Your Porto Travel Guide with Everything You Need to Know
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Porto's (also known as Oporto) old-world charm, proximity to the dazzling Douro River and Atlantic coast, and of course, it’s famed Port Wine make it appealing to travelers of all types. Although these are staples of the city that deserve your attention when vacationing here, there are many hidden gems throughout Porto that one might not know about until arriving and exploring firsthand. Here’s a closer look at everything you need to know about vacationing in this beautiful European destination…
When to Go
Here’s a look at when the weather is at its best and when popular tourism seasons take place to help you decide on the best time to visit.
Best Weather in June through October
The sun is typically shining over the stunning cityscapes, with Spring season averaging in the mid-50s and Summers in the mid-60s. Winters are still a step above other European cities if you are in search of an escape-the-cold vacation but expect temperatures to drop to the low 50s and high 40s with the most rainfall in December. You can most likely find cheaper flights, hotels, and cruises during this time, but can’t guarantee that the climate conditions will be pristine like they usually are here. (Weather Source)
February and June Events Draw Tourism
In general, peak tourism is in July and August. Then you can find gorgeous scenery and great conditions for exploration, but there are also a few festivals and events that bring in a surplus of travelers. In February, the Essência do Vinho Festival (Essence of Wine) showcases over 3,000 wines from producers all across Portugal. The Douro Valley is one of the world’s greatest wine regions, so this event is no ordinary wine festival.
Late February into early March brings the Fantasporto film festival where filmmakers and filmgoers from around the world screen films of all genres competing for prestigious awards. There are also fascinating conferences, debates, Q&As, and exhibitions that take place with past guests, including Ben Kingsley, Guillermo del Toro, and Danny Boyle.
In early June, the Serralves Em Festa contemporary arts festival is a must-see event with hundreds of activities and ongoing performances at the heart of the 3-day event. The Festival of St. John of Porto (Festa de São João do Porto) is a lively event on June 23th, and lasts into the early hours of June 24th. Expect crowded streets with wonderful street concerts, fireworks, dance parties, bonfires, delicious food including traditional Caldo Verde, grilled peppers, barbecued sardines, and endlessly flowing red wine. One of the most memorable and awe-inspiring moments of the event is when floating sky lanterns are set free to light up the skyline. In addition to these June festivals, Primavera Sound, the huge indie rock festival is a big event that brings in countless travelers.
Tip: In 2020 the UEFA Super Cup will be held at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto. This is an annual soccer match between the champions of two European club competitions: UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
Top Things to Do in Porto
Port Wine Cellar Tours and Lunch or Dinner
You’ll find many wine cellars and wine bars to choose from where you can sample their famous Port wine. This Portuguese staple is a sweet, mainly red wine with various flavors like apricot, citrus, raspberry, caramel, and even chocolate. You can find variations, including white, ruby, tawny, and rosé.
Tip: Make sure to try their classic strong red vintage Port while visiting.
There’s nothing like sampling authentic wine while enjoying a delightful lunch or dinner to satisfy and cleanse your palate thoroughly. Taylor Fladgate Cellars has a delicious menu at its Barao Fladgate restaurant featuring veal sirloins, scallops on creamy Rocha pear, pumpkin, and curry sauce, and port wine ice cream. Here are a few more stopping points to where you can find delicious dishes paired with Port wines:
- Vinum Restaurant & Wine Bar – Each dish is created to pair with a fine Douro wine and features a beautiful view while you indulge. Try the superb stewed oxtail!
- The George Restaurant and Terrace (Sandeman Cellars) – Have a creamy pea soup with bacon and basil for starters, Bife Do Lombo (tenderloin with French fries) for your main course, and a banoffee (banana, caramel crumble) for dessert. This is a must-stop restaurant!
- Porto Cruz – Contemporary, yet true to Portuguese tradition, Porto Cruz is five stories of tasting gastronomical bliss. The 4th-floor terrace lounge has some of the best scenery in the city.
- Caves Cálem – Enjoy live and onscreen entertainment such as Fado Shows and 5D Film experiences in this top tier wine tour cellar.
Visit Livraria Lello: The Bookstore That Inspired Hogwarts
Livraria Lello is one of the most popular attractions in Porto in part because of JK Rowling’s frequent visits there when she was writing Harry Potter. It’s rumored that this beautiful library was her inspiration for many things included in the Harry Potter series, specifically Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the famed series of books, Livraria Lello is one of the world’s oldest bookstores (opened in 1906) and is a stunning architectural accomplishment. It’s stained glass windows, magnificent winding staircase, and endless book collection makes it one of Porto’s top attractions drawing in thousands of visitors a day.
Sightsee Along the Douro River
The Douro River is a marvel to firsthand, whether you are looking out upon it’s glistening waters from a winery or sailing the river on a boat tour. The Douro River is what makes Porto such a massive point of interest in Portugal as it brings stunning scenery and life to the beautiful vineyards around it. Fun Fact: The Douro River is the third largest river in the Iberian Peninsula, spanning almost 900 kilometers from Duruelo de la Sierra, Spain to Porto, Portugal.
A boat trip on the river is a great way to get an unforgettable perspective of the city. Take in all the landmarks such as the stunning, double-decker, Dom Luis Bridge. Another wonderful way to see the Douro River and the city is from up above on the aerial tramway. When in Porto, Douro River exploration is a must!
More Local Landmarks and Things to Do
- Churches and Cathedrals – If you want to see some of Portugal’s most monumental Baroque architecture, start with Torres dos Clerigos, Igreja de Sao Francisco, and Porto Cathedral (Se Catedral). Expect spectacular bell towers dating back to the 16th-18th century.
- FC Porto Soccer – Visit Dragon Stadium (Estádio do Dragão) to see the premier football club inn Portugal.
- Foz do Douro – Where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll find beautiful beaches, great restaurants like Cafeina or Chateaubriand (try the squid!), a 19th century lighthouse, and fun things to do like bike rentals!
- Foodie Tours – Take a tour and sample some of the signature dishes of the region like Bacalau, a delicious egg dish with olives and potatoes. A few more Portuguese must-try meals are collard greens soup called Caldo Verde, Alheira smoked sausage, a marinated pork sandwich called Bifana, and Francesinha ham, steak, and sausage sandwich (just to name a few!).
- Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) – Take a tour through this UNESCO World Heritage Site that brings in distinguished guests including monarchs, presidents, and ministers from around the world. Yet another architectural wonder to explore. Make sure to check out the Arabian Hall and the Pátio das Nações!
- Fascinating Museums – Dive into rich culture at museums like Serralves Museum, a museum of Contemporary Art, World of Discoveries Museum, an interactive museum with a theme park perfect for families, or Soares dos Reis Museum which features a rose garden and Sunday book fair in the park.
Daytrip to Lisbon or Peneda-Geres National Park
Lisbon is a three-hour drive South of Porto but is well worth the trip. You can see the beautiful sights of Portugal as you travel South or try an escorted tour or cruise that stops in both cities in one itinerary. Here’s a few of our top pick itineraries to try:
- 10-Night Oceania Cruise starting at $3,099*
- 9-Day Globus Escorted Tour starting at $999*
- 10-Night Celebrity Cruise starting at $1,469*
Lisbon has beautiful beaches, art museums, and the old town of Alfama where you’ll find wonderful shopping and restaurants. If you have time on the schedule to head North, about an hour and a half drive can take you to the amazing hiking trails, castles, and cascades at Peneda-Geres National Park.
Tip: The Douro Valley is where the best Portuguese wines are produced before they are shipped to Porto. We recommend renting a car to make your trip to the picturesque Douro Valley, Lisbon, or Peneda-Geres National Park.
Things to Know
Porto is a perfect blend of delectable food and wine, coastal city charm, historic architecture, and modern cultural delights. This is truly a destination that everyone can enjoy, but especially wine connoisseurs, Harry Potter fans, and architecture enthusiasts. Still curious about this scenic escape? Here’s some frequently asked Porto questions to help you get the full picture…
Tip: The primary currency is the Euro and the main language spoken is Portuguese.
What is Porto, Portugal well-known for?
Porto is most well-known for its Port Wine produced in the Douro Valley. You may have also seen pictures of beautiful sunsets over the Douro River that are visible from city. Dom Luis Bridge is commonly seen in Porto images online and is a stunning presence over the gold-glistening waters here.
What are the best wine bars in Porto?
There are many wine bars to choose from, but to get you started, see our recommendations above.
What are some famous buildings in Portugal?
Torres dos Clerigos, Igreja de Sao Francisco, and Porto Cathedral (Se Catedral) are a few of the most notable churches famous for their architecture and history. Livraria Lello, the library that inspired JK Rowling’s Hogwarts, and Palácio da Bolsa, the stock exchange palace, are perhaps two of the most visited places in Porto.
What are some popular Portuguese dishes?
Bacalau, Caldo Verde, Alheira, Bifana, and Francesinha are all delicious, traditional Portuguese dishes.
Related: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Portugal