Oh Porto, let me count the ways I love thee! You’re a Gothic wonderland of dramatic, ash-colored monuments, beneath which centuries-old cellars hold barrels of ruby port wine. Your trams rattle along cobblestoned thoroughfares lined with quaint cafés selling espressos and vino tinto. You ooze charisma, from your bold street art to your narrow alleyways that lead to secret viewpoints.
If you’re visiting Porto for the first time, you’re in for a real treat. Follow this guide to experience the best of Portugal’s second city in just a few days.
Though generally sunny and warm, Porto can be breezy—pack layers and wear plenty of sunscreen.
If you only have time for one thing, make it climbing the 220 steps of the Torre dos Clérigos for panoramic views of the city.
Spend your first morning soaking up the 2,000-year-old Gothic grandeur of Porto’s historical center. Visit the Clérigos Church and climb to the top of its tower; admire the duck egg-blue azulejo tiles inside Sao Bento Railway Station; and gaze upwards at the fabulous Art Nouveau buildings that line Rua Catalina, Porto’s principal street.
Once the sun starts to set, head straight to the UNESCO-listed district of La Ribeira, where pastel-colored buildings appear to tumble down into the Douro River. It might be Porto’s oldest neighborhood, but its chic restaurants and bars draw a young and lively crowd and are an ideal place to toast to your first evening.
Swap city life for the lush landscapes of the Douro Valley today. A tour is the most convenient option, as the delights of the Douro are dispersed and require a vehicle. And since you won’t be driving, you can feel free to indulge in as much of the region’s world-famous wine as you’d like.
Once you’re back in the city, spend the afternoon wandering Porto’s most grandiose street—Avenida dos Aliados. Highlights include the world’s most beautiful McDonald’s (housed in the former Imperial Café), Banco do Minho, and Palácio das Cardosas. Just off the avenue, you’ll also find the Livraria Lello bookstore, which some say inspired the scenery in Harry Potter.
Porto’s Atlantic swell makes Matosinhos Beach the ideal surfing spot. Just a short tram ride from the city center, you’ll find golden sands and a charming promenade lined with restaurants selling local seafood specialities such as fried sardines and cataplana (a tomato-based seafood stew).
Spend your last night underground in the Porto Calem Wine Cellars. There are so many cellars offering wine tastings, but not many of them come with a fado show and a chance to explore an interactive museum, which makes Porto Calem my top pick.