Are you asking yourself is Porto worth visiting? If you are, you’ve come to the right spot!
You’re not alone, the commonly asked question…is Porto worth visiting is something every traveller wonders when planning their Portugal itinerary. And, my answer is a big YES!
Porto 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.
So, is Porto worth it – these are 17 reasons why I say it is. It all comes down to the type of traveller you are, and what interests you. When I first took a trip to Portugal I didn’t add Porto to my itinerary. But for my recent second trip to Portugal, I did! And, so glad!
So let’s uncover what is Porto famous for – facts about Porto making it stand out from its other rival city of Lisbon.
Table of Contents
Who is this City best for?
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 that 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. And, that’s you, be sure to check out the perfect 3 days in Porto itinerary.
Porto is a great destination for solo travellers and couples, especially those who want to see the incredible Douro Valley.
Is Porto Portugal Worth Visiting – 17 Reasons Why It Is
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 is 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 which indicates 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, great food and wine scene and small enough to see in three days.
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.
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.
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 Harry Potter books.
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!
Address: Rua das Carmelitas, 144 | 5€ online entry fee or 6€ walk-in (which goes toward a book purchase)
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. Rowling 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.
Address: Rua Santa Catarina, 112
7. The Incredible Azulejos
Some of the best places to admire the traditional azulejos (or tiles) that Portugal is known for can be found in these places in Porto:
- Sao Bento railway station is famous for its azulejo-covered walls and ceilings which show scenes from Portuguese history and culture (Address: 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 (Address: 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. (Address: 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. (Address: 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 (Address: 210, Rua Dom Joao de Castro
- 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. 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, click here for more information.
11. The Endless Photo Ops
Porto is 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. Perhaps dine 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
The historic wine cellars and caves are located in the Vila Nova de Gaia neighbourhood within the WOW, World of Wine, cultural district.
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. Pre-booking is a must.
14. The Gateway to 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. The best way to experience a day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley is with a guided tour.
The tour I took and loved is this one – check prices and book your dates.
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
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
Travelling during the shoulder or off-season to any destination will provide you with a far better experience- fewer crowds and 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.
What is Porto Famous for?
Porto is surprisingly famous for a lot, perhaps most notable is the production of Port wine. Beyond that, there’s the historic center of the old town that is incredibly charming. Wandering aimlessly through the winding streets is the best way to discover those Porto secret places. The Porto Cathedral in the historic centre of the city is one of the oldest and most important Romanesque landmarks that is worth seeing in Porto.
10 Fun Facts About Porto
- During the Celtic empire, Porto was named Cale, or Portus Cale – the port city of Cale. Portus Cale was later renamed Porto, and Portus Cale became Portucale, which is how Portugal got its name.
- Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe with the earliest evidence of settlers in Porto dating back to the end of the Bronze age near the 8th century BCE.
- Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, right after the capital city of Lisbon.
- Porto is also known as Oporto by some other countries (Britain being one). Its nickname is ‘Invicta” representing the “que nunca for vencido” which translates into “that was never conquered.”
- The historical centre in Porto called Riberia has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Porto is home to one of Europe’s largest street festivals – St John’s Festival, or Festas São João, taking place June 23 to 24 every year.
- The Sao Bento train station in Porto is known as one of the most beautiful in the world.
- Porto is known as the city of bridges being the only city in Europe to have 6 bridges. Two of which were designed by the same architect as the Eiffel Tower, Gustav Eiffel.
- Porto is home to the oldest and largest university in Portugal called the University of Portugal.
- A croque monsieur-inspired sandwich called Francesinha was created in Porto and is now a popular national dish.
Lisbon vs Porto
There’s a longstanding debate about which city is better – Lisbon vs Porto. My answer…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 Lisbon in 4 days 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.
Where is Porto?
Porto is located in the northwest region of Portugal, about 300 km from the capital city of Lisbon.
How old is Porto?
Porto was founded in the 4th century and is considered one of the oldest cities in Portugal, although indicates Porto predates the Roman era.
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 in the months of 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.
Portugal Travel Resources
To help with your Portugal trip inspiration and planning, be sure to check out my Europe Travel page with all of my articles and travel resources to help plan your trip. Some of the articles you’ll find for Portugal include these:
- A Douro Valley Wine Tour from Porto
- The Best Neighbourhoods in Lisbon and the ideal 4-day Lisbon itinerary or if you only have one day in Lisbon
- Visit the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon
- A day trip to Lisbon to Pena Palace in Sintra and also Quinta da Regaleira
- From Lisbon to Cascais for the day
- Baixa House, the place to stay in Lisbon
- The historic city of Evora, a day trip from Lisbon
- Visiting the Alentejo region in Portugal
- Tavira, the beautiful city in the Algarve
- Top beaches in the Algarve
- Check out the most Instagrammable places in Portugal
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As a Holidaymaker
There you have it, 17 reasons to visit Porto Portugal. Did I convince you that Porto is worth visiting? I hope so.