Is it possible to see Porto in one day? Absolutely! You can enjoy a walking tour which will show you most sites of the city. Follow this up with a visit to the Lello bookshop and some Port tasting and you’ve got a pretty good feel for the city in a short space of time.
However, Porto is such a great place that I would recommend spending 3-5 days there if possible. If you take into account the amazing day trips from Porto such as the Douro valley wine tour, it would actually be easy to spend a week here!
But I understand that your time may be limited, so let’s check out how to make the most of Porto in one day. First off, let’s introduce the city and look at the best way to get there.
Introduction to Porto
Porto is Portugal’s second city and is located on the coast to the North of the capital of Lisbon. It is one of the oldest European centres and the old town has been branded a UNESCO World Heritage site. Porto is built around the Douro river and is famously the home of Port wine. Grapes to make the port were grown in the Douro valley, but traditionally it was too hot to store the port wine there and so they transported it down the river to wine cellars in Gaia – on the opposite side of the river to Porto’s historical centre.
How to get there
It’s easy to get to Porto by plane from the UK. Flights go into Porto from London, Manchester and Liverpool. If you are travelling to Porto within Portugal then it is very accessible by bus and train (book here). There is an Inter-city train to Porto from Lisbon which takes around 3 hours and will cost in the region of around €30-40.
What to Pack for Porto
The weather can be changeable in porto, particularly in the winter months and so sturdy walking boots and a good raincoat are essential. Make sure that your walking boots have good grips because there can be a lot of slippery stairs and cobbles. It can get hot in the summer so carry a water bottle and sun hat with you if you are there in the summer months.
It’s a good idea to have GPS and data on your smartphone for navigation as there are a lot of little windy streets in porto and it can be easy to get lost if you don’t have your bearings.
Take cash as well as your bank card because you may find many places don’t accept card – they are often still cash only in Porto. If you are travelling by train or plane you will need your passport ID readily available.
Where to Stay
If you are on a limited budget in Porto I highly recommend staying at the Gallery Hostel. It’s walkable from most main sites. The hostel itself is clean and has everything you need including wIFI and an abundance of toilets and showers compared to most hostels.
If you have a bit more cash to splash consider staying at the Pestana Vintage Porto or the Pestana Palacio do Freixo.
How to spend One Day in Porto
So….how do you spend one day in Porto? I highly recommend booking a private guide or joining a walking tour to make the most out of your time there. A local guide will give you a great insight into the history, culture and religion of Porto. I joined a walking tour in front of the Town Hall at 10.30am. Tours leave from there in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French.
I’ve managed to outline the perfect itinerary for you to make the most of the city in a day. You can do this itinerary either with or without the walking tour, but I found that it was great with a guide!
AM – Igreja do Carmo and Walking tour of Porto
Igreja do Carmo
First thing in the morning head to the Igreja do Carmo – this beautiful Baroque Church has a tiled facade with blue Azulejos. You can pay for a ticket to go inside and see the Church, Catacombs and Sacristy. You can also visit the ‘hidden house’ which is the narrowest house in Porto!
It opens at 9am and so you can allow yourself an hour first thing in the morning to explore this beautiful Church before heading to the town hall for the walking tour at 10.30am.
Camera Municipal do Porto
The Camera Municipal do Porto is the Town hall.
Join the walking tours here at 10.30am every morning (with the exception of some holidays).
Livraria Lello – Harry Potter Bookshop
One of the most famous things to visit in Porto is the Lello Bookshop. It’s been made even more famous in recent years as it is said to be the inspiration for the moving staircase in Harry Potter. You need to buy a ticket and book in advance. Then queue up at your allocated time slot. There are a few ways that you can skip the queues including pre-ordering certain books
Torre dos Clergios
Clergios Church is a Baroque Church in Porto with a very tall Bell tower. It’s Porto’s equivalent to the leaning tower of Pisa! It is possible to go up the Torre do Clergios to get a view of Porto from the Sky.
When you come out of the tower make sure you pop to the nearby cafe – Cafe Porta do Olival for a Portuguese coffee and Pasteis da Nata.
Plaque for the Persecuted Jews of Porto
In Porto there is a plaque dedicated to the persecution of the Jews who in 1496 were forced to convert or be faced with death.
Sao Bento Station
Most people arrive at Porto Campanha train station which serves the main cities. But don’t miss the beautiful Sao Bento train station. It is famous for its blue Azulejos that depict scenes from Portuguese history. Sao Bento is one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe.
Se do Porto is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption of our Lady. It has a Romanesque Nave and the roof of the Cathedral is supported by flying buttresses.
Convento dos Grilos
From the Cathedral, follow downwards through some craggy and windy steps to be greeted by the stunning facade of the Convento dos Grilos. It was built by the Jesuits who settled in Porto in the 16th Century.
PM – Lunch followed by the Boat Trip or Bolsa Palace
That brings us to the end of the walking tour part of the day. I recommend that you stop for a traditional Portuguese lunch (followed by a Ginjinha!) You can then spend time going into the Lello Bookshop or up the Torres dos Clergios if you so wish.
Lunch at a Sandeira do Porto
On my tour I met a lovely British couple from Manchester (Cam and Bernadette) and we went for lunch together at A Sandeira. Treat yourself to a Portuguese sandwich, wine and a Portuguese desert which will all come in at around €10.
For the afternoon I highly recommend that you choose one of these two activities – a visit to the Bolsa Palace or the 6 bridges boat trip down the river Douro.
6 Bridges River Cruise
The 6 bridges river cruise gives you the opportunity to see Porto and Gaia from the river Douro. It’s is a relaxing ride that will give you chance to see all 6 bridges of Porto from the boat. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
It is unlikely that you will have enough time and energy for the boat ride and Bolsa Palace, so you will probably have to choose one or the other, and it really depends on personal preference.
Palácio da Bolsa in Portuguese is also known as the Stock Exchange Palace and is one of Portos most prominent landmarks. The first stone was laid in 1842.
Get a ticket to go inside the palace which is beautifully ornate with gold plating everywhere. The highlight of anyone’s visit to the Bolsa palace is the Arabian Hall. Full of Moorish influences, this hall contains 10kg of gold in its walls and took 18 years to complete.
Evening – Port Tasting in Gaia
Finish your Evening with some Port tasting over on the other side of the river Gaia. Here’s a really helpful blog on the Port houses of Porto. If you don’t have time or energy to get to the other side of the river after such a busy day in Porto, don’t worry – there are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can try different Ports in and around the historical centre and the upper district of Porto.
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