porto city break

Porto City Break – Best Way to Spend a Weekend!

The coastal city of Porto had been top of my European bucket-list ever since my first trip to Lisbon. Renowned for its historic city centre, Port wine production, and stunning riviera, Porto was the perfect city for a weekend break from London. Over the course of 3 days, I ambled through the city’s winding, hilly streets, sampled LOTS of local food and wine and discovered classic Portuguese architectural gems. I’ve put together this blog to show how I spent 3 days in Porto and to provide inspiration for anyone planning a long weekend in Portugal.

Day 1: Exploring Porto’s Historic Center

After waking up in Porto, I decided to spend my first day exploring Porto’s old town and Ribeira District. This is Porto’s oldest, and probably most photogenic neighbourhood, with narrow cobblestone streets

This started with a coffee and walk along the Douro River – Nata Sweet Nata hvae Pastel de Natas to die for! This whole area was beautiful with a lively atmosphere! I’ve always been a big fan of walking tours, so I signed up to the Porto Walkers 10:45am free walking tour.

Porto Walking Tour

The walking tour started at Avenida dos Aliados, one of the main avenues in Porto and home to lots of stunning, historical buildings. From here, we embarked on a 3 hour walking tour of the key sites, including São Bento railway station, Santa Catarina, Batalha, Bridge Luis I, Porto Cathedral / Sé de Porto, Barredo neighbourhood, Ribeira quarter. It ended at the Ribeira Quarter.

It was a great way to meet other people, see a city’s highlights and get insider tips! Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. You’ll be walking around 3-4km and much of Porto is hilly and cobblestoned. Also be sure to bring water with you – it was very warm when I went. Although this is free, it’s strongly recommended to give the tour guide a tip!

street art in Porto

I enjoyed the tour so much and met some lovely people, so a group of us signed up for the afternoon Port Wine Tasting Tour.

Port Wine Tasting Tour

After having a quick lunch with some girls I met from the tour, we made our way to the Port Wine Tasting meeting point. The tour takes you across the famous Dom Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia – the ‘World of Wine Porto’. This area is famous for its museums, restaurants and cellar bars detailing Porto’s port wine industry and history. We spent the next 4 hours visiting 3 wine lodges and trying 7 different Port wines. Each location was different from the other – including a real working wine cellar, a small producer and a wine tasting workshop.

port wine tour in Gaia
Port Wine Cellar we got to visit on our tour

It was fascinating to learn about the history of Port wine production, experience different establishments and sample a variety of wines. To learn a little more about the wines of Portugal.

Day 2: Discovering Porto’s Cultural Gems

After a long day of walking on day one, I decided to have an easier second day. Both tours on the previous day provided me with some inspiration on what I wanted to explore in more depth. After a hearty breakfast, I made my way to the waterfront to start my day with the Elevador da Ribeira.

Elevador da Ribeira

Like Lisbon, Porto has an elevator in the heart of the city that provides excellent scenic views across the city. I went in the morning, but heard people recommend that late afternoon was better to catch the sunset. It’s completely free and you’ll be able to enjoy great views of the Douro, Dom Luis Bridge and the wider city.

Clerigos Tower

Climb the iconic Clérigos Tower for panoramic views of Porto. Marvel at the cityscape from the top of this Baroque bell tower, which offers a breathtaking vantage point. I paid for the guided tour to the Clérigos Museum, Church and Tower for just under €10. At 76 metres tall, with over 200 steps, it’s a narrow, steep climb. I’m not great with heights but luckily it was quite quiet when I went, so I could get up and down fairly easily. There are evening tours too if that’s of interest.

Tour Livraria Lello

One of my favourite places to explore was the book-lovers haven of Livraria Lello. Known as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, the neo-Gothic facade, stunning interiors and famous grand staircase are worth a visit. Supposedly, Livraria Lello help provide some inspiration for the Harry Potter books too! It was a lovely place to experience but i’d say it was way too crowded. The main attraction is the stunning staircase, but I could barely get on it with the hoards of people trying to take selfies on it.

Livraria Lello

I went back again near closing time and it was much quieter. You will need to buy a ticket to enter Livraria Lello, however this is fully discountable against any book purchase! Tickets start at €8.

I spent a large portion of my second day sat in various eateries between sightseeing, people watching and enjoying the incredible food. The city has a nice pace about it that lets you just relax and watch the world go by.

Day 3: Day Trip to Douro Valley

If you’re staying for a third day in Porto, consider doing one of the many day trips to the Douro Valley on offer. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its terraced vineyards and stunning landscapes. You can do this trip via train or join a guided tour.

River Cruise Along the Douro

Some guided tours with take you on a river cruise along the Douro River, the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get immersed in Portugal’s stunning countryside. You’ll cruise past terraced vineyards, quaint villages, and historic wine estates, learning about the region’s winemaking traditions along the way.

Visit a Winery in Douro Valley

No trip to the Douro Valley would be complete without visiting one of the many wineries. One of the most famous, that we got to see, is Quinta do Crasto. Here you can tour the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and indulge in a tasting of their award-winning ports and wines, all while soaking in panoramic views of the valley.

porto wine tasting tour

Explore Peso da Régua or Pinhão

Before heading back to Porto, you might get the chance to explore some of the cute towns in the vicinity. One town is Peso da Régua, the heart of the Douro wine region. You can stroll along the riverfront promenade, browse local markets selling artisanal products, and sample more delicious wines at one of the many wine bars dotting the town.

Or consider taking some time to explore the charming village of Pinhão, known for its historic railway station adorned with azulejo tiles and its picturesque riverside setting

Mercado do Bolhão

Porto’s iconic market, Mercado do Bolhão, is located in the heart of the city and was recently completely renovated. Unfortunately it was completed and open a year after I was there, so this is a great reason for me to go back. Filled with stalls of fish, meat, fresh produce, flowers, the market is meant to be a brilliant place to visit. Check out their official site to hear about events coming up – from beer fairs to Fado!

Porto FAQs

Is Porto a Walkable City?

Absolutely! Porto is a very walkable city and I didn’t need to use public transport during my time in the city. Although it is hilly, the beautiful cobblestoned streets, lined with stunning historic buildings were worth walking through. Also many of the main sights are located near each other, so you can easily pick a part of town and just walk round that area.

porto funicular

There is a funicular and bubble cars that connect the main parts of Porto and you’ll easily be able to grab an Uber.

How Many Days in Porto?

Ideally 2 or 3 nights is a great amount of time to enjoy the main sights of Porto, without rushing. This will also afford you some time to enjoy the many eateries, bars and wineries at a relaxed pace and watch the world go by.

What is the Best Month to Visit Porto?

The best time to visit Porto will be between March and October for the sunny months. However, spring and autumn will be a great time to visit to avoid the peak crowds. I went to Porto in March and it was quieter with brilliant weather.

After a fantastic long weekend in Porto, I took the train from Porto to Lisbon to continue my Portugal travels. Some highlights from this Portugal trip included first-time visits to Sintra and Cascais.

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