Prefect Weekend in Porto - Ultimate Itinerary for a Weekend Getaway
We’ve been dreaming about Portugal for a long time before we finally had a chance to visit it. We’ve heard great things about Portugal, however, we haven’t heard much about Porto since most people only mentioned Lisbon. Well, we always like to add something extra to our itinerary and Porto seemed perfect for a weekend-long vacation. With its international airport and major railway hub, it is so easy to get to, so we’ve booked our flights straight to Porto and it was a great introduction to the Portuguese culture!
Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city and is referred to as the “Capital of the North”. During our weekend in Porto the beautiful views, delicious wine and cheese, colorful houses and old-fashioned charm won us over in a heartbeat. By the end of the weekend, Porto has already claimed its spot as one of our favorite cities in Europe. Porto is such a pleasure to discover, a little less modern than Lisbon, with a more traditional atmosphere and laid-back way of life. It has so many attractions to offer from history and culture to food and wine, and the most beautiful views you can imagine. The best part is, you can see most of the attractions in 2-3 days which makes it such a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Porto has a special charm that wins over most of its visitors, no wonder more and more tourists visit it every year. So without further ado, here is the perfect weekend itinerary filled with the best attractions and great tips to help make your weekend in Porto interesting, fun and delicious!
Must-See Attractions for your Perfect Porto Itinerary
Day 1 – Weekend in Porto Itinerary
Let’s start with some of Porto’s most famous tourist attractions, and some great miradouros – believe us, the more viewpoints you add to your itinerary, the better.
Visit Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
The Porto Cathedral is one of the oldest monuments in Porto, its history dates back to the 12th century. The cathedral itself is beautiful but more importantly due to its location, you’ll find here one of the best viewpoints in Porto. The entrance to the Cathedral is free but if you wish to visit the monastery and courtyard, you’d need to pay a fee. This is a great place to take in the gorgeous views of the Douro river and Porto’s colorful houses.
Opening hours: 9:00 am – 6:00/7:00 pm (depending on the season) Address: Terreiro da Sé, 4050-573 Porto
Admire the Unbelievable Views from the Dom Luis I Bridge
Dom Luis I Bridge is located very close to the Cathedral and this is another great spot to catch the scenic views of Porto. This huge bridge connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia neighborhood. It was built by a student of Gustav Eiffel (as in the Eiffel Tower) and it is one of the most impressive landmarks in the city. Cross the top floor of the bridge (intended only for pedestrians and metro) and don’t forget to bring your camera! It is surely one of the most amazing viewpoints Porto has to offer and a MUST for your Porto itinerary. You can either cross all the way and then start exploring Vila Nova de Gaia or, as suggested in our itinerary, go back to Porto Cathedral and continue to explore this side.
Take the Barredo Stairs
After you’ve enjoyed the views from Dom Luis I Bridge go back to the courtyard of Porto Cathedral where you’ll find the Barredo Stairs. Barredo is one of the oldest areas of Porto and the Barredo Stairs connect the upper area of the town with the Ribeira Neighborhood. Just next to the Porto Cathedral, the top of the stairs provides great views of the city and lets you explore the winding streets and back alleys of Barredo and Ribeira. It was one of our favorite parts during our weekend in Porto especially since we were able to capture some authentic shots of the everyday lives of the residents. Take your time, admire the colorful alleys and beautiful doors and take a few shots for your Instagram feed with these charming picture-perfect backgrounds. It is one of our top recommendation for your weekend itinerary.
Explore Ribeira Neighborhood
This river-side neighborhood is one of the oldest districts in Porto and it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you love old neighborhoods with cobbled streets and colorful houses, you definitely should visit Ribeira (at least once) during your weekend in Porto. The riverfront is going to be very crowded and filled with your regular tourist traps, but it’s a fun experience nonetheless and one of the most beautiful areas in Porto. Anyways, the real pleasure is getting lost in the back alleys where you’ll have a chance to explore the more authentic side of this neighborhood, and most of the time, we were the only tourists there. After you’ve taken enough pictures of the tiled houses and street scene, grab a drink in one of the waterfront cafes/bars and enjoy the views of the Douro river.
Cross Over to Vila Nova de Gaia for Some Wine and Sunset Views
To truly catch the full glory of the Ribera waterfront, with the colorful houses, traditional port boats on the river and Dom Luis I Bridge, you need to cross over to Vila Nova de Gaia where most of Porto’s famous wine cellars are located. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Porto is the home of the famous Port wine, therefore, visiting a local Port house is a must. There are many wine cellars or Port houses to choose from and there are even 3-hour wine tours to teach you more about the history of Portugal’s wine industry and give you a chance to visit a few of the most prestige port wine cellars. If you’re having a hard time choosing, check out these recommended wine cellars in Porto.
After you’ve tasted some of Porto’s local port wine, look for a place to watch the sunset from. There’s no better place than Vila Nova de Gaia to admire the colorful houses of Ribeira. There is a nice little park immediately after you cross the bridge from Ribeira where you can relax and take some great pictures. Another option is to go and have a drink and a snack while watching the sunset at the 360° Terrace Lounge, on the upper floor of the Cruz Building. The Cruz building is actually kind of a Port museum, where you can learn all about the history of this sweet wine. Here you can also enjoy wine tasting if you like. If you are ready for dinner you can check these restaurants with a view in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Day 2 – Weekend in Porto Itinerary
Check Out Praça da Liberdade
Start your day at Praça da Liberdade where you can see the impressive 10-meter bronze statue of Pedro IV riding his horse. This plaza is located at the heart of Porto just near Avenida dos Aliados, the busiest street in Porto.
Address: Praça da Liberdade 137, 4000-069 Porto
Stop at Livraria Lello
This must be one of the most gorgeous bookstores in the world. Rumor has it that J. K. Rowling was inspired by the neogothic style (created by the designer, Xavier Esteves) while she was writing her Harry Potter series. The history of Livraria Lello dates back to the beginning of the 19th century though it was officially opened at its current location by the Lello brothers in 1906. Nowadays, due to its increasing popularity, you are required to buy a ticket to enter the shop and most of the times you’ll need to wait for a while before you’d be able to enter it due to capacity restrictions. We chose not to enter due to a huge line in the middle of the day, so avoid making our mistake and come early in the morning. It is also recommended to buy your ticket online and save you some waiting time at the ticket office. The ticket’s price is deductible when purchasing books at the store.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (closed on certain holidays). For more information about Livraria Lello. Address: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto
Visit Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas
If you like churches, then 2 minutes away from Livraria Lello, you’ll find these two churches that are separated only by a tiny house (1-meter wide). This house was built to separate these two churches and to prevent any possible contact between the nuns and the monks who used to reside there. While the Carmelitas Church has a classical exterior with a single a bell tower, the Carmo Church’s architecture is influenced by the baroque style and one of its outer walls is covered by a beautiful design of the local blue and white tiles. For Instagram lovers, this should be the place to show your feed some love.
Address: R. do Carmo, 4050-164 Porto
Climb Up Clérgios Tower
The Clérgios Church’s history dates back to the mid of the 18th century, you can enter the church for free but to climb the tower you’d need to pay a fee. The Clérgios Tower (Torre dos Clérigos) is approximately 76 meters tall (the tallest Italian bell tower in Portugal, with 49 bells) and you’ll need to climb more than 200 steps to reach the top floor. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in Porto which also provides great views.
Admire the Azulejos at São Bento Station
São Bento train station is such a busy place, always filled with people on their way to work but unlike most train stations, it is also filled with groups of tourists who come to admire the white and blue tiles (azulejos) at the main hall. There about 20,000 tiles all around the large hall that depict different scenes and battles throughout the history of Porto. This train station is one of the must-see attractions so make sure you include it in your itinerary. Even if you are planning to take a train from here to other parts of Portugal, you should come here at least one more time during your weekend because the main hall is a work of art.
Address: Praça Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto
Take a Cruise along the Douro River
Depending on the duration of your visit, there are many options for cruises along the Douro river. If you are here only for a short time, you can take a 1-hour or 2-hour cruise to see Porto from the Douro river and learn more about the history of the area but if you have more time, then you should definitely consider taking one of the half-day or one-day tours. These tours can be quite touristy (especially the shortest ones) but they provide some extra knowledge, a different vantage point to take pictures of Porto and they are fun!
Stroll Up Rua das Flores
After the cruise, go back up to the city center through Rua das Flores. Flores is a charming little street that would get you back to São Bento Station. The street is dotted with inviting coffee shops and bistros with local delicacies and unique boutiques, it has such a relaxed atmosphere accompanied by old charms and trendy vibes at the same time. Pay attention to the street art that decorates the electricity boxes and walls. It is a great place to stop for coffee with pasteis de nata at NATA Lisboa (Rua Flores 291) or a glass of wine with some cheese or a light snack at Mercearia das Flores (Rua Flores 110). Chocolate lovers check out Chocolataria das Flores (Rua Flores 121). Since São Bento Station is one of the busiest places in the city, if you haven’t gotten a chance to take some proper photographs inside during your earlier visit, you can try your luck again.
Visit the Unique Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
If you’re still not too tired, climb the steep hill and above the São Bento Station, you’ll find the beautiful Church of Saint Ildefonso. This unique church was completed in 1739 and it’s beautiful both during the day and during the night when it is illuminated so beautifully. Our hotel was very close to this church and every time we passed it, we couldn’t help but admire the 11,000 azulejo tiles that cover the exterior of the church.
Address: R. de Santo Ildefonso 11, 4000-542 Porto
Enjoy the Nightlife at Rua Galeria de Paris
This is THE place to spend a fun evening. Rua Galeria de Paris and the adjacent streets are full of great restaurants and trendy bars and you can even catch a live music show at some of the places. The place really gets going late at night while in the earlier evening most bars and clubs are closed. So, grab dinner at one of the nearby restaurants and then take a stroll and go bar hopping till late at night.
Dinner recommendation in the area: Ostras & Coisas for great seafood.
Where to Stay in Porto
Best Time to Visit Porto
The tourist season in Porto starts from June until the end of September. In our opinion, the best time to visit Porto would be either in Spring (May-June) or Fall (September – October). The temperatures are quite pleasant then and there should be fewer tourists. If you like festivals and events, try to schedule your trip to June 23rd -24th when the St. John’s festivities take place in Porto (the festivities continue all night long so be prepared for a lot of noise if you’re staying at the city center, especially in Ribeira). In September you’ll be able to enjoy the wine festival and Jazz festival while in October you can taste Porto’s signature dish at the Francesinha festival. Here is some more information about Porto’s weather and rainfall to help you plan your weekend in Porto.
How to Get to Porto
Getting to Porto is easy.
By Plane: There’s an international airport, Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport, located about 11 kilometers from the city center. From there the easiest way to get to Porto’s city center is by metro (it will take you around 30 minutes to reach the center and it costs only a few euros). You can also take a taxi for about 20-30 euros or an Uber.
By Train: Porto has two main train stations, the famous Sao Bento Train Station in the city center and Campanha Train Station. Usually trains from outside of Porto stop at Campanha Train Station. For more information about trains to Porto.
Getting Around Porto
We always prefer to explore new destinations on foot since it’s the best way to discover hidden gems. Porto is relatively small though it has a few very steep streets. If you are fit, there’s no better way than walking to most of the attractions if your accommodation is located in the city center. However, there are also great other transportation options if you prefer, the most convenient ones are the metro and the trams.
Metro: you can use the metro system, for which you’ll need to buy a rechargeable Andante card. The tickets’ prices are according to a zone system and there are also day passes. Don’t forget to validate your ticket at the scanners before each trip or when changing lines. If you’ve purchased the Porto Card that includes public transportation, you can use this one as well.
Trams: There are three tram lines you can choose from and it is actually quite a fun experience to ride one of these since we are talking about old refurbished wooden trams. Some of these can be included in your Andante ticket, but you can also buy a single ticket (3 euros) or a 2-day pass (10 euros) for unlimited rides on any of the three trams.
Tram No. 1 is the most scenic route since it rides along the banks of the Douro river (till Foz district) but it’s probably the most popular ride so try and come early or later in the afternoon. This is the only tram line that requires buying two separate tickets (unless you have the 2-day pass) since it is not a circular route. Hours: Every 20 minutes from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Tram No. 22 is the most recommended route for first-time visitors since it actually goes through most of Porto’s main tourist attractions and is very convenient for getting around the city. Hours: Every 30 minutes from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Tram No. 18 is not used much by tourists since it doesn’t go through many tourist attractions and therefore it’s less crowded.
Hours: Every 30 minutes from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Here is some more information on all the routes of the three Porto trams.
Travel Tips and Must-Do Experiences for Your Porto Weekend Itinerary
Porto Card/ Andante Card: If you intend to use public transportation a lot or visit museums and other tourist attractions, you should definitely consider buying either the Porto Card or Andante Card. The Andante Card is a card for public transportation (metro, bus, trains to Port’s suburbs and it also includes the funicular and tram no. 22) You can either recharge it with single journeys or buy a 24-hour pass. You can buy this card when you arrive in Porto at the automatic ticket machines in Porto’s metro stations or at Andante shops. The Porto Card is more of a sightseeing card intended for tourists, but it can include public transportation. With the Porto Card you can enter many museums and other tourist attractions for free or get a discount. You can purchase the Porto Card according to the numbers of days you intend to stay in Porto with or without public transportation but note that trams are not included in the free pass. You can buy it online or at the tourist information desks. For more information about the Porto Card.
Tipping in Porto: Tipping is optional but for a good service we’d recommend tipping a couple of Euros.
Wine and Cheese: Tasting the locally produced Port wine is a no-brainer but the cheese took us by surprise. We’ve tasted some of the best cheese during our weekend in Porto. We are talking about various dishes served cold or warm, savory or sweet, they were all delicious and addictive (yep, came back to one place to have a second serving of the grilled goat cheese with olive oil, oregano and a dollop of honey).
Try the Francesinha: This signature dish of Porto may not be our cup of tea, but we had to try it during our weekend in Porto and so do you. We are talking about a giant sandwich with layers of ham, sausage, steak, and melted cheese served with a spicy tomato sauce.
Ride a Tram: The trams of Porto are less famous than the ones in Lisbon, but they are a fun way to see the city and they are a must especially if you haven’t been on one before. For more details check our Getting Around Lisbon section.
Porto Viewpoints/Miradouros: Other than the viewpoints we’ve mentioned on our weekend itinerary for Porto, there are many other great miradouros in Porto such as:
Miradouro da Vitoria (located at Rua São Bento da Vitória 11, 4050-292 Porto)
Miradouro de Serra do Pilar (located at Largo Aviz, 4430-999 Vila Nova de Gaia)
Jardim do Morro (located at Av. da República, 4430-148 Vila Nova de Gaia)
We loved our weekend in Porto. Culture and history, breath-taking views and yummy food scene – what’s not to love?! From Porto we took the train to Lisbon (another city you really do need to visit). One thing that we’ve forgotten to mention here are our recommendations for food you need to try in Portugal. So, if you’d like to explore the Portuguese cuisine and are looking for places to eat in Porto and Lisbon, check out our Portugal Foodie Guide.