The must-sees and things to do in Porto

The must-sees and things to do in Porto

If you’re seeking a getaway that’s filled with ancient character, winding cobbled streets flanked by medieval walls and pastel-painted houses, delightful beaches, alluring elegance juxtaposed with chic urban grit, and a vibrant buzz about the place – then Porto is the gem you’ve been looking for. Here’s our ultimate list of the top things to do in Porto.


9+ things to do in Porto 

This city on Portugal’s North-West coast oozes history and charm, and is full of fantastic things to see, do and experience. So, let’s jump right in!


Dom Luis I Bridge

The medieval Riberia district, or the riverside district, in Porto is connected to the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia by the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge. This magnificent steel structure was built between 1881 and 1886 and named in honour of the king of Portugal, Luis I - and it is fittingly majestic.

With a span of 172 meters, it was the largest arched bridge in the world at the time of its construction. It stretches 385 meters across the Douro river, and reaches 45 meters skyward. It consists of two levels; the lower level for pedestrians and traffic, and the upper level which hosts Porto’s light railway.

The view from the top level is particularly breath-taking, and you can get there, and back down, on the Funicular dos Guindais which affords you even more remarkable views. The funicular costs €2.50 per journey and runs from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays, and until midnight on weekends and national holidays. We recommend booking a ticket in advance as peak times can be busy, meaning queues to purchase tickets, and queues to board the carriage.

While the view from atop the bridge is captivating, there’s no more an iconic view of Porto than that of the bridge itself with the colours of the city behind it. The marriage of the awesome metal structure with the rocky banks of the Douro, backed by terracotta rooftops and the cityscape is a thing of beauty and a symbol of Porto’s rich industrial history. There are a number of excellent viewing spots from the Serra do Pilar hill, on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the Dom Luis I Bridge.

Luis I Bridge

Clérigos Church

Speaking of captivating panoramic views over Porto, one of the best can be enjoyed from atop the 75.6-metre-high tower of the Baroque church Clérigos Church. Completed in 1763, this beautiful bell tower, Torre dos Clérigos, was the tallest building in all of Portugal when it was built and there are just 240 steps between you and the top – sorry, no funicular for this one.


Casa da Música Porto

It’s not all ancient medieval or historic charm in Porto. There are plenty of striking modern structures to marvel at too, none more so than the fascinating Casa da Música. Nestled between the historic centre of Porto and the Foz district, the Casa da Música is a uniquely daring building that simply cannot be ignored.

Inaugurated in 2005, this nine-floor-high asymmetrical polyhedron of white cement and glass will capture anyone’s imagination and is definitely worth seeing when visiting Porto – whether or not you venture inside to enjoy some classical, Jazz, Fado, or even electronic music.


São Bento station

One of the absolute must-sees in Porto is São Bento station, or Saint Benedict station. Built in 1916 on the former site of a 16th Century Benedictine monastery, hence its name, this is one of the most striking railway stations you are ever likely to see.

The Main vestibule of the grand São Bento station recounts some key moments in the vast history of Portugal, including the Battle of Valdevez (1140) and the Conquest of Ceuta (1415), in striking mosaics made up of some 20,000 tiles which took ten years to complete.

And, if you fancy a little day trip from Porto, we highly recommend the delightful Braga district, just 50km north of Porto, or one hour by train from São Bento station. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy the beautiful tiles and interior before your train departs!

Sao Bento Porto

Taste (a lot of) Port wine in Porto

You simply cannot visit this city and not have drinking Port on your list of things to do in Porto. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t! Port is one of Porto’s most famous exports, and the Gaia side is home to incredibly gorgeous Port wine cellars in which you can take guided tours to get acquainted with the rich heritage of making Port wine, and finish off by tasting some of the delicious varieties the now UNESCO recognised port region gave birth to.

We recommend visiting Taylor’s, one of the oldest Port cellars in Gaia, or Cockburn’s (gentlemen, you can uncross your legs now, it’s just the name) where you can enjoy multiple varieties of Port wine such as Fine White Port, 20 Year Old Tawny Port and Quinta dos Canais Vintage. Or, you can join one of the excellent Porto Port wine tours with expert local guides available on


Eat a (lot of) Nata

A Nata, or Pastel de Nata to give its full title, is a small custard tart of puff pastry and a creamy custard interior and often topped with cinnamon, but you can also find different varieties such as lemon flavour natas, chocolate centred natas, and even ones filled with port. Yummy!

You’ll find them all over Porto, in café’s and stalls, but to really savour the true delight of a nata in Porto, it ought to be fresh out of the oven, not reheated. So, we recommend a charming café called Natas D’Ouro (Rua Sa da Bandeira 115) where your nata is made fresh and tasty!

Pastel de nata

Hear Fado music in Porto

Fado is traditional folk song and music which is emotive and melancholic and was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011. It can be traced back to 1820’s Lisbon, and therefore Lisbon is the epicentre of Fado in Portugal. That said, there are opportunities to hear Fado performances in Porto too. Some restaurants offer a Fado show and dinner option, though we recommend catching the Fado performance at Ideal Clube de Fado Porto – Galeria de Paris. This is arguably one of the more authentic performances in Porto. It’s run by a collective of professional Fado artists who champion a specific “Traditional Fado” style. The show is every day at 6 p.m. but you can meet the musicians from 5:30 p.m. for an informal introduction to this style, its practice and some secrets!
Bonus Tip: The Ideal Clube de Fado Porto is next to the Livraria Lello, the bookstore which has become famous for having a red velvet staircase that inspired JK Rowling when penning her first Harry Potter book, so any Potter fans might want to add this to their things to do in Porto plans too – but be warned, it attracts a lot of fans and the queues are always lengthy.


Hit the beach in Porto

Weather permitting, you might want to add the beach to your Porto travel plans, and there are a few to choose from. While mention of the Atlantic coast might not conjure up the same images as the Mediterranean might, you would be foolish to discount Porto in Summer as a worthy beach destination.

There are several fantastic beach options, both within Porto city limits and a little further out but easily accessible by public transport. With sandy shores and dramatic headlands, Porto’s beaches are some of the best spots to observe local life and soak up some sun. Here’s an excellent resource for the best beaches in Porto, where they’re located and how to reach them.


Church of Santa Clara

While you could spend days marvelling at churches and cathedrals in Porto, this one is entirely worthy of a spot in your Porto must-sees. Built in 1457 and located next to a section of the remaining medieval defensive wall, the interior of Porto’s Church of Santa Clara boasts some of the most exquisite gilded wooden carvings to be seen anywhere. The captivating ‘Barroco Joanino’ style carvings, gilded mouldings and red marble make the near-overwhelming, opulent interior of this church nothing short of a masterpiece.

There you have it, dear Porto-bound travellers, our must-sees and top things to do in Porto. Of course, there are plenty more sights and attractions to discover in Porto, and the best way to really get to grips with the city is to explore it with a local guide. So, make sure to check out for unbeatable free tours in Porto with excellent, expert local guides. Have you been to Porto? What do you recommend to your fellow curious travellers? Let us know in the comments.
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