The Most Charming Neighbourhoods in Porto, Portugal

Ribeira is one of the many charming neighbourhoods in Porto worth exploring
Ribeira is one of the many charming neighbourhoods in Porto worth exploring | © Boris Stroujko / Alamy Stock Photo
Amy Blyth

Visiting Porto? Discover a city of steep, cobbled streets, Medieval spires and steel bridges that stretch over the Douro River. Days in the second-largest city in Portugal are made for sipping port on the Ribeira beneath a skyline of red-roofed houses drenched in history. These are the most charming neighbourhoods for you to explore, from coastal haunts to downtown nightlife hotspots.

You can enjoy a guided walking tour of Porto and a bicycle tour to the nearby fishing town of Matosinhos as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive nine-day Northern Portugal adventure.

1. Ribeira

Architectural Landmark

Stay in the heart of Porto, where cobbled streets lined with colourful houses shadow the Douro River. The Ribeira is an old neighbourhood, designated a Unesco World Heritage site for historic architecture like the St Francis Church. Stop for drinks or a pastel de nata (Portuguese egg custard tart) at one of the waterfront restaurants and watch vintage rabelo boats cruise under the giant iron skeleton of Dom Luís I Bridge. When evening falls, the lights of port wine lodges flicker on the opposite bank.

2. Baixa

Architectural Landmark

The Avenida dos Aliados and equestrian statue of Dom Pedro IV in the Baixa (City centre) of Porto (Oporto), Portugal
© Julian Castle / Alamy Stock Photo

The buzzing centre, Baixa, is home to many key landmarks. Visit the Romanesque Cathedral of Porto, climb 240 steps for sweeping skyline views from the Clérigos Tower and visit the ornate Lello Bookstore, which was a major inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter universe. In Baixa, trains whistle in and out of the grand São Bento station, decorated with traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles. There’s also a thriving restaurant and bar scene, mostly centred on Avenida dos Aliados.

3. Foz do Douro

Architectural Landmark

Fancy a break from city sightseeing? Hop on the tram to Foz, a top coastal neighbourhood. Once a fishing village and upper-class holiday haunt, complete with lavish mansions, Foz lies just 20 minutes from the centre of Porto. Here, the remains of Fortress São João Baptista da Foz have stood guard over the mouth of the Douro since the 16th century. Wander along the neoclassical Pergola da Foz promenade, try some fresh local seafood or bask on the long stretch of golden-sand beach.

4. Miragaia

Architectural Landmark

Street in the old Jewish quarter, Miragaia, Porto, Portugal
© David Richards / Alamy Stock Photo

Head west of the city centre and you’ll find yourself in Miragaia, which was once set outside the Porto city walls. The neighbourhood feels like an extension of the Ribeira with its multicoloured, shuttered houses and narrow streets strung with washing. Miragaia was once the heart of Porto’s Jewish and Armenian communities, built on a Medieval former shipyard. Today, you’ll find lively bars and restaurants complete with shimmering river views, as well as zany street art and the pretty São Pedro church.

5. Vila Nova de Gaia

Architectural Landmark

Old town of Oporto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Porto (Oporto), Portugal.
© Alexei Fateev / Alamy Stock Photo

While Vila Nova de Gaia isn’t technically in Porto, it sits on the opposite riverbank and offers supreme Ribeira views. Walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge to hop from one port wine lodge to the next for tours and tastings. Moored rabelo boats, once used to transport barrels of wine, bob on the water’s surface while the cable car passes overhead. Vila Nova de Gaia’s steep streets spiral up to the hilltop Serra do Pilar church, which showcases sunset views over Porto.

6. Cedofeita

Architectural Landmark

The art district, Cedofeita, is a trendy hotbed of offbeat stores and street-side cafes within walking distance of Baixa. The main street, Rua Miguel Bombarda, boasts plenty of art galleries where you can browse for pieces, while the Saturday Porto Belo Market is the best place to snap up handcrafted souvenirs. The most notable tourist sites here are the peaceful Crystal Palace Gardens and Porto’s oldest church, São Martinho de Cedofeita.

7. Bonfim

Architectural Landmark

If you want a break from the tourist crowds, head to Bonfim, which is connected to the riverbank by a funicular. This quiet residential area lies east of the liveliest neighbourhoods in Porto, Ribeira and Baixa, and is home to a mix of elderly residents and students who enjoy cheaper housing. Stay among locals in this slowly gentrifying district, where craft beer pubs and hipster coffee shops are just beginning to pop up.

For a different type of Portuguese adventure, why not book our six-day Epic Trip to the Azores? Highlights include kayaking around crater lakes and abseiling down waterfalls. Alternately, browse our collections of Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips to explore the world with the help of our Local Insiders.

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