Porto or Lisbon? That is the most common question people ask when you travel to Portugal. While the capital city is magnificent and draws most of the attention of all Portuguese cities, there is something about Porto, the second-largest city, that makes most visitors of Portugal choose it over Lisbon. Its charm and friendly atmosphere combined with amazing cuisine and remarkable sights will make you want to return again and again. If one day is everything you got for this city, here is what to do and see in Porto within 24 hours!
8:00 – Start your morning in Porto Old Town with breakfast and coffee. The medieval core of the city is called Ribeira and it is a perfect starting point. Breakfast options in this area are endless and some cafes nurture a long tradition of making coffee and pastries in old-school Portuguese way.
9:00 – It is time to explore the city center which is mostly under protection of UNESCO since it contains the biggest monumental attractions and landmarks. Get lost in the streets of Ribeira and discover its alleys and colorful houses to soak up the true Porto atmosphere. Take a walk down the bank of the river Douro and pay attention to the Ponte Luis I, the longest bridge at the time when it was constructed.
The walk by the river to the West will easily take you to the main sights of Porto. Start with the Church of St. Francis (Igreja de São Francisco), the most prominent Gothic monument of Porto and a UNESCO site. The church dates back to the 13th century and its Baroque interior is a ’must see’. Right next to the church lies the magnificent Palacio da Bolsa, another UNESCO site. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful buildings in Porto and it was constructed in the 19th century on the ruins of the Franciscan convent. Take your time to explore the courtyard and the palace itself.
Take a few-minute walk into the direction of Porto Cathedral (Se do Porto), a Roman Catholic church dating back to the 12th century with some great views of the city from its front square. Another few minutes of walking up North will take you to Clerigos Church and its tower (Torre dos Clerigos), one of the most recognizable symbols of Porto city.
13:30 – It is time to take a break from all these sights, for sure! But before you do that, you might want to head to the most famous market in the city and check if there’s something you would like to take home with you. In Porto Belo market you can find almost anything, especially on Saturdays when the flea market takes place. Once you’re done with the market, sit in a nearby restaurant and treat yourself with some traditional Portuguese food such as Tripas a Moda do Porto, the Francesinha sandwich or Alheira sausages.
15:00 – With your bellies full, we suggest you continue at a slower pace. Among the most attractive places to visit in Porto is definitely the Lello bookstore (Livraria Lello), one of the most beautiful libraries in the world where you can relax with a book for a while or even buy one. In this afternoon schedule we suggest you to also include Casa da Musica or House of Music which you can reach from the library by public transport in no more than 15 minutes. Guided tour might be the best way to explore this remarkable building whether you are a passionate art lover or not.
One more place we would like to include is a short bus ride away. Casa de Serralves is one of the most important cultural institutions in Porto, a mansion combining different architectural styles with a Contemporary Art Museum, also the most visited museum in Portugal.
18:00 – It is time to go back to the bank of the river Douro, straight to the Arrabida Bridge (Ponte da Arrabida). The best thing about this bridge is that you can climb it! Climbs are available several times a day with the last one at sunset. The views you get from the top are simply unique. Since the bridge connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia we suggest you spend some time exploring this center of the port wine industry.
20:00 – Evening is reserved for some relaxation… and wine. Vila Nova de Gaia is full of port wine cellars offering tours and tasting, and that is exactly our suggestion for the end of the day. Besides that, here is the best opportunity to try some local fish and seafood delicacies to round up the evening.
Visiting Porto for a day makes it impossible to include all the important places to see and things to do. If, by any chance, you have some extra time we suggest you add a few more sites in your schedule such as Douro valley, a wine region of incredible landscape beauty. Also, if arriving in the summer months, visiting some of the gorgeous Porto beaches is a must!