Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, located in the north of the country. The city’s population is just over 200,000, and it is most recognisable by its terracotta rooftops and six iconic bridges.
There is so much to do and see in this incredible city, including visiting the magnificent churches, the fabulous markets and a spot of Port tasting. So, here’s exactly how to spend your three days in Porto.
How to Get to Porto
You can get to Porto in three main ways: road, rail, or air.
If you’re travelling by air into the country, you will be happy to know that central Porto is easily accessible from the airport. Simply take the E-line metro, which departs every twenty minutes throughout the day. The journey only takes around 40 minutes and costs just €2. However, if you prefer to get a taxi, this will cost around €25 and take approximately 20 minutes.
Alternatively, there should be no issues with you arriving in Porto by car. There are many highways connecting the city to other beautiful spots in Portugal. However, the roads in Porto are very narrow and winding, and the traffic and parking can be a nightmare! So, unless you are visiting Porto as part of a bigger European road trip, I would not recommend travelling via car.
If you’re travelling from another city in Portugal, the best way to get to Porto is via train. The train from Lisbon to Porto takes around 3 hours and arrives into Porto Campanhã station.
Best Places to Stay in Porto
One of my favourite things about Porto is how walkable the city is. Meaning there are so many incredible places to stay.
If you’re looking for the best area to stay in Porto for nightlife, Ribeira will be for you. This waterfront area is lined with beautiful pastel-coloured buildings, creating an image that is now synonymous with the city of Porto.
The most popular and perhaps best place to stay in Porto is the Porto Baixa, otherwise known as downtown Porto. This area encompasses the Avenida dos Aliados and the surrounding streets, which essentially forms the heart of Porto. Therefore, Baixa is the best area to stay in Porto for exploration.
However, if you prefer to be slightly out of the more tourist areas and more immersed with the locals, Bolhão will be the area for you.
Best Airbnbs Porto Portugal: I stayed in this building, which was perfect for a weekend in Porto. However, if you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, this is an excellent choice with a beautiful garden.
Let’s Get Into It – Three Days in Porto
Day 1 in Porto
São Bento Train Station
São Bento Train Station is the most beautiful train station in Portugal if not the entire world. Located right in the centre of the city, as soon as you step into the station, you will be blown away by the iconic blue and white tiles.
Even if you’re not planning on taking a train from Porto, a visit to see this magnificent building is a must. However, if you want to snap some great shots, I would recommend visiting first thing in the morning, as the station gets extremely busy. Getting excellent photographs can be very tricky amongst massive crowds!
TOP TIP: there is also luggage storage within São Bento train station, so if you’ve got a late hotel check-in, it’s the perfect first top for a day of exploring Porto.
I would next recommend heading to the beautiful area of Bolhão. The buildings in the area are quintessentially Portuguese, and you could easily spend a whole day exploring the various alleyways and viewpoints the area offers.
You certainly will not struggle to find places to eat and drink in this area, with what feels like an endless number of traditional cafes to enjoy a coffee and pastel de nata.
There are also plenty of high-street and independent shops along the rua de santa Catarina, perfect for those looking to splash the cash in the city.
Mercado do Bolhão
No trip to Bolhão would be complete without perusing the Mercado do Bolhão.
The first thing that struck me about this place was how pristine it is. The clean lines and metal beams are a complete juxtaposition between the cobbled streets just a stone’s throw away.
There is a vast array of stalls here, ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to fine wines. Of course, there is a beautiful bakery selling hot pastel de nata, as well as spots to buy small tins of sardines that are synonymous with Porto.
The market is open Tuesday – Saturday and has plenty of space to relax even on the busiest days.
Climb to the Top of Clérigos Tower
The Clérigos church, museum and tower is one of the most popular attractions in Porto. Built between 1735 and 1748 – the church tower is the tallest in the country and can be spotted from across the city.
The tower stands at 76 meters tall, with 200 steps up to the top. From here, you will be afforded unbeatable views of the city – an excellent opportunity to enjoy the incredible terracotta rooftops. On a quieter day, climbing to the top will take around 30 minutes.
Clérigos Tower is open every day from 9am to 7pm. Entry to the church is free, and the tower costs €5.
Many consider Livraria Lello to be one of the most beautiful bookstore in the entire world. Its iconic red staircase and stained glass windows make it an Instagrammers dream.
I have to be honest: I didn’t actually go inside Livraria Lello during my three days in Porto. The queues are quite literally around the block morning, noon and night. I simply wasn’t prepared to spend a few of my precious hours in these queues. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have booked a specific-timed ticket in advance and visited this excellent spot.
Livraria Lello is famous for being JK Rowling’s inspiration for Harry Potter. Whilst she lived in Porto and even had her first child here, there is debate over whether this building was the true inspiration for the franchise everyone loves. However, I like to think there is some magic in the place!
Watch the Sunset From Luis I Bridge
This bridge provides one of the most iconic photo spots in the city, connecting Porto with Villa Nova de Gaia. It also happens to be one of the best places to watch the sunset in Porto.
The bridge has two levels, with the lower level being a little underwhelming. However, the top is truly stunning and offers impressive 360-degree views of this incredible place. Swarms of tourists and locals head here every night to watch the sun melt into the horizon, and once you witness it, you will understand why.
Remember, though, this isn’t just a footbridge but is also a tram track, so you might have to do the occasional dodge out of the way!
Day 2 in Porto
Ribeira is probably the image that springs to mind when you imagine Porto. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you if the photos of this area are what convinced you to book the trip in the first place.
It will come as no surprise that Ribeira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its brightly coloured buildings and iconic tiles lining the waterfront.
I wouldn’t recommend packing a strict itinerary for your morning in Ribeira. Instead, enjoy perusing the cobbled streets for a few hours, stopping for a coffee (or wine) whenever your heart desires.
Head Over Luis I Bridge
Once you’ve finished exploring the beautiful area of Ribeira, it’s time to head over the water into the area most famous for its Port production. This journey is best taken on foot to allow you to soak in the wonderful atmosphere.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to head over the Luis I Bridge during a different time of day, offering a new perspective.
Gaia Cable Car
Located on the bank of the Douro River, the Gaia cable car was one of my favourite activities in Porto. It gets extremely busy but the line moves quickly so you shouldn’t wait too long even at peak times.
The view from the cable car is phenomenal, affording a unique angle on the iconic terracotta rooftops. Tickets are €9 return and the journey takes around 5 minutes. Cabins fit up to 8 people, so expect to share.
Lunch at Beira-Rio Market Porto
I have to be honest; this lunch spot didn’t blow me away. However, it is a great selection of restaurants in an excellent location. It’s not just local food here either – there’s pizza, pasta and plenty of different meats. It’s the perfect place for grabbing a quick bite in the area, and the selection of stalls allows visitors to sample a variety of food.
Beira-Rio Market is open seven days per week and has two large screens for sports events.
Visit the Famous Half Rabbit Street Art
The Half Rabbit street art, created by Portuguese artist Bordallo II, is one of the best things to see in Porto. Incredibly, it is created solely from recycled materials and trash collected from the city, designed to shine a light on the wastefulness of the world.
This incredible artwork sits on the corner of a building, which really brings the piece to life. The corner folds the Rabbit in two, with one side painted in bright colours, and the other left exposed to show off the materials.
6 Bridges River Cruise
The six bridges of Porto (Dom Luís I, Ponte de Infante, Dona Maria Pia Bridge, Ponte de São João, Freixo Bridge and Ponte da Arrábida) are the first image that springs to mind when most think about this beautiful Portuguese city.
A one-hour cruise on one of the Rabelo-inspired water boats will cost you around $15. These tours are incredibly touristy, and you will often hear the information in multiple languages (Portuguese, Spanish, English and French). However, it is a unique experience and a fun way to admire the city from a new angle.
Dinner by the Water
Round off your second day in Porto with a relaxed dinner by the water. Whilst you pay a slight premium for the location, it is truly stunning and a great experience in Porto.
There are many delicious places to eat, all serving excellent local dishes such as codfish rice and the iconic Francesinha.
Day 3 in Porto
The Two Churches – Igreja Do Carmo & Igreja Carmelitas
Igreja Do Carmo and Igreja Carmelitas are two magnificent churches built side by side, with just the Casa Escondida (Hidden house) connecting the two. This house sandwiched between the two churches was originally created to separate the monks and nuns.
These churches are instantly recognizable from the iconic blue and white tiles – they are a true sight to behold and a great opportunity to snap an incredible picture. If architecture is your thing, then simply admiring from the outside may be sufficient.
However, entrance to the churches is completely free, with just a €2 fee to admire the hidden house. In my opinion, well worth the money.
A Third Church… Church of Saint Ildefonso
The Church of Saint Ildefonso is a smaller, perhaps more modest, church in comparison to those mentioned above, but still well worth visiting. Incredibly, the church is made of 11,000 blue and white azulejos.
Although you might be feeling a little tired of churches, visiting this is completely free, so it would be rude not to have a peek inside!
Round off the Trip With Port Tasting at Cockburns
Over your days in this incredible city, you will have undoubtedly tried a sip or two of port. However, no trip to Porto is complete without a Port tour. I’ve done some of these tours and tastings (Guinness and Jameson Dublin) before, but Cockburns was by far my favourite.
Our friendly guide led a group of 10 of us into the lodge, where we watched a short video explaining the history of this family-run business. We were then guided through the lodge and the various imperative stages of the port creation process.
Every stage was engaging and interesting, allowing each visitor to fully appreciate the hours of labour that go into every sip. The tour ends with everyone’s favourite part – a trip to the tasting room!
You will be greeted by three tasters of different ports and talked through them by your guide. Then, you will be left to relax and enjoy the drinks on offer – you are more than welcome to buy more drinks and nibbles, but there is no obligation.
Tickets are €20 per person or €27 for the premium port offering. Be sure to book in advance if you are visiting in the middle of summer, as the tour gets booked exceptionally quickly.
Extra Days in Porto? Best Day Trips From the City
If you’re lucky enough to have more than three days in Porto, I recommend escaping the city and enjoying one of the many fantastic day trips available.
Aveiro is a beautiful town around 75km south of Porto, which takes around an hour to reach via train. For this reason, Aveiro is one of the best day trips from Porto. The city sits on a network of intricate waterways lined with beautiful bright-coloured buildings.
Aveiro is packed with rich history, with plenty of museums to explore if you’re searching for a better understanding of the area. There are also heaps of beautiful cafes and bars for sitting back, enjoying the sunshine, and enjoying a spot of people watching.
Although I’m not a fan of the constant comparison of all pretty cities with Venice, visitors will be forgiven for drawing the distinction. Aveiro, however, has Moliceiros boats rather than gondolas, which are a fantastic way to see the area. Visitors can easily jump on a 45-minute tour to get a snapshot of the city’s offerings.
Be sure not to miss the Ponte dos Nomorados bridge, where lovers tie ribbons that symbolise an unbreakable bond.
Guimarães was the first capital city of Portugal and the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. It is located 55km northeast of Porto and provides an excellent day trip from the city.
Guimarães should not be missed for history buffs – there is a Gothic monastery, a 15th-century palace, and a fortified castle. But, aside from these magnificent buildings, Guimarães itself is very pleasurable to wander around. The cobbled streets lead the way to stunning plazas lined with great coffee shops and restaurants.
There are frequent trains from São Bento or Campanhã station, and the journey takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
TOP TIP: avoid visiting on Mondays, as many of the attractions are closed.
Anyone who loves wine and particularly Port, must visit the Douro Valley. Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the Douro Valley is home to the Douro river, the third largest river in the Iberian Peninsula. The gorgeous vineyards line each side of the river, creating the lush green terraces that make the region iconic.
The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.
The Douro Valley can be reached via train from Porto, and from there, you can book a huge range of tours and tasting experiences. Alternatively, if you would prefer the whole day to be taken care of, you should choose one of the many day trips from Porto, which include everything such as transportation, food and drink.
If you’re travelling via car, there are plenty of beautiful hotels in the area to enjoy (drink driving is not cool!)
What to Eat During Your Three Days in Porto
Pastel de Nata – Pastel de Nata is a small custard tart from Belem, a town just outside Lisbon. You simply cannot come to Portugal without enjoying one (or ten!) of these delicious sweet treats. Sometimes sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon, but in my opinion, best enjoyed plain.
Bifana – The Bifana is a Portuguese pork sandwich marinated in paprika and garlic sauce. The meat is succulent and delicious, but for me, the bread is the star of the show. Crunchy on the outside and soft in the centre, the Bafina is the perfect lunch option whilst exploring the city.
Francesinha – If you’re planning a trip to Portugal, you will undoubtedly have seen pictures of the famous Francesinha, a decadent dish originating in Porto. Local meats are sandwiched between thick slices of white bread, covered in cheese and topped with a tomato beer sauce.
Bacalhau – Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod, which is served on almost every menu across Porto. My favourite way to enjoy this delicacy is the codfish rice dish which can be found on most menus.
Frango Assado – I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t love Peri Peri chicken, so you must enjoy a Frango Assado whilst in its country of origin. Usually served with roast potatoes or fries, this is the perfect simple dish to enjoy after a day of exploring the city.
Vinho do Porto – When in the home of Porto, it would be rude not to indulge! As discussed, a port wine tasting is essential to your three-day Porto itinerary. But, if you don’t have to squeeze in a full tour, you can enjoy port in literally every bar around the city.
Sardines – Whilst Sardines might not sound like the most exciting treat, the Sardines in Porto are meaty and delicious. They can be purchased in small tin cans across the city to be enjoyed as a tasty snack. You will often see these on menus served with potatoes and vegetables or rice and salad to make an incredible (and very healthy) meal.
Frequently Asked Questions – Three Days in Porto
Where Is the Best Area to Stay in Porto?
In my opinion, Baixa is the best place to stay in Porto. Baixa is in the heart of Porto, amongst the best bars, restaurants, and nightlife. Ribeira is another excellent option, most recognizable for its waterfront location and pastel buildings. Alternatively, try Cedofeita, the unofficial art district of Porto.
How to Travel From Porto to Lisbon
If you’re lucky enough to have more free time following your three days in Porto, you should undoubtedly head to the capital of Lisbon. Luckily, travelling from Porto to Lisbon could not be easier!
Simply take the train from Campanha Station. This takes under three hours, departs fourteen times per day, and drops you right in the centre of Lisbon. If you’re planning to travel at peak times, I would recommend booking your tickets in advance.
Do I Need to Speak Portuguese to Visit Porto?
You do not need to speak Portuguese to travel comfortably in Porto. It is a modern metropolitan city that welcomes tourists from around the world. That being said, learning a few key phrases is always recommended when you’re in a new country – a simple obrigada goes a long way!
How Expensive Is Porto?
As with every city, it is extremely difficult to state how expensive Porto is. Expect to pay around €15 for a main meal in a mid-range restaurant, €5 for a glass of wine, and €4 for a beer. Best of all, you can pick up a delicious pastel de nata for just €1.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Porto?
Portugal is blessed with beautiful weather all year round, with the long summer days peaking in June, July and August. However, these months are, of course, the busiest and most expensive. Therefore, I would recommend visiting Porto in April – May or September – October. These months still afford long warm days but with fewer crowds and lower price points.
Explore Other Destinations in Europe:
The ultimate itinerary for 3 days in Madrid
Hiking Samaria Gorge, Crete
Whiskey tasting at Jameson Distillery, Dublin