26 Best Things to Do in Porto

The city of Porto clings to the steep slopes of the Douro River as it makes its final meanders before it reaches the Atlantic. A maze of cobbled streets spill down the hillside with azulejo-clad shops and warehouses crammed together. There are squares big and small, often dominated by a Baroque fronted church, and you will pass from faded Neoclassical grandeur to almost village-like quaintness from one street to the next. Eclectic is an understatement 

Porto oozes history and this has been recognised with its UNESCO World Heritage status. On the other hand there is also very modern side to the city.

I spent a year living in Porto and feel like I barely scratched the surface of this fascinating and unique city. You could easily spend days just wandering the streets and not get bored.

Showing 1 - 15 of 26

  • Porto Cathedral
    Porto Cathedral
    Pedro Paulo Palazzo | BY-SA

    The fairly austere and imposing cathedral in Porto (Sé do Porto) was mostly built during the 12th and 13th centuries in the Romanesque style. However, it didn't really reach completion until the 16th century and even after this it was considerably remodelled and extended in the Baroque style.

    Occupying the high ground to the east of the city, the cathedral looks westwards over the historic centre. From its commanding position the church does have something of a feel of a fortress about it - particularly the crenelations which run around the building, somewhat reflecting the...


  • Situated only a short walk from the Ribeira and in Porto's historic centre this is by far the finest church. The Igreja de São Francisco (Church of St Francis) dates back to the 14th century when it was built as an enlargement to an existing church connected to the Franciscan convent. Constructed in the Gothic style the exterior is fairly modest compared to some of the Manueline excess of this period seen elsewhere. However, all this restraint is thrown to the wind when it comes to the interior.



  • Porto Bridge from Vila Nova da Gaia
    Bridge from Vila Nova da Gaia

    The double-decker Dom Luis I bridge is an icon of the city of Porto. It spans the River Douro linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the bustling downtown Ribeira district of Porto. Construction took place between 1881 and 1886 with the bridge being built adjacent to an existing bridge which it replaced. The granite pillars of the original bridge are still in place, standing on the Ribeira like a pair of gate posts.

    It is probably no coincidence that the bridge passes more than a fleeting resemblance of its neighbouring bridge, the...


  • Porto Town Hall (Camara Municipal)

    Avenida dos Aliados is generally regarded as Porto's city centre and is, as such, the most grandiose avenue. Flanked by ornate buildings in a range of architectural styles, from neoclassical to French Beaux-arts, this avenue was built to impress. As such it is home to some of the city's most prestigious hotels along with a number of banks. When I lived in Porto I was never quite convinced I was in an actual city until I wandered down to Aliados.



    Public Places
  • Clerigos Tower by Night
    Clerigos Tower

    Still standing tall on Porto's skyline is the iconic Baroque bell tower and church of Clerigos. Rising over 75 metres from its already elevated position this slender granite tower was the tallest building in Porto when it was built in 1763. In fact it was not until 1999 that this was surpassed with the construction of the Hotel Vila Galé Porto.


  • The Franciscan monastery in Porto dates back to the 13th century and although the monks are long gone and the site much diminished there is still plenty to see. Topping most people's list is a visit to the Igreja de São Francisco with its exuberant Baroque interior of gold and carved wood. However, a ticket to see the church also covers entry to one of Porto's most unusual and macabre visitor "attractions".

    The catacombs of the "Third Order of St. Francis" lie in the basement of the Casa do Despacho (Dispatch House) which lies...


  • Palacio da Bolsa interior
    The Arab Room - Palacio da Bolsa
    Josep Renalias | BY-SA

    The Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) in Porto was built to impress. Whilst it is no longer the centre of trade in Porto it still doesn't fail to impress. When the palace was built in the 1840s Porto was a thriving city. In order to compete with other European cities the merchant's association of Porto decided to create a lavish building that would be the city's commercial hub.


  • National Museum Soares dos Reis - Porto
    National Museum Soares dos Reis

    Founded in 1833 this was Portugal's first national museum. Set in the Carrancas Palace the National Museum Soares dos Reis features one of the finest collections of Portuguese art in existence. This includes many works by the sculptor António Soares dos Reis, after whom the museum is named. The collections feature painting, sculpture, furniture, metalwork and ceramics from many of Portugal's most revered artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.


  • Set on a hilltop in Porto's city centre are the Gardens of the Palácio de Cristal. An 8 hectare expanse of landscaped gardens offering panoramic views of the city and Douro River below.  

    Created towards the end of the 19th century the layout of the gardens is the work of eminent German landscape gardener Émille David. The park features a wonderful mixture of formal and semi-formal landscaped areas with terraces tumbling down the steep valley side towards the river.



  • São Bento, Porto
    São Bento Station, Porto
    António Amen | BY-SA

    São Bento is Porto's central station, although the exterior of this grand building barely hints at its purpose. Completed in 1916 the station is built on the site of a 16th century Benedictine monastery - from which the name São Bento is derived.

    The monastery itself was almost destroyed by fire in 1783, and despite being rebuilt was barely standing at the end of the 19th century. 

    São Bento Railway Station was designed by a local architect, José Marques da Silva, with much of the influence coming from the French Beaux-Arts style. The first stone was laid by King Carlos I in...


  • Casa da Musica - Porto
    Casa da Musica
    Filipe Fortes | BY-SA

    Located in the geographic heart of Porto, just of the Rotunda da Boavista, is the Casa da Música (House of Music). Built to be one of the city's major venues this building goes far beyond and is an icon of the progressive architecture Porto is held in esteem for.

    Built to coincide with Porto's 2001 designation as European Capital of Culture the building was to be something of a centrepiece. It was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhas and its bold styling met with worldwide acclaim.

    It is hard to describe the building in words. Apparently it takes an asymmetrical polyhedron...


  • Casa de Serralves
    Casa de Serralves
    Nmmacedo | BY-SA

    Also known as the National Museum of Modern Art, the Fundação de Serralves has an impressive permanent collection and regular exhibitions. The museum is set in the beautiful gardens of the Serralves park


  • Livraria Lello e Irmão - Porto
    Livraria Lello e Irmão - Porto
    Alegna13 | BY-SA
  • Igreja de Sao Ildefenso
    Igreja de Sao Ildefenso

    Completed in 1739, this proto-Baroque style features a distinctive façade of azulejo tilework. Inside is a retable by the Italian artist Nicolau Nasoni


  • Igreja da Misericórdia - Porto
    Igreja da Misericórdia
    António Amen | BY-SA

    The Igreja da Misericórdia do Porto is located on the historic Rua das Flores in downtown Porto. The church does not stand alone but is instead sandwiched between the offices and shops that line this typical Porto street.

    Originally built in the 16th century the church's facade was redesigned by Northern Portugal's favourite Baroque architect, the Italian Nicolau Nasoni. He was responsible for designing a number of buildings in the city including the Clerigos tower and church, and the...




Porto travel guide »

Porto is considered the capital of the north and as the second largest city in Portugal, rightfully so. There are really very few similarities between Porto and Lisbon – they are both near the coast, on the banks of large rivers and...