A Weekend in Porto: The Ultimate Guide for First-Timers

Known for its world-famous Port Wine production, rich history, and beautiful architecture, Porto offers a unique experience for a perfect European city trip! Or for some the starting point of their Portugal roadtrip. Either way, a weekend in Porto is the best amount of time to explore all the best that this city has to offer.

Packed with all the essential tips, this city guide for a few epic days in Porto is a must have for first timers. It covers all the best activities in and around the city, best places to eat and most beautiful sunset spot and more!

weekend in porto portugal
porto house

About Porto

The city Porto is Portugal’s second biggest city, and is nestled on the banks of the Douro River in northern Portugal. With one of Europe’s oldest centers, its core was claimed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1996.

Portugal’s biggest exports is named after Porto, and that is Port Wine (pretty obvious I guess 😉 ). This was because the area was responsible for the packaging and transporting of the fortified wine.

Best Things to do during a weekend in Porto

Before I visited Porto, people would often tell me how lively and beautiful this city is, but not a lot of people talked about certain ‘sights’ you have to see unlike in many other big cities in Europe.

And to me, that’s actually quite nice and refreshing. Most of your time in Porto, you can simply stroll through the city, enjoy some of the activities and try out some port in many of the wine bars. Of course there are still some highlights here that are worthwhile seeing and I will list them all below!

1. The Luís I Bridge

The Luís I bridge is Porto’s most iconic sight overlooking the Douro River and connects the city with Vila Nova de Gaia, which is on the other side of the river. The bridge has 2 levels and both offer great views of both areas.

Both decks are accessible from different parts of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, but I recommend taking the top deck especially during sunset!

porto dom luis ll bridge

2. Free Walking Tour

Joining one of the free walking tours in the city is the best way to learn about the rich history of Porto. Sandemans New Europe Tours offers different tours in both Porto and other cities in Europe. Walking tours like this, take you through the highlights of the city, including the oldest neighborhood of Sé.

Personally, I always opt for some kind of walking tour whenever I arrive in a new city. They give you a good insight into how the city is divided and if you’re lucky your guide gives you their favorite spots and recommendations!

Big thanks to Diana for being one of the most fun & energetic guides I’ve come across during walking tours. The way she shared her knowledge of Porto was so interesting and unique!

Note: The walking tours are free to join, however it’s highly appreciated to give them a tip to make sure they can keep doing what they’re doing!

sandeman free walking tour
porto view

3. Explore Ribeira and Sé/Baixa districts

Ribeira’s colorful and historical area is located on the riverside, and probably the one you’ve already seen pictures from. It’s by far one of the most lively and popular areas of the city with Praça da Ribeira in the middle.

Take a morning to stroll around the neighborhoods, filled with beautiful cobblestoned streets and colorful houses. As Ribeira is located on the riverside, you can find lots of restaurants and bars along the Douro River. There’s always something to do here and street artists fill the afternoon with music and art.

Above the Ribeira district, you find Baixa district, where you can find most historical sights like the São Bento Train Station and the Sé Cathedral.

ribeira district

4. Port Tasting

Let’s talk port. For a lot of people, one of the first things that pop into their minds when hearing Porto. Porto is known for is being the home base of Port Wine, hence the name. Because of that, a port tasting can’t be missed on your itinerary during your weekend trip in Porto. It’s best to do so in Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the wineries are located.

port tasting porto cruz
port wine cellar

You can opt for an organized port tasting like this one, or you can just go to one of the wineries and choose your preferred port wines, some already starting from €3.

For example, Porto Cruz offers a huge list of wines and port wines where you can choose as many as you like and they provide you with some background of the port when serving. Besides that, they also have a fixed menu with cheeses or chocolate.

6. Port Wine Cellar Tour

Still want to learn more about Port Wine? Book a tour through one of the port wine cellars and learn all about how the port is produced and stored. I booked a wine cellar tour with the Sandeman hostel which is located on top of the cellars. Most tours end with another tasting, focused on their own produced Port wines.

Tip: If you stay at the hostel or suites from Sandeman, you get a discount on the wine cellar tour.

vintage port wine
sandeman port cellar

5. São Bento Station

São Bento Train Station is located in the middle of the historic center and is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The interior of the station is covered with beautiful art and 20.000 traditional azulejos.

Most walking tours stop at the train station, however during the day it’s very(!) busy. I recommend going as early as possible, before the day tours pop in.

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sao bento train station
azulejos tiles
bento station

7. Sunset at Jardim do Morro

With viewpoints all over the city, Porto has a lot of places to admire the sunset. With lots of viewpoints in the city, Jardim do Morro is by far the best spot in town to watch the sunset. The atmosphere here is unbeatable and always packed!

Jardim do Morro is located on the other side of the bridge, in Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s easily accessible from the top level of the Luis Bridge. Arrive early as this place is packed during sunset every day. Bring your own drinks or buy some at one of the many on-site bars.

sunset jardim do morro

8. Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia is not part of the city Porto itself, but basically everyone that visits Porto, will end up here at some point. For that reason, it’s often seen as a part of Porto. One of the highlights of this area is by far all the wineries and the wine cellars from popular brands like Sandeman and Graham’s.

Next to that, you can find lots of good quality restaurants and a beautiful promenade for an evening walk with one of the best views of the Porto skyline.

Wander around the neighborhood after you’ve visited one of the many wineries and end your day watching the sunset from Jardim do Morro! I can guarantee, this afternoon is a must to put on your itinerary for a weekend in Porto.

vila nova de gaia porto

9. Clerigos Tower

Clerigos Tower is one of Porto’s iconic sights dating back all the way to the 18th century. You can climb up the 225 stairs to the top to have an 360 degrees view over Porto, for some one of the best views in Porto. It is advisable to plan your visit around the hourly bell chimes. 😉

The tower is open every day from 9AM – 7PM with €6 per person entrance fee.

clerigos tower porto
porto weekend guide

10. Livraria Lello Bookstore

The Livraria Lello bookstore is one of the most beautiful ones worldwide and said to be the inspiration place for J.K. Rowling and her writing the Harry Potter series.

At first I did wanted to visit the bookstore, but the lines were insane and people were stuffed together inside. Therefore I decided to use the time to explore other parts of the city.

If you did visit the bookstore, let me know in the comments if it was worth it 😉

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Day Trips from Porto

Douro Valley

Douro Valley is the oldest wine region in the world and the birthplace of Port Wine. Located only 1.5 hours inland from Porto, this is by far the best day trip you can make during a weekend in Porto. Although I do think you may need to stay 4 days in Porto to have time enough for a day trip outside of the city.

douro valley

What to do in Douro Valley

Because the Douro Valley is the region where the Douro Wines and Port Wines are being produced, visiting a few wineries is the highlight of your time in Douro. Here you can learn all about Port, do a tasting or visit the cellars.

All of the biggest Port Wine producers are located in this region, offering fantastic views over the valley from their properties.

Next to visiting the wineries, you can go hiking, do a river cruise, visit viewpoints or drive along the Estrada Nacional 222.

Best Douro Valley Wine Tours

You can visit Douro Valley totally on your own if you have a rental car, but accommodation is quite expensive in the area. So for people like me (who are solo backpacking), a day tour to Douro Valley is a good alternative to save on accommodation and still see the best of Douro in a short time.

I got recommened to do a day tour to Douro Valley with Porto Locals. The full day tour they’re offering took about 10 hours with amazing guides, small groups and very comfortable transportation.

During the day you’re visiting two small local wineries, where you’re tasting Port Wines and Douro Wines, having lunch in one of the town, doing a river cruise and stop at amazing viewpoints.

Tours to Douro can be pretty expensive but it includes everything for the whole day and it’s 100% worth the money! For experiences like this, you definitely want to splurge a little bit.

douro valley wine fields
wine winery porto

How to visit Porto

International airport

Porto has its own international airport and is connected to most european cities for very affordable prices.

How to get from the airport to the city center

The easiest and cheapest way to reach the city center from the airport is by taking the yellow metro line (D), which has a direct connection and takes around 30 minutes.

At Trindade station you can easily transfer to other metro lines to get closer to your accommodation, but most hostels and hotels in the center are within walking distance. 

public transport porto

Reaching Porto from other places in Portugal

The public transport system between the big cities in Portugal is very reliable and well organized! Direct trains and buses depart multiple times daily towards Porto from various cities in the country.

Buses are often the cheapest and popular option among backpackers. Flixbus and Rede Expressos are both very good companies and I traveled with both of them multiple times and always had a good experience.

Trains may be quicker and a better option if you want to cover a larger distance.

Prices and Durations

  • 🚌 Lisbon – Porto: direct buses start from €7 and takes 3/4 hours, trains start from €15 and take roughly 3 hours depending on the train.
  • 🚌 Coimbra – Porto: direct buses start from €5 and take 1,5 hours, direct trains start from €11 and take a little over 1 hour.
  • 🚌 Peniche – Porto: buses with a transfer start from €12 and direct buses from €25.
metro airport porto
metro porto

Tips for getting around Porto

By foot

Luckily all sights in this Porto weekend guide are within walking distance. Therefore, Porto is a perfect destination to explore by foot.

I’ve stayed in Vila Nova de Gaia for a couple of nights. From there, it took me 30 minutes to reach the most northern part of the city center.

Public Transport

Porto’s public transport system is very well arranged with a good metro system throughout the city. For example, metro line E stops at Sao Bento Station, which is the closest stop to Ribeira and also stops at Vila Nova de Gaia.

Besides the metro system, there are also trams that you can take. But like I said, lots of sights are within walking distance.

The Porto Card is worth checking out if you’re planning on using lots of public transport and visiting many attractions in the city. The card gives you discount for many sights and free entrances for 1 to 4 days. Get your Porto Card here!

The Andante Card

If you’re planning to use a lot of public transport, you can purchase the Andante Card for €0.50 where you can put credit on. There are also multi-day passes to choose from which could be a good option if you need to lots of public transport in one or two days.

You can purchase the Andante Card at most counters in metro stations or at tourist information offices in the airport or city.

Tip: since recently it’s also possible to pay for the metro with your VISA card at the entrance gates.

sao bento train station

Uber

Next to the public transport, Uber and Bolt both operate in Porto and can be a good option for traveling at night to avoid walking alone at night. Even though I walked alone at night myself and felt very safe, I do recommend to be rather safe than sorry and take an Uber for long distances.

Best time to visit Porto

Porto is an all-year-round travel destination but traveling between April – October offers the best weather conditions. I would suggest avoiding traveling to Porto in July and August to skip the summer crowds.

The best time to visit Porto would be during spring and early autumn which is April to June and September/ October. Both have nice warm weather with still enjoyable temperatures for exploring during the day.

Holidays

There are a lot of events in Porto throughout the whole year, and some may be fun to join or watch! So before deciding on when to travel to Porto, check out the events/holidays underneath!

  • Porto International Film Festival, 01-03-2024/10-03-2024
  • Essência do Vinho. – 19-02-2024/25-02-2024
  • Festa de Sao Joao (St John Festival) – 23-06-2024
  • Regata dos Rabelos (Rabelo Boat Races) – 24-06-2024
bars slogan
porto streets locals

Where to stay during a weekend in Porto

Ribeira & Baixa Neighborhood

Porto’s city center is by far the best neighborhood to base yourself during your 3 days in Porto with all the popular sights within walking distance. Therefore most hostels are located in these neighborhoods.

I’ve stayed a few nights in the Cats hostel. The beds were comfortable and they organized lots of activities, including a pub crawl every night. It’s definitely a party hostel, so it wasn’t specifically for me but if you’re into partying, you may like this hostel.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Not lots of people stay on the other side of the river and I do think that staying in Ribeira or the Sé neighborhood is a better option for travelers. However, as I spend a week in Porto I decided to stay on both sides of the river.

Here you can find all the port wineries, like Sandeman’s. The best part is that Sandeman recently opened a hostel. They have a very unique design based on the port barrels, large beds and includes an extensive breakfast. On top of that, it has one of Porto’s best views!

Click here to check current prices and availability!

sandeman hostel porto

I have to admit that the average age is a bit higher in the Sandeman Hostel, so do expect a slightly more quite place but it was still social enough to meet fellow travelers.

sandeman hostel portugal
Hostel Recommendation:

The House of Sandeman
Porto, Portugal
Book Here!

Best places to eat in Porto

  • Nola Kitchen
  • Do Norte Cafe by Hungry Bikers
  • MUTI
  • MANNA Porto Food & Yoga
  • Zenith – Brunch & Cocktails
  • Noshi Coffee
  • Mercado Beira Rio
  • Mercado do Bolhão
  • Confeitaria do Bolhão – best pastel de nata in Porto!

Try Porto's most famous dish - Francesinha.

This traditional dish consists of bread, multiple sorts of meat and cheese, covered in a thick layer of beer-infused tomato sauce and topped with an egg. Not for the vegetarians among us (including myself) but they do offer vegetarian/vegan options in restaurant.s

lunch in porto
nola kitchen
bakery in porto

Where to travel to after a weekend in Porto?

Peniche

For most people, Porto is the starting or ending point of their Portugal trip. Heading straight to Lisbon will be a waist as there are a lot of amazing places in between the two. Peniche is one of them. This little surfer village is a great place to take it slow, learn to surf and meet like-minded people in the 33 hostel.

Ericeira

Same as Peniche, this small city located 40 minutes away from Lisbon, has become a huge backpackers paradise. Especially among surfers. People spend their days surfing, eating healthy food in the trendy cafes and enjoy the vibe.

Personally, I haven’t been here as I didn’t have enough time but I’ve only heard amazing stories about this places and I can’t wait to head there soon and experience the place for myself.

peniche-sunset
surfer portugal

Lisbon

Lisbon and Porto are connected with a direct and fast train connection so if you’re on a tighter schedule these two are perfect to combine.

The bustling city has grown into one of my favorite European cities (although it’s still competing with Porto ;)). Some of the top things to do in Lisbon are visiting Belém Tower, trying the famous Patel de Nata, explore Alfama, or take a day trip to Cascais.

lisbon bridge portugal
pastel de nata portugal

Useful Portuguese words and phrases for travelers

Olá – Hello
Bom Dia – Good Morning/Day
Por Favor – Please
Obrigado/Obrigada – Thank you
Onde fica o banheiro? – Where is the bathroom?
Como cheo ao (à)… – How do I get to…?
Não falo Português – I don’t speak Portuguese
Quento custa isso? – How much does this cost?

douro valley day trip

FAQs

Is 2 days in Porto Portugal enough?

A weekend in Porto is of course a good amount of time to get a good feeling of the city. However, there’s no time to do day trips to nearby places like Duoro Valley. However I do think that 3 nights is the bare minimum to explore Porto properly.

How many days do you need in Porto?

My recommend time is to stay a long weekend in Porto, around 4 nights, to explore most important parts of Porto and doing a day trip outside of town.

What to do in Porto for a week?

If you’re lucky to spend a week in Porto, yay you! I loved my time in Porto and could easily stayed for another week.

porto city

Summary of ‘A Weekend in Porto: The Ultimate Guide for First-Timers’

  • Porto has a lively backpackers community!
  • A free walking tour through the historical part of Porto is perfect for learning more about the city.
  • Ribeira, Baixa/Sé are Porto’s prettiest neighborhoods full of cobblestoned streets, colorful houses, and stunning views over the Douro River.
  • A port wine tasting is a must during your time in Porto! Best to do so with one of the many wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia.
  • Jardim do Morro is Porto’s best sunset spot.
  • The best day trip from the city is the magical Douro Valley.
  • Very walkable city, but also has a very good and reliable metro system.
  • The best time to visit Porto is during spring or autumn.

Porto is a very special city with lots of history and a lively backpacking community. Hopefully, this weekend Porto guide gave you enough tips and guidance to plan your trip and create your own Porto itinerary.

May you have any other questions that I haven’t covered in this blogpost, don’t hesitate to leave a comment down below!

Plan Your City-Trip to Porto

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Simone Vromans

Simone is the owner and writer of Travel With Simone! By sharing these travel guides, she hopes to help you plan your epic adventures and inspire you to go on that long-overdue trip! 💛

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About Simone

Hi there, I’m Simone and the writer behind this travel blog. By reading my guides, I’m hoping to inspire you to travel more mindfully and have epic adventures all over the globe!

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