Fascinating and vibrant Porto in the north of Portugal by the river Douro is the rising star among European cities. It is smaller than Lisbon but in no way inferior. Check out my tips for Porto and your awesome city break
The heart of Porto is the medieval old town with its narrow streets and alleyways. It goes up and down, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. You will find many many sceneries in Ribeira to capture great pictures: the ancient and colorful houses, São Bento train station with its atrium covered in azulejo tiles (colorful ceramic tiles) and finally the riverfront where you will find plenty of restaurants and cafés. This area is even more lively in the evening.
Stroll through the Old Town
The city is not so large, so you can easily walk around the historic city center. The bookshop Livraria Lello is no longer an insider tip, but it is nevertheless one of the most beautiful sights of Porto. As the crowds of tourists who were looking for the initial insider spot became more and more, today, an entrance fee of 3 euros has to be paid. But you will get the money back if you buy something.
You cannot miss the landmark of the city, the Torre de Clérigo. The baroque building from the 18th century with its 75-meter high tower rises above the historic houses of Porto. 240 steps and you will be standing on top of the platform with a fantastic view of Porto. Admission: 5 Euro.
The hall of the São Bento railway station is a true work of art. On the outside inconspicuous, but inside the hall impresses with the famous blue tiles – also called Azulejos. Around 20,000 ceramic tiles decorate the walls with scenes from Portuguese history. The station is located on a former monastery site and was opened in 1916.
The cathedral of Porto, Sé Catedral do Porto, dates from the 12th century. If you walk through the alleys of the city, you will surely pass it. From the cathedral, walk towards the river and the lively Ribeira district. I found the path over the stairs (Escada dos Guindais) to be the most beautiful. I found beautiful spots to photograph everywhere. The ride with the cable car Guindais Funicular from the station Batalha is comfortable. Maybe you prefer to use the cable car on the way up. And then there is the Elevador Lada Ribeira, which brings you the last bit down to the riverbank – panoramic view included.
Next stop: Port wine tasting
There’s one vinery lined up next to the other on the other side of the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. Pass the bridge and head straight to Sandeman. The magnificent building of Sandeman houses hundreds of wooden casks of Port wine. You can book different tours starting at 10 Euro. On the terrace, you can enjoy perfectly prepared cocktails. Yes…cocktails with Sandeman Port wine.
Interested in a Port wine tour? Here’s how to book and where to find great tours.
Top photo spot: Vila Nova de Gaia
If you walk the Ponte Luis I on top you will reach Vila Nova de Gaia. Walk along the walls of Mosteiro da Serra Pilar, turn left and walk up the road to the church. From there you have an amazing view over Porto and if you are lucky with the weather, you can capture an awesome city shot with the bridge in the foreground. My recommendation is to go there for the blue hour. Bring your tripod!
What else can you do in Porto and its surroundings?
Hop on the historic tram 1 in the old town. It runs along the river to Passeio Alegre. From there you have a wonderful view over the Atlantic Ocean.
Bus number 500 will take you from the train station to the former fishing village of Matosinhos. The village is popular among surfers and invites you to have a fish meal.
But there are way more tips for you more. Up for 50 things to do in Porto?
Tip for landscape lovers: the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and absolutely worth a visit. You can either book a tour including boat trip and lunch* or explore the valley on your own. This can be done by car, train or boat. From Porto, you will pass the vineyards and numerous vantage points through the beautiful landscape into the Douro valley.
Disclaimer: Links marked with a * are affiliate links which means I am getting a small commission if you buy/book via this link. This is without extra costs for you.