Porto – situated in the north west of Portugal – has always appealed to me because, well, when a city has a wine named after it….why wouldn’t you visit? So when a last minute plan came together in July, I thought it would be stupid not to go and visit for the weekend! I’d actually written this post following a trip in 2017, but it’s now been updated following my 2022 visit.
I was actually blown away by the city, it is just so beautiful. It has lovely weather, a nice river, epic bridges and some really delicious food….and if anyone doesn’t know what Fado is, it’s so worth experiencing it. We spent a relaxed weekend in the city, and if you have longer you can also read my post on potential day trips from Porto HERE.
If you’re visiting Porto, here are some of the things to do in this amazing city.
1. Port wine
The Vila Nova de Gaia area has been home to port wine companies for centuries. The area is situated right on the river bank, and along the water’s edge are posts with the names of the port wine traders based in Porto. There are a LOT. My favourite was Taylor’s Port. Here you can visit the cellars, an on-site museum and the visitor centre.
But most importantly, you can taste the wine in the garden of this historic home (founded in 1692). We learnt all about (and much more importantly, tasted) white, rose, red, tawny and vintage port. What better way to spend your first afternoon in the city, and then roll back to your hotel?
2. The massive bridge(s)
Ponte Dom Luis I is a double deck metal arch bridge spanning the River Douro linking Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (the port wine area, above) on the opposite river bank. You can cross by car, foot or train, and I recommend crossing on the upper deck as the views are amazing. On the Vila Nova de Gaia end you can walk to the Belvedere for even more amazing views over the city. There is a restaurant with a sunny terrace just below the Belvedere which is great for watching the world go by.
Further downriver is the Maria Pia Bridge built in 1876 by Eiffel (Eiffel Tower fame), which is also well worth a visit.
So one of the main reasons I like travelling is learning about other cultures and traditions. ‘Fado’ is one of these experiences, and you can’t visit Portugal and not experience Fado! You basically have your dinner, and the courses are served in-between being entertained by musicians and singers playing emotional tales of lost love and longing. The Portugese present all sang along, and it was an amazing evening of entertainment. Have some port wine with it and it’s a winner. We visited O Fado! to experience this.
This area is the harbour front on the Porto side of the river. It’s full of really characterful buildings which make for great photos and lovely views to the river and the bridge.
5. The Sao Bento train station
Opened in 1916, this historic train station is truly special. The main entrance hall is truly incredible, as it’s full of beautiful blue and white moasics, made with more than 20,000 azulejos (handpainted tiles) depicting the history and legends of Portugal. It took 10 years to complete!
6. The Palacio de Cristal gardens
If you want some lovely views of the Duoro river, then the Palacio gardens are for you. They are the perfect place to take a stroll and snap some photos.
7. Porto Cathedral
A lovely Cathedral to explore, and just outside the cathedral is a statue of Vimara Peres a 9th century duke who secured Porto and Gaia from the Moors and became the Count of Portugal (the name Portugal is derived from combining Porto and Gaia).
8. Church of St Ildefonso
This church is well known from Instagram due to its striking blue tiles. Completed in 1739, the church is named in honour of the Visigoth, Ildephonsus of Toledo who was bishop from 657-667.
9. Boat cruise along The Duoro River
A great way to see more of the riverfront is aboard a boat, a perfect way to spend the afternoon on a nice day. There are a few that leave from the main water front so you can just go down and pick one – they run almost every 30 minutes.
10. Stroll the Clerigos area
There’s a famous tower in Porto, Clerigos Tower, which gives amazing views. When I visited the queue was over 2 hours long. No fear we said, let’s visit the super famous book shop Livraria Lello – noooope, 3.5 hours for that one and you had to have a ticket. For a bookshop?! Instagram has gone mad.
Anyway we had to settle for walking round the area, but it didn’t disappoint as it was absolutely gorgeous.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ve found this post interesting and helpful in either planning a visit to Porto, or just learning about it. You can also read my other Portugal posts here:
Stay safe and happy travelling everyone!