Though you could definitely live in Porto for six months and not get bored, you can enjoy the city’s highlights in one action-packed weekend. Here is a complete Porto itinerary for a weekend, complete with the city’s must-see sights and some of the best places to eat.
Day 1: Eating and Sightseeing
Start with quick bite on the popular walking street Rua Flores, where you can enjoy a coffee and custard tart at Nata Lisboa. There are plenty of other options if you are looking for a bigger breakfast. Rua Flores puts you in the perfect location to your first few stops of the day. After your fuel up, you’re less than 10 minutes away from the Porto Cathedral. It’s free to enter, and stunning inside and out. Because it’s so high compared to the surroundings, you can also get a pretty good view of the city from the courtyard of the cathedral.
Afterwards, you can go back up the street toward Saint Anthony’s Church Congregados. From that point, the street stretches toward the Church of Saint Ildefonso on the right and toward Clerigos Tower on the left. There are a couple of great places to get lunch near the Church of Saint Ildefonso so if hunger is already creeping in, hang a right. Just past the church, you’ll pass Santa Francesinha, where you can get the traditional Porto sandwich that gives the restaurant its name. On the same street is Casa Guedes, which I implore you not to miss. The no-frills kitchen makes the best pork sandwiches I’ve ever had. You can make it a long lunch and sit outside with a few beers.
After lunch, you can head back toward Clerigos Tower. The tower is dizzyingly high so you’ll get a great view of the city, and the admission is only 4 Euro, which also includes entrance to the museum. The stairs are narrow and it gets crowded with people going up and down in opposite directions and there are a lot of steps so mentally prepare yourself. If you’re not up for the climb, there’s a free viewpoint called Miradouro da Vitoria just south of that. It’s not nearly as high so your view won’t be as complete, but it also doesn’t require going up 240 steps.
A short walk from Clerigos Tower, you’ll run into Livraria Lello. I never pass up an opportunity to see a fancy library or bookstore, and this one is a sight to see. It’s well-known for the iconic red staircase at the center. To get in, you need to buy a 4 Euro voucher, which you can use towards the purchase of a book. This kind of offends me because it turns it into a tourist attraction rather than a real bookstore. Even Paris’s more famous Shakespeare and Co. doesn’t have that policy. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth visiting if you like beautiful homes for books.
Just around the corner from the bookstore is one of the most beautiful churches in the city, Igreja do Carmo. It has one of the biggest tile facades. It’s also near a lot of great places to eat, making it an appropriate place to get dinner. At restaurants like Ze Bota, you can enjoy nice sit-down traditional Portuguese meal.
For drinks in the evening, head to the Clerigos, where there is a huge density of bars and clubs where you can get tipsy and dance until the sun comes up.
Day 2: Winery Hopping
Don’t drink too much on your first night so you can enjoy a full day of wine tasting across the river. But first… brunch. Zenith Brunch and Cocktails Bar has interesting twists on your brunch favorites, including eggs benedict that are breaded and fried. It’s a good place to have a solid breakfast that will help you survive the day of drinking. If you don’t want to start drinking at 10:30 am like I did, you can take a leisurely stroll up the vast Ave los Aliados to check out the Church of the Trinity and City Hall.
Though the walk over to the wineries takes about half an hour, I recommend it because it will take you over the Dom Luis I Bridge. The double-deck bridge has a pedestrian walkway on the top and the bottom. I recommend taking the bottom on the way to the wineries and taking the top path on the way back. Some of the wineries are right on the river so you don’t have to hike uphill too far to get some good port wine in you. You can start at Sandeman, where you can take a tour of the cellars for 10 Euro. You can also enjoy wine tastings on the terrace. The tour is better if you want to learn a bit about the wine-making process. The terrace is better for drinking with a view.
From there, you can make your way deeper through the various wineries. The roads are steep and winding, and I caution you to use common sense rather than Google Map directions. If Google Maps puts your walking route too far out of the way, take a close look at the streets and double check that there isn’t a closer way to get there. Some other worthwhile wineries include Taylor’s and Croft Port. Taylor’s also has gorgeous gardens that are populated by roosters and peacocks.
The tastings are flexible and can be really affordable depending on the wines you choose. Each of the wine lodges has a limited number of food options that include cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate for wine pairings. Some of them also have restaurants, where you can sit down to a full meal. The wine accompaniments should hold you over through lunch, so you can enjoy a meal at one of the waterfront restaurants. There are dozens to choose from.
On your way back to the other side of the river, take the top deck of the Dom Luis I Bridge. You can reach it by heading up toward the Monastery of Serra Pilar which overlooks the bridge. It’s only costs 1 Euro to enter and 3 if you want to go up the dome. But with all the climbing you have to do in Porto, you may want to appreciate it from outside. Then you can cross over the top of the bridge which is a less cramped walk than the bottom. It’s a beautiful walk to enjoy at night.
Day 3: Market and Beach
On your last day, check out the Porto’s Mercado do Bolhao. This market, honestly, leaves something to be desired. And I say that as someone who loves local markets. But it looks more like an abandoned concentration camp full of makeshift tents. Something about it is kind of creepy to me. Which is weird because I love basic ass concrete and metal structures. But I guess not where I’m trying to buy some fruit. Nonetheless it’s a major part of what Porto has to offer and it’s a worthwhile place to visit because the food is amazing and cheap. You can grab some stuff on the go before heading to the beaches. The market is also worth visiting because it’s next to the Chapel of Souls, which is the other recognizable church in the city that is covered in blue and white tiles.
After you’ve bought some provisions at the market and enjoyed the stunning exterior of the church, it’s time for the beach. From Bolhao, you can get to the beaches on Bus 200 and 202. Though depending on where you actually are in the city, 203, 204, 205, 500, 902, and 906 all serve the beaches. Bus directions won’t show up on Google Maps but bus stations have clear maps and timetables. The STCP website also has helpful maps and information. The buses cost 1.90 Euro a ride and the bus drivers have change.
There are several popular beaches from Passeio Alegre all the way up to Matosinhos. And that’s just the ones on the north side of the Douro. Once you get to Passeio Alegre, you can easily walk along the shore yourself. The distances are not too bad. You’ll also get to see the Sao Joao da Foz Fortress (which you can enter for free) and the Felgueiras Lighthouse. One of the nearest beaches with plenty of golden sand and nearby restaurants is Praia da Luz, but that’s one of many. There’s definitely enough beachfront to soak up the sun for a whole weekend onto itself.
Phew. It’s a lot to cram into three days, isn’t it? It’s doable, but you’ll probably wish you had at least another week of good food and beach time.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Porto guides on GPSmyCity here.