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11 Things to Do in Porto, Portugal for First-Time Visitors!

11 Things to Do in Porto, Portugal for First-Time Visitors!

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Planning a trip to Porto, Portugal and are thinking about what to do? Keep scrolling for my list of the best things to do in Porto worth adding to your Portugal itinerary!
This list of things to do in Athens with kids was co-written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Guest post by Yvonne Ivanescu

Porto, the enchanting city on the Douro River, is a tapestry of rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture.

While it’s renowned for its famous Port wine and colorful riverside district, there’s so much more to explore in this charismatic Portuguese city. 

From hidden architectural marvels to quaint cafes steeped in literary history, each corner of Porto tells its own unique story.

So, let’s dive into the heart of Porto and uncover its 11 hidden gems that offer a glimpse into the soul of this magical city.

11 Things to Do in Porto

1. Livraria Lello 

I know Livraria Lello isn’t really a hidden gem, and it is quite popular, but it is a must-do in Porto. Known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, this place is truly magical. 

Image of Large wooden staircase with red steps inside library bookstore Livraria Lello in historic center of Porto, famous for Harry Potter film.
Harry Potter fans will love walking around Livraria Lello.

However, it may not be as magical as we thought. There have been rumors that this bookstore inspired the Harry Potter series, but J. K. Rowling herself debunked this rumor when she tweeted, I never visited this bookshop in Oporto. Never even knew of its existence! It’s beautiful, and I wish I *had* visited it, but it has nothing to do with Hogwarts!

Even though it might not have inspired J.K. Rowling herself, the bookstore is still a sight to be seen. What truly sets Livraria Lello apart is its stunning Neo-Gothic façade, which is a marvel in itself, and the breathtaking Art Nouveau interior with a striking red staircase that seems to spiral into infinity.

This architectural masterpiece, which opened in 1906, has been a sanctuary for book lovers and a source of inspiration for artists and writers worldwide for over a century.

A quick tip: even though you need to pay to get in (around 8 euros), the Ticket-Voucher value is deductible against book purchases.

2. Majestic Café 

Sticking with the Harry Potter theme, the Majestic Café is a place that fans of Harry Potter can claim.

This cafe is one of the places where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, and if you visit here, you will understand why. It’s another world-famous place in Porto that is known for being one of the most beautiful cafes in the world.

This cafe opened in 1921, was designed by José Pinto de Oliveira to resemble a Parisian cafe. Its interior is pink and has chandeliers hanging from its tall ceiling. 

This cafe is the perfect place to come and enjoy a coffee in the morning and just admire the beauty of this little piece of Paris in Porto.

3. Clérigos Tower 

This bell tower is part of the Clérigos Church and stands as the highest bell tower in Portugal at 75 meters tall. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the city and can be seen from miles around. The tower was completed in 1763 and took 9 years to build.

Image of Clerics Tower, designed by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni between 1732 and 1763 had became the architectural and visual icon of Porto.
Don’t miss going to the top of Clerigos Tower.

You can buy a ticket to go to the top of this tower and get a history lesson along the way. Ascending the 255 steps to the top usually takes around 30 minutes, and from there, you will have an amazing view of all of Porto.

4. São Bento Railway Station

This train station is located in the historic center of Porto and (as all things in Porto) is one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe.

Image of night view of sao bento station in porto, portugal
The Sao Bento Railway Station is gorgeous inside and outside.

From the outside, you can admire the granite facade that was inspired by the church building that once stood in its place before it was burned down in the fire of 1783. The inside of this station is covered in Azulejo (Portuguese tiles), which depict the history of Portugal. 

The giant windows flood the space with light and illuminate the artwork in the station. If you are coming from Lisbon to Porto, I suggest you take a train just so you can get off at the São Bento Railway Station.

5. Jardim do Morro (for Sunset Views)

Jardim do Morro is the perfect place for an evening picnic while watching the sunset. This amazing park has a view of the Douro River and the Luís I Bridge. To get to this park, I would recommend taking the Gaia cable car.

This cable car will take you from the Cais de Gaia station, which is right on the water’s edge, up to this park with a view that can’t be beaten. The park has plenty of benches and shade from the palm trees, so you can relax and take in the beauty of Porto.

A quick tip: If you do come to watch the sunset, come early to find a spot. This spot is popular among locals and tourists, so they come here, especially on a Friday or Saturday, to watch the incredible sunset. 

6. Foz do Douro 

Foz do Douro is a district of Porto with a beach, beautiful mansions, and a relaxing promenade. It’s only a 30-minute bus ride from the center and is the perfect place to relax if you need a break from the city.

Some of the most popular spots in Foz do Douro are Jardim do Passeio Alegre, Pérgola da Nevogilde, and the Felgueiras Lighthouse. These are the perfect places to escape the crowds and see how the rich live in Porto.

Since this neighborhood is a little out of the way, I would make this into a Porto day trip. I would spend the morning walking around mansions and promenades and spend the afternoon at the beach. 

7. Mercado do Bolhão 

This historic market in Porto is in the heart of the city and was built in 1837. The Mercado do Bolhão has over 70 vendors that sell things like fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, and fish.

Image of Fruits at the Market Mercado do Bolhao in the city centre of Porto in Porugal in Europe.
Be sure to walk around Mercado do Bolhao.

Some restaurants serve food from around the world and vendors that sell handmade items like perfume, clothes, watches, and more.

Make sure you don’t miss out on the Herdade 1980, a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the surrounding buildings that serves traditional Portuguese food from all regions of Portugal. There is also a flower section of this market with colorful flowers from around the globe.

8. World of Wine

World of Wine is on the south bank of the Douro River and has 9 restaurants, 6 museums, bar and café spaces, a wine school, shops, and an exhibition hall. Although it was just opened in 2020, it was originally built as a wine storage facility for Port Wine, which is the local wine of the area.

You choose to visit one of the museums, or you can buy packs of 2, 3, or 5 – meaning that you can visit various experiences of your choice. The museums you can choose from include Planet Cork, The Bridge Collection, Porto Region Across the Ages, the Pink Palace, Chocolate Story, and the Wine Experience. 

Want an Instagram-worthy photo? Head to the Pink Palace, where you’ll find a pink ball pit, an upside-down room, and a giant bottle of champagne. 

9. Gaia Waterfront

Vila Nova de Gaia is the city that sits across the river from Porto. The Gaia waterfront is much less crowded than its counterpart, Cais da Ribeira in Porto. This promenade offers views of the city center and the colorful buildings in the Porto Old Town. 

Gaia is filled with Port cellars that serve local wine, restaurants with fresh seafood, and boutiques with handmade clothes and jewelry. 

There’s also a food court in the Mercado Beira-Rio where you can get more affordable food options. This is the perfect place to come and watch the sunset and then go out for an incredible meal.

10. Serralves Museum and Gardens

The Serralves Museum is the perfect place to go if you like contemporary art. However, it’s not just a museum. It also has a quirky pink villa and a beautiful garden with lots of greenery, trees, and a fountain.

Image of Casa de Serralves, Porto, Portugal
Casa de Serralves is fun to explore.

The museum has an atrium that offers amazing views of the gardens, a Sala Central that serves as the main entry, and many wings and rooms filled with art.

Once you are done in the museum, you can head out into the garden and explore the rest of the property, like the Serralves Villa and the House of Cinema.

11. Boa Nova Tea House

Lastly, we have the Casa de Chá da Boa Nova. This architectural masterpiece is right on the water in the Leça da Palmeira region of Porto. It was designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira and was finished in 1963. It’s built on top of a pile of large rocks and has beautiful sea views.

This is a restaurant that serves some of the best food in Porto and has two Michelin stars. It’s most famous for its fresh seafood and local meat options. If you are a foodie, then this place needs to be added to your Porto itinerary.

Porto Activities FAQs

What’s the most famous landmark in Porto?

The Dom Luís I Bridge is the most iconic landmark in Porto, offering stunning views of the city and the river.

Can kids enjoy a trip to Porto?

Absolutely! Kids will love exploring the colorful streets, tasting sweet treats like pastéis de nata, and riding the historic trams.

Is Porto known for any special food?

Yes, Porto is famous for its delicious Francesinha sandwich and the sweet, traditional Port wine.

Are there any parks or gardens in Porto?

Porto has beautiful green spaces like the Crystal Palace Gardens where you can relax and enjoy nature in the city.

What’s a must-visit museum in Porto?

The Serralves Museum is a must-visit for its contemporary art collections and stunning architectural design.

Is it easy to get around Porto?

Yes, Porto has a user-friendly public transport system including buses, trams, and a metro, making it easy to explore the city.

What’s a unique experience in Porto?

Taking a boat tour along the Douro River offers a unique perspective of the city’s beautiful landscapes and architecture.

Things to do in Porto Wrap-Up

It’s obvious that Porto is a mosaic of experiences, each piece unique and mesmerizing. From the grandeur of Livraria Lello to the serene sunset views at Jardim do Morro, Porto seamlessly blends history, art, and nature. 

These 11 spots, though just a snapshot of what Porto offers, capture the essence of the city’s charm and diversity. There are so many things to do in Porto, where you are there for two days or one week!

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a returning admirer, Porto always has new secrets to reveal, making every trip an unforgettable adventure into the heart of Portugal’s most captivating city. 

About Yvonne

Yvonne is a Canadian who calls Portugal home (at least part-time). She’s been living in the country since 2020. She owns a small house in rural Portugal and loves to write about Portugal travel on her blog, nowinportugal.com

Looking for more Portugal Travel Resources? Check out 10 Lovely Day Trips from Lisbon, Portugal, 13 Perfect Portugal Travel Tips for First-Timers, 15 Things to do in Lisbon with Toddlers, and 11 Best Lisbon Hotels for Families Worth Booking.

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