Often considered Portugal’s capital of culture, Porto is a beautiful city in the country’s northwest. Set on the banks of the winding Douro River, the city serves as a gateway to the historic wine region of the same name – the birthplace of the rich, fortified beverage known as Port. However, there’s far more to Porto than sweet wine. Today’s blog is a fabulous Porto itinerary – 3 days to spend? Here’s what you can do!
The city of Porto is abundant with breathtaking architecture, fascinating religious history, immaculate formal gardens, and charming local traditions, along with an exciting nightlife scene to keep you going until the early hours.
Here, we outline an excellent three-day Porto itinerary to follow to get the best of Portugal’s second city. We have also answered some of the most commonly asked questions about the city, and provided recommendations for bars, restaurants and tour operators to use during your visit.
When to Visit Porto?
Porto is a beautiful city to visit at any time of year, thanks to its mild, temperate climate and varied attractions. Summer brings warm sunshine and the opportunity to hit the nearby beaches, while winter offers fewer crowds and moderate temperatures ideal for sightseeing.
We recommended visiting in either spring or autumn to get the best of both worlds. May, June, September and October have average high temperatures in the low 20s (degrees Celsius), perfect for strolling around the city and eating outside at one of the many hip bars and cafés, without jostling for space among hordes of other tourists.
How Long to Stay in Porto?
Three days is the perfect amount of time to see all the best things to do in Porto without feeling too rushed. However, there is so much to see and do, you could easily extend your time here or add on longer trips to the wider Douro wine region. Thanks to the city’s idyllic location, any additional days could be spent at nearby Porto beaches, in the countryside, or exploring some of the city’s lesser-visited landmarks.
Porto Itinerary 3 days
To get the best of this itinerary, we recommend arriving the night before, or early in the morning on day one. Getting to Porto is easy by train, plane, bus, or car. A large international airport serves Portugal’s second city with hundreds of daily flights. Meanwhile, the city also has a train station, with express services to Lisbon and other popular Portuguese destinations. Transport links by road extend throughout Portugal and beyond into Spain, whether you’re travelling by car or bus.
Begin your Porto adventure with a walking tour of the city. There are some excellent free (tips-based) walking tours, as well as paid guides to help you familiarise yourself with the local area. Many begin at the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site centre, which features narrow medieval streets and an urban fabric of buildings from a vast array of eras and cultural movements.
A decent guide will be able to point out unusual features and monuments you may not have spotted or understood the significance of on your own. You’ll likely take in the domineering Romanesque cathedral, the 20th-century São Bento station – built in 1900 and filled with intricate tile-work – and the neo-gothic Lello bookstore, thought to have inspired some scenes from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Most walking tours set off at around 9am and take about three hours.
Next, it’s time to rest those weary legs with a boat tour on the river. Snaking through the city, the Douro was historically used by wine merchants to transport barrels of Port from the vineyards to the wine cellars. Now, it characterizes the landscape of Porto with a tumble of terracotta-roofed buildings on its banks, and bunting-strewn streets leading down to the water’s edge.
This 50-minute panoramic cruise follows the route of the old rabelo boats – traditional flat-bottomed wooden vessels that were once integral to the Port production process. You’ll board at Ribeira Quay, a historic waterside square. A knowledgeable guide will narrate your cruise as you sail past the pretty buildings of Porto and enjoy and unique perspective of the city from the water.
You’ll also get to learn about the significance of the city’s six landmark bridges, including the Dom Luís I, an icon of 19th century engineering with it’s double deck and grand mental arch. You’ll travel all the way down to the Foz do Douro, where the river meets the Atlantic, and the bustling city fades to soft, sandy beaches.
After freshening up at your hotel or accommodation, end your first day at one of Porto’s best local restaurants. We recommend Restaurante Casario, a stylish spot with a terrace overlooking the river, serving gastronomic delights from the surrounding region. Porto classics such as Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (salted codfish casserole) are served with an ingenious seasonal twist, while the wine list features plenty from the Douro region. Finish your evening at Wine Quay Bar on the water’s edge.
Day two provides the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the sights you may have seen on your walking tour. We recommended beginning your day in Clérigos to check out the breathtaking churches of Carmo and Carmelitas. The two churches are separated by one of Europe’s narrowest buildings, but at first glance could be mistaken for one large cathedral.
Igreja do Carmo was designed in the 18th century and features a stunning façade composed of blue and white tiles, while the interior is a splendid example of Rocco and Baroque design, complete with gilded wooden carvings at the altar. It’s worth taking a peek inside both churches, before heading around the corner to the Clérigos church and tower, where you can climb 200 steps for a breathtaing view of the city.
After lunch (Brick Clérigos is a great local tapas bar), you can spend the afternoon taking a guided tour of the magnificent Palácio da Bolsa, a beautiful stock exchange built in the neoclassical style. Located in the heart of the historic centre and dating back to the mid-1800s, the building features a spectacular glass domed roof and the city’s most elegant interiors.
Experience the visual delight of the Arab Room, a Moorish revivalist design inspired by the Palace of Alhambra, which is now used to receive visiting dignitaries. You can also check out the dizzying heights of the Hall of Nations, a three-story room which took decades to complete. A guided tour is the only way to experience the Palácio da Bolsa, as it is not permitted to explore the building on your own.
Near to Palácio da Bolsa, you’ll find Adega São Nicolau, a cool and quirky local restaurant with outdoor tables facing the Douro. This unassuming eatery boasts a low-cost menu full of local specialities, including octopus fillets, cod croquettes, and tripe Oporto-style.
It’s one of the best restaurants in Porto or an authentic meal and excellent service. You can follow it with an evening of live jazz and wine tasting at Prova, where a cheerful sommerlier is waiting to take you on a journey of discovery through the flavours of the Douro Valley.
The morning of day three can be spent checking out Porto’s botanical garden – Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. These formal grounds boast beautiful hilltop views, immaculate lawns and topiary, intricate fountains and sculptures, along with groves of cypress, magnolia and olive. Crafted in the 19th century by renowned landscaper Émille David, It’s a serene spot to wander on a sunny day. Alternatively, if the weather calls for indoor activities, you could take a look inside the Se Cathedral, a vast religious building known to be one of the oldest in the city.
The afternoon provides an opportunity to explore the neighbourhoods on the other side of the river, also known as Vila Nova de Gaia. Cross the Dom Luís I bridge to reach the historic hub of port wine production, where you’ll stumble on a striking circular monastery known as Mosteiro da Serra de Pilar.
Along with offering beautiful views of both Porto and Gaia, the 17th-century church has an unusual cloister design and gold-leaf altar worth checking out. We recommend spending your final evening with a port cellar tour and traditional fado show, which is why you’ll want to grab a bite to eat in the early afternoon instead. Try the nearby Bacalhoeiro (Cod Trawler), which offers inexpensive and authentic seafood on the waterfront.
Your final evening can be spent experiencing Porto’s fascinating wine heritage at one of the city’s most celebrated cellars. This wine tasting tour kicks off at around 6pm, taking visitors on a tour of the Cálem Cellars, an emblematic winery dating back to 1859. You’ll then have the chance to watch a soulful fado performance – a combination of live music and traditional guitar playing inherent to the culture of Porto. While you watch, you’ll be offered a selection of Porto wine from the cellar itself.
Finish your evening at the spectacular cocktail bar Terrace Lounge 360º, located nearby, which has a cool laidback vibe and often hosts local DJs.
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