Porto, Portugal is the second largest city in Portugal located along the scenic Douro River. Porto is known for its charming narrow cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses, shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s also known for its production of port wine in the nearby Douro River Valley. There are so many things to do in Porto. From a hopping food scene, to different walking tours, to baking classes, you will have plenty of potential things to do in Porto. We recommend spending 3+ days here depending on how much exploring you want to do. Here is our guide on things to do in Porto, Portugal.
We took this trip when our daughter was 18 months old. For more information on traveling and exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.
FYI This post is written based on a trip taken mid-February. The high was in the mid 60s (Fahrenheit).
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Top Things to do in Porto: Free Walking Tour of Porto
Looking to get a lay of the land in Porto? Then, do this Best of Porto Free Walking Tour when you first arrive! We are so glad we took this tour just after arriving as it helped give us a great overview of the city and orient us for the rest of our stay. We covered a lot of ground on this tour, seeing most of the highlights of the city, and got to see some hidden gems along the way too.
Our guide, Luis, was fantastic. He’s a great story teller about the history, culture and architecture of Porto. He gave us many local tips and insights on the tour too. Further, at the end of the tour, he gave us a list of restaurant and activity recommendations that were very helpful. Most of the restaurants we loved in Porto were on this list. We cannot recommend this tour enough, and it is a must do while in Porto!
Top Things to do in Porto: Walk across the bridge from Porto to Gaia over the Douro River
Gaia is the hub of the port wine industry located not far from Porto just across the Douro River. This walk across the bridge will take you less than 10 minutes (if you are staying close to the city center) and you’ll be glad you took the walk to venture across the river. Gaia is less busy than Porto yet from here you can get the best views of the very picturesque Porto (see picture above). Also, you can try port wine from several port wine cellars and get some amazing seafood or Portuguese food here for a better price than in Porto.
To get to Gaia by foot, you have two options. You can walk over the upper bridge (which also has a metro train track) or cross on the lower pedestrian only bridge. The upper bridge has stunning views looking back on Porto, but it is a climb to get to it. The lower bridge has less stunning views during the walk but once you cross the lower bridge the waterfront views of Porto from Gaia are equally stunning. We reached Gaia both ways at different times and would recommend doing the same. We crossed the upper bridge on our free walking tour and came back the next evening to walk the pedestrian lower bridge to visit the Mercado Beira-Rio Market in the heart of Gaia (see below for more on this market in Gaia).
Top Things to do in Porto: Harry Potter Walking Tour
Did you know J.K Rowling lived in Porto while writing the early Harry Potter books? And that her time here greatly inspired the entire Harry Potter series? This Harry Potter Tour is great for anyone who loves Harry Potter, especially those who want to learn more about how the Harry Potter series was essentially conceptualized in Porto and how much the city’s architecture and culture played into inspiring many aspects of the series.
On this tour, your guide will show you all the ins/outs of how Porto inspired the Harry Potter series. Our guide, Vini, on this tour was wonderful. He was so personable and really catered the experience to us, including our 18 month old daughter. Vini is a Harry Potter series expert and so knowledgeable about all things inspired by Porto in the Harry Potter series. He also showed us sides of the city we had not seen on our other walking tour which gave us an even better grasp of the city as whole. Additionally, at the end of our tour, he gave us a list of restaurant, dessert and activity recommendations in Porto. We found our favorite gelato spot through his recommendation and if you have read more of our guides, you know we are suckers for a great dessert find!
Further, we took this tour on Valentine’s day and as part of the Valentines special, we created Amortentias (love potions) for each other with simple yet intentionally chosen ingredients we brought with us. It was a very sweet, fun and different way to celebrate Valentine’s day.
Top Things to do in Porto: Walk the Charming Streets & Take in the Art
Simply take some time to get lost walking around the charming cobblestone streets lined with pretty shops, cafes/restaurants and residences. We loved the just looking around at the pretty architecture everywhere. Be sure to stop at São Bento Train Station at some point during your visit (will see on free walking tour recommended above) to see some pretty azulejo tiles inside.
Things to do in Porto: Eat at some of the many Delicious Restaurants and Cafes
Eat Dinner at Torreao
Seriously though, dine at Torreao. This was the most delicious food we ate while in Porto and our mouths water just thinking of our meals weeks later. We tried the stuffed dory fish and the puff pastry salmon. Both were out of this world! We also ordered a vegetarian curry to split with our daughter (cost the same as a kids menu item) and that was very tasty as well. Torreao has a rooftop patio that overlooks the city and Douro river with some amazing views. The night we ate here it was a bit chilly and the patio was not open but the wait staff took us up there to see the views from the patio after our meal and we were wowed.
As an added bonus, Torreao is part of a social economy project that aims to dignify and socially reintegrate people who are homeless or at serious risk of social exclusion. Through helping these individuals obtain higher levels of academic qualification (all are enrolled in a rigorous training program in hospitality/catering), they empower these individuals with increased personal, social and professional skills that are indispensable for sustained professional reintegration.
Dine at Casa Virtude
Casa Virtude serves delicious Portuguese food and has a pretty interior as well as a kind waitstaff. We ate some delicious seafood here (had octopus and seafood risotto), and it was all very good.
Eat dinner at Mercado Beira-Rio in Gaia
Located in the heart of the historical center of Vila Nova de Gaia, the Mercado Beira-Rio is a great place for locals and tourists alike to get a great meal from 10+ different restaurant stands within the market. We love markets like this because everyone can get what they want and you can try a little something from several stands in the market. We had some really good freshly cooked shrimp here, tried Francesinha (cheese/sauce covered meat sandwich served with fries to dip in the cheese/sauce) here and got several delicious tapas as well.
This spot reminded us of the Time’s Out Market we loved in Lisbon. See our Visiting Lisbon, Portugal on a Budget guide for all the details on visiting this spot and exploring Portugal’s largest city of Lisbon.
Another bonus, this market is also open during ‘off’ hours so we were able to eat here around 6pm for dinner whereas most restaurants do not reopen (after closing after lunchtime) until 7pm. Our daughter tended to want to eat before the local time of 7pm so this was a great option for us with her. Let’s be honest, we wanted to eat dinner before 7pm too.
Eat Gelato at Gelateria Sincelo
We love gelato and this was the best we found in Porto (thanks to our tour guide Vini for recommending we go here). Their homemade gelato is delicious and the funky dining areas inside add to the experience.
Eat Gelato and Pastries at Cremosi
Located in the heart of the city center, Cremosi serves tasty gelato and a wide variety of homemade Portuguese pastries. Natalie loved the gelato here so much we came back twice. Sam tried several different cheesecakes and unsurprisingly, he was not disappointed with any of his choices. Baby G approved of all dessert choices we made here too.
Top Things to do in Porto: Pastel De Nata Baking Class
Pastel de Nata is a traditional Portuguese puff pastry filled with custard. You can find these pastries being sold in nearly every cafe and bakery in Porto, many spots only selling and specializing in this pastry. We fell in love with these delicious pastries in Lisbon, Portugal in 2019. When we found out we could take a Pastel de Nata Class on how to make them in Porto, we were so excited.
During this class, you will learn how to make traditional Portuguese Pastel de Nata from scratch. Then, the best part, you get to taste the Pastel de Nata you made. We have eaten a lot of Pastel de Nata during our numerous trips to Portugal and this Pastel de Nata we made was truly the best Pastel de Nata we have ever tasted. You really cannot beat the taste of fresh out of the oven Pastel de Nata. After learning how to make Pastel de Nata (more complex to make than we imagined), we are so excited to try to make Pastel de Nata for our family and friends at home now.
The host of this class, Joana, has lived in the Porto area her whole life and is a real expert on the culture, especially when it comes to cooking. She learned to bake Pastel de Nata from her grandmothers and you learn her grandmother’s traditional recipe during this class. Trust us, take this class (or one if her other cooking classes) while in Porto and you will not be disappointed.
Note that you cannot walk to these classes as Joana now lives outside the city and hosts classes there. However, it is only a short 15 minute 10 Euro Uber ride to her place.
Things to do in Porto: Explore Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is a very cool garden and park overlooking the Douro river and city. We visited here near sunset time and saw some really pretty views overlooking the river/city. There is a fun children’s playground (slide, swingset, teeter totter, playset, etc) that our daughter really enjoyed too. There are chickens, ducks and peacocks roaming the grounds adding to the nature ambience. Our daughter loved identifying and chasing all these birds! This park would be a great place to take a morning run or do a HITT workout as there are many paths and even some workout equipment located in the gardens.
Things to do Porto: Eat Pastel de Nata at Every Opportunity
As mentioned above, this classic Portuguese pastry is sold nearly everywhere in Porto (and across Portugal for that matter). Be sure to try as many as you can/want. For the best ones, we’d recommend buying them at shops that specialize in them and only sell Pastel de Nata as they have likely perfected their recipe. You won’t see these sold so readily anywhere else in the world so take advantage.
Things to do in Porto: Other Ideas
Some other thing we did not do while in Porto but did research doing and you may want to consider include:
Things to do in Porto: Stay near the Douro River
We stayed in this Airbnb right off the Douro River in a slightly more residential area of Porto but less than a 10 minute walk from the hub of the city center. Porto has many steep inclines as you walk from the river into the city and many winding streets as well. Staying along the river made it very easy for us to navigate the city and orient ourselves at all times. When in doubt, we would just walk back down to the Douro river (located at the bottom of all the hills) and be able to get back to our place easily. Also, we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to explore in Porto very reasonably and were not far from a local market where we got groceries for our stay. Our host was super nice and accommodating too.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip and things to do in Porto, Portugal. Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment! Did you find this post helpful? If so, please share it with a friend, like our Always Have a Trip Planned Facebook Page, follow our Always Have A Trip Planned Instagram and subscribe to our emails below.