The best independent guide to Porto
The best independent guide to Porto
Porto is a wonderful city that has all of the right ingredients to provide you with a memorable holiday.
The historic centre boasts outstanding tourist attractions and characterful districts, while modern Porto delivers vibrant culture, daring cuisine and buzzing nightlife.
Porto is also ideally situated near historic towns, picturesque beaches and Portuguese heritage sites, making it a perfect destination for a truly unique holiday.
This article will provide a suggested itinerary for your 1-week holiday to Porto
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The following is our suggested itinerary for a 1-week holiday to Porto. The holiday is based in Porto, and the surrounding region is explored as day trips, all of which can be reached via public transport.
• Day 1 – Porto (historic centre)
• Day 2 – Porto (Vila Nova de Gaia and Foz district)
• Day 3 – Guimaraes
• Day 4 – Braga or beach day
• Day 5 – Douro Valley
• Day 6 – Aveiro and Costa Nova
• Day 7 – Vila do Conde or Lamego
Below is an interactive map for the 1 week in Porto, and each day is highlighted by a numbered marker.
The following section will explain each of the days in further detail and includes links to relevant guides.
Two days of sightseeing is sufficient time to gain a good appreciation of Porto.
For the first day, it is recommended that you explore the historic districts of Ribeira, Se and Vitória. On the second day, visit Vila Nova de Gaia (the location of the Port cellars) and the Foz district, which is situated at the mouth of the Douro River.
The Ribeira district of Porto
The relatively compact area of the Se and Vitória districts contains many of Porto’s finest tourist monuments, which include:
• The magnificent Avenida dos Aliados plaza
• The panoramic view from the top of Clérigos Tower
• The São Bento railway station and its decorative tile paintings
• The ancient Se cathedral
• The Igreja de São Francisco with its extravagant use of 100kg of gold to adorn every surface in gold leaf
• The Rua das Flores, a popular shopping street with traditional shops
• The Lello bookshop, an inspiration for the Harry Potter series of books
• The beautiful Azulejos tile paintings on the exterior of the Igreja do Carmo
The Se Cathedral
The latter part of the first day should be spent down by the riverfront in the Ribeira District.
This is the oldest section of the city and is a charming warren of narrow streets, home of many fine restaurants and bars. The Ribeira also provides great views over the iconic Ponte Luís I Bridge and the Douro River, and is just an enjoyable district for tourists to spend time in.
Related articles: 2 days in Porto – Sights and attractions of Porto
Vila Nova de Gaia is situated on the southern banks of the Douro River, and is the renowned home of Port.
The vineyards for the Port wine are in upper Douro Valley, and the drink is matured in the vast cellars (known as lodges) that line the banks of Vila Nova de Gaia. Each of the major Port producers (Cálem, Sandeman, Ferreira, Taylor, Kopke) has a “port lodge” in Gaia, and these are open to the public for tours and port tasting. With over 10 different lodges there’s a lot of Port tasting!
The Sandeman Port cellar
After the Port tasting tours, you could wander along the banks of the Douro River and then ride the cable car up to the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, with one of the best panoramic views of Porto.
The second part of the day it is suggested to ride the historic number 1 tram to the affluent Foz district, which sits at the mouth of the Douro River. The district extends along the seafront to the town of Matosinhos.
For an alternative cultural afternoon, you could visit the Palacio De Cristal gardens and the Soares dos Reis museum or the Serralves contemporary art museum.
Related articles: Linha 1 tram
The Pérgola da Foz, overlooking the Praia do Molhe beach
There is very high demand for accommodation during the peak season, we advise to book your hotel rooms now before they sell out. To check current prices and availability, enter your holiday dates in the search box below:
Guimarães is one of the oldest cities of Portugal, and it contains a beautifully preserved medieval city centre, which is a joy to explore. Guimarães is regarded as the birthplace of Portugal, as it was the first capital city and the birthplace of the first Portuguese king.
The gothic Paço dos Duques de Bragança and the statue of Afonso Henriques the first king of Portugal
This ancient and illustrious past of Guimarães can be experienced by visiting the numerous historic monuments, including; Guimarães Castle, Dukes of Braganza Palace, Olive square and Misericórdia convent.
Later in the day, ride the cable car up to Penha Hill, which provides fantastic views of the city and has enjoyable hiking trails. There is a direct train service from Porto to Guimarães (1h15min €6.40 return), which departs from the Sao Bento Train Station in central Porto.
Related articles: Guimarães guide
The historic centre of Guimarães and the Old City Hall
Braga is the religious centre of Portugal, and is a historic yet cosmopolitan city, which offers numerous interesting attractions.
Braga has a pleasant pedestrianised city centre, comprising of grand plazas, busy shopping streets and pretty formal gardens. Sights to include during the day trip, are the ancient Se Cathedral, the Jardim de Santa Bárbara, the Igreja de Santa Cruz and the Casa dos Biscaínhos.
Braga is filled with many historic monuments
To the east of Braga is one of the most iconic monuments of northern Portugal: the Bom Jesus do Monte. This ornate baroque church is located at the top of a steep hill and is reached via a series of decorative staircases which represent the ascent into heaven.
For the less energetic, the world's oldest water-powered funicular travels from the base of the hill to the church.
Braga is connected to Porto by the urban train network (1h10 min €6.40 return), which departs from the Sao Bento Train Station.
Related articles: Braga guide
The Bom Jesus do Monte, and the stairway to heaven
By the middle of your holiday you may be wishing a more relaxed day, and a day on the beach could be the ideal alternative.
Porto is situated on the beautiful Costa Verde, a coastline of vast sandy beaches, rugged headlands and powerful Atlantic seas. During the summer, Porto is a great destination for a beach day-trip, and many of the finest beaches can be easily reached by metro or train.
For a beach day, there are many options and could include the bustling resort towns of Espinho, Povoa de Varzim or Vila do Conde. For something a bit more low-key, there are the beaches around Miramar, or if you prefer something close to Porto, there is Matosinhos.
Related articles: Porto beach guide
The coastline south of Porto comprises of golden sandy beaches and cold Atlantic seawaters; this beach is the Praia de Brito, near Espinho
Douro Valley is one of the most picturesque regions of Portugal.
This region has cultivated for grapes for over 2,000 years, and vineyards have been chiselled out from the granite hills. Meandering through these terrace vineyards hills is the majestic Douro River and along its banks are delightful winemaking towns.
The prettiest of these towns is Pinhão, while Peso da Régua is a popular departure location for boat cruises.
Luxurious cruise ships sail along the Douro
For a day trip to the Douro, there are many methods to explore the region. With a car, you could drive along the scenic N222 road and visit the region around Tua and Pinhão. (A driving tour of the Douro Valley)
There is the picturesque Linha do Douro railway which connects Porto to Pocinho. This railway follows the banks of the Douro river between Pala to Pocinho and is one of the prettiest train routes in Europe. (Linha do Douro guide)
The final option is to join a relaxing boat cruise. There are again many options with some departing from Porto, ending at Peso da Régua and returning by train, some starting and ending at Peso da Régua, and others including Pinhão.
Insight: The higher reaches of the Douro Valley (Alto Douro) are the most scenic, with the section between Peso da Régua and the Valeira dam the most beautiful.
Pinhão is the prettiest town on the Douro River, and is surrounded by hills and terraced vineyards
Aveiro is a pretty city that is located on the edge of the Ria de Aveiro Lagoon, which is close to the beautiful beaches of the Silver Coast.
Aveiro has experienced a turbulent history, with great wealth from its high-quality salt and important harbour, but extreme hardships once the lagoon was closed from the sea after a terrible storm in 1575.
This varied history is reflected in Aveiro, there is sumptuous Nouveau architecture, a traditional fishing quarter and colourful Moliceiros (gondola-like boats) sail along the canals.
Related articles: Aveiro guide
The Moliceiros boats were historically used to harvest seaweed from the lagoon, which was then dried to form an iodine-rich fertiliser
Costa Nova is one of the most charming resort towns of Portugal, and is famed for the striped summer houses that line the beachfront. Costa Nova is just a short bus ride from Aveiro, and together they form an enjoyable day trip.
The pretty beach houses of Costa Nova
Lamego is an attractive town close to the Douro Valley, that radiates Portuguese charm.
The most striking feature of Lamego is the grand baroque stairway that climbs the steep hill up to the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios church. Also found in the town is a gothic cathedral, an ancient castle and the impressive Avenida Visconde Guedes Teixeira plaza, which stretches the length of the town.
If you have a rental car the day trip to Lamego could also include the ruins of the Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca, the oldest monastery in Portugal, and the pretty village of Ucanha with its ancient stone bridge.
Related articles: Lamego guide
The historic centre of Lamego as seen from the Castelo de Lamego
If for your last day you would prefer to combine sightseeing with some beach time, then we suggest visiting Vila do Conde.
This is a pretty coastal town set along the Ave River, which is close to two fantastic sandy beaches. At the centre of Vila do Conde is the massive Mosteiro de Santa Clara, along with a fishing harbour and traditional town centre.
On the southern side of the river is the pristine Praia da Azurara beach, with its wild and untamed scenery.
Related articles: Vila do Conde Guide
The Mosteiro de Santa Clara dominated the skyline in Vila do Conde