Last update: October, 2019.

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10 places to visit in Porto

Tourist Itinerary in Porto: where to go and what to see in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days.

The seafront in Porto, Portugal

Porto (Oporto) is the second largest town in Portugal and is located on the right bank of the river Douro. For a long time Porto was in a terrible state of degradation, but planned restructuring took place over time which transformed the city. Anyone who visited Porto before the restoration may perhaps prefer the old part of the city, unique in its kind and some distance from the usual tourist destinations: you would see dirt and neglect everywhere.

One of the most picturesque quarters of the city is Ribeira. Two aspects of the city are found here: the charming, multicolored places where tourists take pictures at every step, and meanwhile corners in a state of abandonment.

So, what can you do in Porto? We suggest that you visit the entire city. Porto is a comfortable, economical and totally safe city. You can visit the main places of interest in two days, which makes Porto an ideal place to visit on a weekend. At the bottom of the page you will find the map of the city.

We propose 10 places to visit during a holiday or a weekend in Porto.

Looking for accommodation in Porto? Use the convenient search system of booking.com. To save money, compare the prices of more than 50 sites on hotelscombined.com: you will find the lowest price for the room you select.

The District of Ribeira in Porto

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10-places.com suggests that you start your visit to Porto from the district of Ribeira, along the river Douro. This district attracts the attention of tourists for its unusual architecture and it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Ribeira district in Porto, Portugal
Ribeira district in Porto

The houses in this neighborhood are very characteristic:

  • Small in size
  • Colorful facades
  • Balconies decorated with flowers
  • Positioned side by side

You will see the inhabitants strolling leisurely through the narrow alleys or taking a siesta in the shade of the trees. All this creates a unique urban landscape.

You will also see ancient, dilapidated houses on the coast. A third of the buildings here have literally been abandoned so there are very few people here, especially in the evening.

In the lower part of Ribeira is the iron Dom Luis I bridge (more information at point 3) that connects Porto to the nearby city of Vila Nova de Gaia. Around the bridge and along the banks of the Douro you will see numerous boats, containers and barrels that over the course of many centuries were used for the transport of Port wine from the production cellars to the warehouses. Today the bridge is mostly a destination for tourists as they walk along the banks of the river.

The Church of San Francesco in Porto

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On the outside the Church of San Francesco looks like a normal church, but the interiors of this wonderful religious building of Portugal makes it one of the most richly decorated places of worship in Europe. The Church is in the Baroque and Gothic styles and its construction lasted almost 200 years (1233-1400).

Church of Saint Francis in Porto, Portugal
Church of Saint Francis in Porto

A visit to the Church of San Francesco is a great opportunity to admire an imposing construction built in Gothic style with interior decoration in the Baroque style. All the altars, arches and columns are in wood covered with gold. The realization of the interior with the gilt decorations required about 370 kg of gold.

Of all the churches built in a similar style, the Church of San Francesco is considered the most beautiful and luxurious. Once your eyes have become accustomed to the glittering golden gleam, illuminated by the rays of light that filter from the windows, you can admire the reproductions of floral motifs, plants and animals.

There are no ceremonies held in this church these days; it is used only for concerts of classical music. A museum has been opened inside which it is possible to visit.

Opening times: 9 am – 5.30 pm (in winter); 9 am – 7 pm (in spring and autumn); 9 am – 8 pm (in summer).

How much does it cost? Entry to the church is free; entry to the catacombs and museum €3.50 / $4.

The Dom Luis I Bridge in Porto

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The students of Gustave Eiffel, father of the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in the USA, have diffused his studies in many parts of the world. The Dom Luis I bridge is in fact a work by one Eiffel’s pupils, Théophile Seyrig.

Dom Luís I Bridge, Portugal
Dom Luís I Bridge

Seyrig worked autonomously on the design of the bridge and, considering the result, he was one of Eiffel’s best students. The decorative touches of the bridge are very impressive, particularly at night or at sunset.

The Dom Luis I Bridge was built in 1881, but was only inaugurated in 1886. The bridge is built on two levels: the Metro runs on the upper level, with a high speed train that connects the two cities. The lower level is for buses, trams and pedestrians.

Today the Dom Luis I iron bridge is the symbol of the city. It weighs over 3000 tons and is 45 meters / 148 ft. high. One of the obligatory stops for a sightseeing trip to Porto is definitely the walk over the bridge.

Porto’s Sé Cathedral

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The Porto Cathedral is one of the most ancient monuments of Porto. It is built in the Romanesque style: at the center is a large window with domed twin towers on each side of it.

Porto Cathedral, Portugal
Porto Cathedral

The start of construction dates back to 1200. In the first 100 years it has undergone many changes. The interior of the cathedral is quite simple, enhanced by three naves and an altar in Baroque style. The altar is the most precious part of the whole building. About 800 kg of silver were used during its construction. In 1809 there was a risk of losing the altar, but it was saved from the French’s plunder with the aid of a coat of stucco, which hid the altar. Another important element of the church is the Cloister in Gothic style, typical of the XIV century.

A magnificent view over the district of Ribeira and the river Douro can be seen from the Cathedral. A column in the Manueline style stands at the center of the square which was used for a long time for fairs and also for the torture of criminals.

Where is it? Rua Terreiro da Sé.

How to get there: Walk from Ribeira. From the São Bento Metro stop walk up the hill for 400 meters / 1300 ft.

Opening times: every day from 9 am to 7 pm. Holidays: Easter and Christmas.

How much does it cost? The Cathedral is free; the convent costs €3 / $3.50.

Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) in Porto

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According to many, the “Lello” is one of the most impressive book shops in the world. It attracts tourists not only for books, but also for its unusual atmosphere and its architecture.

Bookstore Lello in Porto, Portugal
Bookstore Lello in Porto

The Lello is considered a real “cathedral of books”. It was built by the Portuguese engineer and politician Francisco Xavier Esteves and was inaugurated in 1906.

The magic atmosphere, the fusion of Gothic and modern, the diversity of the interior, are all elements of the Lello book shop. It even has its own “tram line” along which books are distributed to the various sections with the aid of a trolley. The winding central staircase with its unusual shape, leads to the upper floors where there is also is a bar where you can sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the environment. Equally as interesting is the exterior facade, in Gothic style. It is not permitted to take pictures inside the store, but it is always possible to shoot a few without being noticed.

Where is it? Rua das Carmelitas 144, upper Ribeira.

How to get there: Metro Station “Aliados”.

Opening times: every day from 10 am to 7.30 pm.

São Bento Central Station in Porto

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Very often tourists travel to the central railway station of Porto just to admire the architecture. This is one of the places most visited by tourists in the whole of Porto.

Central Sao Bento railway station in Porto, Portugal
Central Sao Bento railway station in Porto

The simple facade of the São Bento (Saint Benedict) railway station hides its soul: in fact, all its beauty is to be found inside the building. The interiors of the station are decorated by 20,000 azulejo tiles in white and blue. They were applied in 1900 on a project by the famous Portuguese decorator Jorge Colaco. The white and blue mosaic covers an area of 551 square meters.

The first train arrived at the station in 1896, but the official inauguration was celebrated only in 1916. As you walk to the station you will be able to admire the colored tiles which reproduce the history of the development of transport in chronological order, scenes from the lives of ordinary people and the most important historical events in this country. Among the tales shown on the large panels is the official arrival in Porto of Don John (Juao) I with his fiancée (Philippa of Lancaster).

Where is it? Almeida Garrett Square.

How to get there: on foot to square at the end of the Avenida dos Aliados square or by metro to the São Bento station.

The Bolhão market in Porto

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The Mercado do Bolhão is housed in one of the most famous and significant buildings in Porto. It was built in the neoclassical style on a design by the architect Antonio Correia.

City Market Bolhao Porto, Portugal
City Market Bolhao Porto

This building is special because of the unusual structure on two levels with an internal courtyard and a number of stores surrounding it. The market was inaugurated in 1850, but the building as it appears today was inaugurated only in 1914.

To know how the residents live, what they eat and what they do, go to the market of Bolhão. Flowers, fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, cured meats and cheeses: there is everything here to prepare a quick lunch.

Where is it? At the intersection Sá da Bandeira.

How to get there: Metro Station “Bolhão”.

Hours: Monday to Friday 7 am – 5 pm, Saturday 7 am -1 pm, closed on Sunday.

Palacio da Bolsa (The Stock Exchange Palace) in Porto

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If you look at the building from the outside, the Stock Exchange Palace does not attract any more attention than numerous other palaces in Porto. As a result, many tourists do not go inside and miss out on the chance to enjoy the valuable interiors of the building.

The Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) in Porto, Portugal
The Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) in Porto

The stock exchange was built in 1842 at the behest of the local traders. It was meant to show off Portugal’s commercial power and impress the European economic leaders. The representatives of foreign states met in this majestic palace.

The decoration of the building involved many sculptors, painters, artists and craftsmen who worked on the rooms across the century. This resulted in the creation of a complex of different styles which harmoniously melded together. A staircase, adorned with busts by famous sculptors connects to the upper floors.

Every room of the Bolsa has its own name and its own architectural characteristics. The Nations’ Courtyard, built on the site of a former monastery, is outstanding for its rare beauty. Important works of art are preserved in the Tribunal Room, the Assembly Room and the Golden Room. The highlight of all the rooms and the most colorful is the Arab Room decorated in an unusual Moorish Revival style and used for meetings with Heads of State and other important people.

Where is it? Rua Ferreira Borges.

How to get there: it is in the lower part of the Ribeira.

Opening times: summer (from April to October) 9 am – 6.30 pm; winter (November to March) 9 am - 12.30 pm and 2 pm – 5.30 pm.

Closing days: 25 December and 1 January.

How much does it cost? €9 / $10.

What to eat in Porto?

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The indigenous inhabitants of Porto are called “tripeiros” (from the word tripe) because the best pieces of meat were given to sailors, leaving only meagre rations of tripe for the inhabitants of Porto.

Local food: bacalhau in Porto, Portugal
Local food: bacalhau in Porto

Tripe soup is still the main dish of the city. Among the most famous dishes of Porto we can mention the following:

  • Bacalhau (salt dried baccalà / stockfish)
  • Toast
  • Chicken with “piri piri” spicy sauce
  • Feijoada (beans, various types of meat, farofa (toasted manioc flour)

Spices (vanilla, cinnamon) are often used in desserts and cakes. The best-known dessert is the Pastel de Belém (pastries filled with cream) and its analogous Pastel de nata.

You should certainly sample and buy the wines of Porto (Port wine / portwein), which is bottled in the nearby town of Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the river.

Where to sleep in Porto?

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It is not difficult to find somewhere to stay in Porto. There is a wide choice of hotels, mini-hotels and rooms on offer which means you are able to choose the best for services and price.

The more expensive hotels are located in the historical center of the city, Ribeira. This is very much the heart of nightlife in Porto and the hotels in this district are very close to the most important monuments. The average price of a room in a 3-star hotel in this district is around 80 Euro per night.

In areas which are further away from the monuments you can even find rooms at 20 Euro per day. But don’t forget that you must take into account the time (which is never enough in just a weekend trip) necessary for moving around to the center. The busiest time is at the end of spring to the beginning of autumn, so we advise you to book a room well in advance.

Looking for accommodation in Porto? Use the convenient search system of booking.com. To save money, compare the prices of more than 50 sites on hotelscombined.com: you will find the lowest price for the room you select.

Text printed from 10-places.com website