By Darren Griffiths

24 Best Things to Do in Porto

22nd July 2023

Last updated on July 27th, 2023 at 10:57 pm

With a culture distinct from the rest of Portugal, a whole host of traditional food and drink to get stuck into, and an unmistakably European jigsaw of architecture, there are so many things to do in Porto. This is a city on its way up and you won’t want to miss it! Temperatures reach as high as 40 degrees in the summer, and winters are mild, meaning it’s the perfect place for a warm city break. With that in mind, here are the best 24 things to do in Porto.

Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe, flourishing firstly as a Roman outpost and in the 18th century as a well-established trading post for wine.

This rich history, distinct culture, and architecture have led to its relatively untouristed highlight, the old town, being labelled as a UNESCO historic centre in 1996; more funds for major reconstruction have led to a cleaning up of run-down parts of the city.

Booked your Porto accommodation yet? Check out our guide to Where to Stay on Porto – The Bes

1- Eat Tripe

Yes, you read that correctly. The native inhabitants of Porto are big tripe eaters. In fact, they eat so much tripe that they have been affectionately labelled ‘Tripeiros’ – tripe eaters.

Tripe with chickpeas and chorizo
Tripe with chickpeas and chorizo

The fondness for tripe dates all the way back to 1415 when the city went without meat so that Lisbon and the mercantile fleet could have their share. The people of Porto were left to make do and today tripe stew is a Porto speciality.

Though it doesn’t sound like the most enticing of Porto attractions – the dish is made up of white beans, pig’s ears, cows’ stomach lining, and other tidbits – this tasty tripe is not to be missed.

2 – Porto Nightlife

If you like eating, drinking, dancing, and chatting late into the night then Porto is the place for you.

porto bars on the river, Portugal
The many bars that line the river’s banks in Porto

With an explosion of new cafes and bars opening up on every corner and a sultry European vibe to match, there is an electric atmosphere in the old lanes of Porto.

Cafe Piolho has a long history of being a meeting place during Portugal’s long dictatorship and still continues to be a hangout for the city’s student population.

It’s open until 4 in the morning and abuzz with the life of the city.

3 – Livraria Lello

One of the best things to do in Porto has to be dropping into Livraria Lello. This ornate bookshop claims to be one of the most visited bookshops in the world and it’s not hard to see why: it’s beautiful.

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

Visitors have to pay around 5 euros to enter through the doors of what the owners describe as a ‘living bookshop’. Once inside you will be greeted with a bookshop that looks like it is out of the pages of a book itself.

Engraved wood twists into ornate double staircases and even the wall seep with history. Grab a cup of coffee at the cafe on the top floor and watch life inside this incredible bookshop unfold.

4 – São Bento Railway Station

A visit to Porto isn’t complete without stepping inside the São Bento Railway Station.

This still-functioning 19th-century railway station is renowned for its stunning azulejo blue tiles that adorn the grand entrance hall’s walls. It’s not just a transportation hub, but a living art gallery!

porto sao bento railway station
Inside Sao Bento railway station

Designed by Jorge Colaço, a prominent Portuguese artist, over 20,000 stunning azulejo blue tiles depict scenes from Portugal’s history. This includes key events like the Battle of Valdevez and the Conquest of Ceuta.

It also showcases traditional economic activities, such as vineyard cultivation in the Douro Valley and historical celebrations.

The tiles, beautifully painted in shades of blue and white, are a classic example of Portuguese artistry and are arranged in a way that tells a story.

The São Bento train station is part of Porto’s metro network, making it easily accessible to get to this city center attraction – it’s one of our very favourite things to do in Porto.

5 – Sé do Porto, Porto Cathedral

Dominating the city’s skyline from the highest point in the city, the Porto Cathedral, or Sé do Porto, is one of the city’s oldest and most important monuments and one of Porto’s major attractions.

Sé do Porto, Porto cathedral, Porto, Portugal
Sé do Porto, Porto Cathedral, Porto, Portugal

Its construction began in the 12th century, and over time it has seen modifications in various architectural styles, ranging from Romanesque to Baroque.

The cathedral’s fortress-like appearance conceals a beautiful cloister, where the walls are decorated with traditional Portuguese azulejos (tiles) that depict religious scenes.

From the terrace, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the river below. The cathedral’s surroundings are steeped in history, with medieval streets and buildings pressing all around it.

6 – Kadoorie Synagogue

A symbolic structure for the Jewish residents of the Porto region and the biggest synagogue on the Iberian peninsula, the Kadoorie Synagogue plays an important role in supporting the 800 years of Jewish Porto history.

Kadoorie Synagogue, Porto, Portugal
Kadoorie Synagogue, Porto, Portugal

The synagogue was inaugurated in 1938 at a time when Jewish communities were being persecuted across Germany.

The synagogue played an important role in helping the local Jewish community, formerly persecuted by royal decree from 1496 and by the Church during the Inquisition.

It’s a good idea to arrange a tour of the synagogue and get a detailed and engaging insight into the history of the Jewish community and the importance of the building itself.

7 – São Francisco Church

Walking through the catacombs to get to this church might feel a little eerie to some.

porto church
São Francisco Church

Step between the tombs and even over some of them as a large ossuary room under your feet reveals the bones of the once rich and powerful lying awaiting judgment day. Then get more than a little spooked by the sight of a mummified head that appears to be smiling at you.

The real draw to this UNESCO World Heritage site is the outstanding church that dates back to 1383 and really is totally awe-inspiring. Its plain, Gothic exterior gives no hint of the Baroque splendor inside.

Once you enter, you’re greeted by a spectacle of gold – the interior is extravagantly gilded, with ornate carvings covering every inch. The intricate woodwork represents scenes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi and the tree of Jesse.

Statues and altarpieces drip with baroque excess, capturing the imagination and leading you into a world of the Porto of the past.

8 – Coliseu do Porto

This art deco concert and theatre venue is an elegant landmark in the cultural landscape of the city.

Coliseu do Porto, Porto, Portugal
Coliseu do Porto, Porto, Portugal

Go and see a performance and admire the architecture in a concert hall that has a special place in the hearts of the people of Porto.

Catch a concert, get enthralled by a ballet, or see a movie, and while you sit there among the people of the city you will feel much less like a tourist and more like you belong.

You can also hire a guide to discover the secrets and lesser-known facts about the Coliseu do Porto.

9 – Casa da Música

Casa da Música, or House of Music, is one of Porto’s most striking landmarks. This modern concert hall, designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, stands as a testament to Porto’s vibrant cultural scene.

Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal
Casa da Música, Porto, Portugal

It is home to several music groups and hosts concerts ranging from classical to contemporary. The interior, with its innovative design and excellent acoustics, is just as impressive as the exterior.

For a comprehensive understanding of the building’s architectural prowess, opt for a guided tour. After your tour, unwind at the rooftop restaurant with its fabulous view of the city and a menu that caters to all tastes.

10 – Capela do Senhor da Pedra

Take a trip out of the city by train to discover the sandy beaches of Greater Porto seaside town, Miramar.

Capela do Senhor da Pedra, Porto, Portugal
Capela do Senhor da Pedra, Porto, Portugal

Once a site for ancient Pagan worship, a sacred boulder that juts out of the sea was built in the 17th century in an effort to Christianise the land.

A hexagonal church now sits on the rock which you can scramble over to gain access to the chapel itself. The unique placement of the church on the rocks gives enticing views of the surrounding landscape.

Paganism is still practiced in Miramar town with an annual festival involving a parade of cloaked witches which starts on Trinity Sunday.

11 – McDonald’s Imperial

What is claimed to be the “most beautiful McDonald’s in the world” opened its doors in 1995.

McDonald's Imperial Cafe, Porto, Portugal
McDonald’s Imperial Cafe, Porto, Portugal

Housed in what was the Imperial Cafe, this isn’t one of the normal Porto highlights but this McD’s has retained many of the historic building’s original 1930s art deco features.

Order your Big Mac whilst taking in the large stained glass windows looming above the ubiquitous lit-up menu and sit sipping your coke under the stylish rendered ceiling and sparkling chandelier.

12 – Dom Luis I Bridge

No visit to Porto would be complete without crossing the Dom Luis I Bridge, one of the most visible major Porto attractions.

This double-deck metal arch bridge, designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, is a defining feature of Porto’s cityscape.

Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto, Portugal
Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto, Portugal

The upper level provides a panoramic view of Porto’s skyline, the river Douro, and the wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia.

The lower deck brings you into the heart of Ribeira, Porto’s historic district, with its narrow cobbled streets and colorful houses.

The bridge is accessible to pedestrians and provides a unique vantage point to watch the sunset and the city coming to life at night.

13 – Drink Port Wine

One of the top things to do in Porto is a Porto wine tour.

porto port wine douro valley
Porto port wine can be enjoyed in the city or in the nearby Douro Valley

Port wine is in the city’s blood: a deal with England in 1703 effectively gave the English dominance in what the world knows as port wine.

To counter them Portugal set up a rival firm that held a monopoly over Duoro Valley wine, leading to essentially the first attempt at controlling the production and quality of wine in Europe.

No trip to the wine-rich region would be complete without sampling some of its namesake wine (not just port).

Explore Porto’s various wine caves on a tour and get a little taster too. Wine is cheap in Porto, almost as cheap as water!

14 – Hop over the Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia

Located across the river Douro from Porto, the city of Vila Nova de Gaia is home to the world-renowned Port wine cellars. Here, in the cool, damp cellars, Port wine matures for years, even decades.

View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia district
View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia district

You can visit several of these cellars, where guided tours will take you through the age-old process of Port wine production, ending with a delightful tasting session.

You’ll have the opportunity to sample a range of Ports, from Ruby to Tawny to Vintage. From Gaia’s riverfront, you’ll get an unforgettable panoramic view of Porto’s historic Ribeira district, filled with colorful, terraced houses and the city’s iconic iron bridge.

15 – Take a Day Trip to the Duoro Valley

So you’ve been lucky enough to sample the many wines on offer in Porto, but where does it all come from?

 Port Wine has been produced in the nearby Douro Valley for over 2000 years, so is one of the oldest wine regions on the planet!

The douro valley near Porto, Portugal
The Douro Valley near Porto, Portugal

The area is mountainous with vineyards clinging to the slopes that line the Duoro River creating a very striking landscape.

The picturesque town of Peso da Régua is a must-visit. It’s the hub of the Douro wine region and the Douro Museum here provides a great insight into the area’s winemaking history.

Another fantastic stop is Quinta do Seixo Wine Center, which offers an immersive wine experience.

Take a guided tour of the vineyard, learn about the winemaking process, and finish with a delightful Port wine tasting while you soak up panoramic views of the valley.

In the heart of the Douro Valley, lies Pinhao, a charming village surrounded by terraced vineyards. Spend a few days here to truly embrace the winemaking culture.

Visit the Quinta da Roêda for a picnic amidst the vineyards, followed by a wine-tasting session. Don’t forget to explore the 19th-century Pinhao Railway Station, renowned for its blue and white tile murals depicting local scenes.

Day trips to the Douro Valley are available via river cruise, train, or road but we recommend spending a few days in Pinhao to really soak up the region’s laidback vibe and winemaking atmosphere.

Check out our guide on where to stay in the Douro Valley

16 – Take a Douro River Cruise

A Douro River cruise from Pinhao is not only relaxing, but it’s also one of the most immersive ways to experience the captivating beauty of the Douro Valley.

Cruising in the Douro Valley, Portugal
Cruising in the Douro Valley, Portugal

This journey takes you through the heart of the region, allowing you to absorb the area’s stunning beauty at a leisurely pace.

Cruises range from a couple of hours to a full day, with some including meals and wine tastings. These tastings often feature the region’s famed Port wine and DOC Douro wines.

As you sail along the river, the cruise guides provide insightful commentary about the region’s history, its vineyards, and the production of Port wine.

From the boat, you’ll see terraced vineyards that have been cultivated by hand for centuries. Among these vineyards are the quintas, the traditional Portuguese wine estates.

Wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate the river’s diverse ecosystem, which includes a variety of bird species. If you’re lucky, you might spot herons, kingfishers, or even eagles soaring above.

17 – Case de Serralves

Indulge in the delicious design of the art deco villa, Case de Serralves, one of the coolest architectural Porto sights to see.

Case de Serralves, Porto, Portugal
Case de Serralves, Porto, Portugal

Born out of the industrial and cultural boom that followed the First World War, the house is an elegant mix of neo-classical, romantic, and art deco design.

Take a stroll around the satisfyingly symmetrical grounds, gaze in awe at the aesthetically pleasing pastel pink facade, and take in the contemporary art on display inside the Serralves Museum.

18 – Igreja do Carmo

One of the most beautiful churches in Porto, Igreja do Carmo was built in the 18th century and is one of the best examples of rococo architecture in the city.

Inside Igreja do Carmo, Porto, Portugal
Inside Igreja do Carmo, Porto, Portugal

The facade is covered in beautiful tiles whilst inside is coated in a whole load of engraved gold, perfect if you love taking pictures – and the entrance is free.

19 – Bairro Herculano

If you are looking for real Porto sightseeing head to Bairro Herculano, a small non-touristy district in Porto that is perfect for a stroll.

Quaint two-story houses that date back to 1880 dot the lanes and are packed full of the history of the working-class population that traditionally lived in the area.

Photo opportunities are abundant as local life is still being lived out among the lanes. Wander around and take it all in, but try not to stand out too much as a tourist.

20 – Eat a Francesinha

There’s tripe, and then there’s francesinha. Literally translated as ‘little French lady’ this is one dish that is a classic Porto sight.

Francesinha sandwich, Porto, Portugal
Francesinha sandwich, Porto, Portugal

Made from bread, meat and melted cheese, topped with spicy tomato sauce and served loaded with french fries, it will leave you in awe of its deliciousness.

This tasty dish originates in Porto and is served all over the city so it would be difficult not to try it!  

21 – Buy Fresh Fruit at Bolhão Market

Markets are great places to experience daily life, and this Porto sightseeing spot is no different. This famous market has been around since 1914 and is set right in the heart of the old town.

Bolhão Market, Porto, Portugal
Bolhão Market, Porto, Portugal

Take a stroll and get lost among the stalls and experience a slice of local life, meet friendly shop owners, buy some fresh fruit, or simply sit and have a coffee whilst people-watching and breathing in the sights, smells, and sounds of the market.

22 – Palácio da Bolsa

The Palácio da Bolsa, or Stock Exchange Palace, stands as a symbol of Porto’s economic strength during the 19th century.

 Palácio da Bolsa, Porto, Portugal
Palácio da Bolsa, Porto, Portugal

The neoclassical building houses a range of rooms each decorated in different architectural styles, from the glass-domed Pátio das Nações (Hall of Nations) to the grand staircase.

The star attraction is the Arab Room, an extraordinary, opulently decorated space reminiscent of a Moorish palace that is one of the best things to do in Porto – everyone visiting Porto raves about this lovely space.

The room’s lavish decoration includes intricately carved woodwork, gilded stucco moldings, and vibrant, colored glass windows, creating an atmosphere of Arabian Nights.

It is often used for concerts and special events, enhancing its vibrant, rich, and golden beauty with live performances. Guided tours offer insightful commentary about the history and significance of this national monument.

23 – FC Porto Museum

A visit to the FC Porto Museum is a journey through more than a century of football history and is one of the very best things to do in Porto for sports fans.

FC Porto Museum, Porto, Portugal
FC Porto Museum, Porto, Portugal

This interactive, state-of-the-art museum at Estadio do Dragao chronicles the club’s rise from its formation in 1893 to its present-day triumphs, including its victory in the UEFA Champions League.

The collection of trophies, photographs, and player memorabilia is expansive.

Beyond static exhibits, the museum offers immersive experiences, such as a holographic football game and a Virtual Reality box that lets you relive the club’s most triumphant moments.

24 – Clérigos Church

You can’t miss the Clérigos Church and its tall bell tower, one of the most famous landmarks in Porto.

Clerigos Tower, Porto, Portugal
Clerigos Tower, Porto, Portugal

This beautiful 18th-century church, designed by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, is known for its unique baroque architecture. Inside, you’ll find a richly decorated interior and an impressive altarpiece.

But the real highlight is the 75-meter-tall Clérigos Tower. Climb the 200 steps to the top and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of the city.

From there, you can see Porto’s charming, colorful houses, the Douro River, and even the ocean on clear days.

Other useful resources:
Guide to the Douro Valley
30 Awesome Photos of Porto
2 Weeks in Portugal Itinerary