We spent 5 days in Porto as a working holiday before our trip to Morocco. We had expected Porto to be “another European city” but we were actually super impressed with how pretty it was. There are not a ton of sites or bucket list items to check off but that is part of its charm. I highly recommend taking the time to visit Porto during your trip to Portugal.
The Best Part of our Time in Porto
We really liked walking down by the river and popping in the wine tasting rooms. We also had a fantastic day riding bikes and exploring the opposite side of the river. Although we did spend the majority of our time in Porto working from Cafe Progresso (we filled up the loyalty card in two days!) It was awesome and they have great coffee, food, wifi, and vibes.
What to Do in Porto
Rent Bikes- We biked all day around Porto and it was so fun! We went up the coast and back down through a park. Then we took a ferry across the river and biked to more beaches over there! We ended with lunch in a little fishing village!
Mecado Do Bolhão- A large market with everything from whole goats to fresh flowers. The main location is under construction so it has moved off-site. The new location is close and there are signs that show you the way.
San Francisco Church- We have been to a lot of churches during our travels but this one for sure stands out. The inside is covered in gold and the large catacombs are awesome. There are so many bones underneath it! I would say that this church is worth a bit of a walk even if it is out of your way.
Ribeira – There are actually two riverfront streets in Porto (one on each side of the river). On the side closest to the main town, you will have bars, tourist shops, and outdoor cafes. On the other side of the river, you will have tasting rooms and street vendors. We really enjoyed walking on both sides and across the beautiful bridge. Insider Tip: As you get close to the other side of the bridge there will be locals jumping off the bridge street performer style. They end up working the crowd for a LONG time before they finally jump but it is pretty impressive as the jump is high.
Check out the Azulejos (blue tiles)- As you walk around the city you will see some great European architecture and very cool old buildings. You will also see super pretty blue tiles on some of the buildings. Our favorite spots to check them out were the Capela Das Almas and the Porto Sao Bento Train Station.
What We Didn’t Do in Porto
Livraria Lello Bookstore- This bookstore strikes me as one of those things that is in every Porto blog post and Trip Advisor review but only because the people that went there read about it in every other blog post and Trip Advisor review. On the day that we walked by there was a line wrapped around the block to get into this tiny bookstore! All of the people in line had already bought their tickets online. We did not go into the bookstore so I cannot say for sure, but I have never been into or seen a picture of a bookstore that is worth all of that hype. If you really want that perfect IG picture you are better off getting a screenshot from Google! I think you would have trouble getting one over the mass of people.
Clerígos Tower- Although it is a bit of a hike (240 steps) the views from the top are pretty cool. It was the hottest day in Porto’s recorded history the day we planned to go so we skipped this one.
Douro River Tour- We actually didn’t end up doing this one but for €10 you can take a tour down the river. It is super pretty so I think this would be a good choice!
Where to Eat and Drink in Porto
Cafe Progresso– I already mentioned this one but we loved it so much I thought I should bring it up again. Seriously the coffee, food, and staff are all awesome. Go here!
Ro Ramen– Rachel and I do “Sunday Night Noodle Night” every Sunday so we were super excited to find a ramen spot in Porto. Both of our soups were pretty good. But the price was a little high and the vibe could use some improvement. Still, it was perfect for our Sunday noodle tradition.
Porto Cruz 360 Terrace Lounge– Talk about VIBES, this place is great. You take an elevator up to the top floor and you are immediately greeted with fun, house beats, classy clientele, and a great selection of wines and drinks. I would have felt like I was in LA had it not been for the stunning views of the Douro River.
Mercador Cafe– If you don’t feel like figuring out where to go for brunch head to this spot. We had great Eggs Bennies and they were actually pretty affordable.
Cafe Majestic– Another Porto “tourist hotspot” we walked in and got a table pretty quickly then took one look at the menu, grabbed a few pictures of the beautiful dining area and quickly walked out. This place is definitely famous for its beautiful decorations and not its good deals.
Café Aviz– The Franceshina sandwich is famous in Porto so, at the recommendation of a friend, we gave it a try at Cafe Aviz. I am not a huge fan of deli meat but the Francheshina was pretty good. I don’t think you need to go out of your way to visit Cafe Aviz. Most restaurants in Porto carry the Francheshina. But if you are in the area give this spot a try.
Aduela – This cute bar is small and so packed. People spill into the streets to eat, drink, and talk. Their port tonics and small plates are awesome!
Nightlife in Porto
For nightlife, head to the streets near Livraria Lello Bookstore. They are teeming with life after dark. We had a beer upstairs at a Bonaparte Baixa. We were a little early for the scene so it wasn’t that crowded but you can tell this area gets packed!
Best Day Trips from Porto:
If you have the time I recommend staying at least a few days in the Douro Vally (read our whole post here). That being said, if you are on a tight schedule there are plenty of companies that offer day trips from Porto to the vineyards of the Douro Valley.
Guimaraes brags that it is the birthplace of Portugal and home to its first King. In my opinion, the castle and town were not worth the hour ride from Porto. But if you get bored and love history you might want to check it out!
All in all, we really liked Porto. We were able to get a lot of work done and found the city to be very pretty. To top it all off the food and drinks were all great and, all things considered, reasonably priced.
Want more information to plan your trip to Lisbon? Check out the Portugal Lonely Planet here.