Our Porto city guide contains all the information you need ahead of your trip to Portugal’s beautiful second city.
The city of Porto sits tall, proud and elegant on the Douro River estuary in the northern region of Portugal. Porto’s historic centre – which includes the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, the Monastery of Serra do Pilar and the colourful, crumbling facades of the Ribiera neighbourhood – is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s little wonder. Porto’s cobbled streets and magnificent architecture speak so many stories, and it’s here that you can get a feel for the Portuguese soul.
You’ll be surprised by how compact the city is, how walkable. In that respect, it makes for an ideal city break as there’s no need to faff around with public transport. The pace of life here is delightfully slow. It’s a city that encourages you to slow down and reconnect. It doesn’t get much better than sitting by the Douro and watching the world go by with a coffee or glass of port wine.
Despite its sleepy, old-world atmosphere, being a digital nomad in Porto is actually pretty fantastic. You’ll find all the modern amenities you’d expect to see in any European city, including an efficient transport system, great restaurants, fashionable bars and incredible shops. There are a ton of great cafes and coworking spaces. Skip to ‘Being a digital nomad in Porto’ to find out more.
No matter your style of travel, our Porto city guide has everything you need to know before your visit, including things to do, how to get around and where to stay.
Is Porto Worth Visiting?
People question whether Porto is worth visiting – after all, it’s often overshadowed by the larger and sunnier Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and other European icons like Paris, Rome and Barcelona. But if you’re looking to escape into a historic dream world of rich flavours and romantic sights, choose the city of Porto.
The fact that Porto’s old town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site says it all to be honest – they don’t really get that stuff wrong. The city is endlessly charming. It has a distinctly romantic old-world feel to it that we can’t get enough of.
Some travellers think there’s less to do here than in Lisbon. Maybe that’s true. We’d agree that the selection of attractions is a little less diverse, but it’s perfect for people who appreciate beautiful architecture, history, good wine and food.
The atmosphere is certainly different in Porto than in Lisbon and the Algarve. We think it’s a little more subdued. The weather here is also completely different to Lisbon and the south. It can be very rainy and misty. Maybe that’s why, being British, we always feel at home here! In spite of the weather (which can be glorious by the way), the city relaxes and inspires us. It gives us a warm, cosy feeling (possibly because of all the wine and heavy food…) and it has a romantic, magical atmosphere.
You can while away hours wandering the maze of streets, gazing up at the tall houses and Baroque churches, browsing boutique shops, admiring displays of azulejo tiles, strolling along the Douro and clinking glasses in cosy wine bars. Yes, it’s a small city, but Porto has such a welcoming, homey feel. If you wanted to stay a little longer, you could easily use Porto as a base from which to explore other northern highlights, such as Braga, Guimarães and Aveiro.
So, is Porto worth visiting? Absolutely. Especially if you fancy a bit of out-of-season sun. It’s certainly not a summer holiday destination, but you can easily hop on a tram and spend a day lazing on the beach in the sleepy coastal town of Foz do Douro. When the sun’s out, it’s exceptionally warm.
Visiting Porto As A Solo Traveller
Solo travel to Porto is fun, safe and relaxing. There are so many things to do in Porto that are suited to solo travellers, like visiting museums, churches, art galleries and boutique shops, or simply chilling out by the river with a glass of wine and a good book.
What’s more, Porto is a very walkable city. Everything is within close distance, so you won’t need to venture far on your own or take public transport. Plus, if you feel like socialising, there are plenty of great hostels and lively cafes, bars and restaurants to enjoy.
How Long To Spend In Porto
If you want to get a feel for the city and see most of the highlights, you only need to spend a few days here. Is two days in Porto enough? Well, yes – our broad recommendation is to spend a minimum of two nights and certainly no less than this.
If you would like to explore more of the northern region on day trips from Porto to Braga, Guimarães, Aveiro or perhaps the Douro Valley, stay in the city for a week or more.
Digital nomads, we haven’t forgotten about you. We would recommend spending one month living and working in Porto. If it’s your vibe, stay for as long as you can!
Getting To Porto
It’s exceptionally easy to reach Porto from most countries in Europe. Simply book a flight to Porto’s Francisco de Sá Carneiro airport, situated around 11km from the city centre. An Uber from the airport to the city costs around €13, but you can easily hop on metro line E (the purple line) to the city centre. A ticket costs around €2.
The train from Lisbon takes from three hours depending on which service you take and will cost you €15 to €35. You can also take the bus from Lisbon to Porto. It takes around the same length of time but can work out cheaper.
We recommend booking your train or bus ticket with Omio. Alternatively, you can book a train ticket directly with Comboios de Portugal.
How much you should budget for visiting Porto really depends on how long you stay for, your activities and travel style. Prices in Porto are cheap compared to other cities in Europe, including Lisbon, and are noticeably cheaper than the prices you would find in the Algarve.
Here are some of the average prices you can expect to pay:
Where To Stay In Porto
If you only plan to visit Porto for a few days and you want to pack lots into your trip, we recommend staying near, or in, the historic centre. Use the following train stations as a centre point: Aliados and Sao Bento. By staying near these stations, you can guarantee you’ll be able to walk everywhere, even across the river to Vilha Nova da Gaia, the home of Porto’s famous port houses.
In terms of neighbourhoods, look to stay in the Ribiera (historic, medieval neighbourhood next to the river), Sé (home to Sao Bento station, Sé do Porto and Igreja do Santo Ildefonso) or lastly, Vitória (the old commercial district and home to the Clérigos Tower and great bars).
We’ve stayed in Porto on three different occasions: one holiday and two long-term stays. Here are some accommodation suggestions based on our experience:
bnapartments Carregal: Stylish aparthotel with swimming pool in the centre of Porto. Rated 8.9 on Booking.com. From €150 per night.
Exe Almada Porto: Clean, modern rooms with a great breakfast and friendly service. This hotel is just a short walk from Trindade station. Rated 8.8 on Booking.com. From €175 per night.
AQR Frida Loft: Studio apartment, 20-minute walk from the historic centre. Offers considerable discounts for long-term bookings. Expect to pay €90+ per night in peak season (weekly/monthly discounts available).
The Wondrous Apartment: Spacious and well-decorated one-bedroom apartment in the heart of the historic centre with an amazing shower and fast wi-fi. Expect to pay €100 per night in peak season (weekly/monthly discounts available).
Casa do Souto: Unbelievably well located and priced. Just a stone’s throw from Rua das Flores and Sao Bento station. Spacious, clean and well equipped with a great shower and comfy bed.
Those last three options are great for digital nomads if you can book ahead and get the long-term discount.
Getting Around Porto
You’ll quickly see that the city has nailed public transport, with clean, modern buses, trains and a metro system. But if you stay in the city centre, you’ll likely find that your own two legs are all you really need to get around.
Porto is an incredibly walkable city, with all the major sights just a short stroll away from each other and hidden gems waiting around every corner. It’s very hilly though, so pack some comfy shoes and prepare to give your calf muscles a workout.
If you don’t fancy walking, take the metro, bus or tram. Other options include hopping in a metred taxi, booking an Uber or even grabbing a tourist tuk tuk!
Porto’s underground metro system has six (soon to be seven) lines that run from 6am to 1am daily. Buy tickets from the easy-to-use machines located inside stations. Tickets usually cost around €2 depending on your journey. You’ll notice metro maps all over the city and stations, plus you can also download a map here.
There is an extensive bus network throughout the city, with cheap fares. You can also use the same travel card as you would on the metro. Take a look at the Porto bus route map here, or use Google Maps to find the bus stop and route you need.
Porto’s tram network isn’t an obvious choice in terms of speed, comfort and convenience, but these vintage beauties are a truly special way to travel around the city. We’d recommend riding the tram as one of the best things to do in Porto.
Three tram lines still run through parts of the city, and they’re now more of a tourist experience than anything else.
We’d recommend hopping on line 1 just in front of Igreja de Sao Francisco in the Ribiera district and enjoying the journey out to Porto’s seaside neighbour town, Foz do Douro. The entire route is stunning as the tram rattles along right next to the river! Trams on this route run on a regular 30-minute schedule from 8am to 9pm and a one-way ticket costs €3.
If you’re in a rush or you have too much luggage/shopping to carry, hop in a taxi or grab an Uber. Taxis in Porto are relatively cheap for a major European city and they’re metred. With Uber, you could expect to pay around €5–7 for a trip within the city.
Porto Travel Card
A convenient rechargeable travel card has been introduced which can be used on the metro, bus and tram lines, as well as the funicular up the hill from the riverside. Called ‘Andante’, the card itself costs €0.60 and can be loaded up with credit and used for a whole year. Even if you’re only in town for a few days but you just don’t fancy walking everywhere, the Andante is well worth it.
Here are some of the best things to do in Porto:
- Taste some port wine! The city of Porto is where all the gorgeous rubies and tawnies are stored and aged until they’re ready to ship out across Portugal and the rest of the world. The wine is made in the Douro Valley and Porto gives it its name – so you can’t really visit Porto without learning about and trying the wine. You’ll find the port houses – many with names that you’ll recognise – sitting elegantly by the river in the Vilha Nova de Gaia neighbourhood. Many of these port houses host cellar tours and tastings, or you can simply venture inside and order a flight of wines to try. We visited Quinta do Noval and enjoyed a guided flight of five port wines for €23.90.
- Wander the Palácio da Bolsa. This was the original Portuguese stock exchange, and today you can stroll through its neoclassical halls on a guided tour. Tickets cost €10 for an adult.
- Climb the Clerigos Tower. There’s usually a bit of a wait to climb the Torre dos Clérigos – plus 200 steps – but the 360° view you’ll find at the top is well worth the effort. It’s free to take a look around the church, but to climb the tower you’ll need to pay €6.
- Stroll around the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. These sun-soaked landscaped gardens are an opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet and simply stunning views out across the Douro river.
- Admire Porto’s gorgeous azulejos. The city is famous for its lovely displays of azulejos, glazed ceramic tiles that are usually blue and white in colour. These really are a big part of Porto’s charm, so make sure you take the time to find and admire them. We recommend heading to Sao Bento train station, Igreja do Carmo, Sé do Porto and Capela das Almas to see incredible displays of azulejos.
- Watch the sunset at Jardim do Morro. To experience the stunning view as the sun sets over the Douro river and Porto’s magical cityscape, head to Jardim do Morro. You won’t be alone. Crowds gather every evening to share in this wonderful experience. A word of advice: the sunset view is definitely better during the summer months.
- Embrace your inner bookworm at Livraria Lello. Founded by the Lello brothers in the early 1900s, this stunning bookstore is a cultural landmark. With row upon row of beautiful books, sweeping staircases and glossy carved woodwork, you’ll be transported to iconic fantastical libraries like the one in the Beast’s castle, Hogwarts or Diagon Alley. It’s really no wonder that JK Rowling herself found so much inspiration here. You can generally expect to find a long queue, so get there early. Plus, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee of €5 (deductible on books).
- Marvel at Sé do Porto, Porto’s cathedral. Perched at the highest point in the city, overlooking the Douro river is Porto’s 12th-century cathedral. For just €3, you can take a look around and admire the gorgeous displays of baroque, gothic and romanesque architecture. Oh, and you’ll see azulejos everywhere.
Porto’s foodie temptations
- Pastéis de nata – Caramelised custard encased in mouth-watering flaky pastry. One simply won’t be enough!
- Bacalhau – The Portuguese love to cook rich, delicious dishes with cod fish. You’ll see it on nearly every menu. Try bacalhau à brás, a creamy dish cooked with salt cod, egg and potatoes. For a snack, pop into a cafe and order pastéis de bacalhau, salt cod fish cakes.
- Caldo Verde – This popular soup is nothing but warming, hearty vegetable goodness. Made with greens, potatoes and often a slice of chorizo, Hollie liked ordering a bowl of caldo verde for dipping her pastéis de bacalhau. YUM.
- Francesinha – Less croque monsieur, more mighty meaty. This gut-busting sandwich is a must-try when you visit Porto. There are lots of variations, but most contain ham, steak and sausage, smothered in cheese and a special sauce. If you’re veggie, no worries. More and more eateries are concocting meat-free francesinha alternatives.
Day Trips From Porto
This might be a Porto city guide, but we couldn’t not mention all the fantastic trips you can take to nearby towns and cities in northern Portugal. If you’re lucky enough to spend an extended period of time in Porto, or you simply fancy a day away from the city, there are several day trips that you can take.
Here are our top recommendations for day trips from Porto:
Braga is a quaint little town that is steeped in religious and historical significance. Once the seat of religious power for the Kingdom of Portugal, Braga played an important role in shaping the country we know and love today. Although it is still the home of Portugal’s oldest archdiocese, Braga’s importance on the geopolitical stage has waned. Today, you can still see remnants of the past in the ancient city walls, a gorgeous cathedral and the remains of the old castle keep.
To tell you the truth, we weren’t too sure what to expect from Braga. We only really decided to visit due to an inexplicable affection for Braga’s resident football team held by Nick, who just had to go. But we were pleasantly surprised and beyond impressed with the architecture, ambience and the town’s welcoming nature.
Braga is easily reachable from Porto if you travel by train. Trains leave regularly from Sao Bento station and the journey will take about an hour. Return tickets cost around €7.
Another little day trip you can do when you visit Porto is the quiet and authentic seaside town of Miramar. You can visit Miramar from Porto by catching a train from Sao Bento. The journey takes just half an hour.
While you’re in Miramar, don’t forget to check out the picturesque Capela do Senhora Pedra, a small chapel that sits on a rocky outcrop.
In summer, Miramar makes an excellent beachy day trip from Porto, but in the colder months, we’d recommend heading to Miramar for a coastal stroll, or even just to catch the sunset.
Foz do Douro
Foz do Douro is another seaside town near Porto. It’s situated out west, right at the mouth of the Douro river. There’s not an awful lot that goes on there, especially in the colder months, but it’s a lovely place for a beach walk and a spot of lunch.
You can visit Foz do Douro from Porto by catching the number 500 bus, or – and this is what we recommend – you can take the number 1 tram and enjoy the whole experience.
Aveiro, sometimes known as ‘the Venice of Portugal’ (which in our opinion, having been there, is a bit of an exaggeration), is also a worthy day trip from Porto. The town sits about 60 km down the coast from Porto, and it’s easy to get there on the train. Again, head to Sao Bento station and hop on the one-hour 15-minute direct service which costs €3.55 each way.
When you reach Aveiro, leave the stunning azulejo-adorned station and head down Avenida do Doutor Lourenço Peixinho, a long road that takes you right to the centre of town. While you’re there, check out Aveiro’s buzzing fish market and perhaps take a ride around the waterways on a moliceiro, a traditional fishing boat.
Porto is a short drive or train journey away from the Douro Valley’s rolling green hills. If you want to enjoy the stunning scenery or to visit some of the region’s amazing wineries, make sure you visit the Douro Valley from Porto.
The best thing to do is book an organised day trip from Porto. These usually include transport from your accommodation and of course, a vineyard tour and tasting. Alternatively, you could skip the wine and simply enjoy the incredible scenery by hiring a car and heading out into the valley yourself.
Being A Digital Nomad In Porto
We lived in Porto for five weeks in late 2020 and again throughout August 2022. We can definitely recommend the city as somewhere to live and work remotely.
Being a digital nomad in Porto – as a temporary or full-time remote worker – is remarkably easy and more importantly, enjoyable. Lisbon and the Algarve’s surf towns tend to be digital nomad hotspots, but we can’t recommend Porto enough for this purpose. It’s one of our favourite places to live and work.
Here are some of the advantages to being a digital nomad in Porto:
- High-quality accommodation and a great range of Airbnbs
- Strong wi-fi connections
- Lots of great cafés and coworking spaces
- Easy to get around the city – no need for a car
- Supermarkets, shops and amenities
- Cheaper cost of living than Lisbon
- Short bus or train ride to the beach
- Fascinating history, architecture and culture to immerse yourself in
WMJG Porto City Guide
We hope you have found our Porto city guide a helpful resource for planning your holiday or long-term stay as a digital nomad. This is truly one of our favourite places in the world, and we hope you love it too!
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