16 x What to do in Porto and surroundings

For me, Porto is one of the nicest cities in Portugal. Colorful houses, lots of atmosphere, beautiful azulejos and a historic center where you fall in love with. I tell you all about the most impressive sights of Porto in this article.

 

what to do in porto

1. Marvel at the Azulejos on the churches

There are many, many, beautiful churches in Porto. At many of these Divine places, it’s not the interior that will need all of your attention, but the outside!

The Capela das Almas is in my opinion the most beautiful, but the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, the Igreja dos Carmelitas and the Igreja de San Nicolau are also extraordinary beautiful. The exterior is inlaid with blue azulejos at each of these churches. You can sure say that these are the national pride of Portugal. These hand-painted tiles (usually white and blue) often reflect a particular story, or simply serve for decorative purposes. One thing is certain: these are some of the most beautiful churches that I’ve ever seen!

capela das almas porto things to do

The Capela das Almas.

igreja de santo ildefonso azulejos what to do porto

The Igreja de Santo Ildefonso.

Igreja dos Carmelitas church porto things to see

The Igreja dos Carmelitas.

2. Livraria Lello

This bookstore was once proclaimed the most beautiful bookstore in the world. This in combination with J.K. Rowling, who used to get inspiration here for her ‘Harry Potter’ books in the past, creates an unprecedented influx of tourists.
The beautiful carvings, the fairytale staircase and the towering bookcases make this store very impressive to see, but whether it really is the most beautiful bookstore in the world… I doubt that.

This is a really nice place to visit, but there are often so many visitors that you can’t really enjoy the magical atmosphere anymore… Are you in Porto, and you don’t seem to spot too many tourists? Then head here right away!

livraria lello points of interest porto

Unfortunately, this attraction is a bit overcrowded with tourists…

3. People watching in the Zona Ribeirinha

One of the nicest spots in Porto is the Zona Ribeirinha. During the day this area is always full of people, but in the evening the fun only really starts. Street musicians (and other artists) come to the promenade and make it bustle with life. The colorful facades, the proximity of the water, the cozy atmosphere and the beautiful view made me come back here every night.

zona ribeirinha porto

The Zona Ribeirinha. The nicest place in Porto.

4. Sunset from the Dom Luis I bridge

During the day or in the evening, the view from the Dom Luis I bridge over Porto is absolutely phenomenal.
If you wish to climb up until here, you’ll need to work those legs! But all in all the stairs are very manageable, and if you really don’t look forward to this little hike, you can just take the cable car (€2.50).
Go see the sunset above Porto at least once from this Bridge (or along the Gaia side of the Bridge). It can’t get more romantic or more beautiful than this!

dom luis I bridge porto

The view from the Dom Louis I bridge of Porto. Beautiful during the day, but even more beautiful when the sun goes down!

5. Sao Bento train station

If you can’t get enough of the beautiful azulejos, then you should definitely go and visit the Sao Bento train station. Here it is the inside that was inlaid with these ceramic tiles. If you look closely, you can see the history of Portugal drawn on these walls; the royal families, the wars and of course the means of transport through the ages. After watching the azulejos, you might want to plan one of the day trips I mention a bit further!

sao bento train station porto

This train station was once even considered the most beautiful station in the world!

6. Miradouro da Vitória

There are many beautiful views above the second largest city in Portugal, but one that you shouldn’t miss is the Miradouro da Vitória. At this (literally and figuratively) highlight of Porto you get an unrestrained view of the terracotta roofs of Porto, the Douro River and the cozy Gaia. Don’t be alarmed by the sign with ‘Private domain’ on it. The owner is happy to share his beautiful view (for free!) with both tourists and locals!

miradouro da vitoria porto what to do

Miradouro da Vitória. Quite a lovely view over this gorgeous city.

7. Igreja de Sao Francisco

You’ll see plenty of churches, cathedrals and chapels in Porto. But the most impressive of all must be the Igreja de Sao Francisco. I even dare to say that this is one of the most beautiful churches that I have ever seen in my entire life!

With your ticket you can visit both the cathedral and some adjacent spaces. I therefore recommend you to discover both! The other rooms are filled with spiritual and divine gadgets, but I especially liked the basement (a creepy collection of tombs) and the Sala de Sessões (a room overloaded with luxury! Beautiful chairs, a grand chandelier and lots of gold!). Actually, I would have paid the admission price for this alone. But if you then set foot within the actual church… Wow! What an amazing view!

Almost the entire front and sides are taken over by beautiful wooden carvings as high and as far as the church. These images are very detailed and you don’t really know where to look first. The wooden artworks are also coated with hundreds of kilos of gold (between 250 and 400 kg / 551 to 882 Ibs to be exact). It really is incredible how beautiful this church is!

what to do in porto igreja de sao francisco

This enormously detailed handwork was one of the most spectacular sights of Porto for me.

igreja de sao francisco porto things to see

These photos don’t do much honor to the beauty of this place, if I’m honest…

sao francisco church porto

Don’t forget to visit the other places during your visit to the Sao Francisco church! (this is the Sala de Sessões)

8. Se Cathedral (and especially its monastery)

If you want to see all the spiritual spots of Porto, you’ll need a lot of time!
However, I really do recommend a visit to the Se Cathedral. I don’t find the interior of this cathedral very special, but the monastery right next to it is definitely worth a bit of your time! For €3 you can enter the beautiful courtyard. There you can find a colorful collection of azulejos and if you climb a little higher, you’ll also see an equally impressive assemblage of clothing that priests (used to) wear. One floor higher you’ll find a couple of opulent rooms and if you walk out on the terrace from there, you can quietly enjoy the view of the azulejos below and at the same time enjoy the radiant sun (if it shines, of course).

se cathedral porto azulejos

The monastery of the Se Cathedral in Porto has a beautiful courtyard with azulejos.

se cathedral porto things to do

And the rooms that you can visit from here are also quite… interesting!

9. Clerigos tower and the São Pedro dos Clérigos church

You’ll probably think that I’m a very pious guy (if only that were true!), but I really do want to tell you more about another church that is one of the best things to see in Porto. In fact, this is a two-in-one sight in Porto, because the Clerigos tower and church are connected. The inside of the church is a bit different, but certainly beautiful. In my opinion, it really is the tower that is worth your time (and money) to visit. For €5 you have to climb a few dozen steps, but once you’re up there you are rewarded with an exceptionally beautiful (360°!) view of Porto.

Clerigos tower Porto

A beautiful statue with behind it the Clerigos tower of Porto.

sao pedro dos clerigos church porto

The interior of the São Pedro dos Clérigos church, just behind the Clerigos tower.

10. Cemitério de Agramonte

It might be a bit strange to visit a cemetery during your city trip to Porto, but this place is really a must do. The Cemitério de Agramonte looks like an open-air art exhibition! Here, you’ll find a multitude of beautiful burial chapels where neither effort nor expense has been spared. The tranquility here is a very welcome change from the busy Porto. On a sunny day it is great to just sit here and relax for a bit. This might sound a bit strange… But try so for yourself, and I’m sure you’ll love it too!

cemiterio de agramonte porto things to do

The Cemitério de Agramonte. Beautiful artwork!

11. Casa da Musica

You wouldn’t expect it in a city full of historic buildings, but Porto also has modern architecture! A wonderful example of this is the Casa da Musica. A kind of music theater that also serves as the local art academy. The building is very impressive from the outside, but a guided tour along the inside is also among the options!

casa da musica porto

If you like modern architecture, you’ll need to come here.

12. Drink Porto in one of Gaia’s big port houses

From the Zona Ribeirinha you have certainly already seen the big port houses (Kopke, Sandeman, …). These are located in Gaia, one of the nicest districts of Porto. It’s very nice to eat out here and from this location you see the sun set over the colorful houses of Porto. But it will be even more fun if you also drink a glass of porto with that meal.

If you prefer a guided tour through one of the wine cellars of these large port houses, you can do so too. For about €10 you can visit the cellars and you are of course also offered some glasses of porto. For €20 you can drink porto while enjoying a beautiful Fado.

port houses gaia try porto

One of the most famous port houses in Gaia: Sandeman.

13. Stuff yourself with Pasteis de Belém

OK, this Portuguese delicacy is actually from Lisbon, but… It tastes equally yummy here!

This ultimate dessert consists of a crispy puff pastry that holds a kind of creme brullée. The combination of these two? Delicious! I liked the (buttery) crust of ‘Fábricada Nata’ in Porto. But there are undoubtedly still many other places where you can try this indulgence.

pasteis de belem porto

You have to try this!

14. Enjoy the view from the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

There are plenty of things to do in Porto, but sometimes you just want to take a break. The perfect place to relax your leg muscles -believe me, the steep streets of Porto are tiring- is the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. This large green city park has something for everyone. A promenade with benches where you can watch people, a fun playground for children, beautiful pieces of shady nature to escape the bright sun and beautiful views over the city. In the spring and summer, there is always something to do here. A festival, a food truck festival or a cozy gathering. Escape the busy Porto and relax in this green environment.

porto jardins do palacio de cristal

Escape from all tourists and get a beautiful view of Porto in this green gem.

Great day trips from Porto

If your name is Speedy Gonzalez, you can see all the points of interest in Porto in one day. In two days you should definitely manage to see all of them, and in three you can even visit the complete city without missing out on anything.

Would you like to enjoy the nice atmosphere in Porto for a bit longer? Then perhaps you should think of also arranging a day trip. From Porto there are two excursions that I recommend.

15. From Porto to the Douro Valley

The highlight of my trip through the Portuguese mainland was the Douro valley.
From porto, it takes you about one and a half hour to get to this lush paradise for nature, wine and culture lovers.
Rolling, green landscapes are ruthlessly split in two by the fast flowing Douro River. There are thousands of rows of grape trees hanging onto the valley slopes. And believe me; this alone is already a beautiful sight! Not only the views are amazing here, by the way. The port made of these grapes is absolutely delicious as well.

Visit one of the many Quintas (port houses), walk through the domain and enjoy a small selection of their produced port. And don’t skip on the beautiful landscapes either! If you want, you can also spend an hour on a traditional boat on the Douro River.

I rented a car for one day for barely €10 (but keep in mind that you also need to pay for toll roads, petrol and entrance tickets for the port houses), but I would’ve really liked to have stayed a few days longer. If you would like to read more about my day trip to the Douro Valley, then also read this article.

Don’t you want to miss out on any of the views when heading to the Douro valley? Then you should book a guided day trip from Porto. On average, these tours cost €80 pp.

Do you only have very little time? Then arrange a guided tour in one of the wine cellars in Porto (the city). Such a tour starts at only €10 and you usually get three glasses of delicious port and a lot of info about this delicious wine as well.

douro valley day excursion porto

One of the most beautiful landscapes that I saw in Portugal!

16. From Porto to Aveiro and Costa Nova

Aveiro is often also recommended as a day trip from Porto. The Portuguese Venice is known for its many (huge!) colorful boats that navigate through the narrow canals. The center is charming, but very small. You can actually completely visit it in one or two hours. And since it takes a bit longer than an hour to come here from Porto, I’m not sure if I would recommend to only visit Aveiro during your day trip.

That is why I recommend combining this excursion with a visit to Costa Nova. From Aveiro, there’s a bus leaving to Costa Nova almost every hour. This is one of the nicest seaside resorts in Portugal.
The long promenade is brightened up with beautiful striped beach houses that are really worth seeing. Have you taken enough pictures of these dreamy huts? Then don’t forget to have some beach time as well. It’s incredibly beautiful here. When I was there, it was very quiet and that made this sandy beach even more fantastic. Take an extra sweater, because the winds are fierce here.

Would you like to book a tour to Aveiro / Costa Nova? You can do so for €48 per person.

aveiro day excursion porto

Aveiro is not that big, but it still is very charming! Combine your day trip with a visit to Costa Nova and you’ll be happy all day long.

costa nova day excursion porto

Some of the colored houses of Costa Nova.

Excursions from Porto

There is of course much more to do in Porto than just these sights. Are you curious about other attractions or tours? Take a look at websites such as GetYourGuide, Ticketbar or Viator.

Below you can find some of these tours and tickets:

 

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In this article you'll find a few affiliate links. When you book something with these travel organizations, I get a small commission. You don't pay anything extra for that. You can thus see it as a way to support this blog if you found the information helpful. I use all of these travel organizations myself, and I will only recommend the ones that I really like.
 

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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