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Porto famous for port wine is built on the northern bank of the Douro River.   There are so many things to do in Porto you may wonder where to start first.  Established as a hard-working town with cobbled streets and hills,  a trip to Porto is a must for any traveler.

As a visitor to the city of Porto, you’ll want to wander through the streets on foot. The Ribeira district and Avenida dos Aliados are popular places to start.  Porto has something for all travelers.   From historic buildings, trendy bars to small establishments serving local Portugues dishes.

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Things to do in Porto, Portugal

Take a stroll through the streets in Porto

Porto river view from the bridge

Crossing the Dom Luis 1 bridge makes it easy for travelers to see things in Porto on both sides of the Douro River.  The top level of the bridge is for pedestrians and the metro trains only.   This iconic double-decker bridge has the best views for taking photos of the landscape.

The lower level allows cars to pass over the bridge with ease.  The bridge was named after King Luis 1 with the neighboring bridge after his wife Dona Maria Pia.

The best way to see Porto as I mentioned is on foot.   Mainly because you can wander through the cobbled stone streets at your leisure.  We saw many buildings with fun street murals painted on the sides.  The city started to embrace the artists to paint certain walls in 2013.

walk through the streets in Porto or take the trolley

Walking tours are a great way to get to know a city.  They provide you with tips on where to eat and stay along with the history of the city.

The Ribeira district is filled with 18th-century charm, small bars, and places to eat of course.  Avenida dos Aliados “Avenue of Allies” is referred to as the city center.

Travel tip:  Head for the little cafes and steer away from the tourist traps.

Visit the port wine houses

porto house view from the bridge

Vila Nova de Gaia is the hub of the wine industry.  Small boats transport barrels from the Douro Valley region to ferment and age in oak barrels.

There are many port houses open to visitors lining the Douro River.  If you want to make a day of it start at the top of the hill with Taylor’s.  Work your way down to Sandeman, Calem, and smaller establishments on the back streets.

Grab some lunch or dinner along Porto’s picturesque riverside.   Join a local guide for a 4-hour tour tasting the delicious gastronomy of Porto.  A nice way to end the day is to watch the sunset with a glass of wine in your hand.

Food & wine tour

wine tasting cellar-Calem -Porto things to do

Sandeman was a long wait so we tried a tour & tasting with Calem.  Our tour guide at Calem was very knowledgeable about the process of making port wine.

Included in our entrance fee were 2 samples of port wine.    I’m no expert on Porto wine but my favorite was the vintage reds.  Give it a try and tell me which one was your favorite.

Vila de Gaia is filled with many wine cellars.  There are so many to choose from, so if you’re not sure, why not try a food & wine tour which will take you to great locations.

take a wine tour in Porto to Calem

Famous bookstore Livraria Lello & Irmao 

porto famous library

Photo:  F Pinho [library staircase at Livraria Lello]

 

One thing you must do in Porto is to visit the famous bookstore,  Livraria Lello.  You can certainly see the inspiration for J.K. Rawling for her Harry Potter series.  It’s one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal but very touristy.

The corner store to the left of the bookstore is where you buy your entrance tickets.  It’s worth the entrance fee of 5 euros and if you buy a book it will be deducted from the price.

The shelves in the bookstore are jammed floor to ceiling with books.  When you see the winding staircase you’ll see why it inspired the author.

stained glass ceiling

Photo:  F Pinho [admire the stain glass ceiling]

 

Purchase your tickets at Armazens do Castelo on the corner.  Check-in from 9:15 AM to 7:00 PM Monday to Sunday.  The doors open at 9:30 AM to Livraria Lello.

We visited in April so there was a little bit of a line waiting to get in.  Inside it did feel crowded with tourists wanting to take photos. Try to get there as early as you can to avoid long lineups.

Cruise down the Douro River

cruise the douro river from Porto

The Douro Valley (Alto) in 2001 was made a UNESCO site for its spectacular landscape and beauty.

Cruising down the river on a Rabelo boat will have splendid views of the vineyards.  A full-day tour includes a visit to 2 wine estates, eating lunch at a local restaurant, and cruising down the Douro River.

Although we had no time in our schedule for a cruise we’ll be going back to experience more in this region next time.

Visit Sao Bento  train station

visit the train station in Porto

Take a moment to step inside the Sao Bento station.  You may wonder why I suggest visiting a train station as one of the things to do in Porto.  Because the train stations in Portugal are stunning.

The construction of the Sao Bento train station started in 1900 opening to the public in 1916.  This station was the site of a former monastery.  The beauty is on the inside of the building with over 20,000 tiles depicting Portugal’s history.

Getting around in Porto

save the walking and take the train ride
take the tram in Porto

Photo: F Phinho [train ride on the left, glide down on Teleferico de Gaia]

We parked at the top near the Dom Luis 1 bridge and rode the cable car to the lower region.  The cost of round trip tickets was 9 euros per person.

Our cable car tickets included a wine tasting at Quinta Santa Eufemia which is on one of the back streets.

Another easy way to get around Port is to take a ride on the historic tram.  You may find all the walking uphill a bit much so riding the tram is a perfect option if your feet are tired.

Find out more about the history of Porto by hopping on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.  The red line offers more stops and takes a little longer than the blue line.

If you plan on staying in Porto for a few days purchase the Porto Card.   This gives you further discounts, access to 6 museums, and 50% of a visit to a port wine cellar.

Ready to visit Porto or have you already been? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch to start planning.