San Francisco Church of the most important and beautiful churches in Porto.  It is thought that the interior is decorated with more than 400 kg of gold leaf.

It also contains the catacombs where remains of Franciscan friars and some dignitaries of the city are buried.  When Napoleon conquered Porto he reportedly utilized the gilded church as a stable for his horses as a way to mocking the city.

Things to See in Porto: Church of São francisco

Igreja de São Francisco

Things to See in Porto: Porto Catacombs

Sao Francisco Catacombs

While wandering the streets it is hard to miss that Porto has suffered during recent economic crises. It doesn’t take too long to find an abandoned building or one that is in disrepair. We heard several reasons for this.

Owners of buildings in the historic center must adhere to strict guidelines before renovating, often making it financially unfeasible. If a building front is to crumble on its own, however, the owner is then free to make necessary changes.

Also Porto has a history of utilizing very strict guidelines regarding rent control that has created disincentives for landlords to upgrade homes that are already a financial drain.

Lastly we learned that many of the buildings in the downtown area are owned by foreign investors who maintain high rent on their properties and gain high tax advantages by leaving their properties vacant.

Despite these challenges things are improving. Some buildings in the downtown area are being renovated and turned into hotels and rent control and renovation restrictions are easing.

Things to Do in Porto: Porto Bridge

Cheers! Saúde!

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Jessica Ribeiro

Saturday 9th of December 2017

My city, I’m Portuguese and I live in Porto, so what I have to say is “comming to Porto”, is a low cost destination, is the city were live the most friendly and human people around the world, we will help you, if you need or not The azulejos are amazing it’s true, and they are in every corner, for me the most worderfull time to be on the city, will be in October/November/December. Food the best part, just one name FRANCESINHA is a meat Sandwich with a delicious sauce, for the people that are vegeterian, most of the restaurants have a version for you , to say the true we have everything Well so much to visit, explore and falling in love Come visit Porto you are Welcome no matter were you from.

Kisses From Porto,Portugal Jessica Ribeiro

Sharon

Thursday 15th of September 2016

The picture for the church at the end is the lello library!! Porto is beautiful.

Audrey (Pardon Your French)

Thursday 16th of June 2016

What a great post ! I just come back from a 3 day trip to Porto, and I totally fell in love with the city. The culture is so vibrant and the food was amazing. Reading your article made me want to go back even more, I didn't get time to go outside of the city and missed all the street artwork you are showing.

I just posted an article on my blog about all my favorite food finds in Porto, you might like it. Bon appétit, or aproveite sua refeição!

Cs

Sunday 14th of February 2016

HI'm allways happy when people speak highly of my city. Just a little repair: the first photo you have in the S. Francisco Church is from the Lello Library, on of the most beautiful in the world :)

Hope you'll visit us again!

Meg

Saturday 13th of February 2016

I live in Porto and I really have to say, Lello Bookstore's and San Francisco Chruch's photos are switched. But it still is a wonderfull article! Porto trully is a wonderfull city!