Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal, and definitely one of the best cities to visit in the country. With plenty of cheap flights coming from all European countries, and even overseas, Porto is a great choice for a weekend getaway or a nice stop on a longer Portugal trip. This solo guide to Porto will cover everything you need to know to visit, including the best things to do in Porto, where to get a taste of the nightlife, how to travel from Porto airport to the city center, how to get around the city, and where to stay.
Let’s get started!
Top things to do in Porto
Most of the best things to do in Porto are located in the historic center. If it’s your first time visiting, you’ll be able to spend several days walking in the city, discovering the many epic sights and activities Porto has to offer.
Let’s jump right in the best things to do in Porto!
See the Sé do Porto – Porto Cathedral
The Cathedral do Porto is the most important religious building in Porto, and definitely a must-see in the city!
Built in the 12th century, this masterpiece of architecture is an impressive building from outside; it’s even more stunning inside!
Make sure you go inside the cathedral to fully enjoy your visit.
The cathedral itself is free to visit; the cloister has a 3€ entrance fee.
Watch the Sun Rise Over the Dom Luís I Bridge
When it was built in 1886, it was the longest double-deck bridge in the world. While it has since lost its title, it’s still a very imposing bridge and an icon of the city.
Spanning over the Douro River, the bridge offers great 360° views over the river and the town.
If you’re an early bird, you’ll love going to the bridge to see the sunrise over the city. Or even better, you can go to a nearby miradouro (viewpoint in Portuguese) to see the sunrise over the bridge itself. The best viewpoints around are the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar and the top of the Lift Lada Ribeira.
Hop on a Tram
While Porto is not as famous as Lisbon for its trams, you’ll still find beautiful old classic trams in the city. Trams are one of my favorite subjects to photograph when in Porto, and I’m sure you’ll love seeing these old trams too. After taking a few photos, you can even hop on a tram and go for a tour through the city aboard one of the trams.
There are 3 main tram lines in Porto: the lines 18 & 22 will take you through Porto city center, while line 1 goes from Porto city center to the west part of the city, along the river banks.
Climb the Clérigos Tower
The Clérigos Tower, or Torre dos Clérigos, is a 75 meters high tower built in the 18th century. You can’t really miss it, as you’ll see it towering above the buildings in the area.
You can even go up all the way to the top of the tower; enter the tower, climb the steps of the inner staircase, and enjoy one of the best views over Porto!
See the Famous Livraria Lello
You’ve probably heard of this famous book shop in Porto; the Livraria Lello is said to have inspired the Harry Potter’s library from J.K Rowling.
And when you step inside the library, it’s not hard to see why: a stunning central staircase, that will undoubtedly remind you of the movies.
If you want to avoid all the crowds (yes, it’s pretty popular), try going in the evening around 30 minutes before it closes: from 6 pm to 6:30 pm is a great time to go.
Relax on the Beach
Take a break from exploring the city and go relax in one of the many beaches in Porto and nearby areas. One of the pros of visiting Porto is the warm weather most of the year; whether you’re going to the beach to swim, to relax on the beach, or simply to see the ocean, you’ll love the beaches in Porto.
Here are a few of the great beaches:
- Beach of Homem do Leme
- Beach of Canido Sul
- Matosinhos Beach
- and my favorite, Praia do Senhor da Pedra
Explore the Ribeira Neighborhood
You can’t leave Porto without having visited the most famous neighborhood in the city: the Ribeira neighborhood. It’s the postcard view of Porto, with colorful houses on the riverfront.
On top of the many colorful houses, take the time to stroll through the narrow streets of the neighborhood, with all the local shops.
Go for a River Cruise
For the last item on our list of best things to do in Porto, we have a river cruise.
Tired of walking all day to explore the city? Well, how about you sit down and still enjoy new sights?
Hop on a boat and cruise down the Douro River to see Porto from a different angle. Added bonus, most cruises include local wine tasting!
And this concludes our list of the best things to do in Porto! Of course, there are many other great things to do in the city, including many stunning churches to visit and local food to try, so you’ll have plenty of things to do regardless of how many days you choose to spend in Porto.
Porto Portugal Nightlife
If you still have some energy left after exploring the city for the day, you might want to discover the Porto Portugal nightlife!
If you’re staying in the center, simply walk out and you’ll find some nice bars; or head to the Praça de Gomes Teixeira where most night bars are located.
Fancy a calmer experience? Go see a live Fado experience!
How To Get From Porto Airport To City Center
The Porto airport, Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro, is located in the north of the city. When you land in Porto, you still have a bit of commute before reaching the city center.
There are 6 ways to get from Porto airport to the city center and they are:
- Rent a car
- Take a taxi or Uber
- Ride the bus
- Hop on the train
- Car rental in Porto
- Book an airport transfer
I don’t recommend renting a car in Porto unless you’re planning to explore the surrounding areas. If you’re going to be staying in Porto, don’t bother as traffic is a pain in the town center. However, if you’re planning to visit other places in Portugal after Porto (Douro Valley for example), then it’s definitely a great option.
Time: 25 minutes
Taxi – Uber
There isn’t much difference between a taxi and a Uber for the price of the ride. Go with whatever you feel more comfortable with.
The only exception is if you’re landing at night, and you have big luggage – then Uber is cheaper.
Cost: +/- 25€
Time: 25 minutes
You can take one of the two lines that go from the airport to Porto city center: the 601 or the 602.
Time: 1 hour
And finally, the last way to reach the city is by train. Take the line E to Trindade, then the line D to São Bento.
Time: 40 minutes
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Getting around Porto
Once you are in the city center, most of the things to do in town will be within walking distance.
For the few times where you’ll have to go a bit further, you can use the trains or buses: get a reusable train card, then top it off to be able to use it.
If it’s your first time and you are unsure where to stay in Porto, I recommend staying in the city center. It will be the most convenient place to stay to explore the city, and you’ll find some very nice hotels in the area. Below are some of the best hotels in Porto city center.
Recommended pick: Downtown Residence by Apartments2Enjoy
This lovely apartment will feel like your home away from home. It’s located right next to the famous Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, and the host will be more than happy to recommend the best things to do in Porto with her local tips.
Budget option: Best Guest Porto Hostel
If you’re on a budget, this hostel is the perfect choice for you. At around 15€ per night, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better hotel in such a great location.
With more than 2,400 ratings over 9/10, you really can’t go wrong with this hostel.
Luxury stay: Infante Sagres – Luxury Historic Hotel
And finally, if you’re more into luxury travel, you’ll love the Infante Sagres 5 star hotel.
Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, you’ll feel like you’re in a real palace; yes, it’s that impressive!
Safety Tips For Porto
The crime rate in Portugal is pretty low compared to other cities in Western Europe, and Porto is also safer than Lisbon.
With that being said, it’s generally best to stay in the well-lit area at night and to avoid going to the small narrow streets and alleys when it’s dark outside.
So there you have it, your solo guide to Porto, Portugal! I hope you learned more about this lovely city, and that you’re ready to discover it.
Safe travels, and have fun!
Kevin is a French travel photographer based in Paris. He started traveling with friends and soon began addicted to discovering new places. Soon after, he caught the photography bug, and has since been documenting his travels through photography on his travel blog Kevmrc.com, along with travel guides & travel itineraries.