Last Updated on December 5, 2023
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Porto is a beautiful city that sits at the mouth of the Douro River, in northern Portugal. Spending a weekend in Porto is the perfect way to discover everything that Porto is known for, from old-world architecture and churches, to gorgeous painted tiles (called azulejos), museums, wines, and more.
This weekend in Porto guide covers how to get there, where to stay, and must-do activities. Read on to learn key tips, like how you can see beautiful azulejos at the Chapel of Souls, cruise along the Douro River, and taste Port wine in Vila Nova de Gaia.
- A Bit of Porto History
- How Long to Spend in Porto
- How to Get to Porto
- Where to Stay in Porto
- How to Get Around Porto
- 16 Things to Do on a Weekend in Porto
- 1. Visit Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
- 2. Walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge
- 3. Explore the Ribeira Neighborhood
- 4. Taste port wine in Vila Nova de Gaia
- 5. Admire Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade)
- 6. Cruise along the Douro River
- 7. Pop into Livraria Lello
- 8. Climb Up Clérgios Tower
- 9. Peek inside the São Bento Train Station
- 10. Wander Rua das Flores
- 11. Gaze at the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
- 12. Watch the sunset from Miradouro da Vitória
- 13. Visit the Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
- 14. Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhao Market)
- 15. Take a tour of Bolsa Palace (Palácio da Bolsa)
- 16. See an art installation called Half Rabbit
- Day Trip From Porto: Douro Valley
- Responsible Travel Tips for Porto
- Porto, Portugal FAQ
- Weekend in Porto: Final Thoughts
A Bit of Porto History
According to records, Porto started as a town that was founded in 417. Over the centuries it had various rulers, including the Suevi, the Goths and the Moors.
The town grew into a commercial hub, which developed the area into a city. And when the “Age of Discoveries” arrived, Porto had an important role in European affairs.
The city became a major trading port, and in the 15th century it was one of the greatest ship building centers in Portugal.
It was also in the 15th century that Portugal, including Porto, became the first European nation to take a big part in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Portuguese acquired slaves to do labor on Atlantic African island plantations, and then later for plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean.
In 1756, Porto became an important industrial center because of its wine production. Many wealthy families built beautiful Baroque and neoclassical buildings during that period.
Throughout the 19th century, Porto became known as a progressive and liberal place. The city fought for civil rights, and many important writers and poets lived there during that time.
Today, Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is known for its famous wines, beautiful old town, Baroque churches, azulejos, and more.
How Long to Spend in Porto
With a weekend in Porto you’re able to see all of the city’s main sights, which are within walkable distances of the city center. Spending a weekend in Porto is enough time to see the highlights, taste local dishes, try Port wine, and take in Portuguese culture.
If you have more than two days to spend in Porto, you can fit in visits to the city’s museums, lesser-known sights, and go on a tour of the Douro Valley. While two days is enough, spending more time than a weekend in Porto will give you a more in-depth experience.
How to Get to Porto
You can get to Porto by flight, train, bus or car. The city has an international airport, national and international rail links, two main train stations, and several bus stations.
How to fly into Porto
Porto’s Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) is located 11 kilometers northwest of the city center. There are a few low cost carriers that fly into Porto, including Transavia, EasyJet, Ryanair and the Portuguese national carrier TAP.
How to get from Porto airport to the city center
You can get from Porto airport to the city center by taxi, which takes about 20 minutes, or by metro, which takes about 40 minutes.
By taxi is the quickest way to get from Porto airport to the city. The Porto airport taxi ride will take about 20 minutes and cost around 30€.
The most affordable option is to take the direct metro from Porto airport to Trindade Station. The station is a 5 minute walk from the airport’s arrivals terminal. The journey into the city takes about 40 minutes. Tickets cost just a few euros, and can be bought from a machine at the station.
Taking the train to Porto
Local and regional trains connect to Porto’s beautiful São Bento Station, which is just around the corner from Avenida dos Aliados. A few kilometers east of Porto’s city center is Campanhã Train Station, where interregional and international trains arrive.
Taking the bus to Porto
Rede Expressos, Park of the Camellias Bus Terminal, and Campanhã Bus terminal are the three main bus terminals in Porto. You can connect from these bus stations to the city center by taxi or metro.
Where to Stay in Porto
Porto has several central neighborhoods that are lovely to stay in, but the two most popular are Ribeira and Baixa. Both are great options for staying in while spending a weekend in Porto because they are central to all of the major attractions and other things to do and see in Porto.
Ribeira is a central Porto neighborhood that sits right along the Douro River. It’s a gorgeous, vibrant neighborhood that is within walking distance of many of Porto’s main sites. While this is a popular neighborhood to stay in, know that it can be very busy with tourists.
For a well located hotel that has rooms which look out over the Douro River, stay at Gran Cruz House. For a more budget friendly option, check into the Hostel One Ribeira. They offer private rooms as well as dorms.
If you want to be central while spending a weekend in Porto but would like to be close to nightlife, food, and drinks, stay in Baixa. This neighborhood is also known as “Sé,” referring to the Sé cathedral which is in the neighborhood.
Baixa is just up the hill from Ribeira, and so it’s a very central neighborhood as well. Baixa is a bit less touristy, filled with gorgeous churches, coffee shops, little bars, restaurants and more. For a mid-range hotel, stay at Hotel Moon & Sun. A budget friendly option is the Passenger Hostel.
For a more local experience while spending a weekend in Porto, stay in Bonfim, which is east of the city center. There are far less tourists in this area, which means you’ll find yourself more immersed in local Porto life. In Bonfim you’ll find fun bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and it’s quite close to the famous Chapel of Souls.
Bonfim is about a 20 minute walk from central Porto, or a quick bus ride. Bonfim is a more affordable neighborhood to stay in. Dear Porto Guest House is a lovely, good-value pick!
How to Get Around Porto
The best way to get around while spending a weekend in Porto is on foot. The city is quite compact, and so many of the main sites are a walkable distance, regardless of where you stay. If you tire of walking, the city has an extensive public transportation system that’s operated by the Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto. You can hop on the metro, buses, or trams.
16 Things to Do on a Weekend in Porto
Below are 16 of my favourite things to do on a weekend in Porto. Before we dive into the list, it’s important to note that you likely can’t fit everything in this list into one weekend.
The reason I’m sharing 16 things to do is so that you can have a full picture of how you can spend your weekend in Porto. From this list, you can choose the sites and activities that interest you the most.
Want to save this list? I’ve created a Google Map with all of these locations and activities pinned. View and save the map, here.
1. Visit Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
The Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto in Portuguese) is one of the most important religious buildings in Porto. The cathedral sits at one of Porto’s highest points, overlooking the city.
The construction of the Sé do Porto started in the 12th century, but it was rebuilt and also renovated a couple times throughout the centuries. This is why the Sé has a couple of architectural styles today.
When you first see the Sé from the outside, it looks a bit like a fortress or a castle, and so sometimes people don’t even realize it’s a cathedral.
You’ll notice that it has Baroque influence, with a Romanesque facade, and its cloister and one of the chapels are Gothic in style. There is no entry fee to go into the Porto Cathedral, which makes it a perfect free activity to do while spending a weekend in Porto.
2. Walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge
The Dom Luis I Bridge is one of 6 bridges that cross the Douro River, bringing people from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, the municipality on the other side of the river.
Walking across the upper level of the bridge delivers some excellent views of the Porto cityscape and the Douro River.
It only takes about 5-10 minutes to walk across the bridge. Since a visit to Vila Nova de Gaia is recommended while you’re enjoying a weekend in Porto, it’s easy to add this quick activity to your itinerary.
Be sure to stop a couple times to take in the views and snap some photos. As you walk, be careful of the trams that also cross on the upper deck of the bridge!
3. Explore the Ribeira Neighborhood
Ribeira is a central Porto neighborhood that is right on the shores of the Douro River. It’s a beautiful, vibrant neighborhood that is within walking distance of many of Porto’s main sites.
This is a great neighborhood to spend some time wandering during your weekend in Porto. You’ll have views of the Douro River and Dom Luis I Bridge.
Be sure to stop in the Ribeira Square (Praça da Ribeira in Portuguese), which dates back to the Middle Ages. It’s one of the oldest squares in the city, and you’ll find shops, cafes, and restaurants there.
And, walk along the Cais de Ribeira. It’s a riverfront promenade that goes along the Douro River. On one side, you have views of stacked, colorful buildings, and the other side, the river.
Venture over to the Elevador da Ribeira, a pedestrian elevator that connects Ribeira to another neighborhood, Barredo. Riding the elevator costs just a few euros, and you’ll be treated to great views of the city.
What I enjoyed most about Ribeira was it’s energy in the evening. Walking around, I noticed lots of talented street performers, and the restaurants were always full of locals and tourists enjoying a meal.
4. Taste port wine in Vila Nova de Gaia
Tasting Port wine is a must-do on a weekend in Porto, and there’s no better way to do it than by going for a wine tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia.
You’ll for sure want to try port wine, which is a sweet red fortified wine that originates in Portugal.
Many of Porto’s most well-known wine cellars are in this municipality, which is just across the Douro River from Porto.
You can book a tour of a wine cellar, where you’ll learn all about wine production in Portugal, particularly port wine. Most of the tours run from 1-2 hours, and include a tasting at the end.
Calem, Porto Cruz and Sandeman are the most touristy wine cellars. They run tours often, for an affordable price. Head to Taylor’s or Graham’s for a fancier experience.
5. Admire Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade)
Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade in Portuguese) is Porto’s main square. It connects the old town of Porto with the modern part of the city.
In the middle of the square there’s a 10-meter bronze equestrian statue of King Peter IV from 1862. The King is holding the Constitution in his hands, and showing it to the people.
At one end of Liberdade Square is Porto’s main artery, Avenida dos Aliados. This avenue is filled with modernist buildings that were built in the 20th century, like Porto’s town hall, and the city’s banks.
The square is easy to add to your weekend in Porto itinerary because it’s close to other main sites in Porto, like Clérigos Tower and São Bento Railway Station.
6. Cruise along the Douro River
The Douro River is the third-longest in the Iberian Peninsula. The river passes through Porto, and shortly after spills out into the Atlantic ocean.
The Douro River is tied to much of Porto’s history, particularly its history of wine production. The river was essential for transporting wine from the local vineyards of the Douro Valley to Porto.
Rabelo boats, which are typical of Porto and the Douro River, would carry wine barrels (and people!).
Going for a Douro River cruise out of Porto is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. Floating down the river while gazing at Porto’s beautiful cityscape is a wonderful way to spend a few hours on your weekend in Porto.
You’ll be able to see Porto’s famous 6 bridges: Dom Luis I Bridge, Ponte de Infante, Dona Maria Pia Bridge, Ponte de São João, Freixo Bridge, and Ponte da Arrábida.
This Douro River Panoramic Tour by Boat is a 2 hour long cruise on the river between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The cruise includes a glass of wine! There’s also the option to take this cruise at sunset. Book the tour here.
7. Pop into Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is one of the oldest and most iconic bookstores in Portugal. The bookstore was opened by the brothers José and António Lello on Rua das Carmelitas in Porto.
Livraria Lello was originally a hotspot for Portugal’s literary scene, and has now become a popular tourist site.
Crowds line up to visit Livraria Lello because of its neo-gothic features. The bookstore has a stained glass ceiling, wood carvings, ladders and rails for reaching books, and even a special room that is home to the bookstore’s oldest and rarest books.
The author of the Harry Potter book series, J.K. Rowling lived and taught English in Porto from 1991 to 1993. During that time she was a loyal customer of Livraria Lello. Because of this, it’s rumored that Livraria Lello in part inspired Harry Potter.
Nowadays, Livraria Lello is so popular that you have to book a ticket in advance to visit the shop. On busy days, you’ll need to line up outside before being admitted, even if you already have your ticket.
While some people don’t like how busy the bookstore is, it’s worth a quick visit to admire the shop’s interesting features. Tickets are just a few euros, and if you’re a reader, you can pick up a book while you’re there.
Fun tip! After the library, it’s a quick 3 minute walk to Jardim da Cordoaria. This is a small park that’s filled with grass, beautiful trees, and sculptures. I really enjoyed grabbing a cup of coffee to enjoy while people watching in this quiet park.
8. Climb Up Clérgios Tower
The Clérigos Church is a Baroque church in the center of Porto. The church is known for Its 75 meter tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, which is visible from many points in the city.
Both the church and the tower were built in the 18th century. Today, the Clérigos Tower is the tallest campanile in Portugal.
Climbing up to the top of the tower is a feat! To reach the top, you have to climb more than 200 steep steps. As you climb, you’ll come across 49 bells which form a large carillon.
It’s worth the effort though, because you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the city once you finish your climb. Plus, you’ll get a nice workout while on your weekend in Porto.
9. Peek inside the São Bento Train Station
Some say that São Bento Train Station is one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe. Opened in 1903, this station is unassuming from the outside.
But step inside, and you’ll discover an art gallery of azulejo tiles which were painted by Jorge Colaço, painter, caricaturist and potter. The inside of the station has over 20,000 of his painted tiles on its walls and ceilings that tell the history of Portugal
10. Wander Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores is a street in Porto that was originally laid out in the early 16th century. By the 19th century, the street had become a shopping district where people could find expensive goods.
Today, it continues to be a great shopping area. It’s a mainly pedestrian street, lined with cute cafes like the Mercador Café (you can also get an amazing brunch here). You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops on Rua das Flores.
You can also pop into Museu da Misericórdia do Porto, a museum that is home to collections of 16th-century paintings, sculptures, and silverware. Next door to the museum is an ornate church, called the Igreja da Misericórdia.
Rua das Flores runs from São Bento Train Station at one end, until it connects with Rua de Belomonte.
11. Gaze at the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
The Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is one of my favourite churches in Porto. This Baroque style church dates back to the 18th century.
What makes the church special is that its front is decorated with over 11,000 blue and white azulejos, which were added in 1932 by Jorge Colaço. The tiles depict the life of Saint Ildefonso, as well as religious stories.
Inside Igreja de Santo Ildefonso you’ll find beautiful stained glass windows and a pipe organ that dates back to 1811.
12. Watch the sunset from Miradouro da Vitória
Miradouro da Vitória is a scenic viewpoint that is above the Ribeira neighborhood. This is arguably one of the best spots to watch the sunset while spending a weekend in Porto.
From this spot, you have beautiful views of one of the oldest parts of the city, as well as the Douro River. You’ll spot cobblestone lanes, terracotta rooftops, and many of the city’s main attractions like the Porto Cathedral and Dom Luis Bridge.
This viewpoint is very unassuming. It’s surrounded by a couple worn down buildings, and the stone ground is crumbling in some areas. Don’t be fooled by this, though! This was truly one of my favourite spots to watch the sun go down over Porto.
To reach this viewpoint, you’ll need to climb steep streets. Be sure to set out for Miradouro da Vitória well before sunset time so that you can take rests as you walk up, and still have plenty of time to see the view.
Fun tip! Just a 5 minute walk from this view point you’ll find Castro (Atelier de Pastéis de Nata). This is a traditional pastéis de nata shop. Besides tasting this delicious Portuguese pastry, at Castro, you’re able to see the pastry chefs actually making them! There’s a glass window that makes it possible to observe the process.
13. Visit the Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
The Capela das Almas (also known as the Chapel of Souls or St. Catherine Chapel), is an 18th century church. It’s located right off Rua de Santa Catarina.
Capela das Almas is arguably one of the most famous churches in Porto, thanks to the 15,000+ azulejos that cover the exterior of the church. The tiles depict the lives of notable saints.
Spend some time admiring the tiling on the outside of the church, before popping inside for a moment to appreciate the chapel.
After visiting Capela das Almas, you can head over to Santa Catarina Boulevard, which is filled with shops and restaurants, or to Bolhao Market (more about the market below).
14. Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhao Market)
The Bolhão Market is a traditional market that sells fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, prepared foods, and nowadays, souvenirs.
Mercado do Bolhão dates back to 1839, when Porto’s town hall bought the land where the market now stands and defined the area as a market.
In 1914, a neoclassical building was built to house the market. When you visit Bolhão Market you can wander that building, which is divided into two floors, as well as various market areas.
There’s a part of the market dedicated to fish, butchers, florists, vegetable sellers, and more. On the ground floor of Bolhão Market you’ll find small restaurants where you can order a traditional meal for a reasonable price.
15. Take a tour of Bolsa Palace (Palácio da Bolsa)
Bolsa Palace was built between 1842 and 1910. It originally operated as the Portuguese stock exchange. The glamorous interior of the building was meant to attract and impress wealthy investors.
Today, Bolsa Palace is representative of the wealth that Portugal had in the 19th century. Visiting the building gives you a glimpse into Portugal’s political and economic past.
And, you’ll get to admire ornate rooms like the incredible Salão Árabe (Arab room), and the Pátio das Nações (Hall of Nations, the original trading floor).
You can’t visit the Bolsa Palace without a guided tour, which is included with the admission price. Tours are run in four languages, throughout the day, and cost less than 20$.
You can book your ticket to tour Bolsa Palace online in advance. Then, go to Bolsa Palace and wait in a brief line to select your tour time and language. Once your name is down for a specific time, you’ll come back at the time for the 30 minute tour.
16. See an art installation called Half Rabbit
Half Rabbit is a giant art installation that is meant to critique society’s wastefulness. The massive sculpture of a rabbit was brought to life by Portuguese artist Bordallo II.
The rabbit is made of recycled materials and trash collected from around the city, and it’s installed on the corner of a building in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Bordallo II is known for creating installations of animals throughout Portugal. This particular one is a call for ecological sustainability, and more social awareness.
The sculpture is positioned on the building so that the rabbit is seemingly folded in two. One half of the rabbit is bright and multi-coloured, while the other half is unpainted. This is why the installation is called “Half Rabbit.”
Half Rabbit is spectacular to look at. You’ll notice metal pieces, old street signs, and plastic containers are just some of the materials that Bordallo II used to create the rabbit’s eyes, ears, and whiskers.And of course, it’s a stark reminder of the amount of waste our societies generate.
Half Rabbit is in Vila Nova de Gaia, so across the river from Porto’s Ribeira neighborhood. It’s easy to quickly visit this art installation when you’re exploring Vila Nova de Gaia. The sculpture is a quick walk from many of the neighborhood’s port wine cellars.
Fun tip! If it’s a hot day in Vila Nova de Gaia, you might be in the mood for icecream. A one minute walk away from Half Rabbit is Ze Badio, a cute little ice cream shop. It’s well worth a stop after admiring the art.
Day Trip From Porto: Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is a hilly region that surrounds the Douro River as it flows through northern Portugal. The region is famous for being the oldest demarcated wine-growing region on the planet.
Demarcated in 1756, the Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of how wine-making over the course of 2000 years has influenced its development.
Winemaking has shaped the area into a terraced, vine-covered destination that produces red, white, and port wines.
This Douro Valley Full-Day Wine Trip with Lunch is a small group tour that includes pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation. You’ll spend a day exploring the Douro Valley, visiting local wineries, learning about the wine making process, and relaxing on a river cruise.
You’ll enjoy a typical Portuguese lunch, and finish the day learning about the differences between premium wines, and the techniques used to produce them during a private guided tour.
The Douro Valley is just 97 kilometers (60 miles) from Porto, making it a quick and easy day trip. You can visit the region with a car rental, or go on a guided tour from Porto.
- Hotel pickup and drop-off
- Transportation by air-conditioned minivan
- Guided tour
- Visit 2 wine estates
- Wine tastings
- Selection of Portuguese cheeses
- Olive oil & honey tasting
- 1-hour river cruise
- Lunch (meat, fish, or vegetarian option)
- Bottled water
Responsible Travel Tips for Porto
Responsible travel is all about traveling in a way that supports the communities you’re visiting. Below are some tips for how to travel responsibly while spending a weekend in Porto.
Learn about Porto
Take some time to learn while spending a weekend in Porto. There are several great museums that will give you insight into Portuguese history, culture, traditions and more. Making your trip to Porto educational will definitely enrich your experience!
Visit Porto in the low or off-season
As with many European cities, Porto has experienced a surge in tourism in recent years which has led to harmful impacts like overtourism. One way to help reduce your impact while traveling any part of Portugal is to visit in the off or shoulder season. This season runs from late September to early May, and during those months there are typically less tourists around.
Walk or use public transport
Porto is super walkable. Walking is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions while exploring the city. When you’ve had enough of a workout (those Porto hills catch up to you), consider using public transport to keep your emissions low, rather than taxis and car shares.
Stay local, shop local (skip the Starbucks!)
It’s tempting to stay in chain hotels and grab Starbucks in the morning, but it benefits local Portuguese in Porto more if you support independently owned hotels, locally owned apartment rentals, and shops.
Spend more time in Lisbon
This guide covers a weekend in Porto because I know many travelers have limited time that they can spend on vacation. If time allows, I recommend spending longer than a weekend in Porto. Spending more days allows for a slower travel approach, and you’re able to get to know Porto more in depth.
Porto, Portugal FAQ
Can you do Porto in a weekend?
Yes, you can do Porto in a weekend because the city is very compact. Most main attractions are in the city center which makes Porto a perfect weekend destination. It’s possible to walk everywhere, and on a weekend, you’ll have enough time to get a taste of Porto’s culture, food, and more.
Which is better Porto or Lisbon?
Porto and Lisbon are both lovely cities to visit. Lisbon has some of Portugal’s most popular tourist attractions, museums, and sights, which makes it a quintessential Portuguese city to visit. Porto has lesser-known, but equally interesting attractions. In Porto, you can take a slower pace, exploring neighborhoods and taking in the views.
Is Porto worth visiting?
Yes, Porto is worth visiting. It’s a historic Portuguese city that rests on the beautiful Douro River. You can wander vibrant neighborhoods like Ribeira and Baixa on foot, visiting beautiful churches, interesting museums, and great restaurants. Take an evening cruise on the river, and taste locally made Port wines.
Weekend in Porto: Final Thoughts
A weekend in Porto is definitely enough time to see the city’s main sites, like Dom Luis I Bridge and Livraria Lello, as well as wander neighborhoods like Ribeira and Baixa, and of course, taste Porto’s famous port wine.
If you have more time to spend than a weekend in Porto, you’ll be able to fit in even more of the Porto things to do that I covered in this guide.
Traveling onward from Porto? Learn How to Take the Train From Porto to Sintra.
More from Pina Travels on Portugal:
- Your Essential 3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary
- Your Comprehensive Sintra, Portugal Guide
- 12 of the Best Restaurants for Breakfast in Porto
- 10 Exciting Things to do in Algarve Portugal
Erin has been traveling for over a decade, both solo, and with her partner. She’s now traveled to countries across 6 continents, and has lived in 2 countries abroad. Erin also hosts the travel podcast, Curious Tourism, where she interviews travel industry thought leaders and experts about responsible tourism. Learn more about Erin, and get in touch with her, here.