Ahh beautiful, colorful, lively, and underrated Porto, Portugal. It is becoming increasingly popular to visit this city, especially during the incredible summer weather. Porto is a city where you need at least four full days. We spent five days here, and it was just spectacular. I believe that when you have enough time in a place to wander about aimlessly, you feel the true soul of the city. Below you will find a list of things to do in Porto, Portugal, during your time there, including the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site!
If you’ve been following my blog, you know my husband is an architect, so quite a few of these spots may not be on the “Top Ten Things to Do in Porto” lists that fill Google. But they are so worth it!
Double Decker Red Tour Bus – On our first day in Porto, a man at our hotel came up to us and offered us two tickets to the red line tour bus. He was leaving that day, and the tickets still had use for 24 hours. I was stoked to get these because now hubster had no excuse not to go on a tour bus. It turns out that the red line bus tour is incredibly efficient and gives you a great overview of the city. We knew where we would want to come back and explore in the following four days thanks to that handy dandy bus ride. You can get on and off the bus at any stop you wish. There are multiple lines, like the yellow line or blue line. We took the red line, which is why I recommend it!
Cais da Ribeira – MY FAVORITE. Is that enough? I guess I’ll expand a little more. Every single night we found our way here at the pier. There are so many restaurants to try, live music to shimmy to, bridges and buildings to see, and sunsets to enjoy. This place is romantic, eclectic, and filled with all the goodness of Porto. If there is anything you do when you are in Porto, make sure to take a nice long walk along the Douro River (one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula). You truly feel the energy of the city here.
Palacio de Cristal – What a little gem of a place. We didn’t have a destination in mind, so we stumbled upon this gorgeous park by chance! In this park you’ll find peacocks, chickens, fountains, families, poets, writers, artists, photographers, and readers. The flowers are in full flourish during the summer, and the views of the Douro are stunning. Spending a sunny afternoon here is so worth it.
Museu Serralves – Whenever we asked our Uber drivers where we should visit, every single one of them said this place. They also supplemented that with how it is unique and how not many people go. I’m surprised we had so many hipster Uber drivers, but hey, better for us! This museum has a major modern art collection in minimalist white galleries, plus performances of music & dance. Modern art always makes me think or cringe, so I knew it was going to be an entertaining afternoon. They have a nice gift shop as well as a space they require you to place your bags. After your time at the museum, head over to the incredible gardens and Casa De Serralves. Surprisingly, they were okay with people taking pictures.
Casa De Serralves – This 1930s Art Deco architecture house is stunning and a must-see! You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time, walking through sheer opulence as the original house owner must have. Authorship of the Villa’s architectural project is attributed to the French architect Charles Siclis, and also involved was the famous architect Marques da Silva. Walking around the house seriously gives you The Great Gatsby feels! My favorite part of the house was the master bathroom. The decor consists of pink marble, brass accents, and gorgeous windows. Major interior design goals! Also, you can take as many pictures as you’d like.
Casa Da Musica – We walked by this building a couple of times on the first day, and we knew right away we had to visit. The exterior is so interesting, and my husband’s architecture antennae was buzzing. As we made our way through it, he shook his head to the structures that made no sense and then nodded at the parts that he loved. I just watched him watch the building haha! But after walking through the building, we enjoyed some drinks at the bar at the bottom of the building, which I highly recommend! You can check out their calendar here to see if there are any events going on when you are in town.
Dom Luís I Bridge – This double decker arched bridge took us from Porto to Vila Nove de Gaia. We walked across this every evening to get to the other side. The views from the bridge are breathtaking and a wonderful photo op. It can get a little scary because the sidewalks on the bridge are very narrow, so walk slowly. Sometimes you might even catch some of the local boys jumping off the bridge for the entertainment of tourists haha.
Igreja (Church) of São Francisco – You. Must. Go. Here. Why? Because it’s a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (a big deal). Also, it is the most prominent Gothic monument in Porto, Portugal, noted for its outstanding Baroque inner decoration. It is located in the historic center of the city, so it’s difficult to miss!
Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls) – This early-eighteenth-century chapel is hard to miss. The chapel is famous for its exterior of blue & white tiles (azulejo) painted with scenes from the lives of saints. It is so impressive that the tiles retain their bold hues for centuries, and that is something you will see all over Porto.
Livraria Lello – We didn’t end up going into this bookstore because the line was always down the block and wrapped around the corner. But I stood in front of it and looked in when it wasn’t open, and it looked cool! Apparently J.K. Rowling found quite a bit of inspiration for Harry Potter from here, so if you are a Potterhead, you will enjoy the magic of this place…if the line isn’t a million miles long. You must buy tickets to walk into this bookstore, so you know they are totally exploiting the crazy Harry Potter fans out there. Also, everyone walks in with selfie sticks in tow, so I expect taking that perfectly centered shot is close to impossible. This is low on my list of things to do, but I think it’s worth at least stopping by and looking in.
São Bento Railway Station – This nineteenth-century railway station is a quick stop but a must-see. It is similar to the Chapel of Souls, because of the beautiful azulejo tile-work. If you aren’t a tile person, you will be once you visit Porto!
Centro Portugues de Fotografia (Portuguese Center of Photography) – If you are a photography nerd, this free-entry place is for you. In here, you will see various collections of photography as well as collections of cameras. What’s also unique about this space is that it used to be a prison!
So there you have it! Those are the big points of things to do in Porto on your visit. When we weren’t looking at a certain building on our “list,” we walked…and we walked some more. That’s honestly how we came across so many cool spots that weren’t on my list.
Look forward to my Porto Eats and Porto Shops posts coming soon.