The only independent guide to Porto
Porto is an outstanding tourist destination that effortlessly combines history and heritage, in a progressive and welcoming city. There is a lot to see and do within Porto, and it takes two full days of sightseeing to explore the entire city. This makes Porto ideal for a city break, or as part of a longer tour of Portugal.
This article has been written to provide a guide to the most famous and popular attractions in Porto, and details the top 10 sights and activities of the city.
Related articles: Introduction to Porto – 48 hours in Porto – 1-week Porto
The interactive map below displays the location of the top 10 sights and top 10 activities; the green tags mark the top sights, and the yellow tags are for the top 10 activities.
Note: This article does not consider the region that surrounds Porto, for a guide to the best day trips from Porto, please read this guide (Porto day trips).
The Ponte Luís I is the majestic iron bridge that spans the Douro River, and connects Porto to the north with Vila Nova de Gaia on the southern side. This iconic bridge has two levels, and from the top deck (which carries the metro) is one of the finest viewpoints of Porto.
Porto is famed for Port, a delicious sweet fortified wine, which is aged in vast cellars that line the southern banks of Douro River. To be classified as Port, the grapes must be grown in the Douro valley and then matured in cellars in Porto. This means that all of the major Port producers (Sandeman, Cálem, Croft, Ferreira, Offley and Ramos Pinto) are found within a relatively compact area.
Each Port producer provides informative tours of their cellars and are often combined with a Port tasting session. With over ten different Port cellars to visit, you are guaranteed to leave Porto as Port Connoisseur!
Advice: The cellar tours are at designated times with a set language. It is always advisable to pre-book tickets for popular times, or at least know the times of the appropriate language tours.
Related links: Calem tour and tasting tickets
The interior of the Igreja de São Francisco is the most extravagant found in Portugal. Every possible surface is adorned with elaborate wooden carvings and lavished with gold leaf; there is so much gold paint, that it has been estimated to be more than 300kg of gold!
A highlight among the many Baroque carvings is the Árvore de Jesse (Tree of Jesse), which depicts the family tree of Jesus.
The Igreja de São Francisco dates from the 13th century and was originally attached to a cloister, but this was destroyed by fire 1832.
Porto is a city that was established and flourished based on its proximity to the mighty Douro River and there is no better method to view the city than from the river. There are two types of cruises; short 1-2 hour boat tours of the city, or full-day excursions that head up to the Douro Valley to the Port grape grown region.
The short cruises are ideal if you are on a city break, and pass beneath the six bridges of Porto and to the mouth of the Douro River. These short boat tours show a completely different side to Porto, which is not seen while exploring by foot, and are best taken in the early evening.
We have worked with Getyourguide.com for the previous six years, and some of their best Douro River tours include:
Contemporary art is a divisive subject; to some, it is thought-provoking and inspirational, while for others, it is abstract nonsense.
The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves attempts to bridge this divide, with an outstanding collection of exhibits, along with beautiful grounds and the wonderful art-deco Casa de Serralves villa. The Fundação Serralves always has a peaceful and tranquil setting, and is a highly recommended location to escape the hecticness of central Porto.
Related links: Tickets for the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves
This is a carb overload meal, and ideal during a long day of sightseeing. Bread, fried steak, sausage, bacon, a rich tomato sauce and with a side of chips…. What more could you want?
The Ribeira is the oldest section of Porto and is a maze of narrow streets and ancient buildings that line the northern banks of the Douro, opposite the port cellars. This extremely pretty area of the city contains numerous family-run shops, traditional restaurants and trendy bars, all of which overlook the river and the Dom Luis Bridge.
The Ribera has a great atmosphere in the evenings as the narrow streets come to life with an equal mix of Portuguese and foreign tourists dining, drinking or socialising. While exploring the Ribeira lookout for the height markers, which record the depth of flooding of the Douro.
The 18th century Igreja dos Clérigos is one the finest examples of baroque architecture in Porto but the majority of visitors to the church are much more interested in climbing the 250 steps to the top of the tower. The Torre dos Clérigos was constructed on the highest point of Porto and, when combined with the 76m high tower, the viewing platform provides fantastic panoramic views over the city.
Related links: Tickets to the Torre dos Clérigos
Porto is close to a beautiful coastline of large sandy beaches and traditional resort towns. Porto is on the border of two distinct beach regions with the Costa Verde to the north of the Douro river and the Costa Prata to the south. Many of these beaches can be easily reached via public transport and a holiday to Porto can easily be combined with a beach holiday. The two best beaches close to Porto are Praia do Senhor da Pedra or the Praia de Matosinhos beach.
Related articles: Porto beach guide - Senhor da Pedra beach - Matosinhos guide
The plaza of Avenida dos Aliados is the heart of Porto, where the residents of the city come to celebrate or protest, all under the shadow of the distinctive city hall (Camara Municipal). The neoclassical style of the buildings that line the plaza provide a much older appearance than they actual are, with construction of the district only being completed in 1916.
Porto city hall, at the top of the Avenida dos Aliados
The main train station of central Porto is a tourist attraction in itself, due to the Azulejos tiles that line the entrance hall. These tiles that depict the history of Porto and are unique as they both combine the traditional blue and white tiles paints with fully colour images.
The beautiful azulejos tiles in São Bento Train Station
The Se cathedral is Porto’s most important religious building and is an elegant blend of Romanesque, Baroque and gothic architectural styles. The cloisters of the cathedral are lined with beautiful Azulejos (blue glazed) tiles and there is an impressive rose window.
The Se cathedral
The Rococo styled Ildefonso church has one of the most decorative exteriors found in Porto, the entire church is adorned in Azulejos tiles that depict the life of Santo Ildefonso.
Ildefonso church is covered in azulejos tiles