Day Trip To Porto, Portugal – 15+ Things To Do

World-famous Port wine and wine lodges, churches covered in azulejos, lively UNESCO World Heritage Ribeira District, spectacular viewpoints, tasty local cuisine, picturesque winding streets, and peaceful gardens… Porto has it all and even more. All that makes it one of the most visited destinations in Portugal. Let’s dive in and discover great things to do during a day trip to Porto, Portugal. Vamos!

In this post, we’ll show you our exact one-day route across Porto, step by step. We’ll pass through all the city’s significant landmarks. We’ll also include places we wanted to see but didn’t have the energy left to do that. Feel free to follow this guide and modify it to your needs and interests. At the end of the post, you’ll also find a Porto map with all the spots marked and recommended places to eat and stay.

Note. For some reason, many bloggers consider Porto a hidden gem and an underrated place. Why? We have no idea! You should know that Porto is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe with thousands of visitors every month. It’s busy, it’s crowded, and it’s loud. It’s just the complete opposite of a hidden gem.

Day Trip To Porto, Portugal - 20+ Things To Do
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Porto, Portugal FAQ

Where is Porto located?

Porto is located in Northern Portugal along the Douro River and on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The city can be quickly reached from many places in the North, like Viana do Castelo, Braga, Ponte de Lima, or Peneda-Geres National Park area. Porto is also a part of Camino Portugues, one of the spiritual routes leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

What is Porto best known for?

Porto is best known for Port wine, one of Portugal’s most famous exports, which obviously is named after the city. With dozens of wine lodges, it’s a mecca for wine lovers. Besides that, the city is also known for its charming and vibrant old town, lots of churches covered in blue and white azulejos, and tasty local cuisine.

Is Porto worth visiting?

Many love Porto, and some don’t like it very much. But is it worth visiting? Yes, even just to form your own opinion. There are many attractions and things to do in Porto, and chances are high that you will find something great for yourself.

Can I visit Porto on a day trip?

Yes, one day in Porto is enough to see all the main city landmarks and get quite a good feel of what this city is all about. But if you want to experience it better, discover all it has to offer at a slower pace and go beyond the touristy things, we recommend spending at least 3 days in Porto.

Is Porto a walkable city?

Yes, Porto is a walkable city and the best way to discover all its charms is on foot. Its historical center is fairly small and all main landmarks are within walking distance from each other. But bear in mind that Porto is a hilly city and you’ll be going up and down, up and down… However, if you want to visit some places outside the historic center you would need to use Porto’s public transport – metro, buses, or trams.

Day Trip To Porto, Portugal - 20+ Best Things To Do
20+ Things To Do During Day Trip To Porto, Portugal

Before visiting Porto old town… Things to do in Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia, or just Gaia, is a city located just across Porto, on the other bank of the Douro River. But why are we starting our day trip to Porto in a different city? Because it’s a place that features the most iconic views over Porto! Let’s take a quick look at things to do in Gaia.

Admiring Porto 

You can’t pass through Vila Nova de Gaia without gazing at other bank of the Douro River and admiring stunning views over Ribeira District in Porto. You can do that from many places – from the promenade alongside wine lodges, Hill Gardens, or Serra do Pilar viewpoint right next to the Monastery of Serra do Pilar.

View over Ribeira District in Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Hill Gardens

Hill Gardens (pt. Jardim do Morro) is a small hilltop garden with many spots to sit and relax while admiring renowned views over Porto. From what we’ve heard it’s a perfect spot for watching sunsets, but also super crowded thanks to that. This is also a place where you’ll find colorful “Gaia” letters. Entrance to Hill Gardens is free. 

If you aren’t up for a climb to Hill Gardens you can use a cable car that starts near Port wine lodges on the riverbanks. The journey lasts about 5 minutes. Round ticket costs €10 for adults and €5 for children. You can buy tickets online at gaiacablecar.com. There you can also check current prices and timetables.

Serra do Pilar viewpoint & Monastery of Serra do Pilar

Serra do Pilar viewpoint (pt. Miradouro da Serra do Pilar ) is located just a short walk from Hill Gardens. There you’ll find a viewing platform with one of the most spectacular views of Porto and over the majestic Dom Luis I Bridge. There you’ll also find the Monastery of Serra do Pilar (pt. Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar), a former monastery dating back to the 1500s.

Gaia letters in Hill Gardens in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
View over Porto from Serra do Pilar viewpoint in Vila Nova de Gaia

Port wine lodges 

Vila Nova de Gaia is not only home to great views over Porto but also home to many traditional Port wine lodges. Even though nowadays this drink can be bought almost anywhere, there’s no better place to try it. So if you’re up for it, be sure to head to one of the Port wine lodges that offer tours and samplings. Which one? That’s up to you! But the most popular ones are Taylor’s Port, Cockburn’s Port Lodge, Graham’s Port Lodge, and Cálem Cellar

While there, don’t forget to marvel at the Rabelo boats. They transported barrels of wine from the Douro Valley vineyards to Porto until the 1960s!

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Rabelo boats with barrels of wine on Douro River in Porto

Things to do in Porto Old Town

Now it’s time to head to the other side of the Douro River, to explore Porto Old Town. There, among its picturesque cobbled streets and colorful buildings, you’ll find most of the major points of interest like Ribeira District, Porto Cathedral, Sao Bento train station, Lello bookstore, or Clerigos Tower. This is also where you’ll be able to sample Portuguese cuisine in one of many restaurants and cafes. 

Porto Tourist Office is located on Calçada Dom Pedro Pitões Street, in a small medieval tower just a few steps from Porto Cathedral.

Learn more iconDiscover: Accommodation options in Porto

Things To Do in Porto Old Town
Exploring Porto Old Town streets
Exploring Porto Old Town streets & squares
Charming & a bit shabby streets of Porto Old Town
Things to do in Porto in one day - Explore Old Town

Dom Luis I Bridge

To get to Porto Old Town from Vila Nova de Gaia you need to cross the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge (pt. Ponte Dom Luís I). This double-deck metal arch bridge that spans over the Douro River was designed by Gustave Eiffel’s student, Théophile Seyrig, and was built between 1881-1886. Currently, Dom Luis I Bridge is one of the major points of interest in Porto.

The bridge can be crossed in two ways: on the bottom and on the top. The bottom section is reserved for cars and the upper for trams. Pedestrians can walk on both.

View over Dom Luis I Bridge from Serra do Pilar viewpoint
View over Dom Luis I Bridge from Vila Nova de Gaia promenade

Porto Cathedral

After crossing the Dom Luis I Bridge keep going straight until you’ll spot an impressive building that looks more like a fortress than a church. Porto Cathedral (pt. Sé do Porto) is one of the city’s oldest monuments and main religious building. Its construction started in the second half of the 12th century and until the 18th century, it underwent a number of changes and improvements. Thanks to that, now we can admire a mix of a few architectural styles like Romanesque, Gothic, or Baroque. 

Entrance to Porto Cathedral costs €3 for a normal ticket and €2 for students and Porto Card owners (May 2024). You can buy your ticket online at booking.com website.

Nearby Porto Cathedral you’ll also find some viewpoints from which you can admire the city and its surroundings. Be sure not to miss, Rua das Aldas Viewpoint (pt. Miradouro da Rua das Aldas) – it’s the best one!

Porto Cathedral
View over Porto from Rua das Aldas Viewpoint near Porto Cathedral

Sao Bento Train Station

Just a few steps from the Cathedral you’ll find another Porto attraction – Sao Bento train station (pt. Estação de São Bento). From the outside, it might look like a normal building, even quite boring, but it’s the interior that makes this train station so unique. The walls of the Sao Bento departure hall are fully covered in white and blue azulejo tiles and form a huge mural that represents important events in Portuguese history. It’s a very admirable piece of work! So even if you don’t have a train to catch, make sure you make some time to visit Sao Bento Train Station.

If you’re into visiting churches, you’ll find two of them just a few steps from Sao Bento Train Station – Church of Saint Ildefonso and the famous Chapel of Souls. On the same street as the chapel is located, Rua Santa Catarina, you can make a quick stop for a coffee and something sweet in one the most famous cafés in the city – Majestic Café, where J. K. Rowling was a frequent visitor.

Learn more iconBook now: Porto Private Tour With Locals: Highlights & Hidden Gems

Azulejos interior in Sao Bento Train Station in Porto

Porto Town Hall

From Sao Bento Train Station head to Praça do General Humberto Delgado where you’ll find Porto Town Hall (pt. Câmara Municipal do Porto). It’s an impressive-looking building that was built only in the 20th century in the Neoclassical style. Square is a popular meeting point for locals and tourists, as well as a place where many events take place.

Porto Town Hall on Praça do General Humberto Delgado
Praça do General Humberto Delgado in Porto PortugalPraça do General Humberto Delgado in Porto Portugal

Lello Bookstore

The next stop during your one day in Porto is the very famous Lello Bookstore (pt. Livraria Lello). It was first opened in 1869 which makes it the oldest bookstore in Porto and one of the oldest bookstores in the whole of Portugal! By many, it’s also considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world thanks to its stunning interior. Wooden walls and bookshelves, a stained glass ceiling, and a spectacular staircase all make up for a brilliant visual experience.

But it’s not the oldest bookstore in Porto title nor the beautiful interior the reason why Lello Bookstore became so famous. All thanks to false information that spread around the world – there were rumors that this bookstore was an inspiration for J. K. Rowling for the library of Hogwarts in Harry Potter! However, she denied that and also said that she never visited this bookstore during her time living in Porto.

Anyway, for Lello Bookstore those rumors turned out to be very helpful as now it’s one of the most popular attractions in Porto. Huge queues outside the entrance are proof of this. We love bookstores but we didn’t want to wait for about 1.5h in a super long queue.

If you’re up to this, know that you need to purchase a ticket for €8 or €15.9 for an express line (May 2024) which later you can use inside Lello Bookstore as a voucher to buy something. The bookstore is open daily from 9 AM-7 PM. You can buy tickets online on livrarialello.pt website.

Near Lello Bookstore, on Praça de Gomes Teixeira square, you’ll find unusual twin churches – Carmo and Carmelitas Church. There, you’ll also be able to take a look at the University of Porto and the 19th-century fountain, Fonte dos Leões.

Learn more iconBook now: Porto Guided Walking Tour and Lello Bookshop

Magical Lello Bookstore in Porto, Portugal
Source: unsplash.com

Clerigos Tower 

Now you’re just a few steps from another famous Porto attraction that rises above the skyline of Porto – Clerigos Tower (pt. Torre dos Clérigos). This 18th-century Baroque bell tower, which rises to 75 meters, is the tallest one in Portugal! So if you’re up for the best panoramic views over Porto and its surroundings don’t miss this place. However, you need to prepare yourself for a short climb of 240 steps. The tower is also a part of Clérigos Church (pt. Iglesia de los Clérigos) in which the Clérigos Museum is located. 

Entrance to Clerigos Tower and Clerigos Museum costs €8 for a normal ticket and €5 for students (May 2024). For current prices, opening hours, and online tickets visit torredosclerigos.pt website. You can also buy your ticket via the GetYourGuide website.

Clerigos Tower in Porto, Portugal
Clerigos Tower in Porto, Portugal visible from afar

Gardens of Palácio de Cristal

After so much sightseeing, you might now want a short break from the busy and loud streets of Porto. To do that head to Gardens of Palácio de Cristal (pt. Jardins do Palácio de Cristal), which are located about 20 minutes walk from Clerigos Tower. This peaceful and very green place with many paths, fountains, and places to rest was designed in the 19th century. 

In the gardens, you’ll also find some viewpoints with great views over the Douro River and Vila Nova de Gaia. If you’re lucky you’ll also meet some of its residents – colorful peacocks and other birds. The Gardens of Palácio de Cristal is also a place where the Porto sign is located. Entrance to the gardens is free.

Gardens of Palacio de Cristal resident - peacock
Views over Porto, Gaia and Douro River from Gardens of Palacio de Cristal

Bolsa Palace 

After a sweet rest in the green spaces in the Gardens of Palácio de Cristal, now it’s time to continue a day trip in Porto and head back to Porto Old Town to see Bolsa Palace (pt. Palácio da Bolsa). It’s the 19th-century Neoclassical building located in Ribeira District that used to be a stock exchange, thus still sometimes called Stock Exchange Palace. 

If looking at it from the outside isn’t enough, you can visit its interiors by taking a guided tour. A normal ticket costs €12, and €7.5 for a reduced one (May 2023). For current prices, opening hours, and online tickets visit palaciodabolsa.com website.

In the area, you can also visit Monument Church Of St Francis, one of the most famous Porto churches.

Learn more iconBook now: 3-Hour Porto Highlights on a Electric Bike Guided Tour

Bolsa Palace in Porto Portugal
Things To Do During Day Trip To Porto, Portugal

Cais da Ribeira Street in Ribeira District

Cais da Ribeira Street is a perfect place to finish your one day in Porto. It’s the street that lies on the banks of the Douro River in Ribeira District and from which you can admire Dom Luis I Bridge, as well as the Monastery of Serra do Pilar and Port wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Cais da Ribeira is probably the most vivid, touristy, and buzzing place in Porto no matter the hour of the day. And no wonder, because it’s really pretty! It’s a real pleasure to walk along the riverfront while admiring colorful old buildings, lined with many quaint restaurants, and cafes. If you’re looking for something more peaceful – get lost among nearby small and charming streets and hidden passageways. 

Interesting fact. Ribeira District was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996!

Learn more iconDiscover: Accommodation options in Porto

Cais da Ribeira Street in Ribeira District in Porto, Portugal
Cais da Ribeira in Porto Old Town
Cais da Ribeira in Porto Old Town Portugal
Narrow street in Porto Old Town near Caus da Ribeira
Colorful houses in Cais da Ribeira in Porto

Porto Churches

Porto is full of churches. We’ve already mentioned some of them, and here you can take a closer look at them, so you could choose which one you want to visit and which one you can easily skip.

Church of Saint Ildefonso 

Church of Saint Ildefonso (pt. Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso) is the 18th-century church in Porto, which facade is fully covered in blue and white azulejos painted in 1932 by Italian artist Jorge Colaço. Can’t deny that its exterior looks pretty impressive, so no wonder that it’s one of the most photographed churches in Porto!

Church of Saint Ildefonso is located in the Ribeira District, just a few steps from São Bento train station. Entrance to the church is paid and costs €1 per person (May 2024).

Monument Church Of St Francis

Monument Church Of St Francis (pt. Igreja Monumento de São Francisco) is a 14th-century Franciscan church featuring a remarkable interior including Baroque altarpieces & gilt wood. Interesting fact: the church is decorated with more than 300 kilos of gold dust.

Church Of St Francis is located close to Bolsa Palace. Entrance to the church (and its museum) is paid and costs €10 per person (May 2024).

Churches of Porto - Carmo and Carmelitas Church in Porto Portugal
Monument Church Of St Francis in Porto

Carmo and Carmelitas Church

Carmo and Carmelitas Church (pt. Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas) are twin churches, connected to each other by the narrowest, 1-meter-wide, building in Porto. Where did the house between them come from? Well… Due to local legends, the house was built to prevent any relationship between the nuns and the monks. 

Carmo Church (one on the right) is the 18th-century Baroque church built for Carmelite monks, and it’s most famous for its azulejos side facade which was added in 1912. Carmelitas Church (one on the left) is a 17th-century convent built for Carmelite nuns. 

Churches are located just a few steps from Livraria Lello and Clerigos Tower. Entrance costs €3.5 per person (May 2024). The price also includes a visit to a small museum, catacombs, and rooms in Casa Escondida. 

Chapel of Souls

Chapel of Souls (pt. Capela das Almas) is an 18th-century chapel whose exterior is home to one of the most popular azulejos in Porto, which might leave you speechless. It’s located in close proximity to the Church of Saint Ildefonso and Mercado do Bolhão. Entrance to the chapel is free. 

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Churches and chapels in Porto, Portugal
Church of Saint Ildefonsoin Porto Portugal
Chapels and churches in Porto, Portugal

Other things to do in Porto, Portugal

If you have more time and energy during your day in Porto or wanna skip some places we recommended, here are some other ideas of things to do in the city.

World of Wine

World of Wine (WOW) is an immersive and multisensory attraction located in Vila Nova de Gaia, that tells the story of the wine industry. It’s a cultural quarter with 7 themed museums, 12 restaurants & bars, and a wine school, housed in converted port warehouses on the banks of the Douro River. To check out the prices of various entrance packages visit the World of Wine website.

Foz do Douro

Foz do Douro is a trendy district in Porto where the Douro River enters the Atlantic Ocean. There you can enjoy lovely beaches like Praia do Carneiro or Praia dos Ingleses, walk Pérgola da Foz promenade (which is a copy of Promenade des Anglais from Nice), and see Fortaleza de São João da Foz and Farolim de Felgueiras lighthouse.

Learn more iconBook now: Porto: Daytime or Sunset Sailboat Cruise on the Douro River

Ponte da Arrábida

Ponte da Arrábida is an iconic arch bridge over the Douro River. Thanks to a guided climb offered by local companies you can climb it and admire Porto and the river from a very unique place. 

Grab Pastel de Nata 

One more thing you just can’t forget during your one day in Porto – grab delicious Pastel de Nata, a traditional Portuguese egg custard tart. Or two, or ten of them. If you wanna learn more about them, and find out where to eat the best ones visit Carolin’s guide post to Pastel de Nata Cafes in Porto. You can also take part in DELICIOUS Pastel de Nata Pastry-Making Workshops and take that knowledge back home. Yummy!

Amazing Things To Do During Day Trip To Porto, Portugal
Exploring Porto Old Town - Ribeira District
Things to do in Porto - admire Old Town buildings

How to get to Porto, Portugal?

Porto is located about, 60km from Braga, 75km from Viana do Castelo, 85km from