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Are you planning a trip to Portugal and wondering ‘Is Porto worth visiting‘? Well if you’re looking for a travel destination that’s equal parts charming, vibrant, and downright delightful then Porto is here to steal your heart (and maybe even your taste buds!).
This Portuguese gem may not be as flashy as its neighbour Lisbon or as sunny as the Algarve coast, but boy oh boy, does it have a personality all its own. From sipping on port wine while soaking up panoramic river views to getting lost in narrow medieval streets lined with colourful houses, Porto packs a punch when it comes to allure.
I’m so glad I chose to visit this city on my solo trip to Portugal, perhaps I can convince you to do the same! So grab your sense of adventure and prepare to fall head over heels for this little city with a big attitude – because trust me, it’s absolutely worth visiting.
Is Porto worth visiting?
So I’ve already stated that Porto is worth visiting but let’s dive into why it’s worth visiting (and perhaps why it’s not) so you can make a decision for yourself on whether or not to add this charming city to your Portugal itinerary.
The Good Stuff – Reasons why you should visit Porto
1. Tons of Port wine to try!
Ever wondered why visit Porto? One word: wine! Porto has gained worldwide acclaim for its exceptional winemaking heritage and is synonymous with one of the world’s most beloved fortified wines – Port wine.
The city’s unique geographical location, along the banks of the iconic Douro River, offers the perfect terroir for vine cultivation. With a blend of sunny days, cool nights, and mineral-rich soils, Porto produces grapes that boast intense flavours and distinct characteristics.
Port wine, a fortified wine infused with brandy, ages to perfection in oak barrels within the city’s labyrinthine cellars, dotting the scenic Vila Nova de Gaia. From the lusciously sweet Ruby to the velvety smooth Tawny, Porto offers a delightful array of port wine options to please every palate.
2. The architecture is pretty spectacular
One of the standout features of Porto is its remarkable architecture. From the imposing Dom Luís I Bridge spanning the Douro River to the ornate São Bento Railway Station adorned with intricate azulejo tiles, the city is a feast for the eyes.
Every corner reveals a new surprise, with a mix of medieval, Baroque and contemporary styles harmoniously coexisting. The opulent Porto Cathedral and the ornate Church of São Francisco are not to be missed.
Amidst historical treasures, Porto also embraces modernity. Contemporary structures like the Casa da Música flaunt cutting-edge design.
3. Rich cultural heritage
Porto’s historical significance is evident in its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ribeira district, where narrow, winding streets transport you back in time. It’s impossible not to be impressed by Porto’s rich heritage which stands as an ode to its timeless allure.
Another way to immerse yourself in the local culture is of course indulging in Port wine tastings at the famous cellars. There are plenty of popular cellars to visit such as Graham’s Port Lodge, Porto Augusto’s and Taylor’s Port.
4. The food is delicious
Food enthusiasts will find themselves in culinary heaven in Porto. The city is renowned for its delectable seafood, hearty stews, and pastries like the famous pastel de nata.
Don’t forget to savour the local delicacies at the bustling Mercado do Bolhão (a local market in Porto), where vendors showcase the freshest produce and traditional flavours. It’s perfect if you’re after a more casual dining experience and want to spend some time wandering around.
From the traditional Francesinha, a scrumptious sandwich oozing with flavour, to the succulent Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, Porto’s culinary repertoire is a delightful dance of taste sensations. With every bite, Porto’s food scene unveils its captivating fusion of local traditions and innovative flair, leaving you wanting to try everything!
5. Stunning scenery
Porto’s surroundings are a nature lover’s paradise; this was one of my favourite things about this city! Ascend to the Miradouro da Vitória, high vantage points offer panoramic vistas of the city’s terracotta rooftops and the glistening river below.
The Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage site, presents a picturesque postcard view with its colourful buildings lining the riverbanks.
Embark on a scenic cruise along the Douro River, flanked by terraced vineyards that produce the world-famous Port wine. For a breath of fresh air, head to Parque da Cidade do Porto, a city park in Portugal offering tranquil green spaces and various cycling and walking paths.
Porto’s landscape effortlessly blends nature’s splendour with urban charm, inviting you to indulge in a city where captivating scenery is an everyday affair.
6. It’s easy to get around the city
The great thing about Porto is that it’s a very walkable city, you don’t need to rely on public transport or a car to get around and see the main sites. What you will need though is some comfortable shoes!
It’s also a good idea to take an extra layer with you if you’re travelling in should season as the weather can be a little unpredictable (like a lot of Europe tends to be!) and you don’t want to get caught out.
You’ll wander through countless cobblestone streets and steep hills. Due to Porto being on the smaller side, it makes the city pretty compact which is great for getting around and knocking off a lot of the main sites in a day or two.
Generally, two days is a good amount of time to spend exploring Porto.
The Bad Stuff
There isn’t much that comes to mind when it comes to the bad stuff about Porto. All in all, it is a pretty great city!
I suppose a negative may be that the city is on the small side, if you’re expecting another Lisbon then you’re going to be disappointed. IMO however that’s what adds to the charm of Porto so really it all depends on what you’re after.
Like other cities in Portugal, Porto does have quite a lot of hills so getting around on foot can be tiring. If you’re concerned about that though, you can always use public transport or a taxi to get from a to b.
The Bottom Line: Is Porto worth visiting?
Absolutely! I loved my time in Porto and thought it was such a cool city. The way the river runs through the main part of the city gives it a very laidback and fun vibe. My favourite part about Porto was being able to sit right by the river and enjoy a cold beer or a bite to eat.
Then there are also the amazing views that you get in this city! Yes, Porto is a lot smaller than Lisbon but that just makes it even easier to get around and see the city’s highlights within a few days.
Or if you’re feeling really keen, you could even visit Porto as a day trip from Lisbon. To make the most of your time here however, I would recommend spending a night or two in Porto to soak up the atmosphere, you might not want to leave!
Planning a trip to Portugal?
Is Porto worth visiting – FAQ
What is Porto famous for?
One of Porto’s most renowned treasures is, of course, Port wine! With a heritage steeped in winemaking, Porto proudly boasts its famous Port Wine Cellars, where barrels of liquid gold age to perfection.
But wait, there’s more!
Porto is also famed for its stunning architecture, showcasing an impressive fusion of historical splendour and modern flair. From the majestic Dom Luís I Bridge to the ornate São Bento Railway Station, every building tells a story of Porto’s rich heritage. Add to the mix the delectable Portuguese cuisine, and you have a city celebrated for its delicious gastronomy.
With its vibrant culture, friendly locals, and breathtaking scenery, it’s no wonder Porto has become a beloved destination for travellers seeking an unforgettable experience.
Where to stay in Porto?
For a taste of Porto’s rich heritage, Ribeira is your go-to and it is where I’d recommend you stay to make the most of your time in Porto. Stay in quaint hostels or hotels that transport you back in time with their vintage charm, all while being just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Douro River.
Best budget accommodation in Ribeira
Best luxury accommodation in Ribeira
How to get to Porto?
Porto is a pretty easy destination to get to thanks to the city having its own international airport. If you’re travelling from overseas then this is undoubtedly the easiest way to make it to Porto.
If you already happen to be in Portugal then you have a few different options. If you’re short on time you could take a domestic flight to Porto depending on where you are in the country but the most economical option would be to catch the bus or train.
When travelling from Lisbon the express train journey takes about two hours and 40 minutes and it costs about €31.70 for a single adult.
Taking a bus from Lisbon to Porto is also a comfortable and efficient option. The bus journey ranges from three and a half hours to over four hours depending on what bus you take, and the main bus company that operates this route is Rene Expressos.
The ticket price for an adult is €20 so it is a pretty affordable option and their buses are clean and well-maintained.
Catching the bus is how I chose to travel between Lisbon and Porto mainly because my budget was pretty tight – it was when I was travelling full-time so I was trying to stretch my money as far as it would go!
When is the best time to visit Porto?
Thanks to Portugal’s warm climate, you can visit Porto most times of the year. Porto’s winter is mild, making it an excellent escape from harsher climates. Plus, the city’s holiday spirit brings delightful Christmas markets and festive cheer.
Summer is a fantastic time to visit (I was here in July) and brings a lively vibe to Porto, with festivals, outdoor events, and al fresco dining galore. Embrace the warm weather as you soak up the sun on Porto’s beaches.
The largest and most popular beach is Praia de Matosinhos, located just 8km from the city. The water can be a bit chilly though, even in summer!
If visiting in the heat of summer doesn’t sound too appealing then travelling to Porto in spring or autumn could be good options. Porto blooms to life in spring, with mild temperatures and vibrant landscapes. Enjoy pleasant strolls along the Douro River and relish the city’s picturesque beauty.
Then in autumn, colours paint Porto in a mesmerizing palette. The city’s wine regions also come alive with grape harvests, making it a perfect time for wine enthusiasts.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Porto depends on your preferences!
Is Porto worth a day trip from Lisbon?
Absolutely, yes! While both cities have their unique charms, Porto is well worth a visit even if you have just one day to spare. While it might seem like a bit far to travel for a day trip, it is definitely doable and a great way to experience a different side of Portugal.
This enchanting Portuguese gem offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and gastronomy, providing a memorable experience in a compact package. Marvel at the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge and stroll along the picturesque Douro River. Indulge in the city’s world-famous Port wine, savouring the flavours of the region.
Discover the historical treasures of Ribeira and embrace the architectural wonders adorned with beautiful azulejo tiles. Though a day may seem short, Porto’s compact size allows you to explore its highlights without feeling rushed. So, hop on a train or take a short flight, and get ready to uncover the wonders of Porto in a memorable day trip from Lisbon.
Is Lisbon better than Porto?
Ah, the classic Lisbon vs. Porto debate! While both Portuguese cities have their allure, determining which is “better” ultimately depends on personal preferences. Personally, if I had to choose which city I liked better I wouldn’t be able to pick.
Lisbon, as the capital, boasts a cosmopolitan vibe with a diverse array of neighbourhoods, trendy cafes, and historical landmarks like the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower.
On the other hand, Porto exudes a charming, laid-back atmosphere with its cobbled streets, iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, and the famed Port wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Porto’s compact size also makes it easier to explore in a shorter amount of time.
Whether you prefer the bustling energy of Lisbon or the quaint allure of Porto, both cities offer rich history, delectable cuisine, and warm Portuguese hospitality. In the end, it’s all about what kind of experience you’re seeking, and luckily, you can’t go wrong with either choice!
Conclusion: Is Porto worth visiting?
In conclusion, is Porto worth visiting? Absolutely!
This charming Portuguese city is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. From its stunning architecture adorned with intricate azulejo tiles to the vibrant riverfront of Ribeira, Porto captivates with its rich cultural heritage and gastronomic delights.
Don’t forget to savour the world-famous Port wine at the renowned cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia and be mesmerised by the breathtaking views from the numerous viewpoints throughout the city.
Porto’s walkable streets make it easy to immerse yourself in its quaint alleys and uncover hidden gems. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a foodie, or an architecture admirer, Porto has something special for everyone. So, pack your bags, and embark on an unforgettable journey to Porto.