Porto is one of my favorite city breaks in Europe for a long 3-day weekend. I think it is the perfect amount of time to feel like you have explored the city, and even allows for a quick half to full day trip as well.
Porto is extremely well connected by train and airports to other major European cities which makes catching a direct flight here a breeze.
While Portugal is still relatively new to the tourism industry, and even more so is Porto, the country is very well equipped to handle tourism. Once you step foot into Portugal, I know you will be as enamored as I am.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to spend a perfect 3 days in Porto, including where to eat, what to do, and where you MUST stay!
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3 Days in Porto Itinerary
Below I have laid out a suggested itinerary to maximize your time in Porto by visiting spots that are the most convenient to visit together. However, I am always keeping in mind the sights you should visit first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, versus what can be visited mid-day without much hassle.
My goal is to always avoid the crowds, if possible, to have the most relaxed experience and best photography options. As always, if you have questions about this itinerary, drop them in the comments below.
Day 1 – Explore the Azulejos of Porto
São Bento Train Station
Visiting the São Bento Train Station, said to be Europe’s most beautiful train station, was one of my favorite parts of our 3 days in Porto. Not only is visiting completely free, obviously its a public train station, but this is also one of the best things to do in Porto.
There are over 20,000 azulejos adorned to every wall in the São Bento station. But what made the train station so unique was the foot of tile right below the ornate ceiling that depicts the history of transportation in Portugal. You could walk along the walls and feel like you were reading a story.
The São Bento Train Station is absolutely one of the best things to see in Porto!
I would suggest that you come here first thing in the morning if you want to admire the tilework without all the crowds. Well, it will actually still be really crowded in the morning with the daily commuters when the trains let out. However, these commuters are not interested in sticking around, so you will be able to find breaks in between trains arriving where there is barely anyone around.
This will still be a better time to visit and try to photograph the station than in the afternoon, when there are MORE trains arriving and departing, and MORE people.
Location: Praça de Almeida Garrett
Livraria Lello Bookstore
Only an 8 minute walk from the train station, you will find the increasingly popular Livraria Lello Bookstore. Made popular by JK Rowling when she used it for the inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter. You now need to purchase a ticket in advance (5 EUR) to enter the store, which is crazy. However, you can use your ticket price as a discount towards any book purchases made while you are there…if you can further brave the crowds at the checkout.
I have put the bookstore next on the itinerary because it opens at 9am, and I would suggest that if you want to visit you try to get one of the earlier time slots you can. You can purchase your tickets in advance here. Once you add the ticket to your cart, you can then select the date and time available.
We honestly skipped this all together because I like to be in control when I can of the crowds of people. The bookstore just wasn’t worth the hassle for us, however I know I would be doing Porto a disservice if I didn’t at least include it as an option on my list.
Location: R. das Carmelitas 144
Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church)
One of my missions while in Porto was to see as many Azulejos as possible. There aren’t any Azulejos on the front façade of the Carmo church, but when you walk along the Praça de Carlos Alberto, you will see these famous blue azulejos!
You may need to wait here for a little bit as cars and people pass by to get a shot, but this location isn’t too crowded in the mid-morning.
The church opens at 9am, and it is possible to tour the inside, including a hidden house, a crypt, relics, and you can even access the rooftop. We did not go inside the church, as I was here for the azulejos, but I have read that mass happens at 9:30am at which time you won’t be allowed in if you aren’t attending.
Plan to come around 10am if you are wanting to visit the inside and take a tour.
Location: R. do Carmo
Discover the Traditional and Not-so Traditional Azulejos
The word azulejo is Arabic in origin and is derived from the word aljulej or azulej, meaning “small, smooth polished stone”. I always thought there was some connection to the color blue or azul in Portuguese, however, that is not the case. The blue color is highly regarded in history as it is connected with knowledge, insight, and magical powers.
So how did azulejos get to Portugal? The Moors brought the culture of Islamic tiles to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century. Today you can see one of the best examples of Moorish architecture at the Alhambra in Seville. The King of Portugal, Manual I, who was one of the wealthiest Kings in the Christian world due to the Portuguese age of discovery, visited the Alhambra in Seville and brought back azulejos for his Arab Room at the National Palace of Sintra. If you are as interested in azulejos as I am, and find yourself in Lisbon on this trip to Portugal, you must visit the National Azulejo Museum!
One of the best examples of Moorish tilework in Porto can be found at 199 Rua de José Falcão (see left photo above). And on the complete opposite, modern-side, you can find the very vibrant tiles on the Steak n’ Shake restaurant (see right photo above) right near the Carmo Church.
Climb the Clérigos Tower
Aside from the miradouros around town, the view from the Clérigos Tower gives you one of the best, and highest views over all of Porto. You know if there is a view involved, I am going to be the first one to check it out. I checked this one out, and it is definitely worth a spot on your 3 day in Porto itinerary.
The church is free to enter, but there is a 3 EUR ticket required to climb the 200 step tower. You can easily purchase your ticket when you arrive, and the hours are 9am to 7pm daily.
Location: R. de São Filipe de Nery
Grab the Famous Porto Sandwich
There has been a lot of walking already today, so reward yourself with one of Porto’s most famous dishes, the pork sandwich with gooey sheep cheese. We did some research ahead of time and decided on Casa Guedes Traditional to try this delicious looking sandwich.
You guys, this place did not disappoint. It is extremely authentic, with the original Correia brothers who started the restaurant back in 1987 to serve late night sandwiches to students still working in the restaurant. Yes, that’s on the of original owners cutting the pork for our sandwiches.
There was a line out the door when we arrived for lunch, however it moved quickly. We grabbed our no-frills, extremely delicious pork sandwiches and some fries and sat outside on the street patio.
They are quickly expanding now to a rooftop restaurant right next to the original small shop, as well as a location on Rua Actor João Guedes. If you can fit this into your itinerary, you will be rewarded with a very local and authentic experience.
Original Location: Praça dos Poveiros 130
Santo Ildefonso Church
Just past the central train station, you will probably walk by the Santo Ildefonso Church a few times during your 3 days in Porto. It is another one of the tops places in Porto to see traditional azulejos. We only walked by to admire the exterior.
There is a small 2 EUR donation that is required to enter but there is a lot to see inside including a walking tour through 18th – 20th century paintings, sculptures and religious artifacts.
Location: R. de Santo Ildefonso 11
On the outside, you will see a sticking Neoclassical building that houses the Commercial Stock Exchange. Inside the Bolsa Palace there are so many different rooms to explore including the grand Noble staircase, the Hall of Nations, the Arabian Room, and the court room to name a few.
Make sure to keep your eyes up, there are so many details in the ornate ceilings, especially in the Arabian Room.
It is possible to book a guided tour (lasting 30 minutes) once you arrive for 10 EUR per person. The hours are 9:30am – 1pm and 2pm – 5:30pm. It is not possible to visit without a guided tour. Tours are offered in multiple languages, however they are first come first serve based on group capacity.
Location: R. de Ferreira Borges
Ride on the Famous Trams: Tram 1, Tram 18, Tram 22
There are a couple notable places to catch the Porto trams. Tram 1 runs from Ribeira to Foz and is the most known by tourists since it runs along the Douro River from the Sao Francisco church to the Jardim do Passeio Alegre. This line gets extremely crowded during the day, so its best to ride early in the morning.
Tram 18 rums between Massarelos and Carmo is slightly less crowded during the day but still runs right by the Clérigos Tower and the famous Lello Bookstore.
The line 22 that runs between Carmo and Batalha is one of my favorite tram to photograph. You can catch it right outside of the Clérigos Tower (pictured above) or in front of the Igreja do Carmo. However, this stop gets extremely crowded with tourists entering, exiting, and want to take a photo with the tram.
If you just want to ride once, it is best to purchase your ticket on board the tram for 3.5 EUR per person.
Day 2 – Discover the Heart of Porto and Explore Gaia
Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
There is no entry fee to visit the inside of the Porto Cathedral, however there is a 3 EUR admission to the cloister with in the church.
If I have one piece of advice for you, it is – absolutely do not miss visiting the cloister! It was one of my favorite parts of the Porto Cathedral for its azulejos and arched hallways.
The cloister walls are decorated azulejos depicting scenes from “The Metamorphosis” (Ovidius) and the life of Mother Mary.
You can buy tickets for the cloister right inside the church and the hours of operation are 9am to 6:30pm (5:30 in the winter). I suggest coming here first thing in the morning to have the place largely to yourself. This allows for you to take your time and really enjoy the peace and beauty within the cathedral walls!
Visit a Local Market
After spending time at the Porto Cathedral, we walked around the surrounding area for a bit and stumbled upon the most authentic and local market I remember being at in Europe. Mercado de São Sebastião is an open air market built out of concrete with a very industrial feel.
It was still early in the morning when we arrived here, so the stalls were just getting set up. Even thgouh we were just browsing without needed to buy anything, I absolutely love these type of local experiences while traveling. Definitely stop by if you are looking for some fresh local fish or fruits and veggies and support these beautiful locals!
Another larger market to visit is Mercado do Bolhão. It is a little further outside of the city center in Bolhão, but they have great stalls where you can buy fresh charcuteries and glasses of wine and enjoy them right at the market.
This market is right near the Capela das Almas (Chapel of the Souls), another church covered in azulejos which is worth a walk by!
Cross the Ponte de Dom Luís I (The Dom Luís I Bridge) to Gaia
You have been staring at the other side of the river all yesterday, now is your chance to cross over and discover what Gaia has to offer.
The other side of the Douro River from Porto is technically Vila Nova de Gaia, and not Porto. However, it is so close and definitely a must see during your 3 days in Porto.
To get to Gaia, you will need to cross over the Dom Luís I Bridge, a double decker bridge which allows the top to be passable by pedestrians and the train, and the car traffic to use the lower level.
When walking over the bridge, make sure to look back and get this epic view over Porto!
Ride the Teleferico de Gaia Gondola
Once you cross over the bridge, yo can either walk down to the riverfront, or take the Teleferico de Gaia Gondola. You can opt to take this gondola one way, or purchase a return ticket as well. One way tickets are 6 EUR per person, and a return ticket is 9 EUR per person.
I suggest at least buying a one way ticket, as this is more of an experience than transportation. From the cable car you are able to see a different vantage point of the Porto skyline. It is truly an experience!
You can purchase tickets using the kiosks right at the Teleférico de Gaia – Jardim do Morro station after your walk across the Dom Luís I Bridge. Once you purchase tickets, you will walk right up to board a gondola on a moving platform. Most likely your party will get a gondola to themselves, as there will be one right behind it for the next party.
The ride take about maybe five minutes and will drop you off at the Cais de Gaia station along the riverfront.
Half Rabbit Artwork in Vila Nova de Gaia
One of the coolest street art installations I have seen to date is the Half Rabbit by artist Bordalo II nestled in the residential streets of Gaia.
The art piece was created using trash and recycled materials collected from the city streets as a critique of the wastefulness of society.
The sculpture is created using metal pieces, street signs, and plastic containers and attached in such a way that the rabbit is seemingly folded in two. You will notice that one half is painted and the other remains unpainted purposefully yo illustrate the materials’ original colors and impact on our society.
You can easily find this spot on Google Maps by searching “Half Rabbit”.
Relax at the Gaia Riverfront
There are a ton of restaurants and bars along the Gaia Riverfront to enjoy. We walk buy many vendors selling gifts and local goods as well. For the perfect evening, I would consider spending about 1 -2 hours in Gaia close to sunset just enjoying the bars and restaurants, and walking along the river.
At sunset, the Porto side of the city starts to glow orange and it is the perfect way to relax before ending the day.
Catch the View from Miradouro da Serra do Pilar at Sunset
Before you head back in Porto your dinner reservations, make sure to stop by the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar at sunset. Located right near the spot where the gondola drops you off at the top off the hill, you will walk a little ways up towards the Monastery da Serra do Pilar.
In front of the monastery there is a large platform that looks over the bridge, Douro River and Porto. This is one of the best places to end your day before heading back to the Porto side of town.
There is one more secret location on this side of town that I show you in my best viewpoint in Porto blog post.
Location: Largo Aviz, 4430-999 Vila Nova de Gaia
Day 3 – Day Trip from Porto
You are honestly spoilt for choice when deciding on a day trip from Porto. So much so that I wrote an entire blog on the best day trips from Porto to break down the options for you and different transportation options.
However, if I could only pick one day trip from Porto, the Douro Valley would be my top pick! Not only is the Douro Valley the oldest wine growing region in the world, it is also most known for its port wine production. Visiting the Douro Valley will give you a look back to one of the most historical parts of Portugal as the vineyards you see today were first planted by the Romans.
I go into more detail in the post referenced above, however, if you are looking for some tour options to the Douro Valley, I would recommend the following:
Where to Stay in Porto
In southern European countries, I generally lean towards staying in Airbnb/VRBO properties because you can get closer into the heart of the city. I find that most hotels in the south of Europe don’t give you the same authentic feel.
And let me tell you, we stayed in the most amazing VRBO when we were in Porto, at the top floor of an apartment building with breathtaking views over the city. The private view from your balcony was SO GOOD, that I even included this view on my 7 best viewpoints of Porto list.
This property has a full kitchen, two bedrooms (on is a loft), and one bathroom. It is extremely spacious, and an amazing price if you were going to share the space with another couple. I was selfish and booked the apartment all for myself and my husband. It was also in such a central location that you could easily walk anywhere you wanted in Porto.
The only downside to this spot, is there is no elevator up to the third floor. But I don’t care make your boyfriend, husband, best friend, brother carry your suitcase for you. This place is almost a staple.
If you want to check current pricing and availability for your dates, use the button below.
The Best Places to Eat in Porto
Porto is a really big foody city. There are many high-dining options in Porto if that is your thing, and there is also really casual spots as well. As you would expect, the high-dining spots will require a reservation and some of the well-known, casual spots will be extremely busy.
If you don’t have a reservation for dinner, a really fun area to look for restaurants is on R. da Galeria de Paris and R. de Cândido dos Reis. Here you will find restaurant after restaurant to choose from, and many bars as well.
Some of our notable favorites in Porto are:
Swallow – Brunch
Zenith – Brunch
Casa Guedes – Casual lunch (pork sandwiches)
Sandeira do Porto – Casual lunch
Tapa Bento – Lunch / Dinner
Quay Bar – Wine Bar
Chama – Dinner
Mistu – Dinner
Porto Quick FAQs
Here are some quick tips for visiting Porto, Portugal.
Which city is better, Lisbon or Porto?
I believe that both Lisbon and Porto are great cities in Portugal and both very different. Porto is more of a small town feel, very relaxed and easy. Lisbon is a bigger city with more hustle and bustle.
If you have to make a decision on which to choose, I would pick based on the amount of time you have. With only have three days, consider Porto. If you have 4 days or longer, consider Lisbon with a day trip to Sintra or continuing onto Algarve to fill a week.
How many days is enough in Porto?
Three days is the perfect amount of time in Porto. This amount of time will allow you to cover all the spots included in this blog as well as a half or full day trip. Continue reading here for more on the best day trips from Porto.
What is Porto famous for?
Porto is world famous for its port wine produced in the nearby Douro Valley.
Do I need a car in Porto?
You do not need a car to get around Porto. Porto is a very walkable city, and when you want to get further you can catch a tram or a taxi if needed.
Where is the best place to stay in Porto?
For your first time in Porto, I would suggest staying in central Porto near the Torre de los Clérigos and in the neighboring Praça da Liberdade. This location will put you within walking distance of everything you will want to do and see.
If you are currently planning a trip to Porto and have any questions, drop them in the comments below. For more travel inspiration and tips, follow me on Instagram for current updates.
Looking for more Portugal inspiration? You may also enjoy these posts:
- 7 Best Viewpoints in Porto, Portugal
- 8 Best Day Trips from Porto, Portugal
- The Perfect 3-Day Lisbon Itinerary
- How to Visit Benagil Cave in Algarve, Portugal
- Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon