Porto city guide: how to spend a perfect weekend break in Porto
Looking to spend a weekend in Porto? Good decision! Our 2-day Porto itinerary gives you the lowdown on where to eat, where to stay, and all the things you absolutely cannot miss seeing in this charming Portuguese city
We’d been in London for exactly two months before the dullness of winter set in.
We'd been warned it would be unpleasant, but for two Aussies who had spent the year chasing summer around the world, unpleasant was an understatement.
As wet gloom and grey began to rule the skies, we found ourselves yearning for some winter sun. After a quick Skyscanner search, we settled upon the cheapest warm European winter destination we could find: Porto, Portugal.
It turns out, Porto was the remedy we so desperately needed. It satisfied our Vitamin D cravings and bathed us in glorious sunshine for the entire duration of our stay. But it wasn't just the winter sun that made our time in the little town along the River Douro so wonderful. Nope, it was the food, the Port, the architecture, the history, and the most brilliant sunsets.
Porto is a wonderful little city, made for the curious traveller seeking a new European destination that isn't overrun with tourists.
If you’re after a European winter getaway with a healthy dose of vitamin D, look no further than Porto. Here’s our guide to spending a glorious winter weekend getaway in Porto.
Our Porto itinerary: How to spend a perfect weekend in Porto
5PM - GET YOUR BEARINGS
After settling at your accommodation, make your way up to the Miradouro da Vitória, a scenic lookout with postcard-perfect views of the river Douro and the jumble of terracotta rooftops that spill down to it. Surrounded by abandoned buildings, it can look a little sketchy at first glance but don't let the broken window panes of the building next door fool you, this is arguably one of the best spots to take in the sunset in Porto.
After you've watched the fading sun light up the city, wander down into the famous Praça da Ribeira neighbourhood on the shores of the river Douro. This is one of the oldest parts of town, with beautiful medieval buildings, twisting cobblestone laneways, and riverfront views. Stroll through the dimly lit backstreets and get your bearings in the city, before settling into a bar for a quick Port or two.
Location | Miradouro da Vitória, R. de São Bento da Vitória 11, 4050-018 Porto
9PM - DINNER AT ADEGA SAO NICOLAU
Ribeira is home to a vast selection of restaurants which, admittedly are very touristy. There are however, a few gems, including Adega São Nicolau, tucked down a charming little alleyway away from the masses. Whilst we might have had the good fortune of simply stumbling upon this homely, traditional restaurant ourselves, we were promptly informed that this is an eating house where the top Porto chefs go when they want good, honest Portuguese food.
We can see why.
Adega São Nicolau is undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in Porto. Eating here has the feel of relaxing in the house of a Portuguese family, with hearty good food and good natured service. and Try the Salted Cod or the octopus fillets with rice, both Portuguese specialties, and wash them down with a local white wine. Then, slowly make your way through the picturesque streets back to your accommodation.
Opening hours | 12pm-11pm Monday - Saturday (closed Sundays)
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Adega São Nicolau here.
9AM - BREAKFAST AT CONFEITARIA DO BOLHÃO
One of the greatest things about being in the home of the deliciously sweet and flaky Pasteis de Nata (portuguese tart) is that it's not just socially acceptable to devour sugary pastries for breakfast, it's actually expected. No place will help you get your pastry on better than the Confeitaria do Bolhão, a beautiful 120-year-old patisserie serving up Porto's best Portuguese tarts, arrufadas (sweetbread), croissants, and other tempting flakey sweet treats.
Do as the locals do and grab a coffee, pick your pastry, and settle into the seating area up the back to enjoy.
Opening hours | 6am - 8pm Monday to Friday, 7am - 7pm Saturdays, closed Sundays
Location | R. Formosa 339, 4000-049 Porto, Portugal
Reviews | Read Tripadvisor reviews of Confeitaria Do Bolhão here
10.30AM - EXPLORE THE MERCADO DO BOLHÃO
Immediately across the road lies Mercado de Bolhao, the former city market which still retains a thoroughly authentic feel. Still marked by the original 19th century wrought iron gates, this historic marketplace where farmers used to come and spruik their fresh produce is still bustling and lively on weekends. Stalls sell fresh fruit and vegetables, smoked meats and fresh fish, and delicious breads, cheeses, and local delicacies. It's the perfect place to explore and get a feel for the city and its people.
Opening hours | 7am - 5pm Monday to Friday, 7am - 1pm Saturday, closed Sundays
Location | R. Formosa 214, 4000 Porto, Portugal
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Mercado do Bolhão here
11:30AM - VISIT THE BOLSA PALACE AND MARVEL AT THE INTERIORS
The Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) was built between 1842 to 1910, and pays homage to the city's rich merchants of yesterday and today. Built on the ruins of the cloisters of the St Francis Church of Porto next door, the neoclassical building is where the Portuguese stock exchange once operated. Already beautiful from the outside, the building is absolutely stunning inside; the intricately designed glass-domed Pátio das Nações (Hall of Nations), the grand Escadaria Nobre (noble staircase), and the Salão Árabe (Arab room) to name a few.
If you're keen to explore all of the intricately designed rooms of the Palace, jump on one of the half-hour guided tours, which depart from the main entrance every 30 minutes.
Opening hours | 9am - 630pm every day
Cost | Guided tours cost €25 per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of the Bolsa Palace tour here
1:30PM - GRAB LUNCH AT RIBEIRA SQUARE
Grab yourself lunch (and some sneaky white Sangria) at one of the many cafes lining Praça Ribeira (Ribeira Square). This is probably one of the only times we'll ever recommend an overly tourist area to you, but the general vibe around this square are too good to pass up in this case!
Meat eaters, try a Francesinha, a weird cross between a toasted sandwich and a gluttonous meat hamburger, doused in a hot tomato based sauce and cheese, and wash it all down with white wine sangria. And actually, while you're at it - why stop at one sangria? Grab another and enjoy the midday sun.
Location | Praça de Ribeira Porto
3PM - TAKE A SIGHTSEEING CRUISE DOWN THE DOURO RIVER
A trip to Porto just wouldn’t be complete without viewing the city from River-height (plus you'll need some time to sit down and digest your massive lunch anyway!). Jump aboard this six-bridge Porto city sightseeing boat tour, and learn about the importance of the river to the city while passing many of its famous bridges and landmarks. On this traditional rabelo boat, you'll pass under the famous Gustav Eiffel-designed Dom Luis I Bridge, admire the beautiful homes of the riviera from the water, and (hopefully!) soak up some sun.
The Ribeira district also looks wonderful from the water, so be sure to snap up a seat on the edge of the boat.
Hours | April - October: Every 30 minutes, 10:30 am - 18:30pm. November - March: Every 60 minutes, 10:30 am - 16:30 pm
Location | Cruises depart from Ribeira Quay
Cost | £13 per adult passenger
Bookings | Book your six-bridge Porto City Sightseeing boat cruise through GetYourGuide now
Reviews | Check out reviews of the 6-bridge Porto sightseeing cruise here
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5PM - WATCH THE SUNSET FROM THE DOM LUIS I BRIDGE
Sunsets in Porto are absolutely magical, so make your way up to the famous Dom Luis I Bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel, and watch the magnificent spectacle over the Ribeira District. The bridge, ranked #1 for things to do in Porto on Tripadvisor, becomes the heart and soul of the city in the late afternoon, as locals and tourists alike come out to walk and cycle along the bridge, or simply take in the views.
Location | Dom Luis I Bridge
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of the Dom Luis I Bridge here
7PM - DINNER AT BACALHAU
What's a weekend away without splurging on another food coma?! Head back over to the Ribeira side of the river to Bacalhau, a small restaurant nestled in a quiet walkway on the river, and enjoy some deliciously simple traditional Portuguese tapas.
Be sure to book ahead though - Bacalhau can be a very popular choice for a good feed in Porto!
Opening hours | 11:00am - 23:00pm Sunday to Thursday, 11:00am - midnight Friday and Saturday.
Cost | ££ - £££
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Bacalhau here
9PM - ENJOY A POST-DINNER PORT
After yet another delicious meal, it's time to enjoy some of the city's best, and more popular, export: Port wine.
The Douro Valley has a long history of Port production dating back to the 17th century, and gave the city of Porto its name. Today, the region is protected as the only true Port wine-producer in the world. Unsurprisingly, that means that the sweet red fortified wine you might have previously associated with the after-dinner tipple of your grandparents is a very proud favourite on everyone's wine lists here. Settle in by the fire at one of the many cosy wine bars around the city and discover this delicious wine a little better.
Normally we're all about variety being the spice of life and all that, but in this case the breakfast treats at Confeitaria Do Bolhão are just too good to pass up. Plus, holidays are all about indulging yourself, right? Go forth and pasteis de nata again, friends.
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10:30AM - VISIT LIVRARIA LELLO, PORTO'S MOST BEAUTIFUL LIBRARY
It's said to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world, and having wandered through it ourselves, we can tell you that Livraria Lello definitely lives up to its reputation. Designed by Francisco Xavier Esteves in a Neo-Gothic style, the bookstore was officially inaugurated by the Lello brothers in 1906. With it's intricately carved gothic wood-panelling, grand curving staircase, floor to ceiling bookshelves, and stained glass skylight, it's definitely been wowing visitors ever since.
The splendour of Livraria Lello also has another (massive) claim to fame too - rumour has it that the bookstore (along with some key spots in Scotland) inspired the magic of JK Rowling's Hogwarts, after the author spent 2 years living in Porto teaching English. It definitely feels as though you might bump into Harry or Ron amongst these shelves!
Opening hours | 10:00am - 19:30 Monday to Friday, 10:00am - 19:00pm Saturday and Sunday
Location | R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto
Cost | Due to Livraria Lello's popularity, there's now a €4 entry voucher (which goes towards any book purchase).
It does get busy so book in advance to avoid waiting in a mammoth queue!
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Livraria Lello here
12:00PM - EXPLORE PORTO BY TRAM
While many people associate trams with Lisbon, it's actually in Porto that the first Portuguese tram network was built in 1895. The trams here are amongst the oldest electric transport systems in Europe, and you can still spot the quaint little yellow tram cars trundling along the 3 remaining routes today. Sadly, while they were a popular method of transport for locals for a long time, in the 1960s their popularity dropped away as cars and buses became a faster and more convenient way to navigate the city.
For travellers however, the trams remain a scenic and easy way to explore the city. The #1 tram is probably the most popular tourist route, travelling from the famous, and stunning, Igreja de São Francisco (Church of St Francis) about 20 minutes along the Ribeira to the garden of Passeio Alegre at the mouth of the Douro river in Foz.
We opted for a lesser-known route, and jumped on board the circular #22 tram that takes in the Clérigos area (and the iconic Clérigos tower - buy your tickets for the bell tower here), the bustling Avenida dos Aliados (the Avenue of the Allies), past the beautiful São Bento train station and the vibrant Batalha area with it's cafes, museums, shops, and houses. We definitely recommend this route if you're keen to see a lot of 'true' Porto on a tight schedule!
Opening hours | Line 1: every 20 minutes between 9:00am - 19:30pm each day.
Line 18: every 30 minutes between 8:00am - 8:00pm each day.
Line 22: every 30 minutes between 9:00am - 8:00pm each day.
Location | Check the full route details for the Porto trams here
Cost | You can purchase a single ticket for any tram route for €3. Alternatively, it's €10 for a 2-day tram pass
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of the Porto tram here
13:30PM - VISIT THE SAO BENTO RAILWAY STATION
Jump off your #22 tram right outside the Sao Bento railway station, and make your way inside to the most beautiful station you'll probably ever lay eyes on.
The Sao Bento station is far more than merely a transport hub for Porto's residents; on the walls of the grand entrance, 20,000 azulejo (traditional painted tiles) depict Porto's history. The story of its royalty, various battles, and transportation play out across the beautifully painted blue and white tiles, and when the afternoon sun hits in just the right place, soft golden light bathes the room in sheer magic. Basically, if you go to Porto and you miss Sao Bento, you've done it all wrong.
Location | Praça Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto
Cost | Free to access the station entrance.
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Sao Bento railway station here
14:30PM LUNCH IN THE SUN ON THE DOURO RIVER
All this exploring is sure to have worked up an appetite by now, so grab a quick bite and a drink at one of the cafes and restaurants along the Douro - all while soaking up that glorious midday sun on your skin.
15:30PM - PORT WINE TASTING OR PORTO CRUZ SPACE VISIT
After sampling some of Porto's finest wine last night, it's time to cross the Dom Luis I Bridge to the other side of the city for a proper wine tasting at one of the many prestigious cellars along the river.
If you can't decide which to visit, book this 3-hour Porto wine tour where you'll learn the history of some of the oldest Port Houses in the country, and enjoy tastings at three renowned port houses. What more could you want on a Sunday?!
Cost | £45 per person
Book | Book your 3-hour port wine cellar tour with GetYourGuide now
The innovative Porto Cruz Space is also on this side of the river, a 5-story building celebrating Porto's unique wine culture and history. It's a must-do for anyone with an interest in Port wine, or learning more about Porto's traditional culture too. Moving through the different floors, there are 3D wine-making games, interactive exhibits on the Douro Valley, wine tastings with a Sommelier, and even a Terrace bar with stellar 360* views of the city on the top floor!
Opening hours | 10:00am - 11:30pm Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00am - 7:00pm Sunday, CLOSED Monday.
The Terrace Lounge is open until 1:30am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Cost | Tasting of 3 wines - €7.50
17:30PM - WATCH ONE LAST SUNSET FROM ESPLANADA DO TELEFÉRICO
Just a short walk (or stumble, depending on how you're feeling after your wine tasting!) from the Porto Cruz Space is the Esplanada do Teleférico - a terrace bar above the Porto cable car with epic views over the city. To the right of the all-glass bar is a concrete lookout that's perfect for watching the sunset bathe the Ribeira district, Dom Luis I bridge, and Douro in beautiful golden tones. Sit back and watch as Porto begins to light up!
All good things must come to an end, and sadly its time to head to wave goodbye to the deliciousness of Porto and head for the airport. But hopefully with many plans to visit this northern Portuguese delight!
how to get to porto
If you're coming from Europe, getting to Porto cheaply and easily is a dream. Check out SkyScanner now for the best deals!
Where to stay in porto
There are plenty of accommodation options in Porto to suit all budgets and needs - we recommend searching HotelsCombined to find the perfect place to lay your head.
We stayed in this delightful Airbnb in the Bolhão area (photo below!), and highly recommend it to anyone looking for some beautiful, central Porto accommodation. Remember to use our booking code for up to £28 off your trip!
how to get around porto
Porto is an extremely easy city to navigate on foot, and a lot of its magic is found in exploring the quiet corners and local neighbourhoods.
That said, the distances between tourist spots can be large, so it's worth checking out the 'Porto Card' which gives you access to the public transport system, over 170 discounts and benefits and free access to 11 museums (and a free visit to a port wine cellar!) for between 1-4 days. Book your Porto card on GetYourGuide from £11 now