Porto, a long-time rival to gorgeous Lisbon, has long captivated travelers with its culture, celebrated architecture, great wines, and archaic charm. Rows of slim buildings are crammed together along tiny cobblestone alleys, washing dangles from wrought-iron balconies, and locals cool down at alfresco cafes, sipping a cappuccino and Douro Valley wine.
A feast for visitors, a city that is teeming with old-school bars, slick gourmet restaurants, and hangouts offering delectable petiscos (small Portuguese plates, ideal for sharing). The city is small enough to see the main highlights in just a couple of days but also sufficiently complex to spend weeks exploring — and there’s a lot to do for free. Here are some of the top things to do in Porto to get you started.
1. Take Pictures of Instagram-worthy Azulejos
The walls of multicolored tiles known as azulejos, which are traditionally ornamented with repeated, elaborate patterns or mural scenes rendered in blue and white, epitomize Portuguese design. Inside the San Bento Railway Station, where stories from Portugal’s history extend from floor to ceiling, some of the most spectacular tile work can be found. Check out the sides of Porto’s major commercial strip, Capela das Almas, as well as the walls of Rua de Santa Catarina and the spectacular Igreja do Carmo, a cathedral that oozes with gold on the inside. Don’t limit yourself to these well-known attractions; azulejos may be found all around the city, and discovering them is part of the enjoyment.
2. Have a Francesinha
Porto’s favorite cuisine is the Francesinha, a gut-busting sandwich. Ham, steak and sausage are sandwiched between white bread pieces before being wrapped in cheese, drowned in a lightly spicy tomato sauce, and served with fries, preferably accompanied with a local beer.
Café Santiago is frequently mentioned as one of the greatest venues in Porto to try the Francesinha, but the sandwich can be found all throughout the city. After that, take it easy on your heart and have a salad for dinner.
3. Take in a Port Sampling
Due to a technicality, Portugal’s iconic port lodges are really located in Porto’s cross-river sister city Vila Nova de Gaia. This mountainous district, however, is easily accessible by strolling or taking the subway across the historic Ponte de Dom Lus I, which was built by a follower of Gustave Eiffel. Sample Porto’s eponymous liqueur at vintage cellars such as Ramos Pinto, Graham’s, or Taylor’s, the latter of which has a rooftop patio with spectacular views of the Douro River. The riverside Espaço Porto Cruz offers a more modern take on the port-tasting experience, as well as spectacular views from its terrace.
4. Admire Porto’s Street Art Trail
The Porto art scene is not limited to galleries. Keep a watch out for Porto’s supplementary population of beautifully colored cartoon-like characters, painted by the city’s outstanding street artists, as you walk the backstreets and nip down alleyways.
Begin the Ribeira street art tour by strolling along Travessa de Cedofeita, Rua das Flores, and the colorful Rua da Madeira. Other notable detours include Mirigaia’s Rua So Pedro de Miragaia and Rua Miguel Bombarda, as well as the Trindade car park, which features works by street art demigods MrDheo and Hazul Luzah.
5. Relax at Clerigos Church
The 76-meter-high Torre dos Clérigos, created in the 1700s by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, is Porto’s distinctive feature. The baroque tower towers over the city rooftops, and tourists can climb 225 steps to the summit for panoramic city views. It’s not a claustrophobic feeling Because the construction was not designed with tourists in mind!
After the ascent, visit the neighboring church – a 1750 baroque gem – for a free pipe organ concert every day at noon, or simply relax on the manicured lawn of the adjacent Jardim das Oliveiras. Base, the chilled open-air bar, is also ideally placed at the tower’s base, making it a great destination for a relaxing drink at sunset.
Free Walking Tour of Porto
Explore the city of Porto on foot with an expert tour guide.
You’ll get to see all the best spots, from Avenida dos Aliados to the Clerigos Church, the magnificent Porto Cathedral, and walk past the San Bento Railway Station.
Experience The Undefeated City your way and book your spot on the Free Walking Tour of Porto here!