How many days in Porto will be enough to see everything worth seeing?
If you’re thinking about visiting Porto, then this guide will help you with figuring out itineraries and offering you the best tips for getting around Porto.
As a Porto native, I will give you insight into lesser-known spots and tell you what’s worth visiting and what tourist traps to avoid. On top of that, I’ll give you a few suggestions of what you can do in Porto that you won’t be able to do anywhere else.
Let’s get started!
How many days in Porto?
How long should you spend in Porto? Personally, I think 3 days is perfect to see Porto’s main attractions on your first visit. Many tourists choose to visit for just a night, leaving the next day to other cities, but then end up regretting, vowing to book a larger stay next time around.
Planning your trip to Porto
Porto is a coastal city in northwestern Portugal known for its towering bridges and Port wine production. In the medieval district of Ribeira, on the banks of the Douro river, narrow cobbled streets pass through the merchants’ houses and restaurants.
You may visit at any time of the year, as temperatures are generally mild. But winter can be rainy and, in some years, so can spring and autumn. In late May and June, temperatures tend to be pleasant and rain is infrequent – this is the best time to visit, right before the summer rolls around and brings tourists with it, hiking up housing prices and originating queues outside the main landmarks and attractions, like Torre dos Clérigos, the Serralves Museum, and the Lello Bookstore.
1 day in Porto
Perhaps your time here is limited to a short layover en route to another destination. If that’s the case, then this is how you’ll be able to make the most of those 24 hours in Porto.
You should kick things off by having a nice “café“, or an expresso, which is how the Portuguese people get their caffeine fix in the morning (and a few other times throughout the day). As mornings tend to be relaxed around here, maybe this would be a good time to visit major landmarks like the Church of São Francisco, a gothic church, built in the 14th century as part of a Franciscan convent, and the São Bento station, a train station especially famous for its “azulejo” tile panels in a French-influenced building.
The thing about Porto is that mostly everything you’ll want to see is within walking distance of one another, but don’t forget to bring your most comfortable shoes: as the city is built on hills, there’s a lot of climbing up and down. When all the hiking gets you starving, it’s time to go delight yourself with this city’s best – Francesinha! I recommend Cervejaria Brasão or Café Santiago, two of the local’s favorites places for enjoying this delicacy.
After lunch, you might want to take some time to relax and digest at BASE, an urban garden where you can enjoy a slight breeze and a fresh cocktail. It’s located right next to Clérigos Tower, the highest point of the city and a popular sightseeing spot amongst tourists and them exclusively, as I’ve never actually met a local who paid to climb its 200 steps.
In the riverside district, you will find the iconic Luís I Bridge, a two-deck metallic bridge that crosses the Douro river. This area is the perfect spot for enjoying some nice typically Portuguese cuisine and a glass or two of port wine. But make sure to cross the upper deck of the bridge over to Jardim do Morro before it starts to get dark. It is the best sunset spot in the city, overlooking the mouth of the river and the cascading colorful houses of Porto, where you can see the city light up after the sun goes down.
2 days in Porto
If your vacation allows for a second day in Porto, don’t fret! As there’s still plenty to be seen and done.
In the morning, I suggest enjoying a pleasant breakfast, complete with a pastel de nata in the charming Rua das Flores (Street of the Flowers in English). You won’t find flowers here but instead, plenty of quaint cafés and restaurants. This is also the perfect place for getting your hand on some handmade souvenirs.
A weekday morning is the perfect timing for visiting Bolhão Market, where locals haggle with the vendors over fresh produce and regional delicacies. I believe that nothing showcases local culture like a traditional market… But don’t forget to bring some cash! Some of the older sellers don’t take cards.
A good plan for the afternoon would be to visit the port wine cellars in the Vila Nova de Gaia pier, just across D. Luís Bridge. You can book your tour in advance or just show up and see when the next one’s available. There are many cellars to choose from but they all will explain the origins of port wine (specific to their house, of course), how it’s made and there’s usually a small tasting at the end. Sandeman, Graham’s, and Taylor’s are the most visited, but I dare say Calém is by far the most frequently enjoyed by Porto natives.
While you’re in the pier, you might consider going on a Rabelo boat tour along the Douro. It usually takes one or two hours and you can count on enjoying a privileged view of the valley’s vineyards, terraces, and wine farms.
I promise this is definitely not a tourist trap. It’s actually the kind of thing that even locals like to partake in – I’ve done it three times!
3 days in Porto
Should your schedule allow for more 48 hours in Porto, then the best thing to do on your third day is to venture beyond the city center.
Start your morning in a peaceful manner, by visiting Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, a pleasant garden uptown where you can enjoy a privileged view of the Douro river. This is a great place for a nice stroll and relaxing in a more natural setting. By the way, don’t get startled if you suddenly see a peacock or two roaming around… Because that happens.
Still uptown, there is Casa da Música, a concert hall that built over the course of 6 years, from 1999 until 2005. It is located in the center of the Boavista neighborhood, next to Albuquerque Square – a large square full of gardens that are a great place to relax. In its center, there is a 45-meter sculpture depicting a lion on an eagle surrounded by soldiers with horses. This monument commemorates the victory of the British-Portuguese alliance over the Napoleonic troops.
If you’re into art, you might consider paying a visit to Soares dos Reis Museum, Portugal’s oldest. It’s located in the elegant Palácio dos Carrancas, also the country’s oldest, and it was used as a private residence since the late 18th century. The most important pieces in the museum are the collections of paintings and sculptures, among which the work of the Portuguese sculptor Antonio Soares dos Reis, after whom the museum is named.
Another art museum you might consider visiting is the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, within the Serralves Foundation, a cultural institution whose mission is to promote contemporary art. The foundation has a huge, well-tended garden surrounding the museum. At certain times of the year, especially during summer evenings, several musical events take place here.
4-5 days in Porto
In case you’re staying in Porto for a longer period, I’d invite you to explore beyond the city limits. Maybe venture out across the Douro River to Vila Nova de Gaia, where you’ll be sure to find some more than enjoyable beaches, or instead go a little bit further up North to Matosinhos, home to “World’s Best Fish” restaurants.
Here’s a few other options for great day trips:
- Douro Valley
- Gerês National Park
Getting around Porto
As I mentioned before, although Porto is a city that can be toured by walking, public transport is useful when you want to visit some places.
The Porto Metro map is quite easy to navigate, with 6 lines and 81 stations, passing all the main areas of the city. The working hours of the Porto metro are from 6:00 in the morning to 1:00 in the morning.
The bus is the only way to reach certain destinations without walking. Working hours are similar to the metro, except that there are night buses that connect the city center to neighboring areas.
For both the metro and bus, you will need an Andante card, which will cost you 0,60€ in addition to the price of the number of trips you wish to purchase. You can choose between single-journeys, 10 tickets, or unlimited 24-hour travel. This can be bought at the airport, in all Metro stations, tourist offices, some kiosks and even in a few hotels.
Alternately, you could consider buying the Porto card, which gives you discounts and free entry to the main museums, monuments, and tourist attractions, and can also include unlimited access to Porto’s public transports.
Travel Tips for Porto
Learn some Portuguese: Although Porto natives are no strangers to the English language and will gladly help a confused tourist even if they can’t communicate perfectly, locals will appreciate it even if you just say “bom dia” (hello; good morning) and “obrigado/a” (thank you.
Visit the outskirts: As more and more tourists choose Porto as their city break destination, popular spots often become oversaturated with people, so my tip to you is to stray a bit away from the center and enjoy quieter but nonetheless special places.
Bring a jacket: It’s true that the weather is much warmer than in other European cities and you can pretty much count on sunny days, but Porto is often windy and even summer nights can get a little chilly.
Enjoy the nightlife in Galerias: This is a popular nocturnal spot near Clérigos Tower for both tourists and locals, with the coolest bars and tasty drinks at affordable prices.
Skip Majestic Café: I won’t deny its elegance and charm, but what once was a meeting spot for artists and great thinkers, has now become an incredibly overpriced tourist trap – SO. NOT.WORTH. IT.
Other Porto FAQ
Is 1 day enough in Porto? One day is enough to explore the city center, eat some traditional Portuguese food and see a few of the most famous spots and landmarks, yet it will not be enough time for you to enjoy most of what Porto has to offer.
Is 3 days enough in Porto? In my opinion, 3 days is the perfect amount of time to explore Porto, especially for a first-timer. It will allow you to explore without rushing from one spot to another and also give you enough rest time between activities (and trust me, your legs will need it!).
Is 5 days in porto too long? I don’t think there is a time limit to how long one should stay in Porto. I’ve known plenty of people who intended to stay a day or two and ended up extending the trip. I’ll tell you this: Porto is a city worth visiting more than once, so if your first visit doesn’t allow you to do all you intended, then come back another time.
Read also: Portuguese Culture: Customs & Traditions