I spent an amazing (though fast) seven days in Portugal and quickly fell in love. The beautiful cities, affordable prices, and friendly locals made it a fast favourite. Not to mention I felt completely welcome and safe travelling solo in Portugal. However, while I enjoyed the whole trip it was Porto that I liked the most. Something about the small town on the river with colourful buildings and, of course, the delicious port wine. Even though I only had two days in Porto it quickly stole my heart, and I’m sure it will do the same for you. Here’s a guide to Porto and my best tips for how to get the most of two days in Porto.
How to get to Porto
Getting into Porto is easy. If you are flying, you can fly directly into Porto’s airport and from there take the metro into the city centre.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Portugal, such as Lisbon, you can take the train which also will take you directly into the heart of the city. It is also further connected with the metro.
Renting a car is also a popular method of transportation in Portugal and, of course, you can drive right through the city as well.
Getting Around Porto
The best way to get around Porto is by foot, which I love because I think walking is always the best way to experience a city. Porto is small enough that you can easily walk around between the sites and attractions, though there is a public transportation city if required.
Where to Stay for 2 Days in Porto
Again, Porto isn’t very big so as long as you are actually in Porto it’s pretty easy to get around. I stayed right in the heart of the city, by Sao Bento Train Station and the Clergios Church, and it wasn’t too loud at night which was an unexpected bonus. Here are some of my recommendations for where to stay in Porto.
*Note: Sometimes I like to also advertise Airbnb options in my travel guides however, I am not going to do this for Portugal. The reason being that Portugal is one of the countries where the locals are being severely negatively impacted by Airbnb programs. Residents are losing their homes thanks to the drive in rental prices so please keep this in mind and support local hotels and accommodation options rather than choosing an Airbnb.
How to Spend 2 Days in Porto
Day 1: Explore the City Centre
Morning: Get a Feel for Porto with a Walking Tour
I love walking tours. I love free walking tours even more. It’s an easy way to get a feel for the city, get some great stories, and figure out what exactly the ‘must-sees’ are from a local expert. Most free walking tours last about three hours which may seem long, but it goes by really quickly. Especially if you have a great guide. I went with Porto Walkers and it was one of the best free walking tours I’ve taken to date. After your tour, stop somewhere for lunch.
Afternoon: Architecture and Attractions
After the walking tour, you’ve probably seen or heard of a few places that you’d like to see more of or visit. Tastes differ (for example, I’m not a museums fan), so I’m not going to tell you what you must do, but I am going to share my favourites which include:
- São Bento Train Station: You may have arrived here but it’s worth going back for another look. The azulejos (blue tiles) are stunning and showcase important historical events in Portugal.
- Clérgios Tower: The highest point in old town. There are 250 steps to climb but the reward is a stunning panoramic view over the city.
- Livraria Lello: The famous ‘Harry Potter’ bookshop. It’s a popular spot so you may have to wait in line but evenings tend to be quieter than mornings.
- Majestic Café: This stunning café was ranked as one of the top 10 most beautiful cafes in the world. But it’s pretty pricey, so rather than having a meal in stop in for a coffee to rest your feet and enjoy the interior.
Evening: Catch the Sunset
There are a few sunset spots in Porto but for your first night, I would recommend heading to the Crystal Palace Gardens. There are beautiful grounds and you can grab a seat on a bench or a perch on the stone wall and watch the magic. Now, the actual sunset is behind you, so you won’t actually see it. But, you are facing the city and the river, so what you will see is the sky change into pinky oranges then purply-blues which is total magic when all the lights start to twinkle on. Since this isn’t an official ‘sunset’ spot, you won’t get the crowds either. After the sun sets, grab a late dinner.
Day 2: Ribiera and Vila Nova de Gaia
Porto’s Ribiera is the historic riverfront area. The colourful buildings are home to shops, cafes, restaurants, and more. Wander through the streets then spend some time on the waterfront by taking a Douro River cruise. The cruise will take you up and down the waterfront allowing picture-perfect views of the city and its impressive bridges. Keep an eye out for local kids jumping off of the bridges (often for money)
Afternoon: Vila Nova de Gaia
If you didn’t already know, Vila Nova de Gaia is actually the name of the area on the other side of the river. The city of Porto is only one part of the river. However, you can easily walk back and forth across the bridge and see both. Gaia is where you will find the famous port cellars. Take a tour, go for tastings, or just sit and relax on one of the patios and enjoy your afternoon.
Evening: Enjoy a Night out in Porto
If you are looking to party, Porto will keep you going all night long and well into the morning. If you are looking to dance and party, then head to Plano B which hosts both concerts and live DJs. For something a bit classier, grab a cocktail at Flow- a modern and spacious restaurant and bar. If you are visiting during the summer months, then try Base; an open-air bar with funky music and laid back vibes.
Have More Time? Consider Some Day Trips from Porto
Porto is a great city in its own right, but it also makes an ideal base for exploring the northern part of Portugal. These are some of the best day trips from Porto.
Douro Valley: My visit to the Douro Valley was probably my favourite day of my week in Portugal. The scenery is stunning, the port and wine was delicious, and the boat ride was relaxing. You can read more about my day trip to Douro Valley from Porto here.
Guimarães and Braga: If you love medieval cities, then this is the day trip for you. Beautiful architecture and historic buildings are the main draws here. Must-sees include the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and the Bom Jesus Sanctuary.
Peneda-Gerês National Park: If you are interested in escaping the city for a day and seeing some of the area’s natural beauty then head to Peneda-Gerês National Park. You can hike and even swim here in the many pools, lagoons, and even by the beautiful Tahiti waterfalls.
Santiago de Compostela: Cross the border into Spain for a day and visit one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of Europe: Santiago de Compostela. The Cathedral here is absolutely stunning and the winding medieval streets of this UNESCO city are fun to explore as well.
Food and Drink in Porto
Porto, like the rest of Portugal, has a diet that is heavy on the seafood and (in my experience) light on the vegetables. That being said, the food is pretty good and it’s easy to find cheap and affordable meals.
There are a number of different Portuguese dishes worth trying. Bacalhau or codfish, are one of the most common items on the menu. The Portuguese prepare it in a number of different ways so definitely try a couple of different dishes. Sardines are also commonly associated with Portugal, however, visitors should note that sardines are a very seasonal food and if you see them on a menu outside of that specific season (July and August) they are likely canned or farmed illegally. And, of course, no visit to Portugal is complete without trying the pasteis de nata, or egg tarts. However, while all of these dishes can be found across the country, there are a couple of things that are special to Porto.
The best-known dish in Porto is the francesinha. A francesinha is a massive sandwich filled with five different meats and topped in a beer-based sauce. It’s big, messy, and delicious and you will probably want to share unless you are planning on a huge nap after.
Porto is also where Port wine comes from, so drinking port is an absolute must when in the city. I shared some of the best port cellars above but be sure to have a glass after your meal in restaurants as well.
Must-Pack Items for Porto
Porto gets a mix of weather throughout the year. Summer is hot and humid while winters can be cool and rainy. Make sure to check ahead of time and plan appropriately. That being said, these are a few must-haves.
- Sneakers/running shoes/casual shoes… anything other than flipflops. All of Portugal is very hilly and the streets can be super slippery.
- A waterproof coat- especially outside of summer. Make sure to get waterproof not water resistant. I love Columbia products for this; both for men and women.
- Reusable water bottle– tap water is safe to drink so save your money and take advantage.
- Adaptor– so you can charge your electronics safely
- Sunscreen– that sun is strong! So protect your skin. I like to recommend reef-safe sunscreens in case you do go to the beach or the ocean during your trip.
- Lockable day bag: pickpockets are common throughout Portugal so a little extra security never hurts!
Fun Facts About Porto
Did you know that…
- Portugal is actually named after Porto.
- Gustave Eiffel (aka the same man who built the Eiffel Tower) designed one of Porto’s bridges
- Porto is home to one of the biggest street festivals in Europe: St. John’s Festival which takes place between June 23 and June 24theach year.
Porto is an amazing city and an absolute must when visiting Portugal. While you could stay longer, 2 days in Porto is a great amount of time to discover this beautiful city and I hope that, with the help of this Porto guide, you will love it as much as I did.