2 to 3 Days in Porto: The Ultimate Porto Itinerary
September 20, 2022
A 3 Day Porto Itinerary Curated for You to Have the BEST Trip
No, it’s not a stupid question…Port wine IS named after the city of Porto. Just like a bottle of Champagne can only be called Champagne if it comes from that specific wine region in France, port carries a similar appellation – it can only be called port wine if it comes from Portugal’s Douro Valley.
And port wine isn’t the only thing Porto is famous for. Porto is the region that gave its name to the country. The ancient town and port that was located in the area where today’s Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are situated was actually called Portus Cale. The name eventually evolved and Portucale turned into Portugale until the country ultimately came to be referred to as Portugal.
Needless to say, Porto’s rich history combined with its beautiful sunsets, scenic waterfront views, and delicious vinho (wine in Portuguese), means it is a can’t miss destination.
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How Many Days in Porto, Portugal?
I spent about two and a half days in the region and I thought it was a good amount of time to explore the city and its surrounding areas. Ultimately, whether you only have two days or you have a full three days in Porto, you will still be able to get a great taste of the city and its offerings.
Getting Around Porto
To navigate around Porto, you can take the tram. It’s all downhill on the Ribeira side if you are walking toward the river. The problem lies when you want to walk up to Sao Bento from Ribeira. Uber and Free Now are ride share services that are both available in Porto and they are significantly cheaper to use than in the United States. Uber is a bit more expensive than Free Now, but both are solid options. If you are on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the Douro River and don’t want to spend 8.50 euro to take the funicular, the public bus is much more affordable and offers similarly stunning views. Use Google Maps to find the closest bus stop, but there is one just a few meters away from the funicular entrance.
Day 1: Porto Itinerary
- Pastéis de nata for breakfast.
- Free walking tour with either Porto Walkers or Sandemans New Europe.
- Lunch along the Ribeira riverfront.
- Walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge and watch the sunset from Monastery of Serra do Pilar.
- Dinner near Sao Bento Station.
Day 2: Porto Itinerary
- Guided tour of the Douro River Valley.
- Francesinha for dinner.
Day 1 of 3 Days in Porto Portugal
Is there a better way to start off a trip to Portugal than with a pastéis de nata? I certainly can’t think of one.
Frankly, as soon as I arrive anywhere in Portugal, I’m beelining straight for the closest bakery with good reviews on Google Maps and ordering myself one of these sweet treats.
In Porto, the bakery will preferably be on the way to the meeting point for one of the free walking tours in Porto that you are about to embark on. Sandemans New Europe is a tried and true company throughout Europe so I decided to go on their free (tips based) walking tour. But, Porto Walkers seems to have inched them out in popularity specifically in Porto, so you will probably have a fantastic experience either way. Check the meeting points and the tour starting time for each company and see what makes more sense for your schedule.
Free (tips based) walking tours are incredible for a number of reasons:
- You get to see the major sights in a city in a condensed period of time -and you can always come back and spend more time visiting them later.
- You get to meet other people that are on the tour with you.
- You learn the history behind the sights you are seeing and you probably wouldn’t have learned nearly as much had you merely visited the attractions yourself.
I arrived in Porto as a solo traveler, but after the Sandemans tour, I had lunch plans with one of the couples on the tour and after-dinner drinks with that same couple and another couple. Needless to say, you never really end up traveling alone as a solo traveler and starting with a free walking tour in a city pretty much guarantees that to be true.
On the tour, you’ll visit some of the following key Porto sights:
- Miradouro da Vitória
- Igreja do Carmo
- Livraria Lello
- Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos
- Sao Bento Station
- Porto Cathedral
You’ll also get some key insights into the history and architecture of the attractions, which you might not have had visiting on your own. For example, the Sao Bento station is covered in 20,000 hand-painted azulejo tiles – you are probably aware of that because you are there to see it. But, the tour guide will go into detail about the main scenes depicting Portuguese history. And then the guide will explain that all of the colored mosaics on the top are depictions of various stages of the history of transport in Portugal. And the blue and white tiles just below depict details of life in the countryside.
Our guide also shared that the most interesting place to visit in the Igreja do Carmo is the hidden house in between the two churches. This is the narrowest house in Porto and it was built so that the two churches would not share a common wall. The house would also prevent any relations between the nuns of Igreja dos Carmelitas and the monks of Igreja do Carmo.
We stopped in front of the Livararia Lello bookstore on the tour and I simply could not believe the crowds even knowing that there would be massive lines to get in the store. It still blew me away just how many people wanted to go into a bookstore to get a photo of a staircase that J.K. Rowling herself said was not the inspiration for the Hogwarts library and the Diagon Alley shop Flourish and Blotts. Now, we know that she did live in Porto in the 1990s and the Fonte de Leos just across the way was supposedly the inspo for Gryffindor’s mascot.
Regardless, if you do want to enter the famous bookstore, I have a hack for you. It’s shockingly simple. Buy a book. Seriously. You have to buy a ticket to enter Livararia Lello and it costs 5 euros. If you buy a book online for store pickup, you get a free ticket. So, if you spend 15 euros on a book, you’ll get a book and entrance to the store for 10 euros. Plus, the line to get in when you buy a book is so much shorter than the line to enter with just the ticket voucher.
After the tour, you’ll be eager for lunch. I think it would be nice at this point to stroll down to the river in the Ribeira and eat at one of the restaurants along the water. Our tour guide recommends Bacalhau. I actually prefer the view on the Ribeira side to the Gaia side because there are buildings that block some of the view from many of the tasting rooms and restaurants on the Gaia side.
After lunch, you can choose from a variety of attractions to visit. There’s the Palacio Da Bolsa, the neoclassical Stock Exchange palace built in the 19th century that looks more like a palace than a financial building. It’s a 10 euro entrance fee and a 30 minute guided tour. You can also take the Line 1 tram from Infante to Foz. Buy a ticket on the tram. The one-way is 3.50 euro and you can either take the tram or the bus back.
About an hour before sunset, I urge you to walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge bridge which was designed by a student of Gustav Eiffel – you’ll notice it bears a striking resemblance to the Eiffel Tower – for the most spectacular views of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Once across, you’ll notice tons of people hanging out in Jardim do Morro awaiting sunset. Spend some time in the garden during golden hour and listen to the street musicians perform, but head up to the walls of Monastery of Serra do Pilara half an hour before the sun sets for better views and fewer crowds.
Dinner at a restaurant on Rua das Flores near Sao Bento station will be a lively choice. I very much enjoyed being in this area after sunset for food and drink as it is pedestrian only and lined with street musicians, colorful buildings, cafes, and restaurants.
Should you book tickets to see Fado in Porto?
Fado – traditional melancholic singing – is not from Porto so you can probably skip it unless you don’t plan on ever coming back to Portugal. After tomorrow’s visit to the spectacular Douro Valley, I highly doubt this will be the case.
Day 2 of 3 Days in Porto Portugal
I noticed that many of the 2 day itineraries in Porto don’t include a full-day tour to the Douro Valley on the second day. It is often recommended to spend another day visiting the major sights in Porto and then participating in a tour of the Douro if you have a third day planned. I would have to disagree with this. The Douro Valley is where they grow the grapes in steep terraced vineyards to produce the port wine. And, the valley is so spectacular that I think you absolutely must visit while in Porto. Sure, you can visit the tasting rooms in Vila Nova de Gaia but why not explore the actual vineyards where the wine is actually made and not just stored instead?
The only exception would be if you make the Douro Valley its own separate trip because I absolutely wish that I could have spent multiple days there and definitely plan to in the future.
So, how do you book a tour to the Douro Valley?
You have a few options. I personally am a huge fan of Airbnb Experiences (not Airbnb Stays so much anymore but that’s a discussion for another time) because I think it is one of the few ways these days to really have personalized experiences with locals. There are a plethora of Airbnb Experiences available for full-day tours to the Douro Valley, so I recommend carefully reading the descriptions of the open tours on the date of your planned excursion and seeing which tour fits your vibe. They do vary. For example, some tours have lunch in a taverna while others have lunch in a manor house. Others stop at a vinho verde vineyard before the Douro. Certain excursions will take you on a private boat tour along the Douro River and others will take you on the standard tourist boat. Cross check with the reviews of the tour and book your favorite.
If you don’t find a tour on Airbnb Experiences that strikes your fancy, you can always go the traditional route of booking online with a private guide or using GetYourGuide to book their Douro Valley tour. The GetYourGuide tour has amazing reviews, but I did see the mini buses that they take to visit the valley and they are quite commercial. That can certainly make for a fun time – the more the merrier – but if you are looking for something more private then I would stick to your own guide or an Airbnb Experience.
Douro Valley full-day tours will typically go from around 8:30am to 5:30pm.
Soak up all that port wine at dinner with Porto’s famous Francesinha sandwich which is made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce. I’ll be honest, I never did try it as it alway felt too heavy for me to eat in the summer heat. But, dinner after a day of wine tasting is as good a time as any. The sandwich is originally from Porto so if you have the stomach for it or a travel partner to split one with, head to the famed Cafe Santiago for a traditional Francesinha. You could also try the popular Bifana Pork sandwich at Casa Guedes Tradicional. Add goat cheese!
I felt some trepidation coming to Porto because I continuously read about how hilly the city was and with a bad back, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to navigate it well. However, there are so many transport options that it makes the city reasonably accessible.
Day 3 of 3 Days in Porto Portugal
If you have a third day in Porto, Portugal, I’d suggest spending time exploring more sights within the city. You could take a Porto bridge climb or book another river cruise, the “Six Bridges Cruise” which departs from the riverfront in Porto.
In the afternoon, you can see where they store the wine that is produced in the Douro Valley and stop for a tour at some of the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Some of the lodges do require advanced booking. I think it would be fun to do a tasting at a tasting room from one the favorite vineyards that you visited on your tour the day prior. Stay off the tourist track with a visit to Churchill’s 1982 Garden Bar. You will need to walk up a series of winding streets from the river to find this secluded spot, but you are pretty much guaranteed to have a lovely afternoon picnic if you do.
And I know we are mainly in Porto for the port, but whatever you do, make sure to have as much vinho verde as possible!
Would you like to see Porto in 3 days? Share your comments and questions on how to curate the best 3 day Porto itinerary in the comments below!
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