World-famous Port wine and wine lodges, churches covered in azulejos, lovely and lively UNESCO World Heritage Ribeira District, spectacular viewpoints, delicious local cuisine, picturesque winding streets, and colorful squares… Porto has it all and even more. And all of that makes this city one of the most visited destinations in Portugal, even for one day trip! It’s also a part of Camino Portugues, one of the spiritual routes leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Which of course makes Porto even more popular. Would it even be possible to see all of that during one day in Porto?
For us, a visit to Porto was a one day trip from Ponte da Barca. It’s a small and charming town in northern Portugal in which we were staying for a few weeks. We started exploring Porto early in the morning, about 8 AM, and without too much rush we managed to see most of the spots we had on our list. Remember, the earlier you start the more time you’ll have to see the attractions with fewer crowds.
In this post, we’ll show you our exact route across Porto, step by step. We’ll pass through all city’s main significant landmarks. We’ll also include places we had on the bucket list but didn’t have more energy left to see them. Feel free to follow this guide with the best things to do in one day in Porto, and modify it to your needs. At the end of the post, you’ll also find a Porto map with all the spots. There is information about great places to stay and eat too!
Note. For some reason, many bloggers consider Porto a hidden gem and an underrated place. Why? We have no idea! Just know that Porto is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe with thousands of tourists visiting it every month. It’s busy, it’s crowded, and it’s loud. It’s just the complete opposite of a hidden gem.
Ok, so without further ado, let’s dive in and discover the best things to do during one day in Porto, Portugal.
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20+ Best Things To Do In One Day In Porto, Portugal
FAQ about Porto, Portugal
Porto is located in Northern Portugal along the Douro River and on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Porto is definitely most known for Port wine, one of Portugal’s most famous exports, which actually is named after the city. With dozens of wine lodges, it’s definitely 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 delicious local cuisine.
Many adore Porto, and some don’t like it too 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 everybody will find something great for himself.
One day in Porto is sufficient to see all the main city landmarks and get quite a good feel of what Porto is all about. But it’s definitely not enough to see all that the city has to offer. So if you want to experience the city better, at a slower pace, and also go beyond the touristy things we recommend spending about 3-7 days in Porto.
Yes, many Portuguese people speak English, both younger and older ones. We didn’t have any problems communicating in English.
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 a walking distance from each other. Bear in mind that Porto is a very hilly city and you’ll be going up and down, up and down… However, if you want to visit some of the places that lie outside the historic center you would need to use Porto’s public transport – metro, buses, or trams.
Yes, Porto has a beach, and to be more precise – even a few of them. On the city’s Atlantic coastline, you’ll find lots of beautiful sandy beaches. Some are located only a tram ride away from Porto’s historic center.
Before visiting Porto Old Town… Things to do in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Vila Nova de Gaia, or just Gaia, is a city located just across Porto, on the other bank of the Douro River. So why are we starting our one-day trip in Porto in a totally different city? Because we thought it would be great to start a day with the most iconic views over Porto, which happen to be best watched from many places in Gaia. And also because we left our car in the parking lot that is located there. Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.
You can’t pass through Vila Nova de Gaia without gazing at other bank of 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.
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 short 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. Also, visit this website for 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. What is waiting for you there? Great viewing platform with one of the most beautiful views of Porto (in our opinion even better ones than from the gardens) and over majestic Dom Luis I Bridge. What’s more, 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.
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. So if you’re a wine lover, Gaia might become your wine mecca. While nowadays Port wine can be easily bought almost anywhere, there’s nowhere better to try it than in Porto, right? So if you’re up to it, head to one of the dozens of 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, or Cálem Cellar.
By the way, don’t you think that actually it’s quite interesting that Port wine takes its name from the city of Porto, and yet all wine actually comes from Vila Nova de Gaia? The answer to that is quite easy but goes back hundreds of years. When the Port wine trade developed in the 17th century, wine first was transported from vineyards in Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia, where they were allowed to mature. After that, they were sold on the markets and exported from Porto ports to other countries.
While you’re in Vila Nova de Gaia, don’t forget to marvel at the Rabelo boats which until the 1960s transported barrels of wine from the Duoro Valley vineyards to Porto. Nowadays you can go on a Douro River cruise in one of them.
Things to do in Porto Old Town
You’ve been waiting for this moment long enough! Now, from Vila Nova de Gaia, we’re finally heading 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 many restaurants and cafes.
Interesting fact: Porto old town, Ribeira District, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
Dom Luis I Bridge
To get to Porto Old Town from Vila Nova de Gaia we 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 and is just impossible to miss during one day in Porto.
Luis I 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.
Keep going straight after crossing the Dom Luis I Bridge, until you’ll spot an impressive building that looks more like a fortress than a church. This is Porto Cathedral (pt. Sé do Porto), 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 what now we can admire a mix of a few architectural styles like Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque.
Thanks to Porto Cathedral’s strategic location on the hill, you can also admire Porto and its surroundings from some viewpoints. Especially don’t miss the Rua das Aldas Viewpoint.
Entrance to Porto Cathedral is free. Although if you want to visit the inner sections of the Cathedral and climb the tower to appreciate panoramic views over Porto you’ll need to pay €3 (April 2023) or €2 if you’re a student. For current opening hours visit diocese-porto.pt website.
Sao Bento Train Station
Just a few steps from Porto Cathedral you’ll find another must-see place in Porto – Sao Bento train station (pt. Estação de São Bento). From the outside, it looks like a normal, not too interesting building, but it’s the interior that makes this train station so unique. The walls of the Sao Bento departure hall, which was opened in 1916, are fully covered in approximately 20 000 white and blue azulejo tiles. They form a huge mural that represents important events in Portuguese history. It’s a very impressive piece of work, so even if you don’t have a train to catch, make sure you make some time to visit it during your one day in Porto.
Only 5 minutes from Sao Bento Train Station you’ll find the Church of Saint Ildefonso (pt. Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso), and that’s where you should head next. From it, head to Chapel of Souls (pt. Capela das Almas) via Rua Santa Catarina, where you can make a quick stop in the most famous café in the city – Majestic Café. In the area, you’ll also find Mercado do Bolhão, a busy city market located in a neoclassical building.
You’ll learn more about Porto churches and chapels later, in a section dedicated to them.
Porto Town Hall
From the Chapel of Souls head to Porto Town Hall (pt. Câmara Municipal do Porto), located on a huge square, Praça do General Humberto Delgado. Town Hall is an impressive-looking building that was built only in the 20th century, between 1920-1956, in the Neoclassical style. Square is a popular meeting point for locals and tourists, as well as a place where many events take place. While there don’t forget to stop for a moment and admire the architecture and several statues.
Let’s continue our one day in Porto and head to one more, super famous Porto attraction – Lello Bookstore (pt. Livraria Lello). It was first opened in 1869, but under a different name, which makes it the oldest bookstore in Porto and one of the oldest bookstores in the whole of Portugal. Also, by many, it’s considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world thanks to the stunning interior of the bookstore. Wooden walls and bookshelves, a stained glass ceiling, and a spectacular staircase all make up for a brilliant visual experience.
Lello Bookstore and Hogwarts
But the “oldest bookstore in Porto” and its beautiful interior aren’t the reason why Lello Bookstore became so famous. All thanks to false information that spread around the world. You see, for quite a long time there were rumors that Lello Bookstore was an inspiration for J. K. Rowling for the library of Hogwarts in Harry Potter! However, she denied that and also told that she never visited this bookstore during her time living in Porto.
Anyway, for Lello Bookstore those rumors turned out to be very useful 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 online (€5) or in the ticket office (€6) which later you can use inside Lello Bookstore as a voucher to buy something. The bookstore is open daily from 9 AM-7 PM.
From Lello Bookstore head to Praça de Gomes Teixeira square, where you’ll find unusual twin churches – Carmo and Carmelitas Church (pt. Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas). You’ll learn more about Porto churches and chapels later, in a section dedicated to them. On the square, you’ll also be able to take a look at the University of Porto and the 19th-century fountain, Fonte dos Leões.
Behind the university building you’ll find Cordoaria’s Garden (pt. Jardim da Cordoaria), a small and lovely green space perfect for a quick break and to give your feet a rest before continuing a one day trip in Porto.
Now you’re just a few steps from another famous Porto attraction that rises above the skyline of Porto – Clerigos Tower (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. Although you need to prepare yourself for a short climb of 240 steps. Tower is also a part of Clérigos Church (pt. Iglesia de los Clérigos) in which Clérigos Museum is located.
Entrance to Clerigos Tower and Clerigos Museum costs €8 (April 2023), and Night Pass to the tower €5. You can buy tickets online or in the ticket office, but since it’s a very popular Porto attraction we recommend buying them in advance online. For current prices and opening hours visit torredosclerigos.pt website.
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 of Palácio de Cristal, 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. This is also a place where “Porto” name is located for those fancy selfies or photos. Entrance to the gardens is free.
After a sweet rest in the green spaces in the Gardens of Palácio de Cristal, now it’s time to continue our one 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 for you, you can visit its interiors by taking a guided tour. An adult ticket costs €12 (April 2023). For current prices and opening hours visit palaciodabolsa.com website.
While going to your next stop, Cais da Ribeira Street, you can visit Monument Church Of St Francis (pt. Igreja Monumento de São Francisco), one of the most famous Porto churches. You’ll learn more about it later, in a section dedicated to churches and chapels in Porto.
Cais da Ribeira Street in Ribeira District in Porto
You made it! Cais da Ribeira Street is (probably) your last stop, 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.
As befits a real Portuguese city, Porto is full of churches. We’ve already mentioned some of them, and here we’ll take a closer look at them, so you could choose which one you want to visit during your one day in Porto, and which one you can easily skip. We saw them all from the outside but didn’t decide to pay and enter any of them.
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 (April 2023).
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 just a few steps from Bolsa Palace, and very close to Cais da Ribeira Street. Entrance to the church is paid and costs €9 per person (April 2023).
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.
Carmo and Carmelitas Church are located just a few steps from Livraria Lello and Clerigos Tower. Entrance to the church is paid and costs €4.5 per person (April 2023). 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.
Other things to do in Porto, Portugal
If you have more time during your one day in Porto or wanna skip some places we recommended, here are some other ideas that we had on our list, but after a few hours of sightseeing, we just didn’t have more energy and time for them.
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. World of Wine was opened only in 2021 so it’s a fairly new Porto attraction. To learn more about prices visit the World of Wine online ticket office and check out all the prices for various museum packs, experiences, and temporary exhibitions.
Visit Foz do Douro
Foz do Douro is a trendy Porto district where the Douro River enters the Atlantic Ocean. There you can enjoy lovely beaches like Praia do Carneiro or Praia dos Ingleses, Pergola da Foz which is a copy of Promenade des Anglais in Nice, Fortaleza de São João da Foz, and Farolim de Felgueiras lighthouse.
Visit Casa da Musica
Casa da Musica is an iconic 12-floor concert hall that opened in 2005. Very beautiful from the outside!
Climb 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 about 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.
How to get to Porto, Portugal?
Where to park in Porto, Portugal?
There are a lot of paid parking lots in Porto. We left our car in Parque Ponte Luis I parking lot, in Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s located in a very convenient place and is fairly cheap.
Airports near Porto, Portugal
The closest airport to Porto is located in… Porto, about 15km away from Porto Old Town. From the airport, you can get to Porto by metro, bus, taxi or private transport. To check the connections that interest you please visit rome2rio.com website.
To Porto by bus
You can easily get to Porto by bus. For example, the journey from Braga will take about 45min (€3-13), from Ponte de Lima 1.5h (€5-12), and 1.5h from Viana do Castelo (€4-13). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Porto by train
From some places, you can also reach Porto by train. There are connections available from cities like Lisbon, Braga, Viana do Castelo or even Albufeira in the south. Here is a map of Portugal train connections.
To Porto by taxi
From many places, it won’t be reasonable and even very expensive to use a taxi to get to Porto. But for sure it’s an easy and great way to get to the city from the airport – the journey will take only about 15 minutes (€12-15).
Best Things To Do In One Day In Porto, Portugal – Summing up
Uff, that’s a lot! But now you are armed with a guide to the best things to do in Porto, Portugal during one day trip. We hope you’ll find it useful and explore all the important highlights of the city the best you can.
Porto, Portugal – Our opinion
We’ll be honest here – we didn’t really enjoy Porto. But not due to the fact it wasn’t beautiful or was boring, but due to the fact that in most cases we hate crowded, loud and busy cities (probably London and Wrocław are the only exceptions). To avoid that we decided to visit Porto in April, in the middle of the week. But unfortunately, it didn’t help at all. So we don’t want to even think how busy it must be during the weekends and summer time.
We think that there are many more interesting cities and towns in North Portugal, like Guimaraes, Viana do Castelo, Caminha, Ponte da Barca or Ponte de Lima. But should you skip Porto? We won’t tell you that – go and discover Porto yourself, form your opinion, and then let us know if you enjoyed it.
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Porto?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Porto:
Where to sleep in Porto?
The House of Sandeman – Hostel & Suites
The House of Sandeman is a stylish and luxurious accommodation located in Vila Nova de Gaia with stunning views of the Douro River, Ribeira District. It's located just a short walk from main tourist attractions in Porto. The rooms and suites are uniquely designed with Sandeman's famous logo and artwork throughout.
Selina Porto is a vibrant and stylish hostel that offers a range of accommodations, from shared dorms to private suites. Located in the heart of Porto, it is just a few minutes' walk from some of the city's top attractions. A wide range of popular restaurants, bars and cafés is available within a short walk. The property features an in-house restaurant as well.
My Ribeira Guest House
My Ribeira Guest House is a charming and cozy accommodation located in the heart of Porto's historical Ribeira district. The rooms are modern and comfortable, featuring beautiful views of the city. Guests can enjoy a delicious breakfast every morning. Porto's lively streets and iconic landmark are just a few steps away from the guest house.
Se Catedral Hotel Porto By Hilton
Se Catedral Hotel Porto By Hilton is a luxury hotel located in the heart of Porto's Old Town, overlooking Sé Cathedral. The hotel features guest rooms and suites that blend contemporary style with traditional Portuguese elements. Guests can enjoy a bar, a fitness center, and a restaurant serving local cuisine.
Lost Inn Porto Hostel
Lost Inn Porto Hostel is a cozy and modern hostel located in the heart of Porto, just a few steps from the iconic Clérigos Tower. It features a variety of room options including dormitories, private rooms, and apartments, all decorated in a unique style. The hostel also offers a communal kitchen, lounge area, and rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.
Stay in Apartments Ribeira 24
Stay in Apartments Ribeira 24 is a stylish and modern accommodation option located in the heart of Porto's historic Ribeira district. The apartments are spacious and well-equipped with all the necessary amenities, including a fully equipped kitchen, air conditioning, and free Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy stunning views of the Douro River and the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge from the apartments' balconies.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com