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The Ideal Three-Day Porto Itinerary

More than ever, tourism in Portugal is on the rise and understandably so. The country has an incredibly rich history and culture, quaint old cities and don’t get me started about the glorious seafood and Port wine!  

With two major, and rival, cities to fly into , Lisbon and Porto, travellers can pick from many activities to do in Portugal. While Porto is often overlooked for the more popular Lisbon, I urge you to go visit Porto

 I visited Porto while on my first solo trip (anchor) and I admit to having fallen for this city, it stole my heart in many ways. Initially, the capital of Northern Portugal might come across as a little rough around the edges with a more authentic vibe, which could be from being one of the oldest European urban areas. In fact, its raw beauty is what makes it so appealing. Porto is genuine, welcoming and gregarious, get to know her better and you’ll want to become best friends.

 Meandering through the old town small lanes, attempting to see its many azulejos, exploring its many historical buildings, roaming the Ribeira District along the Douro River or feasting on succulent Portuguese local cuisine and port wine, there are many excellent things to do in Porto.

That said if you’re planning to visit Porto Portugal, allocating three days is recommended in order to get the most out of this city, especially if you wish to visit the magnificent Douro Valley. 

In this 3-day Porto agenda, you will get a day-by-day list of activities and things to do in Porto to ensure you have the most fantastic stay. Bring good walking shoes, sunscreen and get ready to have a fabulous time. You’ll get to discover splendid historical buildings dating back to the Roman era, stroll along the Douro River, eat local delicacies and visit Port wine cellars.

Take into consideration that Porto is somewhat hilly – while not as much as Lisbon – however, the city center is fairly compact making exploring by foot relatively easy. An option would be to purchase a hop-on-hop-off bus pass or use an Uber service which is available in the city.

 

Here’s what you will get from this post

Table of contents

Insider tip: Plan between 10 to 15 minutes of walking between points of interests.

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What To Do in Porto: Day 1 Explore Porto’s Highlights
Walking Tour/ Sao Bento Train Station / Churches / Don Luis Bridge / Ribeira Promenade

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AM

10h00 Walking Tour / 3 hours

Start your exploration of Porto by booking a walking tour, it’s a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the city while meeting fellow travellers – a bonus if you’re a solo traveller. The one I did covered the following highlights, a list that can nonetheless be tackled on your own. 

Avenida dos Aliados / visit time 15 minutes

This central avenue is the ideal location to debut your visit of Porto. Designed to replicate the Parisian Champs Elysées, the shaded tree-lined Avenida holds many boutiques and cafés in addition to a pretty square where you can sit and enjoy the beautiful architecture and buildings. At its end is the Town Hall with a church built right behind it. The story goes that with the intent to emulate the famous Parisian Avenue, the mayor at the time requested that all buildings would be removed from the street, including the church at the end of it, but the parish wouldn’t comply. So the mayor got the town hall built in front of it in spite! 

São Bento Train Station / visit time 30 minutes

Probably one of the most emblematic products of Portugal is its Azulejos, the white and blue glazed tiles. While many churches in the city are adorned with them, the São Bento station has over 20,000 of them lining its interior walls. A short walk from the Avenida will get you to this iconic Porto sights. Within the central hall, you can view different historical scenes portrayed on its 4 walls. A stunning feast to take in.

Santa Clara Church/visit time 30 min 

Make your way to this modest church and be ready to be dazzled by its intricate gilded woodwork. The Santa Clara church detailed gilding interiors are a true statement of the immense wealth the Portuguese once held. 

The Sé de Porto Cathedral/visit time 10 min 

While climbing upwards to the Cathedral you’ll be granted with pretty views of the city below. Considering it took 500 years to complete, it’s not surprising that its exterior is composed of many architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque.  Near the cathedral, you can also view the Pelourinho Tower and the statue of Vímara Peres, Portugal first ruler plus the archaeological museum.

Cross the Dom Luis Bridge / visit time 1 hour

Heading down towards the river, you’ll soon arrive at the impressive Dom Luis Bridge. With separate level accessible to cross over the river, start by crossing on the top level to Vila Nova de Gaia and take in the breathtaking views below – do also watch out for the metro train that runs through the bridge on that level with little warning. Cross back over to Porto on the lower level which is accessible to cars and pedestrians.

Ribeira Promenade / visit 1 – 1h30 with lunch

Now that you’ve made your way back to the Porto side, simply head over the riverfront and stroll on the Ribeira promenade. A preferred area for locals and tourists alike, the waterfront area has many restaurants terraces making it a perfect spot to stop for lunch. No need to tell you that this section of town is certainly not the most affordable place to grab a meal but the ambiance of street entertainment with the views of the Douro make it all worth it.

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Savour a wonderful  long lunch by the waterfront

PM

The Clérigos Church and Clerigos Tower / 1h-1h30

An epic thing to do in Porto is without a doubt to climb the 76 metres high Clerigos Tower. Once the tallest structure in Portugal, the church tower, that used to serve as a beacon to ships still guides visitors of the city as a point of reference. Overtaking the 240 steps to the top will reward you with outstanding 360-degree views of the city and the Douro. For optimal enjoyment try to plan your visit to catch the sunset.

Enjoy a Few at the Many Bars

Porto has its fair share of bars and restaurants to enjoy a few drinks. With neighbourhoods like the Ribeira quarter and the university district, one can be lost for choice when picking up a place to partake in a few cocktails. To get the night started you can head back to the Ribeira charming district and make your way up some of the lively streets. You’re sure to find a place that suits you within this area otherwise here is a list of the best bars in Porto, for your convenience.

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What To Do in Porto: Day 2  Eat, Shop and Porto Tasting
Livraria Lello / Eat a Francesinha  / Shopping / Porto Tasting Tour

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AM

The Livraria Lello / visit time 1h-1h30

If you want to get in this magnificent library, you’ll need to head there early, preferably at 9h30, its opening time. Made famous by J.K Rowling, Harry Potter’s author, who was a frequent visitor of the place while she lived in Porto in the 1990s, the HP fans now flock to the venue, making long queues the norm. When you see the rich wood-clad interiors, it becomes evident that the author got inspired for Hogwarts setting here. The admission fee is 5E which you can purchase at the adjacent store.

Shopping on Santa Caterina  / visit time 2h

Head over to Santa Catarina, the shopping hub of Porto. Located in the high part of the city, the street starts at Batalha square all the way to Praça Marquês de Pombal. The street isn’t solely about tourists shops, here you’ll find a wide array of boutiques offering a variety of products from fashion to souvenirs. Walk up and shop ‘til you drop but make sure to stop by the Café Majestic- if not for a coffee at least to take a pic. This belle époque elegant cafe was made popular by being a meeting point for Porto’s distinguished citizens and writers, such as JK Rowling.

Indulge in a Francesinha Sandwich / 1h 

After all that shopping, you’ll be just about ready to gorge on a Francesinha Sandwich, a local delicacy. Trust me, you’ll need to have a good appetite to tackle one of these or at least consider sharing it. The famous sandwich is composed of multiple layers of meats, framed by thick sliced bread which is wrapped in cheese.

A favoured option is to have an over easy egg atop this ordeal then covered it with a beer tomato sauce and a side of fries…yikes is right! This heart attack waiting to happen sandwich ain’t for the light eater. While walking on Santa Caterina, turn on R. de Passos Manuel and head over Café Santiago, a popular venue to try this dish.

PM

Porto Tasting Tour/ visit time 3h

Well, a trip to Porto wouldn’t be complete without tasting its most famous export product, Port wine. You have many options to discover and try this delectable nectar. One is to partake in a tour such as the one I did and let yourself be guided through or simply cross over to Vila Nova Gaia and visit a few cellar doors on your own. 
 
The tour I joined included 3 port cellars and the ultimate finale was taking in the views from a rooftop bar with spectacular views of Porto and the Douro, in retrospect the value was phenomenal. You’ll learn all about the production and the different types of Port. Enjoyable and an experience not to be missed in Porto.
 
Major Port producers open their doors to the public, you can choose from a vast selection such as Taylor’s, Sandeman, Churchill, Grahams, Espaço Porto Cruz, Offley and Ramos Pinto, just to name a few.

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Insider Tip: Portugal is a fabulous place to purchase quality leather shoes at very reasonable rates.

What To Do in Porto: Day 3  Explore the Douro Valley
Option / Hit The Beaches

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Douro Valley/visit time 8-10 hours

If you want to get in this magnificent library, you’ll need to head there early, preferably at 9h30, its opening time. Made famous by J.K Rowling, Harry Potter’s author, who was a frequent visitor of the place while she lived in Porto in the 1990s, the HP fans now flock to the venue, making long queues the norm. When you see the rich wood-clad interiors, it becomes evident that the author got inspired for Hogwarts setting here. The admission fee is 5E which you can purchase at the adjacent store.

Hit The Beach/visit time 8-10 hours

Alternatively, if your heart isn’t called by the spectacular valley then try to visit one of Portugal beaches with a few available from within Porto’s region.  
 
Foz do Douro:  Take the 30-minute bus #1, outside the Sa Bento train station to get to the upscale area of Fox de Douro. There’s a lovely promenade called Praia dos Ingleses and you can stroll the beachfront to enjoy its many cafés, restaurants and bars.

Miramar and its chapel: From Campana train station, head south on a half hour train ride to the village of Miramar. The long sandy beach is superb and you can see the tiny Capela do Senhor da Pedra (“Chapel of the Lord of the Stone”), dating back from 1686, sitting atop a rock formation. The rock itself is said to have been a place of worship for over two millennia making the site clearly unique.

Get more beach recommendations here from the Tourism Bureau.

 

Conclusion


With the help of this 3-day itinerary, I hope that you had a glimpse of all that there is to see and do and that this guide helps you make the best of your time in the city. Staying a few extra days would be the ultimate scenario while 72 hours will allow you perfect time the see and do the best the city has to offer.

Have you been to Porto for 3 days?
Please share your experiences, comments or questions below…

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