Here’s the ultimate list so you know what to do in Porto and become an expert on this lovely northern city. It has won our hearts with every historic building, every viewpoint, and every piece of street art:
1) Climb the more than 200 steps of the Clerigos Tower
And not only to burn off the francesinhas you’re gonna eat, but also to spend time sightseeing and enjoying the views offered by the tallest tower in Portugal! The Church of the Clérigos was built in the 18th century. Visiting is free, but access to the tower and the Brotherhood Museum costs €3. The tower functions as a bell tower, and while ascending you will see (or perhaps hear) its 49 bells.
2) Admire (and photograph) tiles
This one is free, and one of the top things to do in Porto! Yeees… we love to see them in other places besides kitchens and bathrooms. Porto is full of buildings with characteristic blue and white tiles facades. Don’t miss these ones:
- Sao Bento Station: is one of the most beautiful stations in Europe thanks to the twenty thousand tiles that cover the walls of its lobby. The walls display different scenes from the history of Portugal (coronations, battles, landings). Head over here even if you don’t have to take a train!
- Iglesia do Carmo: Its lateral façade is covered with white and blue tiles, creating a great image of the origins of the Carmelina Order
- Steak ‘n Shake1: The colorful tile wall of this burger place is a favorite spot for instagrammers.
- Chapel of Souls: What a piece of art, check this out! 👇
3) Get inside a Harry Potter scene at Lello Bookstore
The Lello & Irmão bookstore is considered one of the most beautiful in the world thanks to its neo-Gothic façade, bright wooden staircase, carved shelves and a beautiful window in the ceiling that lets in natural light.
It is always crowded, and not exactly with book buyers. That’s why they charge €5 just for entering, although they’ll take those €5 off if you buy a book. It’s known as the Harry Potter bookstore because J.K. Rowling lived in Porto and it is said she was inspired by the place to describe the bookstore in the movie. However, the rumor has never been confirmed!
And if you are not a fan of the saga, but you have an interest in literature and unique architecture, it’s worth a visit. Of course, don’t expect a bohemian and romantic experience, the crowd can make it difficult to admire the bookstore…
4) Contemplate the views from the Sé Cathedral
It’s the most important religious building in the city, one of the oldest, and was declared a Portuguese national monument. A must-do sightseeing stop when visiting Porto. There are three things you cannot miss here: the huge rose window on its facade, the Gothic cloister surrounded by tiles, and the magnificent views of the city. 🤩
5) Buy traditional local products
It’s impossible not to stop in front of Pérola do Bolhao to take a picture. Its art nouveau facade is frozen in time. It’s very close to the Bolhao market, hence its name. A vital stop for curious travelers who love to immerse in the local gastronomy: wine, cheese, sausages, candied fruit. And if you like cod, this would be a great place to buy it!
It may be that there are no stores left with that historic charm, but A Vida Portuguesa has saved those brands that have survived over time and sells traditional objects in the same beautiful space. It’s a large store in a centennial building in the center of Porto, with floors and an old wooden staircase. If you like browsing, you’ll be entertained for a while: Toys, decoration, textiles, stationery, tableware, soaps, jams … a place to find unique gifts!
6) Go to a “confetaira” for some custard tarts or typical sweets
You may have heard of this in Lisbon, but definitely one of the things to do if you visit Porto:
- Manteigaria pastry shop is said to have the most famous custard tarts in Porto (they are also based in Lisbon). They ring the bell when the “natas” come out of the oven. A heavenly delight for only €1
- At Fabrica de Nata they also make the tarts in front of you. Nothing like savoring them at a warm temperature, freshly made, with a crispy exterior and a creamy interior!
- Nata Lisboa is in the middle of the busy and lively Rua das Flores. An ideal break for an afternoon snack sitting on their outdoor terrace.
7) Visit a hundred-year-old coffee
Café Majestic is a café from the 20s that maintains its beauty of Art Nouveau style and careful decoration. We talked about it in our post Romantic Porto. What is not so romantic is the queue to enter (depends on the day), or paying € 5 for a coffee. Just to make things clear if your backpacker budget is very tight! However, you can see the exterior facade and take a quick look inside from the window!
Café A Brasileira is one of the most prestigious cafés in the city, inaugurated in 1903. It will grab your attention you if you’re walking around the area. These facades are no longer constructed! The imposing iron and glass parasol remind us of the Parisian architecture of the time. The interior features original flooring, marble ornaments, and engraved leather furniture. Try the cake “May 4th” and thank us later. Oh, and the custard tarts cost €1!
8) Cross the Don Luis I Bridge
This iron giant of almost 45 meters is one of Porto’s main attractions. There are six bridges in the city, but this is the favorite of all travelers. From the upper level, it offers a panoramic view of Cais da Ribeira. From the lower level and during summer, there are some brave locals who jump into the river, you need to see this! Many curious people crowd around to see it. Or are you gonna be the brave one to jump?
You can cross it on both levels. By foot or with the tram. You will surely have to cross it to go to Vila Nova de Gaia! Keep reading.
9) Take a tour with tasting in a wine cellar
Vila Nova de Gaia is an independent municipality but has grown to blend with the city of Porto, and it has one of the biggest tourist attractions: the famous Port wine cellars! Also, it has beautiful views of the river and the colorful houses.
If you wanna join us, we do go as a group on a wine tour from Cats Hostel. 🍷 We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the development and maturation of wine, and yes, obviously, you can also drink! If you prefer to venture on your own, you have several hundred-year-old wineries to choose from: Ramos Pinto, Calém, Sandemans. You can do a self-guided tour and learn about the history of the winery and its evolution over time.
10) Stroll along the Ribera without hurry
The colorful row of houses facing the river is the most characteristic pictures of Porto. It’s a very lively area to walk, listen to street musicians or just sit and watch. Sometimes we fill up our trip with so many plans that we simply forget to stop and smell the roses. This is a good place to sit and observe: the pedestrians, the boats that cross the river, the seagulls… Take your drink to sit by the river or choose one of the restaurants with terrace to have some “petiscos”.
Cruise of the 6 bridges: The most relaxed way to see Porto’s bridges: Don Luis I, the Infante Dom Henrique, Doña María Pía, São João, and the newest, Arrábida. But we won’t tell you more, that’s why the tour has an audio guide. From €10.
11) Do grocery shopping (or pretend to do it) at Mercado de Bolhao
This is the place where the tripeiros (the locals) go for grocery shopping, especially on Friday and Saturday mornings. If you are one of those who use the hostel’s kitchen, come here for goods! If you plan to go to restaurants, come anyway to browse or buy quality souvenirs!
The historic building is unfortunately under renovation and will not finish until 2020 – at least. There’s a temporary location a few meters from the original. Here you can get the idea of what is offered and what the stalls normally look like.
12) Travel by tram just for the pleasure of doing it
Moving in a different means of transport than we usually do is one of those travel pleasures. And if there’s no tram in your city, you’ll like the experience of getting on one, hearing the squeaks, moving on the curves and feeling like traveling in time. We recommend these three tours:
- Elétrico Nº1: It is the longest route, and also the most picturesque as it passes through the river Douro and reaches the neighborhood of La Foz, where you can take a walk along the seaside before catching another train back.
- Elétrico Nº18: It departs from the Museu do Carro Elétrico and ascends to the old town. You can also catch it in front of the Carmo Church.
- Elétrico Nº 22: It is the shortest route, approximately 30 minutes, but it goes through the main streets of the center (and saves you from walking up some large hills). It finishes near the Luis I Bridge and changes direction to return on the same route.
13) Go street art hunting
Are you crazy about street art? Porto is one of these places where you’ll find yourself looking everywhere and spotting shots for your Instagram, here’s enough to get you started:
- Half Rabbit (marked like this in Google): A different piece of art, built with trash and hidden in a side street near Igreja Santa Marinha in Vila Nova de Gaia.
- Rua Bombarda: In this street, there are several galleries of modern art, so it makes sense that in the area large murals as small art pieces began to emerge. Keep your eyes open!
- Avenida dos Aliados: We may have stopped using telephone booths, but what good use they have here as a showcase for artists!
- Rua das Flores: Here the electricity boxes are the canvases of the artists of the city. A great way to give beauty to a boring (and ugly) street element…
- Miragaia: Go through Rua Nova da Alfańdega to be surprised by large murals of great Portuguese artists.
14) Watch the sunset from Jardim do Morro
It’s in the upper part of Gaia side. Yes, you’ll have to climb a hill to get there, but worth the effort, promise! Go in the morning for a quieter moment, in the afternoon to feel all the vibes, or during late hours, for the best night views of the city! On a weekend you’ll probably find live music, what’s not to love??
15) Explore every bar in Galerias de Paris
What to do in Porto after the sun goes down? Save some energy because you’ll feel like exploring Galerias de Paris! This is a three-streets-area full of bars and nightclubs. We have a themed post about Porto’s nightlife, with route included, so you don’t have to worry, we’ve planned everything for you!