Some of the best things to do in Porto showcase the city’s rich history – you’ll find one of the world’s most famous port wine cellars, dozens of ancient churches, and world heritage sites. Its architecture is a mix of gothic, baroque and modernist styles, and the winding cobbled streets of Old Town give the city a unique charm.

    With such a diverse range of sights to see and things to do, it’s no wonder Porto is fast becoming one of Western Europe’s most respected tourist destinations. While you’re here, try local dishes, view the iconic stately bridges, explore the characterful districts and treat yourself to some of the world’s finest port wines to end your day. Here’s our list of sights to see and things to do you should squeeze into your trip to Porto.

    What are the best things to do in Porto?


    Porto Cathedral

    Porto’s iconic place of worship dates back to the 12th century

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Though this landmark has undergone plenty of renovations over the years, Porto Cathedral retains much of its 12th century architecture, including its arrow loops, buttresses and crenellations that highlight its previous defensive role. Just outside the cathedral is the Terreiro da Sé, where you can overlook the old part of Porto, the rooftops of its medieval buildings and landmarks such as Clérigos Church.

    Take a look inside Porto Cathedral to view opulent decorations and the 17th-century Baroque redesign. You might want to wear appropriate clothing as the building still serves as a place of worship for the locals.

    Location: Terreiro da Sé, 4050-573 Porto, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +351 22 205 9028


    Muralha Fernandina

    This UNESCO-protected wall guarded Porto in the 14th century

    • History
    • Photo

    Even though it’s part of Porto’s World Heritage Site, the Muralha Fernandina (Fernandina Wall) is surprisingly underappreciated. You can walk along a section of this ancient wall to relish views of Porto’s old town and get up to speed with the city’s medieval history by reading the numerous UNESCO signs. It’s also arguably the best place to observe the Douro River.

    The best-preserved section of the wall is a short walk from Dom Luís I Bridge. If you just want to photograph the wall, the bridge offers an unobstructed view, but you might find you’re one of the few people trekking the wall and its fortifications during your visit.

    Location: Escadas do Caminho Novo 17, 4050-431 Porto, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm


    photo by spacetrash (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Monument Church of St Francis

    Ancient catacombs where Porto's nobility was buried

    • History
    • Photo

    The extravagant interior of the Monument Church of St Francis (Igreja Monumento de São Francisco) is almost entirely covered in gold. An estimated 400 kg of gold was used to gild the ornate woodwork covering the walls, aisles, pillars, and chapels. Walk around the church and you'll spot shimmering figures of monks and cherubs, as well as detailed carvings and colourful frescoes.

    A highlight is the Tree of Jesse, a sculpture depicting Christ's ancestors in the form of a branching tree. Look out for the 13th-century statue of Saint Francis of Assisi at the entrance. Descend to the underground catacombs to see where the Franciscan monks were buried, along with an ossuary packed with thousands of bones beneath a glass floor.

    Location: Rua do Infante D. Henrique, 4050-297 Porto, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +351 22 206 2125


    Cais da Ribeira

    Glimpse the city’s charm from the river

    • Photo
    • Budget

    Porto’s riverside Cais da Ribeira may be a little chaotic, but you can enjoy wonderful views of the river without having to jostle with crowds in the morning. You’ll find cafés, bars and restaurants hidden around every corner, and plenty of tourist boards give you an insight into the area’s rich history. Walk through the arcades to view the pastel-painted houses, but be prepared for steep streets and lots of stairways.

    Cais da Ribeira offers photo opportunities of the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, which dates back to 1886. You can walk over the bridge to enjoy stunning views of the Cais da Ribeira from above. You can also book a river tour from the Cais de Ribeira to look at the landmarks that line the northern banks.

    Location: Cais da Ribeira, Porto, Portugal


    Clérigos Church Tower

    Climb 240 steps to view Porto from above

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    With a height of 75.6 metres, Clérigos Church is still visible from most parts of Porto. The church’s exterior features beautiful carvings, many of which date back to 1763 when this iconic place of worship was first constructed. While the church is a must-visit landmark itself, you can also observe panoramic views of Porto by climbing to the top.

    You might have to wait in long queues and climb an exhausting 240 steps to reach the viewpoint, but the rewarding sights of the city are well worth it. Get there early to avoid waiting in line for hours.

    Location: R. de São Filipe de Nery, 4050-546 Porto, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +351 22 014 5489


    Praça da Liberdade

    Upmarket buildings and designer boutiques surround this square

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) links the old part of Porto to the new. The streets around the square are surrounded by some of the most upmarket buildings in the city, which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. If you want to stock up on designer clothes and enjoy fine dining, this is the place to go, but simply walking around to view the magnificent modernist structures makes the neighbourhood worth a visit.

    In the middle of the square, you’ll see a 19th-century statue of King Peter IV holding the constitution. Landmarks such as Porto Cathedral, Rua Santa Catarina (arguably Porto’s best high street) and Clérigos Church are less than 500 metres away.

    Location: Praça da Liberdade, Liberdade Square, Porto, Portugal


    photo by MICHELLE TAMIETTI (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Livraria Lello

    This delightful bookshop made a fan out of J.K. Rowling

    Head to Rua das Carmelitas and stop at number 144 to browse thousands of books in one of Porto’s most famous bookstores. The shop’s beautiful interior also attracts many visitors – the ceiling piping, sinuous wooden staircase and stained-glass skylight give this shop an undeniable charm, and its Gothic traceries, façade and murals complement its Art Nouveau design.

    You’ll quickly realise why Livraria Lello was one of J.K Rowling’s favourite places to visit while she was teaching English in Porto. It’s also often touted as one of the world’s best bookstores. Bibliophile or not, you shouldn’t miss Livraria Lello while spending the day travelling Portugal’s second largest city.

    Location: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +351 22 200 2037


    Porto's picnic spots

    The city has many green spaces with postcard-perfect views

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Group

    Parque de Cidade is Porto’s largest green space, spread across 83 hectares, meaning you won’t struggle to find room to lay down a blanket and enjoy a picnic in the sun. Throughout the park are rectangular granite stones that appear similar to ancient foundations. The locals often cycle through the park en route to hotspots such as Forte de São Francisco Xavier and the Praia do Matosinhos beach.

    Though not as large as Parque de Cidade, Crystal Palace Gardens is a little more exotic and offers views of the Douro River and Luís I Bridge. Reaching the gardens requires a bit of a hike, but the rewards include sights of tree-lined waterways, a domed pavilion and sculptured topiary.

    photo by Joseolgon (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Casa da Música

    Prestigious programme of music in an award-winning building

    • History
    • Photo
    • Nightlife
    • Luxury

    Casa da Música is a modern concert hall that's home to the National Orchestra of Porto. The venue was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to celebrate Porto's status as the European Capital of Culture. It has a reputation for having some of the world's best acoustics, plus an innovative programme of music across genres.

    See a classical piano concerto, a Portuguese rap artist, a jazz concert, or Baroque music played by resident Orquestra Barroca. Hour-long guided tours in Portuguese or English let you see more of the building's remarkable architecture and even make your own music. Casa da Música's onsite restaurant serves elegant Portuguese-inspired dishes with sweeping views of Porto.

    Location: Av. da Boavista 604-610, 4149-071 Porto, Portugal

    Phone: +351 22 012 0220


    Downtown Porto

    The city's premier nightlife destination

    • Nightlife

    Downtown Porto can be hectic over the weekend, but it’s the perfect place to mingle with locals and tourists. It attracts couples, bohemian partygoers, and tourists who don’t want to stay inside when street music and dozens of bars bring the area to life at night. Enjoy a boogie in a crowded music bar such as Plano B or Radio Bar, or have a glass (or 2) of local wine at Café Candelabro.

    If you want to spend the night away from the bustle of Downtown, head to Ribeira to attend poetry nights, cultural events, concerts, and electronic parties. Ribeira also offers splendid city views for those who want to add a touch of romance to their evening in Porto.

    Location: Porto, Portugal


    photo by Derrick Brutel (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Joshua Saunders | Contributing Writer

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