Porto, Portugal

5 things you must do in Porto

It really was a whirlwind weekend. We flew at 7am on Friday and were home again before midday on Sunday! If you fancy a lovely European city break and have a little more time than I did, make sure to stay for at least 3 days. There is so much to see and do in Porto!

This charming city in northern Portugal is a true gem of Western Europe. It feels like it’s tucked away and out of sight; it didn’t feel crowded and certainly didn’t have the hustle and bustle of a bigger city so it felt a bit like it was off the tourist path. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m just late to the party but Porto is a great place to visit if you’re not into the bigger better known cities.

So, if you’re visiting Porto on a city break, stopping by on a holiday through Portugal, or if you’re about to embark on a river cruise along the Douro, take a look at my top 5 ‘must-do’ activities in this beautiful Portuguese city.

Porto Luis I Bridge

Port tasting

Porto is the birthplace of port wine and you can’t visit without touring one of the world-famous wineries right in the heart of the city! Get the cable car from Jardim do Morro (right next to the famous Luis I bridge) down to Cais de Gaia and walk up to the many wineries perched on the hill on the south side of the city.

Even if you don’t drink, a tour of the cellars provides a really interesting insight into the history of the wine-growing region. We visited Taylor’s and enjoyed an audio guided tour and a tasting — the tour lasted around an hour, it was truly immersive and the tasting included white port, ruby port and a can of Chip Dry port and tonic to take away with us. Delicious!

Taylor's port winery

Taylor's port wine tasting

Eat pastel de nata

You can’t visit Portugal without trying pastel de nata. These crumbly custard tarts are light and fluffy, sweet and downright delicious. If you’re a foodie and love to try local cuisine whilst travelling, pastel de nata should be the first item on your list in Portugal. You can find them in bakeries, cafes, and even bars and restaurants all over the city for around €1 a piece. Best served with breakfast, lunch, a late evening snack… and any time in between!

Cycle along the Douro…

Of course, Porto is on the coast and just 5km out of the city the River Douro opens up into the vast Atlantic Ocean. We rented bicycles and cycled over to the lighthouse right at the mouth of the river — there were even people surfing in the frigid water, brrr! I can imagine that in the peak summer months, the beaches along the coastline become busy with families picnicking and swimming. 

Porto city park

…or take a scenic boat ride along the river

If cycling isn’t your thing, take a scenic boat ride along the Douro. There are countless tourist shops advertising day cruises varying from 1 hour to all day. The six bridges of Porto is a common route for an hour long boat ride and costs around €15pp. Take in the dramatic bridges and marvel at the engineering involved. Meander along the Douro and watch as the landscape changes from red tiled roofs to lush green vineyards.

Of course, if you're spending a day or two in Porto before embarking on your river cruise along the Douro, then you needn't bother with a day trip! Head down to the riverbanks and look at the beautiful river cruise ships sail into the city as you sip a class of port wine and nibble on a pastel de nata.

Douro river cruise ships

Porto Luis I Bridge at night

Visit Porto's beautiful old centre

Venture into the city (either by metro or by foot if you dare hike up the steep cobbled streets!) and visit the beautiful old buildings of Porto.

I found the Igreja de São Francisco — the Church of Saint Francis — to be a real highlight of our weekend in Porto. This 14th century Franciscan church looks fairly nondescript from its exterior, but inside the gold ceilings and intricate carvings are a sight to behold. Entry costs €10pp plus an extra €1 for a guide describing the different chapels and enclaves.

If this doesn’t interest you, simply walking around the city centre in Porto is wonderful. You’ll find old buildings and churches clad in ornately decorated tiles. Porto is a really colourful city known for its ceramics, so make sure you take home a little ceramic souvenir, too!

Porto tiled buildings

There are so many wonderful things to do in Porto; too many to list here in this blog. I hope my ‘top five’ gives you a good starting point for your next visit to Porto. Whether it’s a long weekend city break or a pre- or post-cruise stopover on the River Douro, you are sure to love Porto.

Find out more about Douro river cruises and get in touch with our team of river experts on 0161 513 8200 to get your trip in the diary.

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