Experiencing Porto in only 10 activities barely begins to scratch the surface with everything that this lively and extraordinary city has to offer. From sampling delicious traditional recipes to wandering the windy streets full of cafés and shops, to popping into art galleries, there are many things that will keep visitors happy. Here are Culture Trip’s 10 suggestions for the top things to see and do.
Experience Livraria Lello
This bookstore is one of the most beautiful in the world and has become extra famous as one of JK Rowling’s favorite haunts when she lived in Porto (and began developing the Harry Potter series). There is no doubt that the Livraria Lello & Irmão, which has been in business since 1906, is one of Porto’s most popular and busiest landmarks; there is even a cover charge to enter. Centrally located, near the locals’ favorite Piolho Café and a block from Igreja do Carmo, it’s easy to find, but be prepared to stand in a line to enter.
Porto is a city famous for wine, and not only Port. Where Port is produced in the Douro Valley, Vinho Verde is made closer to Porto (and north of the city, too). The wine cellars, offer different bottles to sample and there are many cellars to choose from. Most of the best, like Graham’s Port Lodge and Taylor’s Port, are in neighboring city, Vila Nova de Gaia.
Azulejo tiles are unique to Portugal in the way they are used to decorate buildings, streets, and homes, and this is especially noticeable in Porto. A few landmarks popular for their stunning artistic and cultural mosaics include the Estação São Bento, the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, and the Igreja do Carmo. To see some amazing displays, you won’t need to try hard because azulejos are practically everywhere in the city.
Porto’s Ribeira is one of the most popular neighborhoods, lined with café after restaurant after café and offering spectacular views, including sunsets over Porto’s bridges. Sit outside on a terrace to partake in the coffee culture or enjoy a glass of wine or beer. There is plenty to do and see along the Ribeira but simply relaxing and watching the world go by (perhaps while also enjoying a delicious pastry?) is an experience that’s hard to beat.
Porto is full of splendid terraced gardens, where locals and visitors can go for a walk or just sit and enjoy the jaw-dropping views. Pack a picnic (perhaps with cheeses, hams, and fruits from the locally well-known Bolhão Market or other traditional treats from A Perola do Bolhão) and sit outside.
No matter where you visit in Portugal, fitting in time for the beach is a must. The coast in the north is a bit more rugged and very romantic, and Porto’s Foz do Douro also has the Pergola da Foz which adds an extra enchanting element.
The top of the Dom Luis I Bridge offers one of the most spectacular views in the city, and snapping a selfie from the upper-level walkway is a must. Built in the late 19th century, the Dom Luís I Bridge is one of Porto’s iconic structures. The bridge also has a lower level that may be better suited for pedestrians, especially those with a fear of heights!
It’s impossible to visit Porto and not eat well. The gastronomy scene is among the best in the country and restaurants serve all sorts of recipes from the most traditional to modern and sophisticated. Porto is also a city that knows its comfort food. Are you vegetarian? Don’t worry, many restaurants also cater to green lifestyles and some restaurants even serve vegetarian francesinhas!
The best time to do this is summer when all of Portugal comes alive with music, outdoor cooking, and plenty of parties. Check out the local events before your trip to see if there is a festival taking place; even if there isn’t one in Porto, there may be a good chance that a nearby city or town will be organizing an event. Festivals are a great way to get an authentic taste of Portuguese culture.
Tour as many architectural masterpieces as possible
Porto is a beautifully historic city with plenty of centuries-old buildings; the churches and Livraria Lello & Irmão, while amazing to see, aren’t the only ones worth visiting. While walking around, make a few special stops to see the stunning Palácio da Bolsa, the artistic Café Majestic, and the breathtaking Torre dos Clérigos. If you feel like wandering further (or driving/taking public transport), visit the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the most important contemporary art museums in Portugal and located on the beautiful Serralves Estate.