I’m sure you’ve heard about the amazing touristic attractions in Porto, Portugal. You may have even seen pictures of this historical city with its famous river and bridges on social media. But what if I told you that there are many more things to do than just visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
Proudly dubbed “the birthplace of Port wine,” the charming city of Porto is a must-see for any traveler looking to experience one of Portugal’s most beautiful gems. With its magnificent hills, winding rivers, and picturesque landscapes, it’s easy to see why it was voted one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. In addition, it is Portugal’s second-largest city (behind Lisbon).
In this post, I will give you a review of the 17 Best Things to Do in Porto so you can get the best value for your time while visiting this wonderful location.
Things To Do In Porto
1. Palacio da Bolsa
Palácio da bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) is one of the most iconic attractions in Porto and one of my personal favorite places there. This beautiful neoclassical building was built between 1842 and 1910, with the main purpose of hosting all commodity markets that existed at the time.
The facade features Corinthian columns and round windows decorated with rosettes and bas-reliefs representing the stages of Portuguese history up until 1910. On top of all this beauty, Palacio da Bolsa also has some great interior decorations featuring beautiful marble staircases and halls filled with statues and paintings!
As for the ornate style of this building, it reflects how important Porto was in the 19th century, becoming Europe’s second-largest exporting center (after London).
It was actually designed by Joaquim da Costa Lima Junior, who combined elements from several different architectural styles (Neoclassical, Romanesque and Gothic) to create an eclectic design that would perfectly take into account all functional requirements for this new venue.
Today, visitors to this palace can admire the Portrait Room, Golden Room, Chairman’s Room, and Court Hearing Room, among others. In addition, Palacio da Bolsa holds temporary exhibitions and art shows, so I can definitely recommend visiting if you happen to be in this area! There are guided tours available as well.
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2. World of Discoveries
The World of Discoveries is a must-see attraction in Porto. It’s an interactive museum that tells the history of Portuguese maritime discoveries throughout the centuries by staging reproductions of several locations where these expeditions took place. Visitors are encouraged to explore and interact with the different exhibits within the museum.
There are also displays about other achievements in science, technology, and culture during the same period. You can also explore images using touch-screen stations that allow you to zoom in on details or uncover hidden secrets. Highlights include touching replicas of caravels and a 15th-century astrolabe that was used to measure star positions.
The interactive displays provide plenty of opportunities for children to learn about the significance of Portugal’s discoveries and where they led. Not only in maritime terms, but also in terms of new knowledge and technology.
You can go beyond the replica ship and explore everything from life-sized models of discovery ships to replicas of maps, navigational instruments, musical instruments, furniture, and even clothing worn by explorers during this exciting time in Portugal’s history. Exhibitions are fun for both children and adults alike.
I’ll be honest with you, I was expecting less from this museum, but it turned out to be much better than I could’ve ever imagined! It has many interesting exhibits about early Portugal and the Age of Discovery, as well as a very good display of nautical maps throughout history.
3. Torre dos Clerigos
The Clerigos Church is one of the most important landmarks in Porto and a must-see when visiting there.
The church was commissioned to be built in 1732. The actual design is attributed to French engineer Nicolau Nasoni, who signed the plans after defeating another five candidates in an open contest organized by the parish.
His plan departed from the strictly baroque style that dominated contemporary religious architecture, adding some neoclassical influences from Italy and Germany.
The construction of the church occupied a large part of the 18th century due to numerous setbacks and lack of financial resources. The upper facade was completed in 1767, while the towers were only finished some decades later, with an unusual pyramidal shape that would become typical of Portuguese architecture.
Today, Torre dos Clerigos stands 75 meters high, and you can reach the top by climbing its 240-step spiral staircase. Here, you can enjoy the spectacular views over Porto and its surrounding landscape, including the River Douro with its many bridges.
So, if you’re looking for things to do in Porto, climbing up to this church tower is one of the best things I can recommend! In addition, this is the perfect place to go if you go if you’re interested in landscape photography! I loved it so much that it’s become one of my favorite memories here.
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4. Livraria Lello
Another must-see attraction in Porto is Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It’s no exaggeration to say that this bookstore has become a Porto tourist landmark. Of course, it wouldn’t have gained such fame if it weren’t for its looks.
It was opened in 1906 by Jose Manuel Lello and hasn’t changed much since then. What makes Livraria Lello so enchanting is its exterior. The stained glass, the neo-Manueline facade of the building, and of course, its location on a narrow medieval street that leads to Porto Cathedral makes this an ideal place for photoshoots.
Behind its seemingly unassuming exterior lies an amazing interior, with walls adorned with carved wooden panels and lots of decorative details. Examples of different types of wood can be seen everywhere you look: dark or light, straight or curved, straight-grained or figured, all complementing the harmonious color scheme that dominates this space.
Livraria Lello attracted many famous writers throughout the years, including J.K.Rowling, who was inspired by it to write parts of her Harry Potter novels here. It’s not hard to imagine why she fell in love with the place since it really invites you to step into another world. The best thing is that you can also find some antique books on display, including many rare editions.
So, if you’re looking for things to do in Porto, visiting Livraria Lello is one of the best ideas I can recommend! In fact, it’s without a doubt my favorite bookstore ever!
5. Avenida dos Aliados
The Avenida dos Aliados is a real treat for those who enjoy architecture and history, as this street in central Porto is full of amazing buildings from the early 20th century.
This place became a reference for many other avenues in Porto and even Portugal! In addition, it was declared as a site of public interest by the Portuguese government, as it’s an excellent example of Art Deco design.
Today Avenida dos Aliados is one of the busiest streets in the city center and a favorite meeting place for locals and tourists alike. There are cafes and shops on either side of this wide boulevard, providing a perfect space to watch Porto life go by or perhaps enjoy a gelato while taking in some local history at the many statues that have been situated along its footpaths.
There are plenty of places to discover here, including Porto’s city hall, the historic Mercado do Bolhao, and Porto’s central railway station Estacao de Sao Bento. Take some time to walk around Avenida dos Aliados, absorb its atmosphere, and discover all the little hidden corners where you can enjoy a rest after a long walk.
6. FC Porto Museum
The Museum of FC Porto is a must if you have an interest in the history and trophies of this football club. Located inside the Estadio do Dragao, a 50,033-capacity stadium inaugurated back in 2003, it’s one of those places where you can spend hours!
This large museum houses more than 400 different items from the history of the club, dating back to its foundation on 28 September 1893.
The experience begins with a tour around Dragon Stadium itself. I particularly enjoyed the walk along the tunnel leading up towards the pitch, which was surrounded by messages from fans wishing luck to their beloved team.
Inside the museum, I loved being able to see all those old photos from matches with legendary players such as Eusebio and Bobby Charlton. The most iconic trophy here is the 1987 European Cup won at Wembley Stadium against Bayern Munich.
So, if you love football or simply like to be immersed in culture and history, the next priority on your list of best tourist attractions in Porto should be the FC Porto museum.
7. Igreja de Sao Francisco
This church is certainly one of the most beautiful and visited monuments in Porto, attracting a large number of tourists every day. It’s often referred to as the Porto spiritual heart and was designed by architect Joao de Castilho.
The interior has been very well preserved, with its endowment of gilded woodwork and 18th-century azulejos (religious ceramic tiles) providing a wonderful backdrop to the ornate furnishings. I found it particularly interesting that you could still see the original stone pulpit from which medieval sermons were delivered to worshippers gathered in the nave below.
What makes this church truly special are its fantastic sculpted altars that display richly decorated pillars with figurative reliefs depicting scenes related to Saint Francis’s life. The sculptures were made between 1718 and 1721, but they later suffered some damage after an earthquake in 1755.
Today, the church is included in a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with other monuments in Porto. In fact, I really recommend that you add it to your list of things to do in Porto when traveling to Portugal. It’s absolutely beautiful!
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8. Fundacao de Serralves Museu de Arte Contemporanea
This is another of the most popular attractions in Porto and definitely one of my favorite museums across Europe. Designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira, the museum sits on the hills, surrounded by beautiful gardens that are perfect for walking.
Opened in 1999, this was the first Portuguese museum dedicated to contemporary art. And today, this art museum is one of the most important buildings on the northern part of the River Douro’s terraces. It gives an imposing image that visitors can’t miss while walking along its surrounding boulevard.
Fundacao de Serralves’ collection includes more than 1,500 exhibits from some of Portugal’s greatest artists and movements of 20th-century modernism. These include several works by Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, Almada Negreiros and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva.
But, even if you’re not particularly into art, the museum is still worth a visit due to its spectacular gardens and buildings. It’s frequently used as a location for movie productions and TV shows (including international series). It has also been one of Portugal’s filming locations for The House of Bernarda Alba.
Serralves stands as an important example of modernist architecture, including several references to Portuguese cultures, such as Azulejo tiles! Oh, and I should also mention that this place has amazing views over Porto city center. So, if you want to spend some time in an interesting atmosphere while enjoying your trip to Porto, definitely check this out!
9. Casa da Música
The casa da música, or House of Music, is an unusual building that you just won’t be able to miss! Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, this concert hall was opened in 2005. It is actually the largest contemporary music auditorium in Europe with a capacity of 1,400 people.
What’s so special about this place? Well, its curved shape makes it stand out from any angle you look at it! The building’s design was inspired by the idea that it could resemble an instrument itself. The windows feature steel frames designed to resemble strings on a cello or violin.
In addition, you can reach the top floor, where there’s an outdoor restaurant with panoramic views over Porto. There are also several open-air terraces on each level of the building with fantastic views of the city and surrounding landscape.
Besides concerts, you can also attend film screenings and discussions on art or philosophy. Enjoy a quick meal at the rooftop before an event, or have lunch afterward to soak up the atmosphere. Overall, I think that visiting this casa da música should definitely be on your list of things to do in Porto!
10. Porto Tram City Tour
The Porto Tram City Tour is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Porto. And I’d say it even deserves its own separate category. I’m talking about vintage trams that take you all around the city while telling you interesting facts about both its history and culture.
There’s no need to worry about getting lost or missing something along the way because there are multiple conductors on board who will answer any possible question. So, you’ll get to learn all sorts of things while seeing everything worth seeing throughout your trip!
Note that there are three different lines, and each of these lines has its own particular route. Line 1 begins near Ponte Dom Luis 1 and takes you all the way to the coastal town of Foz do Douro. Line 18 takes you through Igreja do Carmo and ends at the tram museum.
The last line, which I would recommend because there are lots of sightseeing and attractions, is line 22. This route takes you through Torre dos Clerigos among other attractions. But whichever the route, simply enjoy your journey. Sit back, relax and snap some pictures while you move gently through Porto’s picturesque streets! It doesn’t get any more romantic than this: it’s like taking a step back in time!
11. Ponte Dom Luis I
This is not only one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto, but also a symbol of Porto. Ponte Dom Luis I is a steel double-deck bridge that was completed in 1886 by French engineer Theophile Seyrig, who began his work here in 1881.
The engineers used a metal framework construction to support the large stone blocks that form its imposing arches, greatly influenced by Gustave Eiffel’s technique for building bridges in Paris. And it’s easy to see why: just take a look at this bridge! Its 385 meters long and reach 60 meters high above ground level (it narrows up on top).
Today, Ponte Dom Luis I is one of the must-see attractions in Porto and deservedly stars in numerous special photo opportunities. It’s also a great place to go for panoramic views over Porto and its neighbor Vila Nova de Gaia.
I suggest arriving at least 30 minutes before sunset so that you can enjoy the view while it’s still daytime. When it gets dark, the bridge is illuminated and changes color depending on how light reflects upon its surface. In my opinion, this is a great place to take pictures of Porto from above, with amazing views over the entire city.
12. Se (Cathedral)
Porto’s Se Cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal, and it certainly deserves its spot among the 17 top tourist attractions in Porto on this list.
This 12th-century landmark is truly impressive with its many chapels and tombs, beautiful iconostasis, and 18th-century Baroque altarpiece. The last mentioned is decorated with some amazing poly-chromatic azulejos (tiles) that depict scenes from both religious and worldly life.
Se Cathedral stands out due to its wonderful main façade with two towers adorned by pinnacles that merge into a single body at their peaks. Inside, you can see several baroque chapels decorated with intricate golden altars and paintings made by some of Portugal’s most famous artists.
Even if you’re not really into cathedrals and churches, the Se Cathedral is well worth visiting due to its unique style and rich history. Plus, I also recommend climbing up to the viewpoint on one of its two towers for some panoramic views over Porto!
13. Porto Bridge Climb
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto, where you can simply climb up the arches of the Arrabida Bridge, one of the most emblematic bridges in this northern Portugal city.
The Arrabida Bridge spans the Douro River over a length of 493 meters, connecting the city of Porto to Gaia on the other side. It was built in 1963, and today it’s an essential part of the regional highway network.
The climb begins with a safety briefing before strapping on your harness and climbing over three levels up to the top of the bridge. You then cross from one side to another before making your descent back down. It’s a simple yet memorable experience that you can enjoy with your family or friends, as this is not too strenuous and it doesn’t take long to complete.
By the way, the views from here are just amazing. If you’re interested in architecture or landscape photography, then this is definitely one of the best places to be! If you go during sunrise or sunset, the lighting conditions are just perfect. I’ve never seen so many different shades of orange before. It was truly awesome!
14. Cais da Ribeira
Another of the main highlights of Porto’s attractions is Cais da Ribeira, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance. The area is home to some of the country’s finest examples of baroque architecture.
Nowadays this part of the city center bustles with locals and tourists alike. The shops are enticing, offering all kinds of souvenirs, including Portuguese handicrafts ranging from handmade lace to rustic pottery decorated with blue patterns. Refreshing juice bars dot the cobbled streets selling fresh produce.
I recommend spending at least an hour wandering along the riverside promenade, watching the boats glide by. It is also possible to take a cruise or ferry ride on one of the many tour boats moored here, waiting to whisk passengers across the River Douro.
At night time, it becomes an even more enchanting place to visit with spectacular public lighting bathing many parts of this riverside area in vivid hues really bring out its charm and character.
15. Centro Portugues de Fotografia
At the heart of Porto, you’ll find the Centro Portugues de Fotografia, an institution dedicated to photography. It’s known for housing a huge collection of vintage cameras and other devices used to take pictures over the past century (and earlier).
The museum also features temporary exhibitions related to either Portuguese or international photography, including work from prominent artists such as Man Ray and Weegee. The atmosphere is very modern and open-minded, so I found it easy to spend hours here exploring everything they had on offer.
If you’re a photographer yourself and want to get some inspiration, you should definitely come here! Whether you’re just starting or are already a professional, there’s going to be lots to learn from this museum.
Interestingly, this museum sits on a former 18th-century prison. The building was abandoned in 1974 before it was taken over by the Municipality of Porto, which turned it into its cultural center.
16. Cafe Majestic
The Majestic Cafe is a gorgeous art nouveau building that was opened on 17 December 1921 and became one of the most famous cafes in Porto. It was very popular among artists, writers, and intellectuals who gathered here to use its library.
It became known as the meeting point of the Portuguese literary circles. But apart from its historical value, this cafe has always been one of my favorite places ever since I first visited it two years ago.
The interior of the building has preserved its original appearance, with high ceilings covered in chandeliers, large mirrors on the walls, dark wood furniture, and some old paintings that create a “retro” atmosphere.
Today, Cafe Majestic is a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike, so don’t be surprised when you see lots of people here during your visit! I bet that having coffee or tea here will certainly become one of your best memories from Porto.
In addition, this cafe is also known for its delicious pastries. So you can try sitting at a table in front of one of these windows enjoying your coffee and cake while watching the world go by.
17. Jardins do Palacio de Cristal
The Palace of Crystal Gardens is a wonderful place and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Porto. It’s a huge park with an impressive collection of colorful flowers spread throughout it.
Opened to the public in 1865, this amazing garden owes its name to the striking glass-walled palace that hosts it. In fact, back then, there were even heated greenhouses here, where Mediterranean climate plants could be cultivated all year round.
They had been brought from exotic locations around the world by Portuguese explorers who made their scientific voyages between 1790 and 1910.
Since I’m not much into botanical studies, what I really enjoyed here was just walking through these gardens and taking pictures of them! By the way, this place burst with color all over the summertime.
Of course, you can also enjoy the sight of a beautiful flower garden any other season, but this is when it truly shines! I don’t want to spoil it for you, so all I’ll say is that if you love the smell and beauty of flowers, this place will knock your socks off!
If you are looking for a different kind of vacation, Porto may be the perfect destination. With plenty to do and see in this beautiful city, it is no wonder that people flock here every year. I hope you enjoyed this list of 17 top tourist attractions in Porto. And if you’re planning a trip to the city, make sure to include these places on your itinerary!