Must See & Do at Porto

Feel the Historic City centre

The historic centre of Porto was classified as World Heritage Site in 1996 by UNESCO. The Ribeira district sits proudly above the Douro River and is the ideal place to take a walk alongside the Douro and make a pause in one of the many esplanades close to the Cubo square.

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Cross the Dom Luis Bridge

Opened in 1886, the Dom Luis Bridge once held the record for the longest iron arch in the world. Built by Gustav Eiffel, many people find the bridge reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower itself. The spectacular metal arch bridge sprawls across the Douro, connecting the historical centre of Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. The upper level is where the metro runs, but cars and tourists may cross on the lower level. Walking across the bridge is an experience well worth due to the incredible views. You will want to go to Vila Nova de Gaia, whether to visit the Port cellars or just take in stunning views of Porto itself.

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Take a cruise along the Douro River

Discover Porto’s architecture, its amazing landscapes and famous bridges by taking a bridges cruise (10 EUR) on this majestic river. You can take also a longer cruise from Porto to a nearby town like Regua or Pinhão, to see spectacular views. Some tours can last much longer – up to a week, and there are various tour operators in the area ensuring that prices are competitive.

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Tour a Port wine cellar

On the hillside of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from the old city centre of Porto, stand more than 50 Port wine cellars, including the most famous around the world (Offley, Croft, Taylor’s, Graham’s, Sandeman). Many offer wine tastings and guided tours in a variety of languages. Learn the difference between a white, a tawny and a ruby port.

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Catch a ride on the Gaia Cable Car

The five-minute journey (€5 one way trip) connecting Gaia riverside promenade to the upper deck of D. Luis bridge, takes you above the Porto wine Lodges. While close to the lower station you can visit the Porto wine Lodges and take a cruise along the Douro River, in the upper level, you can visit Serra do Pilar and then you can walk across the upper level of the bridge towards the Porto Cathedral, the São Bento train station and the São Francisco Church.

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Soar above the city in the funicular railway

The short journey in the Funicular dos Guindais (~ 3 minutes cost 2€) offers great and panoramic views over the Ribeira, Douro River, Dom Luis Bridge and Vila Nova de Gaia. This railway was originally built to facilitate the movement of cargo, particularly Port wine.

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Ride Tram line No. 1

Porto Tram City Tour line No. 1 is one of three heritage line routes (the others being 18 and 22). Line 1 or Riverside Line runs between the Infante square in Porto’s historic downtown and the unique place where the Douro River meets the Atlantic ocean. The ride alongside the banks of the Douro River and makes for wonderful views along the way. The ride itself – in a STCP’s historic tram – adds to the all round experience of the tour. The tickets (2.5€ per person) are sold on board.

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Enjoy the seaside esplanades

There are many esplanades in Foz, Vila Nova de Gaia and Matosinhos seaside areas where you can do a pause, have a meal or a drink or even enjoy the sunset at the end of the afternoon.

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Ascend to the heights of Torre dos Clérigos

The tall bell tower (75 meters high) of the baroque Clérigos Church is one of most characteristic symbols of Porto and can be seen from various points of the city. It was designed by the Italian architect Nasoni and completed in 1763. At the top you will find one of the best views of the city.

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Visit the Lello Bookshop

Cited by The Guardian as “one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world”, “divine” and “featuring a staircase to heaven” the Lello bookshop is another must see located in the city centre of Porto. Lello offers a vast array of books, encyclopedias and travel guides. Look out for the coffee bar on the 1st floor. The bookstore is widely tipped to have been an inspiration for parts of Harry Potter’s magical world, since JK Rowling lived in Porto prior to writing the books. Taking pictures inside the bookstore is prohibited. See the 360-degree views here. The tickets for visitors (3€ per person) are deductible in case you buy a book.

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Eat a Francesinha

The Francesinha is the most popular “bite” in Porto and is renowned as the most popular Portuguese sandwich. The local sandwich comprises two toasted bread slices, filled with wet-cured ham, beef, fresh sausage, covered in cheese with a warm tomato-beer sauce (the key secret ingredient) and is most commonly accompanied by a cold beer.

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Enjoy the nightlife offered by the downtown

The old part of the city offers an alternative night time programme since the streets are full of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

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Visit Casa da Música

The futuristic Casa da Música was conceived for the year (2011) in which Porto was the European Capital of Culture and has become architectural masterpiece and music mecca in the city. The project was designed by the Dutch star architect Rem Koolhaas and it is characterised by its modern angular 17-sided building and by the varied cultural programmes it offers throughout the year. Guided tours in English at 4 p.m. (and 11 a.m. in July and August) take ~1 hour and cost € 5/person (free for children 12 years or less, when accompanied by an adult with a ticket).

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Visit the Serralves Foundation

Here, you can visit the foremost Museum of Contemporary Art in Portugal, enjoy the 18-hectare park with gardens and visit an Art Deco Villa.

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See also the The Wall Street Journal’s proposal for A Perfect Long Weekend in Porto.

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