If you’re wondering ‘Is Porto worth visiting?’ then this post is for you!
The city of Porto is located in the northern part of Portugal and beckons travelers with its rich history, captivating culture, and mouthwatering cuisine. As one of the oldest cities in Europe, Porto has witnessed centuries of transformation, making it a treasure trove of heritage and experiences. Yes! It is definitely worth visiting!
I love Porto! I have been there many times and discover a new gem every time I make the trip. I always come back with incredible stories to tell about the people from Porto. They really make it a pleasure to visit. I can’t tell you how many times the owner of a restaurant has sat with us at the end of the evening, or even invited us in for a nightcap at his after dinner!
In this comprehensive travel guide, I’ll bring you on a journey to uncover my favorite spots in Porto, exploring its attractions, the weather, culture, food, and more, to help you decide if this charming city is worth your while.
Is Porto Worth Visiting? A City of History and Tradition
Porto, also known as Oporto in some parts of the world due to the Portuguese reference to ‘o Porto’, is steeped in history. Founded in the 4th century, it’s one of Europe’s oldest urban centers, and its historic core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city’s roots run deep, with a proud maritime heritage, and it has evolved into a thriving hub that manages to beautifully blend tradition and modern conveniences.
11 Reasons to Visit Porto
1. Douro Valley: A Wine Lover’s Paradise
One of Porto’s crown jewels is the nearby Douro Valley, where terraced vineyards stretch along the banks of the Douro River. This picturesque landscape is the birthplace of Port wine, and you can explore centuries-old wineries, sip on exquisite vintages, and savor the essence of this celebrated drink.
Make sure to take a day trip from Porto and make sure to enjoy one of the best things to do in the region.
2. Ribeira: The Beauty of the Old Town
The Ribeira district is the heart and soul of Porto. With its narrow, winding streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant atmosphere, it’s a place where history whispers through every cobblestone. Stroll along the Douro River, visit quaint cafes, and admire the iconic Ribeira Square.
3. Livraria Lello: A Book Lover’s Haven
Often touted as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello is an architectural masterpiece. Its neo-Gothic façade and enchanting interior, complete with a winding staircase, make it a must-visit for bookworms and architecture enthusiasts alike. It’s a great place to visit it on a walking tour of Porto’s Old Town!
4. Serralves Foundation: Art and Nature
The Serralves Foundation combines contemporary art with lush gardens and modernist architecture. Explore the ever-changing exhibitions, wander through the park, and admire the avant-garde structures that make this place a cultural oasis.
5. Clerigos Tower: A Baroque Marvel
The Clerigos Tower, an 18th-century baroque masterpiece, offers breathtaking panoramic views of Porto. Climb its 225 steps for an awe-inspiring vista of the city’s red-tiled rooftops and the Douro River.
6. Sé Cathedral: A Glimpse into the Past
The Porto Cathedral, or Sé Cathedral, is a captivating blend of architectural styles. Dating back to the 12th century, it offers a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city. Wander through its cloisters and admire the Romanesque and Gothic elements.
7. Palácio da Bolsa: Opulence Personified
A visit to the Palácio da Bolsa is a journey into opulence. This neoclassical building houses lavishly decorated rooms, including the breathtaking Arab Room. Explore its chambers and revel in the grandeur of Porto’s history.
8. Dive into the Ocean at Matosinhos Beach
For those seeking sun and sand, Matosinhos Beach is just a short tram ride away from the city center. Relax on its golden shores, enjoy fresh seafood at beachside restaurants, or try your hand at surfing. Any time of year is excellent for surfing in Portugal, it all depends on your skill level.
9. Boat Tour on the Douro River
Embark on a boat tour along the Douro River to appreciate Porto’s beauty from a different perspective. Admire the historic bridges, riverside neighborhoods, and the picturesque Rabelo boats that once transported Port wine.
10. Casa da Música: A Modern Marvel
Casa da Música is a contemporary architectural masterpiece and a hub for music lovers. Attend a concert or simply take a guided tour to explore the innovative design of this cultural venue.
11. Gastronomic Exploration
Porto’s cuisine is a revelation, where traditional Portuguese dishes and international flavors coexist harmoniously. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor:
Francesinha: Porto’s Signature Dish The Francesinha, a hearty sandwich layered with cured meats, smothered in cheese, and drenched in a spicy tomato sauce, is a Porto specialty that’s bound to tantalize your taste buds!
Port Wine Tasting No visit to Porto is complete without indulging in a Port wine tasting experience. Visit the cellars of renowned producers in Vila Nova de Gaia and learn about the intricate process of winemaking.
Seafood Galore Being a coastal city, Porto offers a delectable array of seafood dishes. Try the grilled sardines, bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (codfish), or seafood rice for a taste of the ocean.
Pastéis de Nata: Sweet Delights Satisfy your sweet tooth with Pastéis de Nata, Portugal’s beloved custard tarts. Pair them with a cup of strong Portuguese coffee for the perfect afternoon treat.
Local Markets: Mercado do Bolhão Explore the bustling Mercado do Bolhão, an iconic market where you can purchase fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and local delicacies. Engage with vendors and get a glimpse into Porto’s daily life.
What’s the weather like in Porto?
Porto enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm, sunny summers. Despite some rain throughout the year, temperatures typically range from 15°C (59°F) to 27°C (80°F). This makes Porto a delightful destination, particularly during the summer months when it provides a respite from the scorching heat of southern Portugal.
Porto vs. Lisbon: A Tale of Two Cities
When comparing Porto and Lisbon, two of Portugal’s most iconic cities, you’ll discover distinct personalities and charms.
Porto: Laid-Back and Friendly
Porto exudes a laid-back ambiance that instantly makes visitors feel at home. People are known for their warm and friendly nature, always ready to strike up a conversation or offer assistance.
The city’s compact size allows for easy exploration on foot, eliminating the need for lengthy commutes on public transportation. Porto is an ideal choice for those seeking a more relaxed and personal experience.
Lisbon: Metropolitan and Dynamic
Lisbon, on the other hand, is Portugal’s vibrant capital, bustling with metropolitan energy. There is lots to do in Lisbon, even in the rain, and is very walkable! While it offers a rich cultural scene with museums and events, diverse neighborhoods, and a dynamic atmosphere, it can also feel more fast-paced and cosmopolitan.
Lisbon is perfect for travelers who relish the hustle and bustle of a major European city.
Who Should Visit Porto?
Porto caters to a diverse range of travelers. It’s perfect for:
- History Buffs: Explore ancient cathedrals, historic districts, and centuries-old wine cellars.
- Food Enthusiasts: Indulge in a culinary adventure featuring local delicacies and world-famous Port wine.
- Art and Culture Aficionados: Immerse yourself in Porto’s vibrant arts scene, from contemporary galleries to classical music venues.
- Nature Lovers: Discover the breathtaking landscapes of the Douro Valley and nearby beaches.
- Relaxation Seekers: Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals, and leisurely walks along the riverfront.
What is Porto Renowned For?
Aside from its breathtaking beauty and rich history, Porto is renowned for:
- Port Wine Production: Porto is the epicenter of Port wine production, with centuries-old cellars lining the Douro River.
- Architectural Grandeur: The city boasts stunning architecture, from historic churches to modernist structures like Casa da Música.
- Livraria Lello: This enchanting bookstore has gained worldwide fame for its stunning design and literary significance.
- Friendly Locals: Porto is known for its warm and welcoming inhabitants, ready to share their city’s secrets with visitors.
Where to Stay in Porto?
Since you’ll want to stay and visit for at least a few days, here are some of the best choices for accommodation in Porto.
Budget– Aspasio BomJardim: This is an excellently located flat with new amenities and great service! It’s very clean and the beds are comfortable. What’s not to like!
Mid Range– Jardim da Batalha Boutique Hotel – This cute hotel offers fabulous breakfast and an excellent location in Porto’s old center. The green spaces and the decor make it feel like home away from home.
Luxury– The Yeatman: This iconic hotel is the epitome of chique in Porto. The panoramic city views over the douro valley are truly incredible and the 2-Michelin awarded restaurant is the cherry on the cake.
Is Porto Worth Visiting FAQ
What is the best time to visit Porto for good weather?
The best time to visit Porto for good weather is during the summer months, from June to September, when you can enjoy warm and sunny days with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 27°C (68°F to 80°F). However, Porto’s mild climate makes it a year-round destination, with pleasant weather even in the winter months.
Is Porto a safe city for tourists?
Yes, Porto is generally considered a safe city for tourists. It has a low crime rate, and violent crime is rare. However, like in any other city, it’s advisable to take common-sense precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings and being aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas.
What is the currency used in Porto, Portugal?
The currency used in Porto, as well as throughout Portugal, is the Euro (€).
How do I get from Porto Airport to the city center?
Porto Airport (Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport) is well-connected to the city center. You can take a taxi, use the metro (Line E), or opt for the airport shuttle bus service, which provides a convenient and affordable way to reach the city center.
Can I visit Port wine cellars in Porto?
Absolutely! Porto is famous for its Port wine cellars, most of which are located in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the Douro River from Porto’s historic center. You can take guided tours of these cellars, learn about the wine-making process, and, of course, sample some of the finest Port wines.
How many days do we need in Porto?
Although you can visit most of the highlights in one day, you will need at least 2-3 days to explore the area properly. This will give you enough time to explore all the must-see attractions, such as the Torre dos Clerigos, Santa Catarina Street, and Gaia’s Port wine cellars, as well as enjoy the Douro Valley and its wine producers. You can also enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine, art galleries, or just relax in one of Porto’s many parks.
What is special about Porto Portugal?
One of the most impressive aspects of Porto is its stunning setting along the Douro River that winds through steep hills and valleys covered in terraced vineyards. Porto wine, of course is center stage in this part of Portugal. The city itself also has a unique blend of old and new, with UNESCO-listed monuments like the Clérigos Tower rubbing shoulders with modern cafes and restaurants. Porto is also known for its vibrant night life and one of a kind street art which makes it a popular spot for young people looking to explore somewhere new.
Is Porto Worth Visiting? The Wrap-Up
Porto, with its rich history, stunning architecture, delectable cuisine, and welcoming atmosphere, has all the ingredients for a memorable travel experience. Whether you’re a history buff, a food enthusiast, an art lover, or simply seeking a laid-back escape, Porto offers something special for every traveler. With its unique charm and warm-hearted locals, it’s no wonder that this Portuguese treasure is so popular as a must-visit destination.