48 Hours in Porto Itinerary: The Best of Porto in Two Days
Porto is an intimate and colourful city at the mouth of the Douro river on Portugal’s Atlantic Coast. Home to port wine and imposing bridges, this is a city in which to soak up the atmosphere, port and song!
Porto is an eminently walkable city, although set on a steep slope down to the Douro so comfortable shoes are a must! A hop-on/hop-off bus will help if you don’t do hills and will take you to all the major attractions. But, part of the joy and pleasure of Porto is simply wandering and discovering interesting shops in small alleys and fabulous colourful tiles seemingly randomly placed on buildings.
We understand that with having only 48 hours in Porto, it can be hard to find and cram in the city’s highlights. So we’ve done the work for you!
This is our recommended itinerary for two days in Porto.
Related reading: Where to Stay in Porto – The Best Areas
Day One Morning: Churches, Cafes & an Incredible Bookshop
For the first morning of your 48 hours in Porto, we’re heading for the Igreja dos Clérigos, the Clérigos Church. There is actually a complex here consisting of the church, bell tower and museum. Climb the 240 steps of the bell tower to 76m for incredible 360° views over the city; an ideal first stop for orientation!
The church and tower are superb examples of Baroque architecture and design; with an abundance of creamy white marble and gold leaf decor, the Church interior feels like an opulent palace.
A two minute uphill walk north, will see you at Livraria Lello. This is a bookshop like no other, apparently one of the inspirations for JK Rowling when writing parts of the Harry Potter novels in Porto. You may have to queue but the wow factor on entering is worth the wait! The forked staircase and stained glass windows are really spectacular; the colours and books bringing the space alive.
A ten minute walk east will take you to the fabulous Majestic Cafe. Dating from 1921 and refurbished in 1994, the Majestic Cafe is unashamedly glamorous and romantic. Stop here for a coffee and a pastéis de nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart which you can’t miss trying during your 48 hours in Porto!
A slightly longer (but downhill!) walk south will take you to the historic centre of Porto and the Igreja Monumento de São Francisco, the Monument Church of St Francis. This UNESCO World Heritage site may look drab on the outside but you will catch your breath as you enter! The devotion to God by those that built this church it is plain to see, it is truly a spiritual space and will provide a fascinating (and cool) refuge for an hour on a hot two days in Porto.
Day One Afternoon: Modern Art & Glorious Gardens
Hop on a bus and head out to Museu Serralves, the museum of contemporary art. The art is housed in a stunning modern glass and concrete building, rendered white and crisp against the bright blue sky.
The museum itself is a great place to spend some of your 48 hours in Porto. It houses an interesting collection of contemporary art and regularly changing itinerant exhibitions, as well as music and dance performances and concerts in the surrounding parkland.
Take a stroll around the parkland and gardens, which were designed in the 1920’s as a summer residence for a prominent Portugese family. The Villa Serralves and the fountains are superb examples of art-deco architecture, which together with the pink and turquoise tiling make for stunning images. If you’re lucky during your two days in Porto, you may come across one of the regular farmer’s markets held in the gardens, where you will find local produce for sale and cooking demonstrations.
Day One Evening: It’s all About Fado!
Fado is a music genre specific to Portugal; it is melancholic and mournful, focussing on the hardships that people face, such as poverty or lost love. Played mostly on string instruments with an accompanying vocalist, it is incredibly haunting to listen to and very, very Portugese! It’s a Porto must-do for anyone’s 48 hours in Porto.
Head for the narrow, cobbled streets of the Ribeira district and follow your ears! Along the twisting alleys you will find fado houses, bars and restaurants; enjoy dinner or a glass of Port and allow yourself to be transported by the emotive melodies and song that are unique to Portugal.
Day Two Morning: Port and Bridges
No 48 hours in Porto would be complete without strolling across the iconic Ponte de Dom Luís I, the Dom Luis I Bridge. This double decked metal bridge had the longest span in the world when it was built in 1886; it spans the Douro between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
You can cross at the lower deck directly from the river front or take the stairs or lift to the upper deck and cross there, where the views of the city are amazing. If you cross on the upper deck, take the cable car down into Vila Nova de Gaia and you will be on Cais de Gaia, the main street which follows the river and is lined with port lodges.
Port has been produced in the Douro valley for centuries and was traditionally shipped down-river to Porto for distribution by sea to the rest of the world. Many of the port lodges have been here since the start of commercial port production and offer tours and tastings.
Don’t waste any of your 48 hours in Porto trying to do too much DIY sightseeing. Take a Porto wine tour and learn the complex process of making port wine before sampling the range with a few delicious traditional Portuguese snacks.
Day Two Afternoon: Relax at the Beach!
Take a trip west though the city to Praia dos Ingleses, Ingleses Beach. This gorgeous beach looks out to the Atlantic and is a great place to catch some sun and people watch. There are plenty of bars here and a lively atmosphere on sunny days.
Once you’ve had enough sun, a very short stroll south will find you at Farol dos Felgueiras, Felgueiras lighthouse. There are always big rollers here, which crash against the lighthouse and surrounding walls; another awesome place for taking pictures.
Day Two Evening: More Bridges!
From the lighthouse, you can just about see the Arrábida bridge in the distance. Well, deep breath, you’re going there next to climb it at sunset!
The only bridge climb in Europe, you will be guided and supported as you scale this 65m arched bridge which spans the Douro. This is an incredible experience, with amazing views of Porto, the estuary and sea from the top. You will watch the sun setting over the mighty Atlantic from the top, followed by all the twinkling lights of the city to the East coming on and creating a fairytale view.
Bridge climb completed, you’ll be ready for dinner! Head back towards the city along Rio do Ouro and within 5 minutes you will come across bars and restaurants ready to serve you a delicious meal. We would recommend Restaurante 33 Alameda, a mid-priced restaurant serving contemporary Mediterranean and Portuguese food.
What a fabulous way to end your 48 hours in Porto!
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About the Author: We are Phil and Izzy aka The Gap Decaders. In early 2018 we sold up and quit our corporate jobs for a simpler way of life. We now live and travel full-time in a motorhome in Europe; we love to share destination specific information, experiences and practical motorhome advice with others.