Stroll along the Douro River, go port tasting at the wine cellars in Gaia, visit the most beautiful bookstore in the world, and watch the sunset from the Dom Luís I Bridge. These all top the list of the best things to do in Porto, but there are also beautiful churches to visit, new foods to try, and neighborhoods to explore.
Tim and I LOVED Porto. Tasting port wine at the ancient wine cellars, sampling the street foods, strolling along the Douro River, and visiting several breathtaking churches were our favorite experiences.
We spent four busy days in Porto, which is reflected in this list. 30 things to do in Porto is a big list but at the end of this guide, we narrow it down to the very best experiences (you can also skip ahead now).
Table of Contents
A Quick Porto Geography Lesson
Porto, sometimes also called Oporto, is the second largest city in Portugal. This city is famous for its port wine, one of Portugal’s largest exports.
The Douro River runs through the Porto Metropolitan Area.
On the north side of the river sits Porto. This is where you will find many of the churches, cathedrals, and museums, as well as the majority of the hotels and restaurants, and the train station. The historic center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia, sits south of the Douro River. Gaia is home to the wine cellars where port wine is stored and aged. If you are visiting Porto with the main reason of sampling the port wine, you’ll spend most of your time in Gaia.
Best Things to Do in Porto
In no particular order, here is a list of the best things to do in Porto. At the end of this list, you can see all of them on a map.
1. Visit the Wine Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia
Let’s get started with the #1 thing to do in Porto and the reason why Porto is so famous.
Located in Vila Nova de Gaia (Gaia) are a cluster of wine cellars (sometimes also referred to as caves). These large warehouse-like buildings sit in the hills of Gaia. This is where port wine is stored and aged, before being exported around the world.
There is a long list of wine cellars to visit. The most popular and touristy of the bunch include Taylor’s, Sandeman, Graham’s, and Cálem. These cellars offer frequent tours throughout the day, some as quick, relatively inexpensive group tours to more expensive small group or private tours. They also have a convenient location along the waterfront.
And then there are the smaller, lesser-known wine cellars. On this list are Niepoort, Cockburn’s, Kopke, Burmester, and Barros. These wine cellars produce amazing port wine.
Wine barrels at Niepoort
Port tasting at Sandeman | Best things to do in Porto
How to Visit the Wine Cellars in Gaia
I recommend you take a look at our guide to the Best Wine Cellars in Porto (this link will open in a new tab). In this guide, we list the top wine cellars to visit, our favorites, and how to plan your time.
To visit many of the wine cellars, you will need to make a reservation in advance. Wine cellars offer guided tours and tastings, and these can take 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the cellar and the experience you choose to do. If you want to spend one day in Gaia, you can visit three wine cellars, breaking up the day with lunch.
Some wine cellars can only be visited on a tour (these are usually the smaller, less touristy wine cellars) and at others, you can show up and just do a tasting.
If you aren’t into port, visiting one or two of the more popular wine cellars for a tasting, such as Sandeman and Taylor’s, may be sufficient for you. But if you want to learn more about port, step inside the cool, dark wine cellars and see the massive, ancient oak barrels, and do a tasting, a tour is definitely worth it.
Our favorite experience was at Niepoort, where we had a semi-private tour of the cellar and tasted 8 different wines and ports. For more recommendations, plus restaurant recommendations in Gaia and more details about how to plan your day, take a look at our article Best Wine Cellars in Porto.
2. Stroll Across the Dom Luís I Bridge
The Dom Luís I Bridge, also called the Luís I Bridge and Ponte de Dom Luís I, is a double-decker bridge that spans the Douro River. It connects Porto with Gaia.
Dom Luís I Bridge, photo taken from Miradouro da Serra do Pilar (mentioned next)
This bridge was constructed in 1886 and at that time, it was the longest type of this bridge in the world. The lower deck is open to pedestrians, cyclists, taxis, and public transport. The upper level is open to pedestrians and the metro trains.
For the best views, walk across the upper deck. The metro trains frequently cross the bridge, but there is a designated pedestrian area. Just keep an eye out for the train if you cross the bridge to take photos.
Upper level of the Dom Luís I Bridge
The view from the Dom Luís I Bridge | Best things to do in Porto
If you happen to be at river level in Porto, you can either walk up a long series of steps to get to the upper level, take the Lada elevator, or ride the Funicular dos Guindas. Once in Gaia, enjoy the amazing views looking back to Porto, and you can walk about 10 minutes to Miradouro da Serra do Pilar (mentioned next), stroll the hilly streets to the wine houses, or ride the Gaia Cable Car to the riverfront.
The Dom Luís I Bridge is also one of the best sunset spots in Porto.
3. Miradouro da Serra do Pilar
This panoramic viewpoint is located in Gaia, near the Luís I bridge and Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a monastery that dates back to the 1500s. It’s free to visit, open all day, and from here you get one of the best views of Porto, Gaia, and the Douro River.
The view from Miradouro da Serra do Pilar
Mosteiro do Pilar
How to Get Here: Getting here isn’t obvious. If you crossed the Dom Luís I Bridge, you will walk down Avenue da Republica, turn left, and immediately walk up Rampa do Infante Santo. It’s an uphill walk on this street to get to the viewpoint. From the Luís I Bridge, it is almost a 1 km walk that takes about 12 minutes, a little shorter if you start at the Jardim do Morro metro station.
4. Gaia Cable Car
Running from riverfront of Gaia to Jardim do Morro is a cable car. The upper station is located near the Dom Luís I bridge and Jardim do Morro and runs parallel to the Douro River to the lower station next to the river (the Cais de Gaia station).
It is a scenic way to get between these two points. If you start at the Cais de Gaia station, it will take you up to the level of the bridge, saving you a hefty uphill walk.
For hours and pricing, visit the official website.
Gaia Cable Car
5. WOW – The World of Wine
WOW is a cultural district in Gaia. It’s relatively new, is home to several museums, restaurants, shops, and wine cellars, and with so much to do, you could easily spend a full day here. Visiting a museum may not be high on your to do list in Gaia, but they have several unique museums which might interest you (and your kids, if you are traveling as a family).
On the list of museums are The Chocolate Story, Wine Experience (learn about Portugal’s wine regions and your visit ends with a wine tasting…how’s that for fun museum!), Planet Cork (everything you need to know about cork and its potential uses in the modern world), Porto Across the Ages, the Bridge Collection, and Pink Palace (a museum dedicated to rosé wine).
Inside the Wine Experience museum
At WOW, you can also attend wine school, have a cocktail at the Angel’s Share wine bar and enjoy the view over Porto, taste port at Taylor’s or Fonseca, or dine at one of the restaurants.
Tasting port at Taylor’s
For the full list of things to do, hours, pricing, and to purchase your tickets in advance, visit the official website. You can also purchase your museum tickets onsite at the visitor center which is next to the Chocolate Museum.
6. Stroll Along the Gaia Riverfront
For one of the best views of Porto, stroll along the riverfront in Gaia. This promenade is lined with wine cellars, where you can stop in for a tasting, a Porto tonic, or do a little shopping.
The view from the Gaia promenade | Best things to do in Porto
7. Visit the Porto Cathedral
The Porto Cathedral, also called Sé do Porto, is the largest, grandest church in Porto, and one of the oldest. It dates back to the 12th century, although over the years the cathedral has been gradually enlarged and decorated.
Porto Cathedral (photo taken from Igreja de São Lourenço, mentioned next)
On a visit here, there are several things to see and do. It’s free to enter the cathedral but the cloister and terrace have a small fee. The cathedral is open every day with the exception of Christmas and Easter.
Inside of the church, admire the baroque altarpiece covered in gold leaf. Stroll around the cloister and see the intricate Azujelo Mural, a mural made of blue and white tiles. Climb the tower for views of the cloister and panoramic views of Porto from the roof of the cathedral.
The interior of the Porto Cathedral
The Porto Cathedral cloister
Cloister of the Porto Cathedral
View from the Porto Cathedral | Best things to do in Porto
8. St. Lawrence Church (Igreja de São Lourenço)
This highly underrated church is well worth your time. The views from the towers of this church are stunning and this church is overlooked by many visitors, so there are far fewer people here than some of the other churches in Porto. Plus, it’s just a 3-minute walk from the Porto Cathedral so it’s easy to get to.
Igreja de São Lourenço sits in front of the Porto Cathedral. To get here from the cathedral, cross the parking lot in front of the cathedral, take in the view from Miradouro da Rua das Aldas, and take the steps down to the next parking lot. Igreja de São Lourenço will be on your left (you can’t miss it).
Igreja de São Lourenço
There is a small fee to enter, cash only. Climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower and from here you get amazing views of Porto. As you walk the upper terrace to the second tower, you get a sweet view of the Porto Cathedral. These rival the views from the Porto Cathedral and when we did this, there were just two other people.
The view from Igreja de São Lourenço | Best things to do in Porto
Inside of Igreja de São Lourenço
The inside of this church is not as impressive as the Porto Cathedral, but it’s still worth it, as it’s quiet, tranquil, and a great spot to sit and relax for a few minutes, away from the crowds.
9. Church of Santa Clara
If you want to visit a church with an astonishing display of gold leaf decorating its intricately adorned nave, don’t miss the Church of Santa Clara (Igreja de Santa Clara).
Church of Santa Clara | Best things to do in Porto
This is another lesser known and underrated church in Porto, but it amazed both me and Tim.
The Church of Santa Clara is a 3-minute walk from the Porto Cathedral (in the opposite direction of Igreja de São Lourenço). There is a small fee to enter.
Inside, the nave is covered with gold leaf, even more than we saw in some other larger, more famous churches in Porto. This church is unique in that there are a lot of large windows and the afternoon sun really brightens up this church. Make sure you climb the stairs to the second level where you can look over the nave from the choir room.
Again, we shared this visit with just a handful of people.
Church of Santa Clara
10. The São Bento Railway Station
The São Bento Railway Station, also called Porto São Bento, is the main train station in Porto. It is famous for the blue tiles that cover the walls of the entrance hall (approximately 20,000 azulejo tiles!). It is free to visit.
São Bento Railway Station | Best things to do in Porto
11. Church of Saint Ildefonso
This church makes our list for its beautiful blue tiles that adorn its façade, which depict the scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso. It is located near Batalha Square, on Rua de Santa Catarina.
Church of Saint Ildefonso
12. Rua de Santa Catarina
Rua de Santa Catarina is one of Porto’s famous pedestrian shopping streets. This long street runs through Porto, but the best part is from the Church of Saint Ildefonso (in the south) to Rua da Firmeza (in the north).
It only takes about 10 minutes to walk this street, longer if you go shopping or visit a few notable sites, two of which are mentioned next.
13. The Majestic Café
This is arguably one of the most beautiful cafes in Portugal. It is located on Rua da Santa Catarina.
This Art Nouveau style café opened in 1921 and was designed to look like a café in Paris. Originally, it catered to elite members of society but now it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Porto.
The Majestic Café is open from 9 am to 11 pm Monday through Saturday. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is a busy place but we had no problem getting a table right at opening time. We were impressed with their friendly and speedy service.
On the official website, you can make a reservation in advance and see their menu.
14. The Chapel of Souls (Capela das Almas)
Located on Rua de Santa Catarina, the exterior of this small church is covered with blue and white tiles. You can step inside for a quick visit but it’s the outside that amazed us.
15. Try Porto’s Street Foods
It seems as if each Portuguese city has its token pastry or signature dish. Porto has several to try, each a savory, calorie-laden sandwich or meat dish.
Here is a list of foods to try and where you can get them.
Francesinha: This is Porto’s most famous street food. A francesinha is Porto’s version of a croque-monsieur. This sandwich is filled with ham, steak, sausage, and cheese and covered with a spicy sauce. There are several different versions (some contain prawns, shrimp, or mushrooms). It was created at A Regaleira (this is where we tried it) but other recommended restaurants include Yuko and Café Santiago.
Cachorrinhos: This is a grilled, slightly spicy hot dog. Enjoy it with Super Bock beer. This was our favorite Porto street food that we tried. The best place to go is Gazela.
Sandes de Pernil com Queijo da Serra: This is a roasted pork sandwich with melted sheep cheese. We tried it at Casa Guedes, a crowded restaurant with a small rooftop terrace.
Prego com Queijo de Serra: This is a steak sandwich with melted sheep cheese. Try it at Venham Mais 5 restaurant.
Frango Assado: This roasted chicken dish is best enjoyed with a glass of vinho verde. Try it at Pedro dos Frangos.
16. Take a Food Tour
One of the best things to do in Porto is to take a food tour with an experienced guide.
This 3-hour morning tour includes breakfast and lunch, where you taste Porto’s sweet and savory delicacies.
On this 3-hour walking tour of the old town, try pastries, cheese, and sausage, plus a wine tasting.
If you prefer a private tour, on this tour you will sample food from the north part of Portugal, including a wine tasting.
17. Liberdade Square (Liberty Square)
This large square is just a short walk from the Sao Bento Railway Station. Sitting in the center of the square is the Monument to King Peter IV. During our visit in 2023, this area was undergoing a massive restoration project, so it was completely surrounded by fencing. However, when it reopens, it should be a beautiful sight to see.
18. Letras do Porto
From Liberdade Square, walk up Avenue dos Aliados to take a photo with the Porto sign.
19. Livraria Lello, aka the Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World
This gorgeous bookstore is a must-do on a visit to Porto. It attracts an insane number of visitors and we saw the longest lines here than at any other place in Porto.
This bookstore is relatively small, but it has a long history and is famous for its whimsical architecture, iconic staircase, and stained-glass ceiling.
Livraria Lello | Best things to do in Porto
To enter the bookstore, you must have a ticket. It’s best to make your reservation in advance, and you will schedule a time slot.
There are two ticket types: a standard ticket (the silver voucher) and a premium ticket (gold voucher). The premium ticket is double the cost of the standard ticket but you enter through a priority line, plus you get a free book in the bookstore.
If you have a standard ticket, even with a time slot entry, you could wait in line for up to 15 minutes to enter the bookstore. If you have a premium ticket, you enter right at your allotted time, without waiting in line for the standard ticket.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: To get the photos you see here, we were the first to enter the bookshop. In order to do this, we purchased premium tickets for the first time slot and arrived 20 minutes before opening time. We were the first ones in the priority line, which allowed us to be the first ones inside the bookstore.
On the official website, get hours, pricing, and purchase your tickets in advance.
20 & 21. Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas
Sitting on Rua Carma is what looks to be one massive church. However, it is two smaller churches separated by Casa Escondida (the ‘hidden house’).
Igreja do Carmo, built in the 18th century for Carmelite monks, sits on the right and is adorned with beautiful blue tiles on its exterior.
Igreja dos Carmelitas, built in the 17th century for Carmelite nuns, sits on the left.
The narrow, 1-meter-wide house separates these two churches. There are several theories as to why this house was built, and the most popular theory is that it was to keep the nuns and monks separated.
Igreja das Carmelitas, the Hidden House, and Igreja do Carmo
Igreja do Carmo | Best things to do in Porto
Igreja do Carmo
At Igreja do Carmo, there is a small fee to enter the church (cash only when we did this in 2023). There are multiple places to visit with your ticket.
The first thing you will see is the ornately decorated nave and altar, which is covered with gold leaf.
Then, you can enter the hidden house. You will walk up two flights of stairs to see several rooms decorated with antique furnishings. We didn’t find it to be all that exciting and it was quite crowded during our visit.
The hidden house
Next, you will enter the catacombs, followed by the Crucifix Gallery, an elevated viewpoint of the nave, and then the option to walk onto the rooftop. The view from the rooftop is just OK. I waited in the human traffic jam to climb the steps to the highest point, which overall wasn’t worth it in my opinion, but you can judge by our photos below. Our visit to Igreja do Carmo took about 30 minutes.
Viewpoint of the nave
On the rooftop of Igreja do Carmo
View from the highest point of the rooftop
Igreja das Carmelitas
This church is much quicker to visit. It’s also free. Step inside to admire the golden altarpiece and the small museum.
Igreja das Carmelitas | Best things to do in Porto
22. Enjoy the View from Torre dos Clérigos
Torre dos Clérigos is a 75-meter tower that is attached to Clérigos Church. Climbing this tower for 360° views is one of the best things to do in Porto.
To reach the top of the tower, you will climb 240 steps and from here, you can see the Douro River, Gaia, and famous Porto landmarks such as the Porto Cathedral.
View from the Clérigos Tower | Best things to do in Porto
Another view from Clérigos Tower
It’s also worth visiting the inside of Clérigos Church, which is free to do. Again, you can see another ornately decorated nave and walk the hallways on the second level of the church for stunning views of the nave.
Inside Clérigos Church
This is an extremely popular thing to do and you can save yourself a lot of time by booking a time slot in advance. On the official website, you can get hours and purchase your tickets in advance, which can save you an hour or longer during peak season. If tickets are sold out, you can also purchase them on GetYourGuide.
23. Go Shopping on Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores is a pedestrian shopping street that runs through the old town of Porto. It starts near São Bento Railway Station and runs southwest for about 400 meters. This street is lined with small shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Rua das Flores | Best things to do in Porto
24. Bolsa Palace
Bolsa Palace, also called the Stock Exchange Palace, was built in the 19th century, although it took until 1910 for the interior to be completed. Highlights include the Arab Room and the Hall of Nations.
The Arab Room | SvetlanaSF/shutterstock.com
This is another busy spot to visit, so to skip the ticket line, purchase your ticket online in advance on the official website. To visit Bolsa Palace, you will take a 30-minute guided tour.
25. The Church of São Francisco
Sitting next to Bolsa Palace is the amazing Church of São Francisco (the Church of Saint Francis).
On a visit here, you will visit the old church and the new church, and the catacombs. There is a small fee to enter.
The new church is worth a quick peek, but it is not nearly as picturesque as the other churches mentioned earlier on this list.
Inside the new church
The catacombs, which is where the Franciscan monks and wealthy families in Porto are buried, are interesting and quick to visit. Don’t miss seeing the bones in the ossuary in the glass floor.
The old church
The old church is amazing. Most of the naves are covered in gold leaf. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in the old church, so you’ll have to wait and see it with your own eyes. It’s definitely worth it.
26. Miradouro da Vitória
For an elevated view over the old town of Porto to the Douro River and Gaia, climb the steps to Miradouro da Vitória. This viewpoint is free to visit and located near Rua das Flores.
Miradouro da Vitória | Best things to do in Porto
27. Stroll Along the Ribeira Promenade
Cais da Ribeira is the promenade that runs along the Douro River in Porto. It’s a short, incredibly scenic walk, dotted with bars and restaurants. You’ll gaze across the Douro River to Gaia. It is definitely a must-do at least once on a visit to Porto.
28. Cruise the Douro River
In about an hour, you can cruise the Douro River, past six of the city’s famous bridges, including Dom Luís I, the Dona Maria Pia Bridge, and Ponte de Infante. It’s a great way to see the riverfronts of both Porto and Gaia.
29. Museu Serralves
Museu Serralves is a modern art museum that is located in the western part of Porto, a bit far from the old town. However, the gardens that surround the museum and Casa de Serralves, an Art Deco villa, are the true highlights of a visit here. Even with four days in Porto, we never made it out this way, but it gets great reviews for its garden. Learn more on the official website.
30. Walk a Portion of the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is a famous pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. There are multiple routes in Europe.
One of the shortest routes starts in Porto and travels north to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, 240 km away. This route starts at the Porto Cathedral and heads north out of the city.
Learn more here.
Best Things to Do in Porto: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go in Porto and Gaia). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Best Things to Do in Porto: Our Recommendations
Top 10 Things to Do in Porto
- Taste port at the wine cellars in Gaia
- Stroll along the Douro River
- Enjoy the View from Dom Luís I bridge
- Visit Livraria Lello
- Try Porto’s street food
- Visit the Porto Cathedral
- Have breakfast at the Majestic Café
- Enjoy the view from Torre dos Clérigos
- Visit the Church of Santa Clara
- Photograph Porto from Miradouro da Serra do Pilar
Best Things to Do in Porto with Kids
- Visit Livraria Lello
- Cruise the Douro River
- Climb Torre dos Clérigos for views over Porto
- Dine at the Majestic Café
- Climb the tower of St. Lawrence Church
- Walk across Luís I Bridge
- Ride the Gaia Cable Car
- Visit a museum or two at WOW
- Stroll along the Douro River
- Try Porto’s street foods
The view from the Porto Cathedral | Best things to do in Porto
Frequently Asked Questions
What can’t you miss in Porto?
Must-see sights in Porto include Cais da Ribeira (the promenade that runs along the Douro River in Porto), the wine houses in Gaia (port tasting is an essential experience to have in Porto), the Porto Cathedral, the Dom Luís I Bridge, and Livraria Lello.
How much time do you need in Porto?
Plan on spending a minimum of two days in Porto. This gives you just enough time to tour the famous landmarks, churches, and cathedrals in the old town plus visit a wine cellar or two in Gaia.
When is the best time to visit Porto?
Porto can be visited all year. Spring and summer are the best times to visit, when the weather is pleasant but crowds are manageable. Summer is the hottest, busiest time to visit Porto. Our visit was at the end of September. Porto still felt busy, but it was warm and sunny every day we were here.
Is Porto worth it?
Absolutely! With its wine cellars, viewpoints along the Douro River, long list of amazing places to visit in the historic old town, restaurants, street foods, and port wine, Porto is one of best places to visit in Portugal, even on the fastest itineraries.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Porto, or if you want to share your favorite experiences, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Portugal
BRAGA & GUIMARÃES: These two towns are located in northern Portugal and make a great day trip from Porto. Plan your visit with our guides to Braga and Bom Jesus do Monte and medieval town of Guimarães.
DOURO VALLEY: Get started with our Douro Valley Travel Guide, which covers the essential things to know when planning a trip to this wine region. We also have a guide to 8 Wineries to Visit in the Douro Valley.
PORTUGAL ITINERARY: If you have 10 days in Portugal, here are 5 different ways to plan your trip.
ALGARVE, PORTUGAL: Here are 10 gorgeous beaches to visit in the Algarve. Learn how to hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, one of the most beautiful walks in Europe. Don’t miss our guides to Ponta da Piedade and Algar Seco, find out where to stay in our Algarve Hotel Guide, get a list of the best restaurants in Albufeira, and learn why October is the perfect time to visit the Algarve.
We have TONS more information about Portugal in our Portugal Travel Guide, including Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, the Algarve, and the Douro Valley.
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