5 Top things to do in Porto

5 Top things to do in Porto

Guest travel blogger Marco from Travel Boo has visited Porto several times, and on each trip back he was absolutely amazed at just how much there is to see, do and discover in this beautiful city, set in the north of Portugal.

It is no wonder that Porto is becoming a firm favourite and must-see destination when planning a trip to Portugal. From the friendly and hospitable people, gorgeous architecture, the delicious food and wine through to the incredible sights and places to discover both in and outside of Porto, you’ll never get bored here!

As such, he has decided to highlight my favourite Top 5 things to do in Porto that you should give a try.

things to do in porto

Try out a Port Wine tasting

First and foremost, Porto and the nearby region has become synonymous with wine. More specifically, Port Wine (or Vinho do Porto in Portuguese).

This famous Portuguese fortified wine is made exclusively in this region and comes in a variety of different types and flavours. My personal favourite being the ‘Tawny’. Thankfully you don’t need to travel outside the city to get to enjoy Port Wine. Across the river from Porto’s Ribeira waterfront, in the area known as Vila Nova de Gaia, you will find an array of Port Houses where you can indulge in some Port Wine tasting experiences.

You may be surprised to see that many of these Port Houses have very typical English names (Taylor, Osborne, Graham to name but a few). This is because English merchants during the 1700’s developed a distinct liking for Port Wine. It became so popular in England that most of the Port houses were bought up by English, who ultimately developed Port Wine into what it is today.

port wine from porto

Eat a Francesinha

Whenever visiting Porto and speaking to locals, the first thing they’ll likely ask you, is whether you’ve tried the Francesinha. Pretty much the signature local dish of Porto.

This excessive, over the top sandwich, loaded with carbs, meats and an indulgent sauce is honestly not to everyone’s taste. But as off putting as it may sound, it’s surprisingly delicious and definitely worth a try. The Francesinha is an adaptation of the French ‘croque monsieur’ sandwich and contains layers of cured hams and meats sandwiched between bread, then topped off with an egg and melted cheese and finally, a tomato and beer sauce for good measure. Not too forget the good helping of fries on the side.

Today, the Francesinha is a matter of pride for Porto and there’s lots of debate around who makes the absolute best Francesinha the city has to offer. Some of the leading restaurants or cafes being O Afonso, Café Santiago or O Golfinho to name just a few.

Either way, I think you should definitely give it a go.

Enjoy a Douro river cruise

If you want to experience Porto from a completely different perspective, then I would suggest you consider taking a Douro river cruise.

The Douro river runs along Porto’s riverfront area and snakes all the way inland towards the wine producing Douro Valley region. Whether you want to see Porto’s ‘Six Bridges’ on an hour-long cruise or perhaps take a full day cruise down the Douro with lunch in the scenic and beautiful Douro Valley, there’s an array of different options to choose from.

There’s no better vantage point from which to enjoy the city as well as the stunning scenery and rolling hills of the Douro Valley.

river cruise in porto

Marvel at the incredible architecture and traditional Portuguese tile-work

I always felt that Porto exuded a real old-worldly charm. Perhaps this is due to the incredible architecture and traditional tile-work. But, whatever the reason, Porto will no doubt disappoint those with a penchant for interior and architectural delights.

Visit the Sao Bento train station with its blue and white tiled entrance, it’s a real crowd pleaser and one of Porto’s most photographed sights. Or, discover the numerous churches, most of which are also cladded in traditional Portuguese tile-works (Azulejos). These include the Igreja dos Carmelitas, Igreja dos Congregados, the Capela das Almas, Sé do Porto and of course not to forget the iconic Torre dos Clerigos.

If you’re an avid Harry Potter fan, then a visit to the Livraria Lello bookstore is a must. This store is probably one of Porto’s most Instagram worthy spots. With its spiral staircase and intricate wooden detail. This store was where JK Rowling spent time writing when she lived in Porto. The wooden staircase is also said to be her inspiration for the spiral staircase of Hogwarts.

Speaking of exquisite interiors, another gem is the old Porto stock exchange palace, the Palacio da Bolsa. Offering daily guided tours, you’ll get to explore the interiors of this palace, set in the centre of the city. The tour ends off with the real showstopper, the Arabian room that is today still used to host formal state dinners and events. The Arabic inspired detail and sheer beauty of this room will leave you speechless, one of my top highlights of Porto.

tiles in porto

Take a day trip from Porto

Last but not least on my list of 5 Top things to do in Porto, is to take a day trip from Porto, in order to explore some of the surrounding towns & villages.

Portugal is a relatively small country and with a good rail and road network, getting around is fairly easy. From Porto there are a number of good day trip options that you can get to within an hour.

A great option, especially if you’re spending a couple of days visiting Porto. Most notable of these day trip destinations include Aveiro, known as the “Venice of Portugal”, Guimaraes which is considered the birthplace of Portugal as well as Braga, Portugal’s very own cathedral city.

When we visited both Aveiro and Guimaraes from Porto, we found travel a breeze. With frequent daily departures from Sao Bento train station in central Porto, and at fairly reasonable prices too, it was the perfect way to spend a day out exploring more of Portugal than we had bargained on.

Author Bio : Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 2 years ago. On a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage, Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for travelling through and exploring both Portugal and Spain, through his blog Travel-Boo. Follow him on Twitter Facebook and Pinterest  

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