If you keep up with the trendiest places to visit in Europe, you may have heard Porto, Portugal, is rising in popularity. This charming coastal city is the 2nd-largest in Portugal, but historically it’s been overlooked for the Lisbon trend. However, if you’d rather leave the tourist sites behind and experience the true spirit of Portugal, Porto is the obvious choice for an unforgettable trip.
Here’s everything you need to plan the perfect trip to this Portuguese gem!
What is Porto Like?
Porto is located right along the Duoro River and the Atlantic Ocean. The town has a beautiful network of bridges spanning the river in the Old Town area, and the colorful, multi-story buildings with red rooftops add a festive touch to the waterways.
One of Porto’s biggest appeals is that it offers the opportunity to dive into Portugal’s cuisine and culture in a much more intimate setting, thanks to the smaller city and population. The entire city is steeped in rich history and tradition that you can explore without the bustle of a larger city.
Another great thing about Porto is that it’s one of the safest cities in Portugal! Porto has very few crime-related issues, and most tourists won’t have any problems during their trip.
As far as weather goes, Porto is very similar to the mainland. Its close location to the ocean means warm summers, mild winters, and (unfortunately) a good bit of rain throughout the year. But don’t let that deter you! The best time to visit Porto, Portugal, is from June to September during the summer months. You’ll deal with the least rain and have average temperatures in the 70s to explore the city.
How Do I Get Around Porto?
Don’t worry about renting a car—Porto has a great public transport system to get you around. The city’s transportation network is both efficient and affordable, with many different options for you to choose from.
Depending on where you are and what time it is, you can take the train, Metro, bus, or tram around the city. Even if you stay out late (or start early), the Metro constantly runs from 6 am to 1 am. The tram is less efficient, but it’s a great way to reach some of the city’s more historic parts for only 3 euros per trip.
Best Things to Do in Porto, Portugal
You’ll find no shortage of incredible things to do in Porto. In fact, your biggest problem will probably be deciding what to do first!
Bookworms and architecture lovers should prioritize a trip to the famed Livraria Lello, known as one of the most beautiful bookstores worldwide! You’ll likely experience a wait to enter, but the double staircase, stained glass, and incredible woodwork are worth the wait.
São Bento Station
The São Bento Station is a fantastic stop for history in a stunning setting. This station is considered one of the most beautiful stations in Europe. It has a tremendous display of 20,000+ azulejo tiles that tell Portugal’s history in stunning pictures.
You can see the tower of Clerigos Church from all over the city, but it’s even more interesting up close. This Baroque-style church allows visitors to enter for tours of the House of the Brotherhood (museum) and to climb the 225 steps to the top of its iconic tower. The tower climb isn’t easy, but you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of Porto.
Luis I Bridge
Porto has a network of 6 bridges spanning the Duoro River, but the Luis I Bridge is the most intriguing. This double-decker bridge was built in 1886 and was the largest iron arch in the world at the time! You can cross both the lower and upper levels to take in the bridge and the city views. If you don’t want to climb to the 2nd story, you can “cheat” and take a unique ride on the Funicular dos Guindais from the Ribeira district.
A trip to Porto has to include a look at its famous port wine! You can book a tour with a local cellar to see the different locations along the river where grapes are grown, processed, and aged. Or just skip to the end and book a tasting tour instead!
Jardins do Palacio de Cristal
For some natural beauty, visit the free Crystal Palace Gardens, located on a hill high above Porto. You’ll see peacocks, flowers, fountains, and sculptures as you tour the gorgeous gardens and take in the views of Porto below.
Where Should I Stay in Porto, Portugal
Porto has many great places to stay, but some areas are better than others, depending on your travel style. For luxury hotels, Boavistia is the best place to stay, while central Porto has more historic hotel options. For more photogenic opportunities, Ribeira is the obvious choice. Still, those wanting convenience and nightlife will want to stay in Baixa/Se instead.
It’s hard to make a wrong choice, but here are our top recommendations to make it easy!
Located in a renovated 500-year-old palace, the PortoBay Flores offers 5-star accommodations, complete with a spa, indoor pool, buffet breakfast, and stunning rooms. Thanks to its fantastic location near the Sao Bento Train station, Clerigos Tower, and more, it’s even more desirable!
The Mouco Hotel gets top marks for its unique aesthetic and comfortable beds, plus a property equipped with a pool, bar, and gardens. It’s also conveniently located to some of the city’s top sights, like the Maria Pia Bridge, Majestic Café, and Church of Saint Ildefonso.
These sleek apartments put you right in the middle of the action in Porto’s Massarelos neighborhood. Enjoy space to spread out and make yourself at home with a kitchen, living room, modern bathrooms, and furnished balconies! When it’s time to explore, you’ll be within walking distance of the National Museum, art galleries, Livraria Lello, and more!
If you’d rather stay in the Vila Nova de Gaia neighborhood on the opposite side of the Duoro, The ClipHotel is a great choice. It’s just 150 feet from the station that will take you to central Porto, and the accommodations are gorgeous. You’ll enjoy sleek rooms with modern conveniences, the on-site bar, and delicious local restaurants within a 2-minute walk!
Porto is a beautiful city with plenty to offer visitors! From its stunning bridges and churches to its port wine tours and amazing views, there’s something for everyone in this Portuguese city. When planning your trip, be sure to consider where you want to stay in Porto, as each neighborhood has its own unique charms. No matter where you choose to stay, you’re sure to have a wonderful time in Porto!