Home to dozens of Port wine producers, Porto, Portugal, is a fantastic place to visit if you’re a wine lover, but even if you’re not into Port, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Porto. It’s one of our favorite places in Portugal.
Porto is an incredibly picturesque city, set along the western coast of Portugal, about a two-hour train ride from Lisbon.
There are two halves to the city, divided by the beautiful Duoro River: the city of Porto lies to the north, while the historic Port city and all of the Port wine houses are in Vila Nova de Gaia, which lies to the south. To get a full feel for the city, you really need to visit both.
We deliberately booked into two different hotels (The Yeatman in Vila Nova de Gaia and the Intercontinental in Porto), spending 2 days in both, to be sure we experienced it all, and we were very happy with that decision.
Many people go to Porto as a long weekend getaway, and we think it’s perfect for that. You can see so much of the city in 3-4 days.
Wanting to start planning your trip in advance? Check out these great tours from GetYourGuide.com.
Fun things to do in Porto
These 10 activities cover the top things to do in Porto and Vila Nova di de Gaia, from where to eat and drink, to port wine houses, art, culture and history.
1. Visit the port house of Vila Nova de Gaia.
One of the main reasons people initially consider going to Porto is because of the Port. If you’re a wine lover, you absolutely must take some time to visit the Port houses. Used entirely to store aging wine and welcome visitors, there are literally dozens of Port houses along the banks of the river and up into the hillside. Just keep in mind that the hillside is extremely steep and you need to be in good shape to walk between the houses, unless you stay on the main street, which has no small number of Port houses. You’ll find Calem, Kopke, Sandeman, Quinta do Noval, Ramos Pintos, Vasconcello’s, etc. Unless you really want to take the hike up to Graham’s, Taylor’s, Offley’s or Cockburn, there are plenty to visit on lower ground.
2. See a Fado Show
Fado is a traditional Portuguese style of music and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the culture. A great way to combine #1 and #2 is to visit Calem Port house in the evening for the 6pm English tour, which culminates in a 30-minute Fado show while tasting the Port. There are plenty of restaurants and night spots that feature Fado, as well, such as Restaurante Tipico O Fado, where the music begins nightly around 10:30pm.
⇒Why not plan ahead? Book a your tickets to Calem Port House with Fado show before you go.
3. Eat a Francescinha Sandwich
A Portuguese sandwich that originated in Porto in the 60s by a returning French emigrant, a Francesinha is a quite decadent adaptation of a Croque-Monsieur. It’s made with bread, stuffed with wet-cured ham, fresh sausage and steak, and then covered in melted cheese and a tomato- and beer-based gravy poured over the top. It’s often served with french fries and a local beer. You can try one at almost any restaurant along the Ribiera or up near the center of the city. Try Cafe Santiago for one of the best in town.
4. Take a Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
There’s nothing wrong with being a tourist when you are a tourist! Some cities just lend themselves well to a hop on, hop off bus tour, and Porto is one of them. There are a few different bus companies, so check out their routes and timetables before you decide. It’s a great way to see different parts of the city and always have a ride waiting. We took the Yellow bus, which has two lines, one that includes a stop at Cockburn’s Port house.
⇒You can book your bus tickets on Viator before you go and save money!
5. Walk Along the Waterfront
North of the city is a fantastic beach and promenade that you can walk along for a couple of miles worth of seaside splendor. You can walk all the way from Vila Nova de Gaia to Matosinho, where you’ll find the freshest seafood in the city. It’s a beautiful walk and there are lots of cafes and restaurants along the way to stop off at.
6. Eat fresh seafood in Matosinho
Some of the best food I ate in Porto was at a small, but elegant restaurant on the waterfront in Matosinho, called O Valentim. We didn’t know what we were in for when we arrived, but were extremely happy with our choice to stop there for lunch. You’ll find the freshest seafood and fish in town, prepared simply on an outdoor grill with a little olive oil and salt. Delicious.
7. Eat at a Michelin Star Restaurant
For someone who lives in a city with no Michelin guide, it’s always a treat to have a meal in a Michelin-starred restaurant, even if it is likely to be overrated and terribly expensive. There is a lovely one-star restaurant at the Yeatman Hotel that is worth spending an evening enjoying. With more than seven beautifully plated dishes, all paired with local wines and Ports, it’s sure to be a memorable experience.
8. Check Out the Many Museums and Galleries
There are many museums and galleries to enjoy in Porto, like the Serralves art museum and Casa da Musica. There’s also a 12th-Century fortress/Cathedral and the grand Palacio da Bolsa if you like to see stunning architecture and learn more about the city’s history.
9. Take a Trip to the Douro Valley
You can easily book a day trip to the Douro Valley to see another side of Portugal and the Port production process. Further up river is where the grapes are harvested and crushed. Only then are they brought back to Porto for the aging process. A day-long tour will take up an entire day’s worth of time, but it’s more than worth it for the glimpse at the beautiful valley and the opportunity to try some authentic and rustic cuisine. If you want to spend a little more time there, check out our guide to the Douro Valley.
⇒Book a full day Duoro Valley wine tasting tour with lunch.
10. Take a Douro River Cruise
As long as you’re on a day trip to the Douro Valley, you should definitely take a Douro River Cruise. I don’t mean the type where you board a full-sized cruise ship and drift slowly down the Douro, although those exist too. I mean a short one- to two-hour boat ride down the river. You can catch a boat from the waterfront in Pinhao. it only costs a few euros and it’s a great way to see the valley from the water, catch a glimpse of the terraced hillside covered with vineyards and see where some of the Port production facilities are located.
⇒ Plan ahead. Book a day cruise from Porto to Pinhao with breakfast and lunch included.
Where to Stay in Porto, Portugal
If you’re looking for a recommendation on where to stay while you’re in Porto, we’ve got you covered. We’ve stayed in numerous parts of the city and have found our favorites that we’ll return to again and again. Below are our top two. There’s really no reason to look any further. These are fantastic hotels.
- InterContinental Porto Palacio das Cardosas: Not only is this a gorgeous hotel, it’s in the most prime location possible in Porto for tourists. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor. Book a stay on Booking.com.
- Pestana Vintage Hotel & World Heritage Site: Stay here if you want to be close to the water with easy access to Vila Nova de Gaia. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor. Book a stay on Booking.com.
So many fantastic and fun things to do in Porto, you could easily spend a week or two exploring. Have you been to Porto? Share your favorite thing to do.
Want to follow a proven plan? Check out this fantastic 48-hour Itinerary for Porto.
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.