Porto

3 Days in Porto: Ultimate itinerary for first timers

Porto is perfect for a quick visit or an extended slow travel stay. Filled with gorgeously tiled buildings, a great vibe and culinary delights, this charming city has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or simply looking to soak in the vibrant culture, Porto will captivate you.

We loved Porto, and I recommend it to anyone travelling to Portugal. If you’re unsure what to do here and need help planning your trip, this post is for you. Here is what I recommend doing in Porto on a short city break.

Affiliate DisclosureThis post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may earn a commission. This doesn’t affect your purchases or any fees you may pay for the product or service. Read more in my DISCLAIMER.

Fun fact: Have you ever wondered whether this place is called Porto or Oporto? You can rest assured that both are correct. Oporto is mainly used in English, while Porto is the Portuguese name. As the popularity of the destination grows, so does the use of the native pronunciation. No matter what you call it, this is a fantastic place to explore.

Visit Porto for the perfect city break

We arrived in Porto on a sunny afternoon, eager to explore the city. Still riding high on the awesomeness of Portugal we discovered in Lisbon, we were excited to uncover all the Porto attractions awaiting us. And let me tell you, we weren’t disappointed.

Even though I knew Porto was Portugal’s second-largest city, I was still surprised by its size. There was no way we would’ve been able to see all of it on foot in the short time we had. Thankfully, like any other touristy city, several hop-on, hop-off bus tour companies can make seeing the city more manageable.

PRO TIP: Get your hop-on, hop-off bus tickets before you go.

You can quickly hit the main Porto attractions on a self-guided bus tour. Getting around Porto on the bus tour is quick and easy, and you can experience the city views from above. As it turns out, Porto is a beautiful place. Also, three days in Porto gives you a great taste of what you can find here.

Understanding Porto and its unique neighbourhoods

The city is divided into five zones offering something for everyone. This can be confusing initially, but it all comes together once you get a quick overview.

  • City Centre: As the name implies, the City Centre is the heart of Porto. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is home to numerous architectural gems, such as the Camara Municipal, Sao Bento Railway Station and Santo Antonio Hospital. Our Airbnb was in this area, so we could explore this part of the city quite a bit.
  • Historical Centre: The Historical Centre is the oldest part of the city. Porto dates back to Roman times when it was a fort for trading routes. Thanks to the Roman trade and later the Portuguese discoveries in the New World, it prospered greatly over the centuries. Here, you’ll find a wonderful blend of streets, buildings and squares that have evolved with the city as it grew over the years.
  • Boavista: This is a newer part of the city and reflects its expansion. Numerous shops, hotels and tall buildings line the Avenida da Boavista, Porto’s urban centre. They say some of the best shopping can be done in this area. I can’t attest to that as we weren’t interested in shopping. But I did come across so many nice shoes!
  • Foz Velha And Foz Nova: The “foz” literally means “mouth.” This part of the town extends from the mouth of the Duoro River to the Atlantic Ocean. Like any other place on the water, this was the home of fishermen until the second half of the 16th century, when it gave way to military purposes. Along the shores are numerous restaurants, beachfront promenades, bars and oceanfront living. The boat tour offers many great views of the shoreline and photo ops.
  • Eastern Side: Not as historical or exciting, the Eastern Side is the newest addition to the city. It came about as a result of growth and expansion. It was primarily rural farmlands until the end of the 19th century, when the city’s population grew and expanded. Some of the farmhouses are still there, dotting the vista.

3 Day Itinerary for first-time visitors

As with many other European cities, Porto is, with its many attractions, the perfect long weekend city break destination for every traveller. Three days is the perfect amount of time to explore this beautiful city. As I already mentioned, getting a bus ticket is a great way to start your adventure.

Many of them also include a boat “cruise” along the waterfront. It’s a great way to see Porto from a different angle and perspective. The boat ride is long enough to enjoy and not get bored, and I highly recommend it. By grabbing a bus ticket, you can set out to enjoy the charm of Porto on your own terms, and that’s the best way to explore a new city.

Porto

Day 1 Porto itinerary: Exploring the Best of Porto

On your first day, start your adventure in Porto’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • São Bento Station: Start your adventure at São Bento Railway Station, known for its stunning azulejo tiles (blue and white tiles) panels depicting scenes from Portuguese history. It’s also known as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.
  • Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto): Next, visit the Porto Cathedral, a Romanesque masterpiece with spectacular views over the city. From its terrace, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the Douro River.
  • Miradouro da Vitória:Visit this scenic viewpoint for stunning vistas over Porto’s historic center and the Douro River, the perfect spot for capturing beautiful photographs.
  • Lunch in Ribeira District: Wander down to the Ribeira District, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Enjoy lunch at one of the riverside restaurants, savouring local specialties like bacalhau (salted cod) or tripas à moda do Porto (tripe stew).
  • Rua de Santa Catarina: Stroll along Rua de Santa Catarina, the main shopping street with charming cafés, including the iconic Café Majestic. Don’t miss the Chapel of Souls (Capela das Almas), known for its striking blue-and-white tile façade.
  • Palácio da Bolsa: Visit the Palácio da Bolsa, especially the exquisite Arab Room, inspired by the Alhambra in Granada.
  • Livraria Lello bookshop: Indulge your literary senses at Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It is often said to have inspired J.K. Rowling to use it as a setting for Hogwarts in her Harry Potter books.
  • Dinner with live music: Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant featuring live Fado music, immersing yourself in the soulful sounds of Portugal. Book your tickets.
Porto

Recommended tours:

Port Wine Tour with 3 cellars and 7 Tastings

Porto Walking Tour, Lello Bookshop, River Cruise and Cable Car

Experience Porto’s Charm: 3-Hour Guided Walking Tour

Day 2 Porto itinerary: Explore the Riverside and wine cellars

  • Ribeira District: Dedicate your second day to exploring the Ribeira district. Wander through the narrow streets and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
  • Historic Tram Ride: Take a historic tram ride along the Douro River and soak in the scenic views. Try a local specialty like Francesinha or a pastel de nata for lunch.
  • Lunch: Try a local specialty like Francesinha or a pastel de nata at a charming riverside café.
  • Dom Luis I Bridge: Cross the Dom Luis I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, famous for its port wine cellars. Join a guided tour and indulge in a port tasting session to savour the rich flavours of this iconic wine.
  • Port wine cellars: Join a guided tour of a port wine cellar and indulge in a tasting session to savour the rich flavours of this iconic wine.
  • Cable car ride: Take the cable car from Gaia’s riverside up to Jardim do Morro for spectacular Porto and Douro River views.
  • Boat ride: Take a leisurely boat ride along the Douro River to see the city illuminated at night.
Porto

Day 3 Porto itinerary: Discover Boavista and Foz

  • Boavista District: On your third day, visit the Boavista district. Start with a tour of the Casa da Música, a modern architectural marvel and cultural hub.
  • City Hall: Stop by Porto’s City Hall, an impressive building that often hosts art exhibitions and cultural events.
  • Clérigos Tower: Climb the Clérigos Tower for a breathtaking 360-degree view of Porto. Visit the adjacent Clérigos Church, an 18th-century Baroque masterpiece.
  • Lunch at Café Majestic: Step back in time at Café Majestic, a beautiful Belle Époque café renowned for its opulent interior and delectable pastries.
  • Jardins do Palácio de Cristal: Walk through the nearby Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, offering spectacular views over Porto and the Douro River.
  • Foz do Douro: Spend your afternoon in Foz, where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Stroll along the beachfront promenades, relax at a seaside café, and explore the picturesque streets. If you have extra time, consider a day trip to the Douro Valley, known for its terraced vineyards and stunning landscapes.
  • Dinner at Foz do Douro: Enjoy dinner with a view of the ocean, savouring fresh seafood and local delicacies.
Porto

Can’t miss sights in Porto

We loved walking around Porto. It felt safe, exciting and welcoming. Like Lisbon, most people spoke English, making things easier for us, as our Portuguese is non-existent. There were so many little spots here that made us pause.

It’s one of those places with a laid-back feel and embraces you from the moment you set foot in it. I loved the pretty buildings decorated with intricate tiles, which is common in Portugal. Some are painted in pretty colours; others have imaginative carvings. There are some hills here, especially in the older parts of town, but overall, walking is not too bad.

With a short time on your hands, you won’t see it all. The bus is a great option to get the lay of the land and pick some key points. Here are some of my picks. If you have extra time, visit the Botanical Gardens in Boavista for a serene escape amidst exotic plants and flowers.

Quinta Da Boeira

A perk of the sightseeing bus tour in Porto is the opportunity to sample the local specialty—port. Port, more of a liqueur than wine, is sweet and fruity and made right here in Porto. We got the opportunity to sample two different distilleries, and we might have brought some home, too.

There are many great places to enjoy port in the city, but since this is already included in the bus tour price, why not take advantage? Plus, you’ll get to stop by Quinta da Boeira, a grand villa dating back to 1850 with pretty gardens. Although, sampling some port in this setting is an elevated experience.

The Bridges Of Porto

Porto is a city of bridges. There are primarily two that might remind you of another grand European landmark – the Eiffel Tower. The famous Dom Luis I and Dona Maria Pia bridges have a complex ironwork framework supported by a great arch, supporting the traffic above. Gustave Eiffel designed the Dona Maria Pia bridge, while one of Eiffel’s admirers designed the Dom Luis I.

Porto

During the boat ride, you can see these two, named after the Portuguese monarchs of the late 19th century and the four others. You can also read more about Porto’s bridges and check them out when visiting Porto.

The Ribeira

Not only is the Ribeira one of Porto’s most popular neighbourhoods, but it is also one of the most picturesque. Nestled on the shore of the Douro River in the heart of the old town, Ribeira is a great place to stroll around, people watch or partake in some food and drinks. You’ll find the action here no matter what time of the day.

Porto

You can take the boat tour from here and get an even better view of all the wonderfully decorated façades of the properties along the shore. If you’re like me, you can even imagine which one you’d like to live in. Win, win.

How To Get To Porto

We took the high-speed train from Lisbon, which took less than three hours. It was an excellent alternative to flying as it meant no check-ins, delays and waiting.  It was also inexpensive and pretty comfortable.

The train dropped us off at the central station, and we took the metro to our stop. That was also a short ride, and our lodgings were across the street from the station. Even though we didn’t take transportation while in Porto, the infrastructure seemed pretty decent to get around.

Practical tips for visiting Porto

  • Best time to visit: The best time to visit Porto is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant and the crowds are thinner.
  • Getting around: Porto’s public transportation system, including buses, trams, and the metro, is efficient and affordable. Consider getting a Porto Card for unlimited travel and discounts at major attractions.
  • Currency and payments: Portugal uses the Euro, and credit cards are widely accepted. It’s always good to have some cash for small purchases and tips.
  • Language: While Portuguese is the official language, English is commonly spoken in tourist areas.
  • Safety: Porto is a safe city, but like any other tourist destination, be mindful of your belongings and stay aware of your surroundings.

Where to stay in Porto

Choosing the right neighbourhood can enhance your experience in Porto, making it easy to access the city’s main attractions while enjoying a comfortable stay. Here are some top recommendations:

Ribeira

Located along the Douro River, Ribeira is one of Porto’s most picturesque and vibrant neighbourhoods. Staying here is within walking distance of the historic center, the Dom Luis I Bridge, and numerous riverside cafés and restaurants. The lively atmosphere and stunning river views make Ribeira a popular choice for first-time visitors.

City Centre (Baixa)

The City Centre, or Baixa, is the heart of Porto and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s home to many of the city’s main attractions, including the São Bento Station, Porto Cathedral, and Avenida dos Aliados. Staying here means you’re close to cultural landmarks, shopping streets like Rua de Santa Catarina, and plenty of dining options. It’s ideal for those who want to be in the middle of the action.

Boavista

Boavista is a modern district known for its business centers, shopping avenues, and cultural sites like the Casa da Música. It’s an excellent option for travellers looking for a quieter stay close to major attractions. The district offers a range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly options.

Foz do Douro

Foz do Douro, where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is perfect for those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere. This area boasts beautiful beaches, seaside promenades, and upscale dining options. It’s a bit farther from the city center but offers a peaceful retreat with easy access to public transportation.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Across the river from Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia is famous for its port wine cellars and stunning views of the Porto skyline. Staying here gives you the unique experience of being close to the wine-tasting venues while enjoying a slightly quieter ambiance. It’s just a short walk or metro ride across the Dom Luis I Bridge to the heart of Porto.

Local Dishes to Try in Porto

Porto’s culinary scene is rich and varied, offering a delightful mix of traditional Portuguese dishes and local specialties. Here are some must-try dishes:

  • Francesinha: This hearty sandwich is a Porto classic. It consists of layers of ham, steak and sausage covered in melted cheese and a rich tomato-beer sauce. It’s typically served with fries and is a must-try for meat lovers.
  • Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá: A traditional Portuguese dish, Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a comforting casserole made with salted cod, potatoes, onions, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. It’s a flavorful dish highlighting the country’s love for bacalhau (codfish).

Recommended food tours:

Porto Food Tour – Do Eat Better Experience

Eating Porto: Progressive Dinner Tour

\Porto 3-Hour Food and Wine Tasting Tour

  • Tripas à Moda do Porto: A signature dish of Porto, Tripas à Moda do Porto is a tripe stew made with various meats, sausages, and white beans. It’s a hearty, flavorful, local favourite dish for centuries.
  • Caldo Verde: This popular soup is made with kale, potatoes, chorizo, and garlic. It’s a simple yet delicious dish often served as a starter or a light meal.
  • Pastel de Nata: No trip to Portugal is complete without trying a pastel de nata. These creamy custard tarts are best enjoyed with a sprinkle of cinnamon and powdered sugar. They’re a perfect treat any time of the day.

Day Trips and Attractions Near Porto

Porto’s strategic location in northern Portugal makes it an excellent base for exploring nearby attractions and scenic spots. Here are some recommended day trips:

Douro Valley

The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its terraced vineyards and stunning landscapes. Take a guided tour or a scenic boat cruise to enjoy wine tasting at some of the region’s best wineries. The Douro Valley is perfect for a full-day trip, offering spectacular views and an immersive wine experience. Book now: small group Duoro Valley wine-tasting tour and river cruise.

Braga

Known for its rich history and beautiful churches, Braga is just an hour away from Porto. Visit the Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary, famous for its baroque staircase, and explore the historic city center. Braga’s charm and cultural significance make it worth visiting. Don’t miss the best of Braga and Guimaraes Day Trip from Porto –get your tickets before you go.

Guimarães

Often referred to as the birthplace of Portugal, Guimarães is a historic city with well-preserved medieval architecture. Explore the Guimarães Castle, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, and the charming streets of the old town. It’s an ideal destination for history enthusiasts. Experience a full-day Braga and Guimarães guided semi-private tour with lunch – get your tickets today.

Aveiro

Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is famous for its canals, colourful moliceiro boats, and art nouveau architecture. Enjoy a boat ride through the canals, visit the Museu de Aveiro, and sample the local delicacy, ovos moles. Aveiro makes for a charming and picturesque day trip. Tick off two top Portuguese towns on a day trip to Coimbra and Aveiro – treat yourself with a tour today.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

For nature lovers, a trip to Peneda-Gerês National Park offers breathtaking landscapes, hiking trails, and serene waterfalls. It’s the only national park in Portugal. It provides a perfect escape into nature, just a couple of hours from Porto.

Conclusion: Porto – A perfect blend of history, culture and flavour

Porto offers a perfect blend of rich history, vibrant culture and culinary delights, making it an ideal short break or extended stay destination. I enjoyed being in a place with no plans, wandering around the city and discovering different gems almost on every corner. There are ornate churches, buildings with wrought-iron balconies, cobbled streets and plenty of bars and restaurants to indulge in. It’s a cultural and culinary paradise perfect for any cultural and history lover.

Whether exploring the historic center, savouring the local wine, or simply soaking in the scenic views, Porto promises an unforgettable experience. With its charming neighbourhoods, stunning architecture, and welcoming atmosphere, Porto is a city that will leave you longing to return. I definitely recommend adding Porto to your Portugal itinerary.


Similar Posts