Is Porto Worth Visiting? 17 Reasons to Visit Porto

Are you asking yourself “is Porto worth visiting?” Rest assured, you’re not alone, I often get asked by other travellers, “Is Porto Portugal worth visiting?” when they are planning their Portugal itinerary. And, my answer is a big YES!

Porto, Portugal is undeniably scenic as you look across the Douro River to the historic centre built on a hillside. It’s the kind of city that grows on you. Little by little as you explore on foot through the alley-woven streets.

On my first visit to Portugal, Porto wasn’t included in my itinerary. However, during my second trip to the country, I included it, and I’m thrilled that I did!

So, is Porto worth it? I’m sharing 17 reasons why I say it is. Porto’s old city centre is beautiful, as are the beaches and bridges. Porto is a city for every traveller- history buffs, book enthusiasts, foodies and more – you’re bound to find something that entices you here. The downsides? It will be hard to find them. But I will touch on those too.

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Is Porto a Good Place to Visit?

What is Porto like? Porto is all about experiencing life – taking in a scenic view and strolling streets oozing with old-world charm.

It’s a city for cultural tourists – those who love a rich history and are wine enthusiasts, foodies, photographers, art lovers and even Harry Potter fans will be delighted by Porto.

It’s for those who love smaller cities, cities that are walkable, less touristy, safe and dare I say it, romantic. Yes, Porto is a great city break destination.

A short getaway to Porto offers luxury accommodations, and an amazing food and wine scene with a mix of art, culture and time at the beach.

Porto is a great destination for solo travellers and couples, especially those who want to see the incredible Douro Valley full of scenic views from its wineries and vineyards.

And, for those reasons, Porto is my kind of city.

Now for the downsides. For some travellers, they are surprised about how small the city really is, especially compared to Lisbon. It also is a hilly city, just like Lisbon but expect to get a great leg work-out! And lastly, it’s a city that lacks world-famous landmarks.

Lisbon vs Porto

There’s a longstanding debate about which city is better – Porto or Lisbon. My answer is both! And for very different reasons.

They are two very different cities. Lisbon is bigger, edgier, and livelier. It has very distinct neighbourhoods that are unique in what they offer travellers from nightlife to historic sites. It too, makes for a great long weekend city break destination, and spending 4 days in Lisbon is a great amount of time.

The Porto town is the opposite. It’s much smaller, quieter and less touristy (although that is about to change). Porto is for that sophisticated traveller- who appreciates good food, wine, history and beauty in its surroundings. Porto is my kinda city.

Is Porto Worth Visiting: 17 Reasons to Visit Porto

1. The Oldest City in Europe

Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe with the earliest evidence of settlers dating back to the end of the Bronze Age near the 8th century BCE. That was over 2000 years ago!

Most references show that even though Porto was under the rule of the Romans in the 4th century when most of the city was developed, Celtic citadels were found, indicating Porto predates the Roman era.

2. The Best European City Break Destination

Porto won Europe’s Leading City Destination 2022 award by World Travel. The city is being recognized and gaining popularity by travellers for being an affordable destination with good year-round weather historical landmarks, a great food and wine scene and small enough to see in a weekend.

3. The ‘Eiffel Tower-esque’ Bridges

There is an interesting connection between the bridges in Porto and the Eiffel Tower. The famous architect Gustave Eiffel was involved in the construction of several bridges in Portugal, ones found in Porto spanning the Douro River.

The most notable is the Maria Pia Bridge completed in 1877, and the design of the Arrábida Bridge, built in the early 20th century.

As a lover of all things Paris, you can imagine my delightful surprise when I got to lay my eyes on these Eiffel Tower-esque bridges.

4. The Picture Postcard Ribeira Neighbourhood

Sitting on the edge of the Douro River is the UNESCO-status neighbourhood called Ribeira.

This picture-perfect area of Porto is known for its cobblestone streets, narrow alleys and tall colourful houses oozing with authentic charm, and yes, even laundry hanging from the iron balconies.

My husband had to tear the camera out of my hands otherwise we would have been there for hours with me clicking away!

5. The Breathtaking Lello Bookstore

The Livraria Lello, from 1906, is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. This neo-Gothic style with incredible stained glass ceiling, curved staircase and intricate wood-carved bookshelves served as a bit of inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books (or so they say!). And for that reason, it makes it to the top of my Porto Portugal things to do list!

Book lovers will be delighted here. There’s something for everyone – rare books, manuscripts, the classics, and children’s books. Not to mention it’s one of the most instagrammable places in Portugal!

📍Rua das Carmelitas, 144 | 5€ online entry fee or 6€ walk-in which goes toward a book purchase, and makes for a great souvenir. I took home the classic Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.

6. The Historic Majestic cafe

The incredible Art Nouveau facade is bound to stop you in your tracks in front of this 1920s cafe. It used to be the go-to hangout for intellects, writers and philosophers. JK Rowling allegedly credits sitting in this cafe as she penned an early draft of her famed Harry Potter books.

This vintage coffee house is worth the long line to get a table (outside is easier than the few tables inside) and enjoy a delicious pastel de nata as I did.

📍Rua Santa Catarina, 112

7. The Incredible Azulejos

is porto worth it green tiled house in Porto Portugal

Porto is famous for its traditional azulejos (or tiles), and the best places to admire them are:

  • Sao Bento railway station is famous for its azulejo-covered walls and ceilings which show scenes from Portuguese history and culture 📍Praca de Almeida Garrett
  • Igreja dos Clérigos, of Clérigos Church, is one of the landmarks that makes Porto instantly recognizable, it’s the stunning azulejo-lined tower offering panoramic views of the city that is worth visiting here 📍Rua de Sao Filipe de Nery (Pre-book your skip-the-line tickets here)
  • Casa do Infante is a historic building that was once the birthplace of Henry the Navigator, a famous Portuguese explorer, and is now a museum that showcases some of the finest azulejos in Porto 📍Rua da Alfandega, 10
  • Palácio de Cristal, or the Crystal Palace is a 19th-century building that is home to a botanical garden and features an impressive array of azulejos that depict scenes from Portuguese folklore and mythology 📍Address: Rua de Dom Manuel
  • Capela das Almas, or the Chapel of Souls is a small church that’s famous for its intricate azulejo murals 📍 Rua de Santa Catarina, 428

8. The Beautiful Crystal Palace Gardens

One of the most beautiful places in Porto is this palace built in 1865 as a greenhouse and today a botanical garden under the dome of glass and ironwork. The palace gardens are full of walking paths with beautiful vistas of Porto and the Douro River.

This is a popular viewpoint for sunset watching under a canopy of tall trees.

9. Secret Places to See in Porto

I love to find hidden gems when I travel and was pleasantly surprised to discover a few Porto secret places that are a little lesser known by tourists.

  • Jardim do Morro sits on a hill overlooking Porto and the Douro River (across from the historic centre)
  • Fundacao Serralves is a modern art museum housed in a stunning Art Deco building surrounded by pretty gardens
  • Miradouro da Vitória is a viewpoint offering panoramic views of the city found in a quiet neighbourhood
  • Igreja da Misericordia is a small church with stunning tile work, located in the heart of Porto’s historic Ribeira neighbourhood

10. The Harry Potter Influence

So much of the city of Porto can be seen in the Harry Potter books by famed author J.K. Rowling. I’m not sure if this is a tourist trap, having shockingly never read the popular books. Locals and fans of Harry Potter fans will tell you that the historic Ribeira neighbourhood with its narrow streets and cafes influenced the creation of Hogsmeade Village and the Lello bookstore influenced the interior of Flourish and Blotts.

The ultimate experience for Harry Potter fans would be to take a guided walking tour led by an expert taking you to the secret places.

11. The Endless Photo Ops

building with laundry hanging in porto is porto worth it for photographers

Why visit Porto Portugal? It’s one big photograph waiting to happen. The light is incredible. It provides a warm, golden glow to photographs taken during sunrise or sunset. The colourful and interesting architecture, especially in the Riberia neighbourhood is pretty special.

Across the bridge, in the historic Vila Nova de Gaia neighbourhood is the best way to capture the Douro River and the colourful, compact city of Porto.

12. The Delicious Food Scene

Of course, Porto is known for its port wine, but it’s also emerging as one of the best foodie scenes in Europe. Restaurants range from Michelin-starred to relaxed hidden spots serving delicious traditional foods.

Dining out in Porto is cheap, especially compared to other European cities. So your dollar will stretch that much further, or even better you can elevate your dining experience.

I recommend dining at the exclusive restaurant in the Yeatman Hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant, or Casario, the restaurant in the Grand Cruz Hotel offering a chef-tasting menu with local wine pairing with one of the best views in Porto.

13. The Wine-Tasting Tours of Port Wine

four glasses of port wine on barrel in porto

The historic wine cellars and caves are located in the Vila Nova de Gaia neighbourhood within the WOW, World of Wine, cultural district. I had such fun exploring this area in Porto.

Cobbled stone streets lead you to these old wine houses to enjoy some of the finest Port wine tastings. Some of the best ones to try are Cálem Cellar, Burmester Cellar, and Fonseca Port Wine Cellars.

14. The Gateway to Douro Valley

douro river with white winery reflecting on water on guided tour in douro valley

Visiting Porto makes it possible to take a day trip to the UNESCO Douro Valley. And, for that reason alone, makes Porto worth visiting. The Douro Valley is an unmissable destination while in Porto.

It’s incredibly scenic with its steep hills filled with vineyards right down to the Douro River. For the best experience on a day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley, go with a guided tour. I highly recommend it from my own experience.

15. The Unmissable Day Trips in Northern Portugal

Most travellers who come to Portugal go to Lisbon and the Algarve. But Porto makes it possible to see some beautiful Portuguese cities in the north.

Places like Braga, Guimaraes, Coimbra and Aveiro. If you are wondering if Coimbra is worth visiting, it absolutely is.

16. It’s so Affordable

Is Porto a good holiday destination? One of the great reasons why Porto is worth visiting is just how affordable it is for travellers. There are just a lot of free things to do in Porto. From visiting Porto beaches to watching the sunset from a hilltop lookout to the fun festivals, all free.

For those few landmarks in the city that charge an entrance fee, it’s minimal compared to other European cities.

17. A Great Shoulder and Off-Season Destination

Is Porto worth a visit? It is when you travel during the shoulder or off-season! Just like any destination, it will provide you with a far better experience as fewer crowds mean a much more authentic experience. But travel to Porto during the off-season and you’ll have the entire city to yourself.

What makes Porto worth going to is its weather. From March to May and October to November you can expect to experience temperatures of 17° to 21°C (62-70°F) or the winter months of December to February of 14-15°C (57-59°F).

If you happen to visit in late November into December, it’s the perfect time to check out the Christmas markets. Although the holidays in Porto are not like other destinations in Europe, it’s still a charming time to visit the city.

FAQ About Why Visit Porto

Where is Porto?

Porto is located in the northwest region of Portugal, about 300 km from the capital city of Lisbon.

What is Porto known for?

Porto is known for its Port wine and the UNESCO Riberia district along the Douro River with its traditional houses, azulejos tiles and cobblestone streets.

How to get from Lisbon to Porto?

The best way to get from Lisbon to Porto is by train arriving in 2 hours and 30 minutes. The journey by car or bus is almost 4 hours.

Is Porto safe?

Porto is a very safe city to travel to with little crime, making it ideal for solo travellers. As with most cities in Europe, it’s a good idea to be cautious of your surroundings.

What is the best time to visit Porto?

The best time to visit Porto is from April to June and October to November when the weather is pleasant and the city has fewer crowds.

How many days to stay in Porto?

The ideal number of days to stay in Porto is 3 giving you enough time to explore the historic Ribeira and take a day trip to the Douro Valley.

As a Holidaymaker

There you have it, 17 reasons that I think you should visit Porto Portugal. Did I convince you that Porto is worth visiting? I hope so.

Now the tough decision, how many days will you stay in Porto? I recommend staying 3 days in Porto.

To help with your Portugal trip planning, use my go-to recommended resources. For more inspiration on what to do in Porto Portugal, visit my Portugal Travel Guide where you will have access to my full library of destinations I’ve been to: Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais, regions of Algarve and Alentejo and Porto.