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2 Days in Porto: A Suggested itinerary
Porto is a vibrant and energetic city which makes for the perfect weekend escape. Two days is the ideal length of stay to experience the cultural sights, varied activities and lively nightlife of Porto. This article will provide a suggested itinerary for a 2-day tour of Porto, and includes the best districts and sights to make the most of your visit to this captivating city.
Day 1: Ribeira and the Douro Riverbanks
To get a traditional taste of Porto, it is recommended to spend the first day around Ribeira and the Douro River. This will take in the famed Port cellars and visitors should not miss out on taking a Port tasting tour. This undulating area is best explored on foot, but tourists can hop on the metro if needed.
Morning and lunch in Ribeira
Ribeira is one of the oldest districts in Porto dating back to the Middle Ages. Situated on the northern bank of the Douro River, this area is characterised by narrow, winding streets and crammed with restaurants and cafes all housed in the traditional architecture. Visitors to this district should not miss out on the UNESCO World Heritage protected Ribeira Square, which was a focal point of Porto daily life and trading. This square was once encapsulated by the ancient city walls but now provides a good central point from which to explore the charming arcades.
The water front of Vila Nova de Gaia
From the Ribeira District, head to the iconic Ponte Luis I Bridge that spans the Douro River; connecting Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. This feat of engineering has stood since 1886 and was created by a partner of Gustave Eiffel; the wrought iron work resembles the detail used in the famous tower.
Afternoon: Vila Nova de Gaia and Port tasting
On the southern side of the Douro River is the city of Vila Nova de Gaia; the traditional home of Port. The city is proud of its heritage and Port production is still the heartbeat of modern life. All of the major Port producers continue to age their wines within the vast cellars of the district and most a dotted along the Avenue de Diogo Leite. These jostle for tourist trade and it is worth looking around before selecting a tour.
The Ribeira river front at early evening
Visiting the cellars and Port tasting tours are surprisingly inexpensive and costs reflect the quantity and quality of the ports tasted. Tour prices start from €6.00 for two drinks of medium quality. Each of the Port house conducts tours in multiple languages, so check times when arriving in the city.
The wooden tanks where the ruby ports are stored for 3 years
For visitors with time for only one tour, it is advisable to head to Ferreira Cellar. This is the only wholly owned Portuguese Port producer and the tour is informative but, also, highly enjoyable. Ferreira is located on Avenue Ramos Pinto and tours run daily from 10:00 – 12.30 and then from 14:00 to 20:00. The tour costs €6 per adult and this includes; a 30 minute guided tour and a tasting of two Port wines at the end.
Late Afternoon: Take in the Douro views
Along the Vila Nova de Gaia riverside there is a cable car (Teleférico de Gaia) that transports visitors from the banks of the Douro up to the elegant, whitewashed Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. From this unique circular cloister, there are unparalleled views across the Douro to the Ribeira and Porto landscape. This is a perfect vantage point for a romantic sunset. The cable car station is located on Rue Piedade, just off the main riverside Avenue de Diogo Leite. It costs €4.50 single ride and cars run daily from 10:00 to 20:00 in peak season.
The Teleférico de Gaia cable car in Porto
Evening: Dine in Ribeira
After returning down, it is highly advisable to dine within the restaurants of the Ribeira District as the traditional architecture starts to light up. There is a plethora of good dining options offering localised fish or meat specialities. For those looking for a hearty and filling dinner try a Francesinha, a Portuguese sandwich filled with cured ham, linguiça (fresh sausage) and roast meats, which is drenched in cheese and beer sauce.
A Francesinha - certainly filling!
Day 2: Porto city centre and attractions
For the second day in Porto it is suggested to explore the city centre, which has much to offer all tastes. The centre can be easily navigated on foot with free maps are available from tourist offices. The main tourist office, based along Rua Clube dos Fenianos (on the west side of Porto City Hall), is a perfect spot to grab a map and start a day’s tour of Porto.
Clérigos Tower (Igreja E Torre Dos Clérigos): The quaint, baroque Clérigos Church and Tower is situated on the highest point of the old city and, after climbing the 250 steps of the tower, visitors are rewarded with fantastic 360 degree panoramic views of the city and Vila Nova de Gaia. There is a €3 entrance fee, which is definitely worth it, and the tower is open from 9:00 to 19:00 daily. Clerigos Tower is located on Rue de São Filipe de Nery and is a short easterly walk from Praça da Liberdade.
The view from the Se from the Torre dos Clérigos tower
Lello bookshop (Livraria Lello): This Lavish bookshop is one of the oldest in Portugal and, walking around this art nouveau building, it is clear to see why this could have prompted the inspiration for the Hogwarts library and staircases. Not to be missed by Harry Potter fans, this location visited and frequented by J K Rowling. The shop is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00-19:30 and is best visited in the working week to avoid crowds.
Sao Bento Train Station: The main train station of Sao Bento is considered to be one of the most decorative stations of Europe. Inside, the walls are adorned by beautifully painted azulejos tiles that depict significant events from Portugal’s history. These azulejos tiles also cover the exterior of the charming Saint Ildefonso church, which is a short stroll up the hill from the station.
The azulejos tiles in Sao Bento station
Porto Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace (Sé Do Porto): The highly fortified Se Cathedral is the religious centre of Porto and the original church dates from 12th Century, before Portugal’s independence. This originally Romanesque Cathedral was given a Baroque make over and is a fine UNESCO protected wonder.
The Cathedral is situated in the oldest district in Porto and the square surrounding it once served as the bustling trading centre. It is free to enter and open daily from 9:00-12:30 and then 14:30-18:00 in peak season (Off peak times may vary).
Stock Exchange Palace (Palácio da Bolsa): The grand Palácio da Bolsa complex was built by Porto’s Commercial Association in 1830 to act as the city’s stock exchange and entice investors to the city. The exterior is an ornate Neoclassical style while inside are lavishly decorated rooms. The Palácio da Bolsa is open from 9:00-18:30 in peak season (9:00 -12:30 / 14:00-17:30 in low season).There is a mandatory guided tour that takes around 45 minutes, which can be translated into English, French and Spanish. Tours cost €7 per adult and €4 per child
Optional tourist sights: Estádio do Dragão: Football fans should visit the Estádio do Dragão (stadium of the dragon) the home ground of Porto; Portugal’s most prolific football club. There are 45 minute stadium tours (€8.00), or stadium and museum tours (€15.00).