Set out on an incredible adventure through the enchanting landscapes of Porto and the Douro Valley, and let yourself be completely immersed in the region’s rich culture and history. In just three days, you can discover the highlights of this charming region, from the iconic landmarks of Porto to the picturesque vineyards of the Douro Valley.
Stroll through the colourful streets of Porto, admire the typical Portuguese architecture, and taste mouth-watering traditional Portuguese dishes. Then, spend your last day venturing into the heart of the Douro Valley, where you can sample the world-famous port wine surrounded by stunning scenery whether you are a history buff, foodie, or a nature lover, Porto and the Douro Valley offer activities that will intrigue you and teach you about the traditions and history of the small Iberian country.
Know Before You Go
The Porto Airport is an international airport that has many flights from mainland Europe and the United Kingdom, with a variety of different airline providers travelling to the country. Porto is also easily accessible from Lisbon, which is a much bigger airport than Porto, so it may be more convenient to fly into, either by bus or train, which leaves frequently from multiple different stations around Lisbon like Oriente, and arrives in Porto in around 3 hours.
Porto has both a metro and bus line that are easily accessible and easy to use to get around the city. All of the small city is interconnected by these methods of transportation, and maps are accessible online, and often applications such as Apple Maps and Google Maps will be able to help in finding the quickest and fastest routes on Porto’s public transportation, accounting for strikes, delays, traffic, and whatever else may disrupt your journey.
For an easy trip in Porto, you can book this Porto city card with transportation which offers either one, two, three, or four days to be purchased, and the card includes free buses and metro transportation for your allocated time, as well as discounts on a variety of different activities such as river cruises and entrances to historical monuments in the city. It is a great way to save some money when exploring the city.
Taxis and Driving:
Driving is almost near impossible in Porto. Many of the streets are one-way, there are incredible amounts of hills, and a majority of the tourist locations are only accessible by foot. Uber is available in Porto, so that is an option if you’re looking for a car hire, and most popular locations will have a taxi stand as well. That being said, if the weather is nice and your shoes are comfortable, walking in Porto is often a lot easier than driving, since drivers have to take so many obscure routes to reach the destination.
While Portugal is known for its Mediterranean climate, beautiful beaches, and warm weather, don’t expect that from Porto. While Porto can have great weather sporadically year round, it is quite a cloudy city, so if you’re looking for a tanning destination along the coast, you won’t find that here. That being said, weather in Porto never gets too cold, and stays relatively nice year round, making it a great place to escape icy winters, and a nice city destination during summer without the feeling like you’re overheating that is common in a lot of European cities during summer. Bring an umbrella as Porto gets more rain than the rest of the country, and maybe a light jacket during summertime for when it gets chillier at night.
Portugal’s national currency is the euro. Make sure to carry some cash on you at all times, as some more traditional restaurants and shops may not accept credit cards.
Day 1: Ribeira and Vila Nova de Gaia
On your first day in Porto, spend some time exploring some of the most picturesque areas of the city. Ribeira is located on the riverfront and has a lively atmosphere. Live music plays and people share drinks and meals overlooking the waterfront. Crossing over the nearby bridge, you’ll find Vila Nova de Gaia, which is a beautiful little neighbourhood that is famous for its port wine cellars and its stunning views of Ribeira and the rest of Porto.
Where to Eat:
Taberna dos mercadores - A beautiful, traditional Portuguese restaurant offering the finest and freshest seafood. Try my favourite Portuguese seafood dish, Almêijoas de Bulhão Pato, or they may be referred to as Clams in Bulhão Pato style, which are the most succulent clams soaked in a lemony, garlicky, olive oil sauce. They were even ranked number three on a list ranking the best traditional dishes worldwide.
Luís I Bridge
The Luís I Bridge is one of the most symbolic landmarks in all of Porto, crossing over the Douro River, and connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. Designed by a Belgian engineer Theóphile Seyrig, who was a student and collaborator of Gustave Eiffel, this bridge completed in the late 19th century was once the largest iron arch bridge in the whole world!
The bridge has two levels. The upper level has been designed solely for the use of the electric tram and pedestrians, while the lower level is for vehicles. When walking across the upper level of the bridge, you’ll get some of the most impressive views of the city, but don’t look too long if you’re afraid of heights, it can be quite daunting seeing all the way down! The bridge is also often a location used for events and celebrations in the city, so if you happen to be in town for New Year’s Eve, this is a great spot to catch the firework celebration.
Watch the sunset in Vila Nova de Gaia
Once you’re across the Douro River, you’ll find yourself in the neighbourhood Vila Nova de Gaia. Vila Nova de Gaia is filled with rooftop bars along the riverside that offer the most spectacular views of the city, from a trendy atmosphere. It doesn’t matter which of the many rooftops you wander on into because at the end of the day, they all have amazing views, and they all serve up some of the finest wines in the region. This is an especially great location for catching a sunset while enjoying a few drinks. If you do want to watch the sunset from here, keep in mind that the rooftop bars fill up quite quickly around the afternoon, so get there a bit before the sun goes down to ensure you have a front-row view.
The most famous place to watch the sunset in Porto is at Jardim do Morro. Accessible by cable car or by the upper level of the Ponte de Dom Luís is the green space of Jardim do Morro, a stunning lookout point that offers the best views in the whole city over the Douro valley and over Porto. Locals play music and share drinks while admiring the beautiful city, and it's really one of the most magical places that you’ll ever watch a sunset from.
Taste the finest wines in a cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia
Embark on a journey of the senses with Porto Cockburn’s Cellar Premium Tasting and Pairing tour. You’ll start off by entering an atmospheric cellar, with barrels upon barrels lining up against the wall, all filled with ageing port wine. A guide will explain the production process of the port wine, giving you an in-depth look at how the cellar functions.
After your tour, you’ll get to have an amazing tasting and pairing experience that carefully curates the ports to match perfectly with delicacies like cheese and chocolate. An expert sommelier will explain the different flavour profiles of each wine, which will definitely expand your knowledge on Portuguese wine and the port variation in particular.
The Porto Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in all of Porto, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, and is also incredibly significant historically, as it is home to the tombs of former Portuguese royalty, King John I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster. Stroll through the cathedral to admire the beautiful stained glass windows and intricate altar pieces, and appreciate the incredible tile work that is a typical stylistic element of Portugal.
Monument Church of St. Francis
This Baroque-style architecture is one of the most stunning examples in all of Porto. The impressive church was built in the 18th century and boasts a lavish interior with intricate details that are sure to catch your eye. The church also features an impressive collection of Baroque art.
While the church is beautiful, one of the most unique features of the Monument Church of St. Francis is its catacombs, which are located beneath the main floor of the church. These catacombs were used as burial chambers for members of the Franciscan order, and to this day, many important historical figures from Porto are buried here. Exploring the ancient tombs and burial chambers is a surreal experience but is overall a great way to learn some history about the city.
Take a river cruise down the Douro
The Douro River Six Bridges Cruise is an excellent way to explore Porto in a unique way. For 50 minutes, you’ll get the opportunity to sail down the Douro River and appreciate the stunning six bridges that cross the Douro river throughout Porto. A knowledgeable guide will provide local information about the bridges, as well as the neighbourhoods that you’ll pass by on your tour.
The tour is great for those looking to get the best panoramic views of Ribeira from all angles, as this boat tour truly lets you appreciate the unique skyline of Porto.
Taste the Northern Portuguese delicacies on a food tour
A three and a half hour culinary tour through the Ribeira neighbourhood of Porto explores the unique gastronomy of Portugal, and even goes further by exposing you to some of Porto’s own special dishes like the francesinha, a rich sandwich with a unique sauce, a variety of different meats, and a layer of cheese, often topped off with an egg. Other Portuguese dishes you will get to taste include the traditional bifana sandwich, which is a sandwich made up of thin slices of beef. You’ll get to try a variety of other dishes that are traditional to the area, and the tour is open to dietary restrictions.
Would it be a Portuguese culinary tour in Porto without the wine? You’ll get to taste the delicious vinho verde, a type of white wine only found in the Northwest of Portugal. At the end of it you’ll get to try three different variations of the Porto wine, making for a delicious finish to the food tour.
Where to Stay
Budget-Friendly - The House of Sandeman Hostel & Suites
Stay in a wine cellar in this unique and charming hostel
Mid-Range - Descobertas Boutique Hotel Porto
These Portuguese-themed rooms are right in the heart of the Ribeira neighbourhood and come with breakfast.
This modern aparthotel offers views of the Douro River and comes with a fully equipped kitchen.
Day 2: Cedofeita, Baixa / Sé
Cedofeita and Sé (also known as Baixa) are some of the more trendy, yet still authentic neighbourhoods to explore when visiting Porto. On your second day, get the feel of the hip, up and coming areas of the city. From trendy cocktail bars and cool nightlife to authentic Portuguese markets, these neighbourhoods will make you feel like you’re a local in the city, while you get to see some of the popular historical sites of the city.
Where to Eat:
Café Santiago - Try the most famous sandwich in the city, a francesinha, at this iconic cafe serving up a variety of traditional dishes.
Capim Dourado - The influx of immigration from Brazil has led to some of the most delicious Brazilian restaurants opening up in Portugal, and Capim Dourado is the best one I’ve tried. Don’t miss out on the pão de queijo, a delectable Brazilian cheese bread, moqueca, a seafood rice dish with incredible flavours, and the brigadeiro for dessert, rich chocolate mixed with condensed milk to make an incredible texture.
Castro - Of all the pastel de nata that I have eaten in Portugal, Castro has to be my favourite. The delicious, creamy custard tarts come fresh out of the oven at Castro, and don’t forget the cinnamon on top!
Mercado do Bolhão
This historical market is gastronomical heaven and is a great place to buy produce if you’re staying in an accommodation with a kitchen. The charming market has many different vendors, such as fresh produce, meats, and cheeses, and vendors selling beautiful flower bouquets with many unique arrangements. Market culture is a huge part of Portuguese tradition, and this is a great way to immerse yourself in a standard practice in the country.
The market also has a variety of small cafes and restaurants that offer the freshest food, cooking up traditional Portuguese recipes for its visitors to sample. This is a great option to have an authentic meal, and savour the light cuisine. Don’t forget to grab a glass of the delicious wines from the nearby region.
Arguably one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world has also become one of the most famous for inspiring J.K Rowling in her creation of Hogwarts. While Rowling never confirmed this herself, she did say once that Livraria Lello was her ‘favourite bookstore in the whole world’, so it's safe to assume that the author took some inspiration from the ornate shop.
Walking past the street that is home to Livraria Lello at any time of the day and you’ll for sure see a long line of people trying to get a glimpse of the incredible bookshop. For a hassle-free experience, go on a walking tour of the city that already includes your entrance into the Livraria Lello! You’ll get faster entrance, as well as history about the bookstore and nearby city highlights from an expert.
Praça da Liberdade
Known as Freedom Square in English, this square is one of the largest and most iconic squares in all of Porto, and serves as a popular gathering spot for both travellers and locals alike. Located in the heart of the city, the square was originally built in the 18th-century, and is surrounded by beautiful buildings, including the Santo António Hospital and the Oporto City Hall. The square also is landscaped beautifully, with lush greenery and beautiful flowers overtaking the area.
One of the main attractions of the square is the stunning monument in the centre, which pays tribute to King Peter IV of Portugal. The intricate carving features a bronze statue of the king on horseback, and is quite an interesting sight.
Visit the most beautiful Mcdonald’s in the world
We know, going to Mcdonald’s when you are in one of the countries with the most delicious food is a crime, but hear us out on this one. This McDonald’s is known as one of the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world. It was originally a historic cafe from the early 20th-century, and then was turned into an ornate bank, until it was finally converted into a McDonald’s.
The architecture inside of this McDonald’s is truly stunning, and it even won the International Interior Design Association’s Best Retail Design Award in 2006. If you feel a bit hungry, you have to get the garlic aioli alongside the fries, it is the best dip that I have had at a McDonald’s worldwide!
National Museum of Soares dos Reis
Often overlooked by visitors in Porto, this cultural hidden gem is a museum dedicated to the work of António Soares dos Reis, one of Portugal’s most famous and celebrated sculptors. Housed in an incredible 18th-century palace, the collection showcases impressive sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and other works of art.
Besides works just by Soares dos Reis, a few other famous Portuguese artists have ended up on display in this art museum. Silva Porto, Henrique Medina, and Vieira Portuense are just a few to name some whose work has found a home in this museum. The museum is a great entwinement of Portuguese culture and history, as the artworks offer a glimpse into the history and culture of Porto.
Rua das Flores
One of the most beautiful streets in the city is lined with colourful buildings, charming cafes, and unique Portuguese shops. As you stroll down the pedestrian-only street, you’ll feel integrated into the city, as you hear the sound of live music drifting out of cafes and people congregating to have a coffee alongside a traditional pastel de nata, definitely the most famous dessert in Portugal.
One of the best things about Rua das Flores is its diversity. Shopaholics, you’ll find the cutest souvenirs to bring home, as well as beautiful jewellery and clothing items. For foodies, plenty of restaurants share the local Portuguese cuisine along the eccentric street. To fit in, grab a coffee or a glass of wine and sit at an outdoor table to people-watch and soak up the charming atmosphere of the street. Truly the heart and soul of Porto, this street is an embodiment of the city and its people.
Torre de Clérigos
The iconic tower is a baroque bell tower that is right in the middle of Porto, and is available to climb to get the best city views. The 75-metre tall bell tower is one of the tallest in Portugal, making it an incredible lookout point over the city. After climbing a whopping 225 steps to the top, your hard work will be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and over the Douro River.
Inside the Torre de Clérgios, you’ll also find a small museum that gives a bit of information about the history of the tower and the church, its architecture, and a bit about the neighbourhood surrounding it. While the main attraction of the tower is the incredible views and its beautiful exterior if you have some time to acquire some of the background information to this prominent building that dominates Porto’s skyline, definitely check it out.
São Bento Station
If you’re arriving in Porto by train, you may just be lucky enough to disembark at São Bento Station, one of the most incredible stations. The historic train station in Porto is famous for its beautiful tilework in the typical Portuguese azulejo artwork depicting beautiful scenes from history and daily life in Portugal. Some may even say that the train station attracts more visitors for its beautiful tiling rather than passengers! The intricate tiles were hand-painted, and there are over 20,000 of the handmade beauties. The azulejo artwork took over 11 years to be completed, and is symbolic of traditional Portuguese art forms that have been passed down for generations. The train station is a great spot to visit in Porto, as it is an iconic landmark in the city, and it also is an inspiration for art all over the city and country.
Experience a live Fado show
Fado is to Portugal like Flamenco is to Spain. For those interested in the arts and music of the country, seeing a Fado show is a must-do when in Portugal. The beautiful voices of the singers are accompanied by simple live music, usually a guitar or two, but nothing that will outshine the stunning voices. The lyrics are sad and tragic, and you can feel that in the way the performers sing the classic Portuguese songs. Book a ticket to see a fado show in Porto, and of course, you’ll get a delicious glass of port wine alongside while you enjoy the melancholic performance.
If you’re looking for nightlife, head out to the trendy bars of Baixa
Baixa is the area to be in if you’re looking for nightlife. While visiting Porto while studying abroad in Lisbon, my friend group and I discovered that the clubs in Portugal aren’t anything special, but the small bars in the Baixa neighbourhood are trendy and fun, and are a great place to spend a night out. One of our favourites was Tiki Taka Bar, which has a wheel that you can pay to spin, and if you’re lucky, you’ll land on the garrafa, the Portuguese word for bottle, and will be gifted a bottle of vodka after paying 5 euros for your spin. Other prizes include a shot, a red bull, a bottle of water, and many others. It does come at a price if you’re not careful! One of my friends won us the bottle of vodka, but only after he had spent 70 euros on spinning the wheel over and over.
Baixa is great for bar-hopping, as it is super walkable, and if you’re not a fan of one place, you can easily head on over to the next, where you’ll find a completely different vibe with a completely different music style. Bars may be playing Brazilian funk, reggaetón, pop hits, rap, or techno, and which bar is playing what can change depending on the night. Depending on the vibe you’re looking for, you may need to bar hop a bit to find the perfect bar suited for you.
Where to Stay
Budget-Friendly - Being Porto Hostel
Friendly staff run a hostel in a traditional Portuguese building, right in the centre of Baixa.
Mid-Range - Chic & Basic Gravity
Spacious, modern rooms in an ideal location, with a trendy hotel bar and restaurant.
Luxury - Pousado do Porto - Rua das Flores
Elegant and luxurious rooms are housed in a recently renovated yet traditional building, located on the beautiful Rua das Flores.
Day 3: Day trip to Douro Valley
While Porto is the namesake of the famous wine, all of Porto wine was actually produced in the Douro Valley. Douro Valley is one of the most impressive valleys in the world and the UNESCO heritage site is one of the top producers of wine in the world, so if you’re a wine connoisseur, you’ll fall in love with the quaint area.
The Douro Valley only has tiny villages, and no big city along it, but rather hundreds of different vineyards that may also serve as Airbnb’s or hotels for those looking to stay overnight in the valley. Spend your final day in Porto exploring the valley that made the city of Porto so famous, tasting the delicious wines (if you’re not a fan of sweet wines like Porto, don’t worry, almost any flavour profile of wine you could want is produced in this region) and admiring the beautiful landscape.
Taste traditional wine at a typical Portuguese ‘Quinta’
Quinta is the Portuguese word which basically means a farm or an estate, and is frequently used to refer to the different wineries in the Douro Valley. Exploring the quintas in the Douro Valley can be quite overwhelming, as there are over 200. One of the easiest ways to explore and taste the different wines is to go on a wine-tasting tour, where you can experience the different Quintas without having to stress over the planning (plus, you can drink as much as you want because someone else will be behind the wheel!)
Discover the enchanting valley on this day trip that leaves from Porto to explore the highlights of the Douro Valley. You’ll get to visit two different quintas that are family-run, and of course, taste some of the delicious wines along the way, taste a delicious home-cooked Portuguese lunch with a farm-to-table element, and sail on the Douro River from a boat cruise leaving from the picturesque village of Pinhão. This tour is a great way to fit in all the highlights of the Douro Valley in a day, without the hassle of planning it yourself and worrying about who is designated driver!
Pinhão was a hub in the Douro Valley during the 18th and 19th-century for its importance in the growth of wine exportation from the Douro Valley, making it a major centre for wine production in the country. To this day, the area produces some of the finest port wines. Some of the most famous quintas are around Pinhão, including Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Vesuvio. All of the Douro Valley has some amazing wine, but what makes Pinhão special is its fairytale-like charm. The small village is alongside the Douro River, and is an incredibly historical little town. Spend some time wandering around the cobblestone streets and admiring the authentic Portuguese architecture.
The city is also known for its historic train station, which similar to São Bento Station, is decorated with blue and white tiles that tell the history and stories of the Douro Valley region with hand painted artwork. It is interesting to see how important this tradition was in Portugal, and that the art transcended between the different Portuguese towns and cities.
Admire the scenic views of the Douro Valley from a Kayak
Looking for a unique way to explore the Douro Valley? How about paddling your way down the river in a kayak! With this four-hour kayak rental, you’ll be able to take matters into your own hands while admiring the hilly landscape dotted with vineyards on this self-guided adventure. Leaving from the small town of Pinhão, you’ll get to travel past some beautiful architectural spots, like the Bridge of Pinhão which was designed by the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel. From the water, you’ll also get the best views of the small town of Pinhão, whose traditional Portuguese architecture looks stunning against the greenery of the valley. While renting your own kayak can seem a little daunting, the waters of the Douro River are extremely calm, so the experience will be a tranquil, safe, and enjoyable one.
Sail down the Douro in a private yacht
Enjoy the luxurious amenities of a private yacht on this cruise down the Douro River. Leaving from Pinhão, you’ll get to sit back and relax while passing by some of the most stunning sights, including different wineries, rugged mountains, and quaint, traditional Portuguese villages. If weather isn’t on your side, you’re in luck with this cruise, as there is a glassed-in lounge that offers 360 views, so you’ll still get to soak up the scenery without the wind or rain on your face.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a cruise down the Douro River if you didn’t get to indulge in some of the finest wines in the region. Enjoy a complimentary glass of either Douro or Porto wine as you relax and enjoy the beauty the river has to offer.
Viewpoint of São Leonardo de Galafura
One of the most breathtaking viewpoints in all of the Douro Valley is a bit of a hike up, but trust us when we say that it is worth every step. During your ascent, you’ll be surrounded by the typical lush greenery of the Douro Valley, and once you’ve reached the top, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the winding river.
If you’re lucky, you might even get a glimpse of the local wildlife. Eagles soaring through the sky, and otters pay in the river below, and it is truly an impressive sight to see these creatures in their natural habitat while enjoying some wine overlooking the beautiful scenery.
Where to Stay
Budget-Friendly - Hostel Douro Backpackers
A family owned hostel known for its hospitality, with a rooftop terrace and garden.
Mid-Range - Casa Seixas Batista
Get a whole vacation home to yourself in the centre of Pinhão, in a traditional Portuguese home.
Luxury - Quinta Nova Winery House - Relais & Chateaux
Spend your time in the Douro Valley staying overnight at Portugal’s first wine hotel, a luxurious hotel with incredible views of the valley.