A medieval coastal city that rises up from the banks of the River Douro, Porto is bursting with fascinating things to see and do. From ancient squares that date back centuries and magnificent historical palaces once home to royalty to modern art galleries brimming with masterpieces and an epic food and wine scene that will leave you swooning, Porto aims to please!
The city is one of the oldest in Europe, with a history that stretches back to 300 BCE. Because of this, Porto boasts many impressive venerable landmarks, a claim to fame that earned it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
Whether you want to pack your days full of museums and art galleries, spend time wandering along the rippling river, or savoring the local gastronomic scene, you’ll never be stuck for things to do in Porto.
With such a great choice of things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to get started. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Porto. Add these fun attractions and activities to your Porto bucket list and get ready to have a fantastic time exploring the pearl of Portugal!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Porto, Portugal
1. Climb over the Porto Bridge
One of the most unique things to do in Porto is to strap on a harness and climb over the Porto Bridge! Also known as the Arrábida Bridge, this bridge is the largest concrete arch in the world. Since 2016, it’s been the only bridge in Europe you can walk across, and it’s guaranteed to give you an experience you’ll never forget.
You’ll be secured with all the safety equipment you need and then join a team to walk across the bridge. At the highest point, you’ll be standing over 213 feet above the sparkling water down below! From up here, you’ve got a remarkable view of the Duoro, as well as all across Porto.
There are just 262 steps to climb, and this one-of-a-kind opportunity is available for anyone aged 12 and up. For a special treat, you can book an exclusive experience early in the morning to watch the sunrise or an extended visit so you can go at your own pace and snap some incredible pictures.
2. Meander around Cais da Ribeira
Enjoying a casual stroll around the local neighborhoods is a fantastic way to get to know Porto, and Cais da Ribeira is one place you’ve absolutely got to visit. As one of the oldest parts of the city, this area is overflowing with history, beauty, and life.
Located along the Douro River, Cais da Ribeira is home to an excellent selection of cafes, bars, and restaurants that are bustling with people at every hour of the day. For something a little more peaceful, explore the area’s narrow streets, where you’ll come across hidden passageways, colorful houses, and cute artisan boutiques.
There are several important landmarks in this part of the city. It’s got a great viewpoint of the Luís I Bridge, it’s home to the impressive Palácio da Bolsa, and it’s where you’ll find Casa do Infante, where you can learn about Porto’s origin and development.
Keep an eye out for the small information plaques you’ll find throughout the neighborhood. They’re full of interesting information about the most prominent people and businesses from Porto’s past.
3. See intricate carvings inside the Church of Santa Clara
For some of the best sights in Porto, seek out the Church of Santa Clara. Also known as the Igreja de Santa Clara, this church has an amazing interior that will leave you speechless.
The Church of Santa Clara was finished in 1457 and was built to replace an old medieval convent. It went through major renovations at the beginning of the 18th century, and it’s now one of the most spectacular churches in Porto.
With its dazzling white and blue tiles, weathered gray stone, and imposing towers, the church’s façade is quite spectacular. But for the most dramatic scenes, you’ll need to step through the entrance.
Inside, you’ll find an ornately decorated ceiling that seems impossibly high and intricate wooden carvings everywhere you look. There’s just so much going on that it’s almost inconceivable to take it all in.
The remarkable church was created in the Barroco Joanino style. This name refers to the period of John V, which was when the Portuguese Empire was in its heyday.
4. Get addicted to francesinha
If you’re a fan of France’s croque monsieur, you’ll love Portugal’s francesinha. Developed by a French immigrant who wanted a taste of home, a francesinha is a decadent sandwich that’s hugely popular among locals in Porto who love to devour hearty, wholesome dishes.
A francesinha is made up of multiple layers of mortadella, fresh sausage, spicy sausage (linguiça), steak, ham, sliced toasted bread, a fried egg, and loads of melted cheese. To top it off, it’s all smothered with a spicy seafood sauce. When it’s piping hot and the yolk is super runny, it’s one of the most indulgent comfort foods there is!
We had one of the best ever francesinhas in Café Santiago. This small bakery is famous for the dish and adds an extra special secret ingredient that really makes it stand out from the crowd.
The lines can be huge for this place. If you don’t want to wait, you can order from Café Santiago via Uber Eats.
5. Visit one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores
If you’re really into books, one of the best things to do in Porto is to visit the bookstore at 144 Rua das Carmelitas in the city’s center. Called Livraria Lello, this stunning store dates back to 1906 and is easily one of the most beautiful in the world.
The captivating architecture is one of the things that makes the store so gorgeous. Boasting an Art Nouveau design with plenty of Neo-Gothic touches, this bookstore looks like something that’s been pulled straight out of a Disney movie.
With deep red carpets, mesmerizing spiral staircases, a stained glass ceiling, and breathtaking murals, there’s just so much to admire here. The delicately carved wood, sparkling golden columns, and atmospheric mood lighting give the place such a unique, magical feel that you can easily forget you’re in a bookstore!
Livraria Lello is so spellbinding that it provided an inspiring setting for author J.K. Rowling while she was living in Porto.
6. Explore every inch of the Serralves Foundation
One of the must-do things in Porto is to take a walk around the stunning Serralves Foundation. This beautiful complex is made up of the Museum of Contemporary Art, impeccable gardens, Serralves’ house, the Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliviera, and a spectacular auditorium.
Serralves’ house, also known as Casa de Serralves, is one of the most remarkable parts of the complex. Built between 1925 and 1944, it features a graceful Art Deco design and was worked on by masters such as Charles Siclis and René Lalique.
The terraced grounds, which surround the house, provide you with a wonderful place to stroll and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. From manicured lawns and shade-giving pergolas to hidden sculptures and tree-lined avenues, this place is simply stunning.
If you’re a fan of art, don’t miss the chance to visit the art museum. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also houses a number of temporary exhibitions, often dedicated to the likes of Liam Gillick or Joan Miró.
7. Sample thousands of wines at Essência do Vinho
Held over the course of four tipsy days each spring, the Essência do Vinho is the biggest, best, and most important wine festival in all of Portugal. Held inside the impressive Palácio da Bolsa, the event gives total newbies the chance to learn about wine and oenophiles the opportunity to broaden their palate and knowledge.
More than 400 international wine producers attend the festival and together offer 4,000+ different types of wine to try by the glass. Here you’ll discover everything from major brands that have made it around the world to tiny artisan names that have never left the village before.
As well as wine tasting, you can also attend wine talks from experts, take part in wine pairing workshops, and pick up a couple of bottles of your favorite to take back home.
If you really don’t know where to begin, join one of the guided wine tastings to discover what you like. Or, if you’ve already got a palate for wine, sign up for a super-premium wine tasting and sip some of the rarest and most exceptional wines on the planet.
8. Indulge your sweet tooth at Chocolataria Equador
A visit to one of the Chocolataria Equador stores will give you a complete sugar high! This is easily one of the coolest things to do in Porto if you’ve got a sweet tooth. Much more than your average chocolate store, Chocolataria Equador is a special 100% Portuguese brand that makes deliciously decadent and staggeringly beautiful handmade chocolates.
From chocolate medallions infused with rose water and chocolate bark studded with pink pepper to bonbons filled with cassis and truffles with a smooth caramel center, there’s so much amazing stuff in this place you’ll never want to leave.
As well as all the incredible chocolates, Chocolataria Equador sells coffee and Port wine that has been infused with chocolate. If that sounds like your thing, sign up for a special tasting session and get ready to float into gourmet heaven.
Whether you pick up a few goodies for yourself or you want to treat your friends and family back home, you’ll never leave empty-handed. You can find Chocolataria Equador stores in Rua Sá da Bandeira, Rua Sousa Viterbo, and Rua das Flores.
9. Spot peacocks at Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
When you need a break from the cobblestone streets of Porto, spend some time at the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. The gardens surrounding the city’s Crystal Palace were designed by German Émile David and are some of the most splendid green spaces in the city.
The gardens are eight hectares in size and have been providing locals and visitors with a peaceful place of retreat since the 19th century. From grass-covered lawns and carefully carved sculptures to impressive fountains and all kinds of colorful plants, you can easily spend hours here just walking around.
If you wander long enough, you’re almost certain to spot one of the resident peacock families. If you visit in late spring or early summer, you might even spy some baby chicks!
The Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is also where you’ll find some remarkable viewpoints. The more you explore, the better vistas of the Douro and the rest of Porto you’ll stumble upon.
10. Be wowed by the Palácio da Bolsa
One of the most beautiful Porto attractions almost too beautiful to believe, the Palácio da Bolsa was once the city’s stock exchange. While it’s currently the headquarters of Porto’s commercial association, it looks more like a grand estate where royalty lives the high life.
Work on the Palácio da Bolsa began in 1832 next to the Church of São Francisco after the Siege of Porto destroyed it. By 1850, the glamorous façade had been completed in a stunning Neoclassical design. Its interiors continued to be decorated, changed, and added to up until the 20th century, which is why they feature a number of different styles.
The large central courtyard is one of the most dramatic parts of the palace. Known as Pátio das Nações, the courtyard is entirely enclosed by glass, allowing beams of natural light to make the inside of the palace glow.
The courtyard leads to a magnificent granite and marble staircase. Follow it, and you’ll discover the lavish Golden Room, decorated in shining gold leaf. Make sure you check out the remarkable Arab Room, too. It’s huge and was infused by the Moorish style of the Alhambra.
11. Treat your taste buds to polvo com molho verde
Polvo com molho verde is one of Porto’s most amazing dishes. Hugely popular among locals, this dish is made of fresh octopus, finely diced onions, aromatic garlic, and chopped parsley, all seasoned with rich olive oil and tangy vinegar.
The octopus tentacles are sometimes left whole, and their suckers are still intact, so it’s not the best dish to order if you’re a bit fussy. But if you love seafood and you’re eager to give something new and local a try, you’ll love it!
A Casa do Gordo is one of the top places we tried this dish. They buy the octopus fresh from the market that very morning and serve it with a crisp salad and buttery boiled potatoes. Order a bottle of chilled white wine, too, and you’ve got a simple yet decadent meal you’ll remember forever.
Sitting in a small restaurant by the beach, feeling the salty sea breeze blowing through the air, and digging into a huge plate of polvo com molho verde is something you’ve simply got to experience.
12. Enjoy a night of free entertainment at Noites Ritual
If you’re visiting in September, one of the most fun things to do in Porto is to get involved in Noites Ritual. One of the oldest music festivals in the city, this major event has been held every year since 1992 in the glamorous Palacio Ritual.
Almost all the concerts are free, making it a great choice if you’ve got a small budget to stick to. Most of the artists, bands, and DJs are Portuguese, but there’s a handful of international acts on each lineup, too. When the music starts playing and you get in the mood, you won’t care what language the music is in!
As well as the music concerts, Noites Ritual also features a small marketplace with artisan clothes, handmade accessories, and arts and crafts. Art exhibitions put together by talented local artists also sometimes pop up.
For the best experience, we recommend getting there a little bit before the music starts. This way, you can take a relaxed walk around the palace gardens and browse the stalls before being swept away by the music.
13. Enjoy the views from the top of the Clérigos Tower
For one of the most spectacular Porto sightseeing opportunities, climb to the top of the Clérigos Tower. The tallest freestanding bell tower in Portugal, the Clérigos Tower stands at 249 feet tall and rewards everyone who trudges up the 200+ steps with an astounding view over the city and Douro River.
The bell tower is still active. So if you plan to be inside on the hour, be prepared to hear the 49 bells ringing. They can make quite a racket and really catch you off-guard!
We recommend climbing up the tower twice – once during the daytime and once at night. It’s wonderful to pick out all the important spots from the top when it’s light before seeing the landscape come to life with twinkling lights after sunset.
The night visit costs a little extra, but it also includes a guided tour, and it’s definitely worth it for the views you can’t see anywhere else.
14. Cheers with Vinho Verde
When you need to unwind after a long day of sightseeing, one of the best things to do in Porto is to relax with a glass of Vinho Verde. Although the name literally translates into English as “green wine,” the phrase actually refers to wine made in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, which includes Porto and a handful of other cities in the north.
Vinho Verde is a slightly sparkly, wonderfully fresh, and deliciously crisp white wine that’s very light. When it’s properly chilled, it’s the perfect thing to sip on a hot summer afternoon or balmy evening.
This type of wine is so popular you’ll find it available in almost every bar and restaurant throughout the city. Some of the favorite brands we discovered were Quinta das Pereirinhas, Quinta de Linhares, and Deu-la-Deu. You may struggle to get them in bars, but they’re usually available in most restaurants and grocery stores.
15. Have the best night ever at Maus Hábitos
If you’re looking for something fun to do in the evening, one of the top things to do in Porto is to spend a few hours at Maus Hábitos. One of the most lively parts of the city, this place is where spontaneous parties, independent cafes, creative cocktails, innovative food, thought-provoking artwork, and incredible music collide.
Located just in front of the Porto Coliseum, Maus Hábitos hosts all kinds of high-octane events throughout the year. Theatrical plays, music concerts, art exhibitions, and literary lectures are just some of the events that have been held here. Whatever the subject is, there’s always a round of drinks to follow and then an after-party that never seems to end.
We suggest making a reservation for the Maus Hábitos restaurant before you attend an event. Here you’ll find a huge range of tempting dishes, many of which are vegan or vegetarian.
You’ve got to give one of their wood-fired pizzas a try. Sip a couple of specialist cocktails along with your dinner, and you’ll be ready to party in no time!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Porto. What’s your favorite thing to do in Porto?
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