Porto is a historical, colourful city which boasts of the finest traditional architecture, extraordinary cultural attractions and a bustling nightlife. In short, there are tons of sights in Porto and one day in Porto isn’t nearly enough!
Let’s say your travel plans include a trip through Portugal and you want to invest at least 2 days each for every spot; here are my suggestions on how you can make the most out of your 2 day Porto itinerary without feeling rushed and missing out on all the best sights.
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This article contains a DIY tour for sightseeing in Porto. If you want to have a convenient alternative to constant walking as well as a river cruise and hop on hop off buses included, reserve the perks here and get access to a port cellar thrown on top of it.
Day 1 in Porto
Start your day early and make every hour count. Why not get a local pastry or pastel de natal as a breakfast treat? Not all cafes are open at this time but Confeitaria Cristal is and offers quite the range of Portuguese delicacies.
In case you really are an early riser or are all about that sunrise glow, stand on the other side of the bride Ponte Luís (on Google, it’s marked as “Teleférico de Gaia”) to see the orange orbit rise above the stacked houses by the riverfront.
But no matter the time, a quiet stroll along the riverfront around Cais de Riberia and surrounding streets below the bridge is always worth it. The earlier, the fewer people!
Next, walk up to the city, maybe even past the historic city wall Muralha Fernandina. Include the entrance hall of the train station São Bento Station as well because of its vibrant tile décor.
Then, visit the famous Igreja de Santo Ildefonso (Church of Saint Ildefonso). It opens at 9am (except on Mondays, when it’s 3pm) and is located at the southern tip of the Bolhão neighbourhood.
Beautifully engineered and endowed with more than 10,000 tiles, this church is a must sight to see in Porto and also one of the city’s oldest buildings.
The neighbourhood of Bolhão is picturesque in itself, so explore the area after your church visit. Its northern side is situated atop a hill, so it pretty much overlooks the city particularly the Rua da Alegria and offers stunning panoramic views.
How to get around Porto? No need to gather your small change, get a public transport ticket for Porto in advance and enjoy unlimited rides for the amount of days of your choosing. (You will have to walk up and down a lot anyway. Save your poor feet and get it in advance here.)
For the easiest way to discover the city, go on a guided tour. There are free walking tours starting from the centre to give you a brief overview. A tip is expected at the end and totally warranted. I enjoyed the tour.
This way, you can let the locals take over and show you what makes Porto so unique, from its vibrant culture down to the magnificent attractions of Porto. Tired of walking? Hop on the elegant tourist train and a river cruise to travel Porto in comfort.
The train leaves every half hour, the boat cruise lasts 1 hour and two port wine tastings are included. Get your ticket here.
Of course, it’s entirely possible to book a guided tour (which is great if you’re in a group). This way, you have your very own personal guide, can ask as many questions as you want and walk at your own pace. Request a guide here.
Do not bypass a good lunch when you map out your Porto itinerary for 2 days. You’ll want to try the local food!
Indulge in a scrumptious meal over at Casa Guedes, located only a few minutes away from Igreja de Santo Ildefonso.
Truly, Portugal is home to the best sandwiches in the world. One you ought to try out is the restaurant’s famed sandes de pernil, a type of roasted pork sandwich made succulent, tasty and a bit spicy by way of the restaurant’s specific slow-roasting method and a secret Brazilian ingredient.
You can also have it with the melty and ultra-satisfying queijo serra de estrela, which is a creamy cheese made from sheep’s milk.
Head off to the Torre dos Clérigos which is a part of the Clerigos Church (Igreja dos Clérigos). It’s a rather steep climb up the 240 steps of the Baroque tower but all that effort pays well; you’ll be blessed with amazing views of Porto’s stunning cityscape.
Remember that you have to buy a ticket in order to get admission to the tower.
Fun fact: In 1917, a father-son acrobat duo managed to climb the outside of the tower while the crowds watched below! That’s an impressive (and scary) feat.
Just a five minute walk away, try and spot the smallest house in Porto. It sits snug between the two Carmo and Carmelitas Churches and is easily overlooked.
After your visit, spend some time post-lunch relaxing at the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique, a verdant park square surrounded by captivating structures like the Mercado Ferreira Borges market.
Don’t forget to explore a World Heritage site: the Praça da Ribeira (Ribeira Square). Here you’ll find restaurants offering local Portuguese cuisine, small, intimate bars, multicoloured 18th century-style townhouses and another city landmark, the Palácio da Bolsa.
The neoclassical Stock Exchange Palace isn’t just a stunner from outside but from within as well. Go on a guided tour to see it. Take a closer look at the shiny Golden Room, which is covered in actual gold leaf, and the Moorish style Arab Room.
Entrance is 8 EUR and the building closes at 6:30pm from April to October and 5:30pm from November to March.
Don’t forget to get your camera ready for epic sunsets from the Bridge and nearby viewing points.
Should you want to try a different kind of tour, why not do a sunset segway tour in Porto? Segways are really fun (and you don’t need to walk) and sunset is the best time to see Porto.
When walking, it would be impossible to get a lot of good photos in the golden light fast enough, so a segway is a great idea. Reserve your spot here.
Alternatively, cap off your first day in the city by taking the number 1 tram from the centre of Porto till the end of the destination. The Foz do Douro Beach is just a mere walk away. It’s one of the best beaches in Porto for sunbathing, swimming and viewing the sunset.
You can choose to stay in Ribeira and behold the nightlife and clubs in Porto by getting into Porto’s Hard Club. It closes at midnight. Also, the restaurants around the riverside really come to life during evening.
Need a place to stay? I’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best hotels in Porto for solo travellers with various budgets.
DAY 2 in Porto
Begin your second day with a trip to the Igreja do São Francisco, a church that’s known for its magnificent gold-plated interiors.
Entry is priced at €6 and allows you to explore the church, its museums and catacombs. Photography inside the church isn’t allowed, though.
If you’ve booked your train/bus and river cruise deal (such as this one), now is a great time to include the 50-minute Douro riverboat cruise into your itinerary for Porto. Wrap a headscarf to tame your locks (and add some Grace Kelly glam) and sit back to marvel at riverside attractions in Porto.
You’ll pass by six of the city’s stunning bridges including the Ponte Luiz 1. The trip starts at 10 AM and ends at 6:30 PM with 30-minute departures in-between. Last minute tickets can be had just right by the Igreja do São Francisco.
European cathedrals are often luxurious, gilded affairs. That’s why these structures bring in plenty of tourists the world over.
The Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral) in particular has exquisite stained-glass windows, tasteful interiors and a wonderful hilltop location which provides exciting views of the city. The cathedral usually closes from 12 PM to 2 PM and admission costs €3.
For more Porto sightseeing, walk to the Ponte Luiz 1, which is close to the cathedral. The bridge provides excellent views of the cityscape too and steers you to the Vila Nova de Gaia riverfront.
If you’re not too keen on walking, you can opt for the Teleferico de Gaia, which is a cable car service.
Vila Nova de Gaia is the riverfront home of Porto’s finest wines and a host of lush gardens and restaurants. It’s also home to the Estaleiro do Rabelo, which serves as the shipyards of Barcos Rabelos boats.
Complete your Portuguese cuisine tour with a filling francesinhas lunch at Perto do Cais or go veg/seafood at the Bacalhoeiro.
Should you be reaaaaally serious about trying wine, reserve your second day in Porto fully for a wine valley tour and cruise around Porto. You get to stop by two wine producers to sample red, white, rosé and port wines. Snatch your spot here.
Say your goodbyes to Porto by relaxing at the city’s best sunset spot, near the Serra do Pilar. Choose the terrace area for illuminated views of Porto’s cityscape.
If you made it here the day before, head over to the vertical garden landscape of Jardim do Roseiral along the old city wall. Just know that as the night progresses the “Garden of Feelings” turns into a local love nest.
What to Pack for Porto
Of topmost priority should be travel insurance. Never leave your country without it. Stuff can go wrong and you might get in accidents. I’ve travelled so much and there’s always something that makes me happy I am insured.
Because it covers longer travels and includes lots of activities, many travel bloggers like myself take out WorldNomads insurance. It includes baggage as well. See rates and details here.
As I’ve already mentioned, a headscarf is a classic and timeless accessory that really comes in handy in Porto. It gets windy.
So at least bring a hairband or be prepared to have long hair fly in your face. (If you wear short hair, you’re fine, of course.)
If you want to use credit cards, know that many restaurants and stores in the touristy areas do accept them. For visits to outside areas, it’s best to carry cash. Also, make sure that your credit card comes with a chip and pin.
What would your top 1 must see in Porto be for your trip? Leave a comment below.