When I began planning my trip for Portugal, I knew that I wanted to go to Porto. With Porto, Portugal being the second largest city in Portugal, it was a place that I knew there was a lot to discover. As we arranged our trip, Porto became the last stop after visiting Lisbon and Cascais, and after coming back from the trip, it was very evident that making Porto the last city to explore was a great choice. Spending at least 3 days in Porto, Portugal is something that, if anything, you add to your travel bucket list.
Porto is a city surround that has so much to explore. Whether you’re someone who wants to visit to see the magnificent cathedrals, you want to taste the extravagant Port wine, you want to hang out by the river or on the beaches, or if you are just someone looking to wander wherever the day takes you, Porto is the city that includes it all. It’s a city that will take your breath away and leave you wanting to visit again right as you step into the airport to return home. To give you an essence of how to spend 3 days in Porto, I’ve put together this Porto travel guide.
TRAVEL GUIDE: HOW TO SPEND 3 DAYS IN PORTO, PORTUGAL
GETTING TO Porto PORTUGAL
Porto is a city that is pretty easy to get to. It essentially comes down to whether Porto is one of your beginning stops, middle stops, or end stops while visiting Portugal, and also where you are coming from. During our trip, we had talked with other travelers about their way of getting into Porto, and there was a small group of them that did say they rented a car from the airport in other cities and drove into Porto, and each one noted that they wish they hadn’t because of navigation and the difficulty of parking. If you are someone looking to take that option, it’s not one that I would recommend, but I would recommend flying in or bussing in.
By Air: Depending on where you are coming from, a flight may be the best way to get into Porto. If Porto is your first city in Portugal, you’ll end up landing in Porto’s airport which is about a 20 minute drive outside of the main part of the city on a non-heavy traffic day. But even if your first city isn’t Porto, you can also easily get a flight into Porto with TAP Air fairly cheap. Coming from Lisbon, you can get a one-way flight into Porto for under $100 and the flight is under an hour. You can also fly from other cities in Portugal with the flight costing only slightly more or less.
By Bus: If you’re coming from another city that doesn’t have a nearby airport, you can take a bus into Porto. During our trip, we took a bus from Sintra to Porto which was a simple early morning bus trip that took a little less than four hours and each ticket with checked baggage and a carry-on was under $50.
By Train: There are also options to take the train into Porto, but we found out that some of the train options, depending on where you are coming from can take longer than a bus ride and can be a little more expensive. But in some cities within five hours of driving into Porto, the train does take less time than the bus and is also fairly cheap. When coming in, you’ll most likely want to come into the Porto Sao bento also known as the Sao Bento station, which the main train station that you’d want to arrive. I recommend checking train schedules to see if this is an option for you and if the train makes stops or not. It is the stops that typically make the train ride longer than taking a bus.
Navigating AROUND PORTO
Once in Porto, it’s very easy to get around. Porto is one of the most walkable cities in Europe and you’ll end up spending most of your 3 days in Porto walking, but you’ll find yourself getting a workout as you wander around and spend time in Porto, Portugal. Driving is not one of the main options to get around Porto when you’re in the city because many of the roads are either very narrow and hard to navigate or closed off to certain cars which then you’ll end up walking to your destination either way. We found that walking got us to many places faster than any ride share option would. Porto is a very hilly city so just plan to bring your comfortable shoes. If you’re looking to get to places that are outside of the walkable distance, you do have some other options for getting around during your 3 days in Porto.
Taxi: Similar to other cities around Portugal, taxis are too expensive. Though many of the drivers speak English, we did find out that there have been occasions where the taxi driver spoke little English and it became hard to tell the driver the destination. You’ll, on average, pay about 3-6 Euros depending on where you are going.
Ride Share: Uber and Bolt are two ride share options that are recommended for Porto. Uber, which many know, is used by most travelers, while the locals tend to recommend Bolt as it has more options and tends to be cheaper during surge times. Similar to taxis, ride share tends to be cheap and most of the drivers do speak English, but when we took an Uber from the bus station to our hotel, we did encounter a driver who barely spoke English so the app communicated our destination.
Bus: The bus is a great way to get around the city as there are quite a few routes to get you close to main destinations. Tickets to ride the bus are super cheap and you have the option for paying per trip or you can buy passes.
Tram: It’s hard to go to a city in Portugal and not see a tram. It’s a very popular way to get around the city because not only is it affordable, but it’s a way to take the scenic route around the city and enjoy the open air.
Metro: If you’re going places that are a further distance, the metro is what you’ll want to use. It’s very easy to nagivatge and there are routes that will take you very close to main destinations.
Tip: If you’re looking to visit many places around Porto for your 3 days in Porto, Portugal and plan on using some of the public transportation such as the tram, bus, or metro, it’s best to get the Porto.CARD with transit. This card will allow for you to use public transportation with unlimited use for a 24 hour period per transit card. Also, you’ll receive discounts at some museums, attractions, restaurants and shops using your Porto.CARD. We had a Porto CARD with a transit card for each day of your visit and used it consistently where we saved more than we paid for the card.
PLACES TO Stay IN PORTO
Around Porto, you’ll find an array of great accommodations to stay, each with their own unique way of encompassing the history, aesthetic, and feel of Porto. If you are someone coming to Porto to explore for the first time, the area where you’ll want to stay is close to the central part of the city. Staying in the central, though more touristy, part of Porto for your 3 days in Porto will make it easy for you to walk to restaurants, historic sites, bars, and tour pick-up locations.
CASA DA COMPANHIA
During our 3 days in Porto, we stayed at the Casa Da Companhia which is a a Vignette Collection hotel that is part of the overall IHG Hotels & Resorts & Resorts group. Located on Rua da Flores – a street right in the heart of Porto, Portugal – this hotel gave us the best place to stay to be able to easily walk to each of the locations that we had on our itinerary and gave us a great location to be in to just wander around and find the hidden gems of the city.
This hotel provides history and luxury melted together, and when booking your room, I highly recommend getting a room with a city view. You’ll be able to wake up to the view of the cathedral which is a view that is not only stunning, but one that makes your mornings feel as if the day is going to be filled with uttermost magic.
TOREL PALACE PORTO
The Torel Palace Porto Hotel offers a luxurious haven that seamlessly blends opulence with old-world charm. This boutique 5-star hotel invites travelers to experience a stay that’s beyond the ordinary. From the moment you step into its exquisitely designed lobby, you’re transported into a world of elegance and sophistication. Each room and suite is a masterpiece of design, combining modern comforts with unique touches that pay homage to Porto’s rich history and culture. The panoramic views of the city and the Douro River from the hotel’s terrace are simply breathtaking, providing the perfect backdrop for relaxation and unwinding. Whether you’re savoring a gourmet meal at the hotel’s restaurant or simply indulging in a tranquil moment amidst the lush gardens, the hotel offers an ambiance of tranquility and refined luxury. For travelers seeking a blend of history, comfort, and personalized service, the Torel Palace Porto Hotel promises an unforgettable stay that elevates your Porto experience to new heights.
CASA DOS LOIOS
Casa dos Loios by Shiadu offers a truly enchanting stay that captures the essence of this historic city. This boutique hotel seamlessly combines old-world charm with modern comfort, providing a haven for travelers seeking an authentic experience. The carefully restored building evokes a sense of Porto’s rich heritage, with each room and suite exuding a blend of elegance and coziness. As you step into its welcoming ambiance, you’ll discover a place where history and contemporary luxury harmonize. From the central location, you can easily explore Porto’s iconic landmarks and immerse yourself in its vibrant culture. Whether you’re savoring traditional Portuguese flavors at the on-site restaurant or simply unwinding in the comfort of your room, Casa dos Loios by Shiadu promises an unforgettable stay that embraces Porto’s spirit in every detail.
OCA FLORES HOTEL BOUTIQUE
Oca Flores Hotel Boutique offers a unique and intimate retreat for travelers seeking a blend of artistic elegance and modern comfort. This boutique hotel stands out for its exquisite attention to detail and its commitment to providing an exceptional experience. The rooms and suites, each adorned with tasteful decor and thoughtful design, provide a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Oca Flores Hotel Boutique goes beyond traditional hospitality, offering personalized service that caters to every guest’s needs. Its central location allows easy access to Porto’s attractions, allowing you to explore the city’s vibrant culture and rich history with ease. Whether you’re lounging in the hotel’s stylish common areas, indulging in local delicacies at its restaurant, or simply enjoying the tranquility of your room, Oca Flores Hotel Boutique promises a stay that reflects Porto’s artistic essence and welcoming spirit.
WHERE TO Eat IN PORTO PORTUGAL
Porto is a city known for it’s flavors and seafood, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find an array of different restaurants each serving their own delicious flavors and various types of dishes that will leave you wanting more. As we were planning our trip and considering how we wanted to spend our 3 days in Porto, Portugal, picking out which places to eat was the hardest thing to do, so when we arrived, we decided to stick to some of the places we had pre-planned but also just took recommendations from locals to see where some of the best places to go are.
MIND THE GLASS
CURIOSO COCKTAIL KITCHEN
WHAT TO Do & See IN PORTO
As you determine how to spend your 3 days in Porto, you’ll want to consider some of these great options for things to do in and see while in Porto, Portugal. Porto is a city that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list because there is so much rich history found in every corner. We could not walk a block without finding a historical place or landmark. As you walk the cobbled streets while ascending and descending the many hills, you’ll find that the city is an immaculate blend of art, food, culture, history, and magic which gives you so many things to consider on how to spend your time in Porto, Portugal.
DOURO VALLEY WINE TOUR
If you talk to anyone about going to Porto, you’ll probably hear a recommendation about going to the Douro Valley for a wine tour. When we first planned our trip, we weren’t quite sure this is something we wanted to do, but after taking the tour, we do not regret one moment and would do it again. The beautiful Douro Valley is one of the most majestic places to visit in Porto because the beauty of the area is indescribable. On the day trip tour, you’ll be taken to a variety of wineries to experience different Port wines, while also stopping to learn about some the historical places of the area.
For the tour, you’ll either have the option to be picked up from your hotel or meet at a location. From Porto, it’s about an hour or so bus ride into the Douro Valley, where you’ll then be taken to the many wineries to learn about making Port wine, the history of the wineries, and of course, to do a port wine tasting at each stop.
Tickets for this tour are quite affordable especially because it includes the transportation, lunch, and various tastings. On the tour, you’ll be split into an intimate group where you’ll be given historical information about the area and the places that are visited outside of the wineries. During our tour, our first stop was to a local village where we were able to grab some espresso, a pastry, and explore the town. And then at each of the wineries, there was another tour guide that gave us insight on the winery itself while showing us around the property. Outside of visiting the winers, another one of our stops was to a great vantage point that gave an amazing panoramic view, and also with the tour, you get to do a river cruise along the Douro River.
CLERIGOS TOWER & SPIRITUS SHOW
The Clerigos Tower, an iconic symbol of Porto, Portugal, is a must visit. This tower rises proudly agaisnt the city’s skyline welcoming people to come explore its historical charm and magnificent views. Built in the 18th century, this tower stands as a testament to Porto’s architectural brilliance. Upon entering and gathering your ticket, you can begin to explore the towers main floors. You’ll learn about its history and the religious symbolism behind it. Then once you are ready, you can begin ascending the spiraling staircase of the tower to arrive as the top for a breathtaking view. Be aware that the tower is a high one, which means the climb is slightly intense. Just make sure to bring comfortable shoes and willpower along with the knowledge that the view is well worth the climb.
After exploring the tower and taking in the view, you’ll also want to make sure to grab tickets to the Spiritus show located right inside Clerigos Tower. This show is an immersive experience that blends together lights, sounds, and the architecture of the building to give you a stunning story and emotional journey that you won’t find many other places.
Porto Cathedral or Se do Porto stands as a timeless testament to the city’s rich history and architectural grandeur. Dating back to the 12th century, this Romanesque masterpiece bears witness to centuries of religious devotion and artistic evolution. The cathedral’s imposing facade, with its twin towers and intricate detailing, invites travelers to step into a whole where the past seamlessly intertwines with the present. As you enter the cathedral, the tranquil ambiance of the interior takes you in. A visit to the Porto Cathedral isn’t just a journey through its architectural marvels, it’s an immersion into Porto’s spiritual and culturing heritage. The cathedral has been the backdrop to countless religious ceremonies, royal events, and moments of communal reflection. Additionally, the elevate location of the cathedral offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Douro River, providing a unique perspective of Porto’s urban landscape. A visit to the Porto Cathedral during your 3 days in Porto is more than just a sightseeing experience, it’s an exploration of the city’s heritage and an opportunity to be awed by the beauty of human creativity.
ST. FRANCIS CATHEDRAL
The St. Francis Cathedral, also known as Igreja de Sao Francisco, is an architectural jewel within the enchanting city of Porto. When considering how to spend your time in Porto, Portugal, this should definitely be on your list. The iconic landmark, dating back to the 14th centure, carries with it profound historical and spiritual significance. As you step into the cathedral, you’re immediately transported into a world of intricate Gothic and Baroque artistry. The interior is a testament to the devotion of countless generations, adorned with stunning altars, ornate wood carvings, and awe-inspiring frescoes. The highlight, however, is the hauntingly beautiful Bone Chapel, where the walls are lined with carefully arranged human bones and skulls, serving as a poignant reminder of the transient nature of life. The St. Francis Cathedral exudes an ambiance of reverence and contemplation, inviting visitors to connect with Porto’s cultural and spiritual heritage. It’s not just a place of worship; it’s a sanctuary of art, history, and faith that offers a glimpse into the city’s soul.
The Palácio da Bolsa, or Stock Exchange Palace, stands as a testament to opulence and architectural splendor. This 19th-century marvel is a captivating blend of neoclassical and Moorish influences, offering visitors a glimpse into Porto’s prosperous past. As you step into the palace’s grand halls, you’re immediately transported back in time, surrounded by intricately adorned ceilings, ornate woodwork, and lavish furnishings that showcase the wealth and influence of Porto’s historic merchant class. The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the Arabian Hall, an exquisite masterpiece adorned with delicate stucco work, stunning tiles, and a mesmerizing domed ceiling. The palace’s history is also intertwined with the city’s economic growth, as it once housed the city’s Stock Exchange. Today, it’s a cultural treasure, inviting travelers to explore its rich heritage through guided tours that unravel its stories and secrets. A visit to the Palácio da Bolsa is a journey through time, a step into the world of Porto’s prosperous past, and an opportunity to appreciate the meticulous craftsmanship and grandeur of a bygone era.
GARDENS OF THE CRYSTAL PALACE
For a place to spend time in Porto, Portugal, you’ll want to visit the Gardens of the Crystal Palace. These gardens offer a serene escape that seamlessly blends nature’s beauty with breathtaking vistas. Surrounding the Crystal Palace, which is actually not a palace, this enchanting urban oasis is a favorite among both locals and travelers seeking tranquility and panoramic views. Depending on the time you go, you may run into locals taking engagement or wedding photos or maybe a class of students coming to do an explorative lesson in the gardens. The centerpiece of the gardens is the Crystal Palace, a structure that once hosted grand exhibitions and events. Although the palace itself no longer stands, the gardens’ allure remains intact, providing a space for relaxation, picnics, and leisurely strolls. The sweeping views of Porto’s skyline, the Douro River, and the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge are simply awe-inspiring, making it an ideal spot for photographers and anyone seeking a moment of serenity. Whether you’re admiring the sunset over the city or simply immersing yourself in the serenity of nature, the Gardens of the Crystal Palace offer a tranquil haven that perfectly complements Porto’s vibrant energy.
Discovering the Carmo Church in Porto, Portugal, is like to stepping into a realm where history and beauty intertwine. This architectural gem, founded in the 17th century, exudes an air of elegant simplicity that stands in stark contrast to its ornate Baroque neighbors. As you approach the church, the façade’s intricate stonework and delicate details catch your eye, offering a glimpse of the artistry that lies within. The soaring nave, adorned with intricate wood carvings and gilded accents, guides your gaze towards the altar, where the altar painting takes center stage. However, the true star of the Carmo Church is its breathtaking azulejo-covered wall. This captivating blue-and-white tiled masterpiece chronicles the history of the Carmelite Order and creates a captivating visual narrative that leaves a lasting impression. The quiet ambiance of the church invites visitors to reflect and appreciate the intersection of faith and craftsmanship. Set against Porto’s charming backdrop, the Carmo Church is a haven for both architecture enthusiasts and those seeking a moment of contemplation. A visit to this hidden gem offers a glimpse into Porto’s cultural and spiritual heritage, where artistry, history, and devotion converge in harmonious splendor.
No visit to Porto, Portugal is complete without immersing yourself in the enchanting world of Livraria Lello. This iconic bookstore is not just a place to browse books; it’s an experience that transports you to a realm of literary magic which is why it deserves a space on your 3 days in Porto itinerary when planning how to spend time in Porto, Portugal. Stepping through its ornate doors is like entering a fantastical realm where stories come alive. Widely believed to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts, Livraria Lello exudes an aura of mystery and wonder. The ethereal skylight casts an otherworldly glow, creating an ambiance that’s both dreamlike and intimate. With its century-old charm and undeniable historical significance, Livraria Lello is a must-visit for book enthusiasts and anyone seeking to experience Porto’s literary legacy. Be sure to head online prior to your visit in order to grab a ticket for entry as they are date and time based. Also, if you’re looking to get into the bookstore to take photos without many people, you’ll want to either opt to get there super early before opening and be at the front of the line, or just know that it’s super difficult to be in this very popular bookstore with little no people around.