Famous for being the home of Port wine (as the name suggests), Porto is a quaint seaside town located less than an hour away from Lisbon by plane. The perfect place for a relaxing vacation, whether it be a leisurely week-long getaway or a luxurious weekend stay, you’ll find an abundance of things to do in Porto.
If you’re planning a trip to Porto, here are ten of the most imPORTant activities you should make sure not to miss while you’re there. (See what I did there?)
Bury Your Nose in a Book in J.K. Rowling’s Favorite Hangout Spot
Built in 1906, the elegant bookstore Livraria Lello is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal. It’s also where famed Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling would often go, enjoy a cup of coffee, and write when she was living and teaching in Porto in the early 1990s.
Apparently, Rowling’s favorite spot was on the second floor of the bookstore. A red, majestic-looking staircase connects the first and second floors of Livraria Lello, making the interior of the store look rather Harry Potter-esque. In fact, rumour has it that the bookstore’s unique architecture inspired the depiction of the Flourish and Blotts Booksellers bookstore in the Harry Potter movies.
Entering Livraria Lello costs €3, and be warned that you may have to wait in a bit of a queue, as the bookstore is fairly popular. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hang out where J.K. Rowling used to write? This is truly where the magic happens!
Climb to the top of a bell tower from the 1700s
Located three minutes away from Livraria Lello by foot, the church Igreja dos Clérigos (“Church of the Clergymen”) and its adjoining bell tower Torre dos Clérigos (“Tower of the Clergymen”) are collectively known as one of Porto’s defining landmarks.
Entering the church and climbing to the top of the bell tower costs €6 total. Once you’re at the top, you can see an an awesome view of the whole city so selfie sticks at the ready people!
Taste One of Porto’s Largest Exports
If you’ve never had port, now is the time to try it! Any wine enthusiast will make sure to sample some Port wine in the drink’s birthplace. Porto is home to many wineries from which you can sample the sweet dessert wine. You can book a port tasting tour of which there are many. Alternatively, you can just do what I did and wander along the river until you find one that looks good – bottoms up!
For those on a budget try Casa Kopke, this winery offers a tasting of Port or other wine for as little as €2.50. Also, for €17 per person, Kopke offered 4 glasses of different types of wine or Port that each came with their own chocolate pairings. Yum.
Eat a Francesinha (or six)
Literally translating to “little French girl,” the Francesinha is a meat lover’s paradise. This decadent traditional Portuguese sandwich contains ham, sausage and steak, and is slathered in cheese and beer sauce.
For our vegetarian friends, there’s also “tosta de queijo,” which is essentially a grilled cheese, but Portugal-ized (let’s pretend that’s a word!)
Peruse Mercado do Bolhão
Open from 7 in the morning until 5 in the evening, this market not only boasts gorgeous architecture, but also a wide variety of olives, Port, cheese and produce for you to buy and take on the go, as well as souvenirs you can bring home to your family and friends after your trip. The market also contains a café where you can sit to enjoy a relaxing sit-down meal, but I decided to instead take some olives, cheese, and mini bottles of port to the beach to have a PORTable wine tasting experience. Okay, okay, I’ll stop, I swear.
Speaking of the beach, though…
Soak Up The Sun at Praia do Matosinhos
The beaches in and near Porto are either right near the River Douro, or are slightly farther out but easily accessible by train, all aboard! The first thing I did when I stepped off the plane was catch a train towards the beach and spent three hours laying out on Praia do Matosinhos, backpack and all.
Although most of the beaches in and near Porto are lined with rocks, Praia do Matosinhos is a long, sandy stretch of beach. The largest beach you can easily get to from central Porto, Praia do Matosinhos is a popular spot among surfers.
If you’re a seafood lover, be sure to check out the numerous acclaimed seafood restaurants near Praia do Matosinhos while you’re there.
Check Out Porto’s Six Bridges
Paddle or cruise your way around Porto on the majestic River Douro. Aside from being known for its Port export, Porto is also known for its six iconic bridges – Ponte de Dom Luís, Ponte de Maria Pia, Ponte de Arrábida, Ponte de São Jão, Ponte de Freixo, and Ponte Infante D. Henrique.
Fun fact, Porto and its neighboring city Vila Nova de Gaia are collectively the only two cities in Europe to have six bridges, since the bridges start in Porto but span to Gaia.
Traveling Porto by boat is the best – and probably the most fun – way to see all six bridges. You can either rent your own boat or reserve a spot on a cruise that takes you around to see all six bridges.
Take a Walking Tour
Porto is full of stunning architecture and interesting street art. If boats aren’t your thing, take it all in on foot. You can either just do this by yourself or with friends, or book a free walking tour with a guide.
Take a stroll through the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
The Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, or “Crystal Gardens,” is a lush, green, botanical garden with a stunning view of the Douro. Situated on top of a hill, the gardens are free to enter and are open from 8 in the morning until 9 in the evening.
Check out the Estação de São Bento
Yes, this is a railway station, but it’s unlike any railway station you’ve ever seen, I promise. The walls of the station are lined with intricate murals that almost give the feeling of being underwater. So no need to choo-choo-choose the best filter for your snaps, Estação de São Bento is Insta-perfect at all times.
Did I miss one of your favorite things to do in Porto? Let me know in the comments!