Cruise on the Douro River, Porto.

Known as the industrial center with a busy and vibrant pace of life in Portugal, the city of Porto is gradually becoming one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Western Europe. Located along the mouth of the Douro River in the northern Portugal, Porto is the second largest city after Lisbon and is also home to FC Porto – the famous football club in Europe. It also has a variety of premium and fine wines, especially the well-known one called Portwind. Not only that, Porto also has a strong attraction by the beauty of an ancient historical city blending with civilized and modern. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Porto for the first-time? Let’s check out our Porto travel blog (Porto blog) with the fullest Porto travel guide (Porto guide, Porto portugal guide, Porto tourist guide, Porto visitor guide) from how to get there, best time to go, where to stay, where to go and top things to do to find out the answer!

An aerial view of bustling, charming and vibrant of port city of Porto of Portugal at dusk.

As an industrial city but Porto is known for its charming scenery with mountains, long rivers, the sea side by side, beautiful streets and quaint red roof tiles houses winding on the hillsides, exquisite and rich cuisine, friendly people, close-knit lifestyle and especially the service price is very affordable.

As the second largest economic center of Portugal with modern public works, but this city always still keep its charming, ancient looks and peaceful atmosphere. | porto travel blog
The symbol of Porto.

Porto is one of the busiest industrial and commercial centers in Portugal. The population of this city is not too large, only about 1,500,000 people living within a radius of 50km with surrounding areas such as: Gaia, Matosinhos, Maia, Gondomar, and Espinho…

Porto blog: A brief history of Porto

The city’s ancient name was Portus Cale, then Portucale and is the origin of the modern country’s name of Portugal. In the 11th century, Porto became the capital of the county of Portugalia, the birthplace of the later Kingdom of Portugal. The Portuguese still consider Porto the “unofficial capital” of their country. What visitors enjoy in Lisbon can also be found in Porto, even more. When traveling to Porto, you will see the charm of the classical architecture from Medieval Times, the red tile roofs of colorful houses blooming on the banks of the Douro River, the jingling trams, the winding streets and steep alleys, the gentle cafes… and a slow melancholy charm.

Colorful houses with red roof tiles on high steep cliffs and overlooking the Douro river.

Porto blog: Overview of Porto

I have never thought I would have so many feelings for a city that I had no idea in mind when I visited. Even what I known about Portugal is only “Spain’s neighbor” or “Ronaldo’s hometown”. Porto, is not the capital, so it’s even more ambiguous. But thanks to that “ambiguous thing” that made my heart not too expect, making me explore this small port city with a slightly excited feeling like a white sheet of paper in the golden sunshine of May.

Porto tram and street scene. Elegant and quaint with Baroque style, the hundreds of years old houses are still well preserved. The squares and alleys are all paved with very special mosaic-style marble, attracting viewers’ eyes.

Porto, if personified, it would be a rustic but classy girl. With a history of forming a port city from the 300s BC, Porto is an ancient city of Portugal, also the second largest city in this country after Lisbon.

Porto is more vibrant and beautiful thanks to the Douro river flowing through, not only that, the whole city is also located on high and steep cliffs. The winding and steep streets are like flowing streams. Walking around will make you feel relaxed when drop downhill and will get tired when have to climbing up. That’s why strolling around Porto and being captivated by each frame is a memorable experience.

Douro river and its port.
A stroll around Porto is to reward the eyes with artistic bursts of color. Get passionate because your eyes deserve to be seen.
Steep streets are “specialties” of Porto.

This city can be likened to a huge museum of art. Azulejos motif patterns (panels of tile-mosaic, tiles patterns) with blue-and-white tiles and glazed porcelain tiles are used everywhere. Patterns of flowers, human and animals are painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework, decorating houses and beautiful interior mosaics tiles. These blue and white motif patterns are most popular in Porto and you can see no less than three major churches here using this pattern for its exterior design. Azulejos ancient patterns are decorated in a simple arch of color, mostly white and light-blue. These colors are believed to have been influenced by the era of explosive maritime discovery (15th-18th centuries) and are considered neo-modern at that time. Other colors that appeared later were yellow and green.

Azulejos motif patterns on facade of a church.
Beautiful mosaics tiles using Azulejos motifs in São Bento Station.
Signature windows with blue-and-white Azulejos patterns on a facade of a building.

Porto is a busy and bustling port city that is also world famous for its wine production. Come to Porto, walking through streets, seeing cafes lying close together and find yourself a nice spot to sip a glass of wine while watching the city and people passby is also the great relax moments.

Tasting Porto’s wine is a must-try experience.

Don’t forget to stop by Porto’s bridges to see Porto from above, you don’t need drones to take real aerial photos because Porto’s topography allows you to do that. And visit Porto when the sun getting down until dusk when the lights by the port are sparkling and warm when the summer sun still not yet fade.

Vibrant scene at dusk. | porto travel blog

The old town is completely located in the Douro river basin. The center of Porto is planned on both sides of the river in the shape of a V. The traditional houses here are built closely along the hillsides, as if sticking to it, creating a distinctive beauty. Each house in the Old Quarter has existed for hundreds of years, but their architecture are very different.

Porto travel blog: When to come?

Porto has a typical semi-Mediterranean climate, the temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius in summer and in winter the temperature can drop to 0 degrees Celsius. From April, the number of tourists begins to be crowded and bustling, lasting until October. However, the best time to visit Porto is around mid-June to September.

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Porto has 220 days of sunshine in year. The temperature rises on sunny days, the warm and temperate winter is an ideal sunbathing spot for European tourists. Some travelers choose to come here for their winter break, from November to February, but that trip is more likely to be affected by weather conditions. During the winter months, all restaurants, hotels and bars remain open to serving customers!

Porto Portugal guide: How to get to Porto?

By plane from Vietnam

There are not many airlines flying to Porto directly – most will fly to Lisbon – but Turkish Airlines that will allow you to fly to Porto with one transit in Turkey. Booking tickets 3 months in advance costs from USD691.96 – USD778.45/round trip. You should book tickets on weekdays – do not book on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays – it will be cheaper.

If you departing from other cities, visit sites like Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak to find cheap tickets and the most suitable flight route.

Porto Airport | porto travel blog

By plane from other European cities

This is the means I recommend you to use if you are already in Europe because there are many airlines flying to Porto from European cities. You can use Skyscanner, Momondo, GoEuro apps to find suitable flight routes depending on your departure point.

I flew to Porto from Barcelona by Ryanair and fly back to Paris by Aigle Azur.

The common point of the two airlines is that the cost is cheap and economical, if you book early, one way is about 40 euros / person – excluding checked baggage. If you want to upgrading checked baggage, the fees is 20 euros for Ryanair and 25 euros for Aigle Azur, respectively. If you upgrade at check-in time, the price will be doubled – I recommend you upgrading through the apps of these two carriers.

Ryan Air is also one of the low cost airlines that has flights to Ibiza.
Ryan Air is also one of the low cost carrier that operating routes to Porto.

Note: Before flying with Ryanair and Aigle Azur, you will be required to online check-in 24 hours in advance and self-print out your boarding pass. It is quite inconvenient but is mandatory for non-EU citizens. However, with Aigle Azur, I forgot to print my boarding pass and they printed it for me without any charge. With Ryanair, because I haven’t tried it yet, I don’t dare to advise. But to be sure, you should remember to print your boarding pass first.

Getting from airport to city center

The airport is 50 minutes by car or 40 minutes by subway line E (metro) to central Porto. Tickets of the both types of means of transport are easy to buy at the airport and ticket prices range from €8 to €10. If you take metro, you will go directly to the Trindade central station.

Take Porto Metro Map. | porto travel blog

Note: If you take a night flight to Porto between 1:30AM and 6AM daily, there will be no buses or subway lines, so taking a taxi (expensive) is the only option to getting to the city center or you have to sleep at the airport to save money.

Getting to Porto by train

In the city, there are two big stations: São Bento station and Campanha station (Estación de Porto-Campanhã). You can getting here from Madrid and Paris regularly. However, traveling by this type of vehicle you have to change train in Tui with the taxi price for this ride is €5.

São Bento station

Getting to Porto by bus from Barcelona

This is for reference only because the bus ride from Barcelona is nearly 24 hours by Alsa or Eurolines. It takes so much time but the price is not cheap, the tickets cost 75 euros / way / person. So I still recommend you to use plane.

eurolines bus
Eurolines bus | porto travel blog

Getting to Porto by boat/ferry

Porto is famous as a seaport city, so it’s not surprising if you want to come here by waterway. There are two ports that help you reach Porto in the easiest way: Leixoes and Douro. You can refer to ferry timetables and routes here.

Porto blog: Getting around Porto

Buses and the metro/tram system provide convenient ways to access to the suburbs, while in the historic center of the city, you can completely walkable.

Metro

Traveling by public transport in Porto is very simple with metro. With 6 lines A B C D E F running throughout the city, you can go anywhere with metro. So how to use Metro?

You can buy tickets right at the Aeroport station upon arriving at the Porto airport (Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport). If you traveling a lot, I recommend you to buy a 24-hour ticket (unlimited traveling times) that costs 6.90 euros/ticket instead of buying a single ticket of 1.60 euros/trip.

Porto Metro

Steps to buy tickets by ticket vending machines.

  • Select language.
  • Select a ticket type (single ticket or day ticket).
  • Select the number of days. You can choose from 1 to 7 days.
  • Select zones. It’s quite complicated at this step but you can choose Z4, because Porto is small and attractions mainly located in Z4 including the airport.
  • Payment. The ticket vending machine accepts coins, banknotes and even cards. Note that the swipe card is prone to errors, if you have a chip card, it will be easier to pay.
  • Get tickets.
Ticket vending machine.

Note: Please note that if you want to buy multiple tickets for many people, you need to buy multiple times, because the machine does not have the function of selling multiple tickets at once. I clicked wrongly when I saw that I bought a card and selected “5 titles” for 5 people in the group, in fact, a card valid for 5 days. This is a pretty bloody experience, LOL.

Porto blog: What to do and where to go?

Ribeira District

Exploring Ribeira, visitors have the opportunity to admire the ancient architecture filled with color, traditional colorful houses lying close together with red roof tiles, red bricks, mosaics on old windows and the labyrinth of small, narrow, winding old cobblestone roads. In 1996, Ribeira brought pride to the people of the city because it was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Currently in the Old Quarter there are many restaurants, cafes and bars that still retain the old-fashioned architecture.

The nostalgic beauty

Ponte Luis I Bridge

An attraction not to be missed is the Ponte Luis I bridge, a double-deck metal arch bridge was desgined by the architects Théophile Seyrig, Léopold Valentin partnered with the great architect Gustave Eiffel (who designed the Eiffel Tower) and started to build in 1880. From Bairro da Ribeira streets, cross the river and climb upstairs by stairs or tram.

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Porto Six Bridges Cruise + Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

The Ponte Luis bridge is the symbol of Porto, connects the two banks of the Douro River. Take a walk across the bridge, standing at a height of 46.5 m above the river at sunset or dusk and admiring panoramic views of Porto city, sometimes stop to watch the trams or vehicles back and forth, watch the boats carrying wine bobbing on the river below, soak up the wonderful scenery here.

Address: PTE Luiz I, Porto
Access: Take metro line D to Jardim do Morro/Sao Bento

Jardim do Morro

Don’t forget to stop by Jardin do Morro to try delectable street food in Porto too. There may not be traditional dishes, but the food trucks here are always crowded with diners and the prices are very cheap too. At a nearby park, you can lying on the grass and eating something, warming up in the summer sun is not a bad idea. From here, travelers also can enjoy the panoramic view of the old town of Porto and fall in love with Porto again.

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Address: Av. da República, 4430-148 Vila Nova de Gaia
Getting there: Metro Line D – Jardim do Morro / Tram / Bus

Majestic Cafe

This cafe is not only famous for its delicious coffee, quaint architecture but also because this is where the writer J.K. Rowling spent a lot of time writing her famous book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She left Porto in 1994 and in 1997, the book was published after many difficulties.

Impressive facade in Baroque style

Address: Rua Santa Catarina 112, 4000-442 Porto, Portugal
Hours: 9:30AM–11:30PM/Sunday: Closed

Livraria Lello

This oldest bookstore in Portugal is known as the most beautiful bookstore in the world. Here you can find a wide variety of books in different languages. The funny thing is that you have to pay a fee of 5 euros / person to enter the bookstore because the bookstore is regularly in need of renovation and the number of visitors every year is large. If you buy a book here, you will receive a 10% discount when show your entrance ticket.

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Address: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
Hours: 10:30AM–7PM/Monday: Closed

Igreja do Carmo

The world famous Portuguese brick architecture. The 18th century church Igreja do Carmo is a must-see attraction! Located in the heart of the old town, the exterior design of the church is exquisite and wonderful. Classical architecture combined with beautiful murals on the outside walls. The interior of the church is also richly decorated which is well worth a look.

Address: R. do Carmo, 4050-164 Porto, Portugal
Hours: 9AM–6PM
Getting there: Tram 18 to Carmo

Sunbathing at coloful balconies

Porto’s city center is itself an attraction. Every corner can make for a great Instagram photo, every wall can become a colorful backdrop. On the balcony, people sit and enjoy sunlight. The flowers and plants hanging on railings also make you imagine a bit the delicate life of the local people.

Colorful balconies | porto blog

Enjoy the beauty of Duoro River

The Douro is a river that flows through Spain and Portugal. Strolling along the banks of the Duoro River in Bairro da Ribeira distrit and admire the remnants of Baroque architecture. If you want to experience the river in a different way, boat tours can be a good choice.

Douro river

Sipping coffee in a leisure afternoon

In the afternoon when the sun shines from the west bank to the south bank over Duoro River is the perfect time to enjoy a cup of coffee in the sun.

Sipping coffee at riverfront.

Street Art

Street art is a signature feature in the culture of Portugal in general and of Porto in particular. You can easily spot gaffiti street art in any small side street of Porto. Porto is a place where all the streets and alleys are hidden with mysterious beauty. As soon as you look up, you will see 3D murals right in front of your eyes, it’s amazing.

Murals | porto blog

Wine and street performance

You should buy a bottle of wine and bring it to the riverside to enjoy while watching the beautiful sunset and enjoying the street performances.

What a view | porto blog

Monastery of Serra do Pilar

Next to Jardim do Morro is the Monastery of Serra do Pilar (Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar). When climbing up to its rooftop, you can see Porto from above. It’s only 4-min walk from the Dom Luis I Bridge.

Address: Largo Aviz, 4430-329 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Hours: 10AM–5:30PM/Monday: Closed
Getting there: Metro Line D – Jardim do Morro
Ticket price: €1, €3 to climb to the top (<12 years old is free)

Winery

Stop by to visit the old cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia region, you will learn about the traditional wine production process of this beautiful country, from grape harvesting, processing, distilling and bottling. At the end of the journey, you can raise a glass to enjoy each of the most delicious wines.

Porto Historical Tour with Wine Tasting and Cruise Experience

Don’t forget the beaches around Porto

You need to change the atmosphere, immerse yourself in the beautiful nature with the blue sea is a good choice. Endowed with a unique location, Porto lies along the coast of the Costa Verde and is surrounded by many stunning beaches.

Matosinhos Coast (Costa Nova Coast)

The nearest beach from Porto with soft, white sand bay and clear blue water. If you want to escape the crowds, there are many picturesque beaches dotted along the coast for you to choose from.

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Address: Avenida General Norton de Matos, Matosinhos 4450-208
Getting there: Transdev Bus (L5951) in Rossio or near the train station, will take you to Barra or Costa Nova in about 40 minutes.
Ticket price: €4.80 (two-way)

Praia de Espinho Beach

This pristine beach is located near the resort town of Espinho. It is a great destination for travelers who want to spend a whole day for relaxing.

Praia do Senhor da Pedra

Praia do Senhor da Pedra is a very beautiful beach, near the city of Porto and famous for the image of a small church located on an island.

​​Foz do Douro Beach

There is another beach that is also very popular with Portuguese on their family vacations, Foz do Douro. Although it is smaller than other beaches, but owns a very unique beauty, including many sharp cliffs lying close together to form extremely dangerous terrain.

| porto blog

Cruise on the Douro River

The history of formation and development of Porto is closely associated with the mighty Douro river. Since ancient times, local people have used boats to transport wooden wine barrels to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. Today, wine is transported by large ships.

To fully experience Porto, there is nothing more perfect than take a cruise tour on the Douro River to see the city in a unique way. A very new feeling, Porto looms in front of your eyes, flanked by colorful houses. Far away, ships carrying wine moored on the river as if reminiscent of good stories of the past. The monumental Dom Luis I Bridge is considered a symbol of the city.

Boat tours departing from Ribeira District are offered with two itineraries, a short one-hour cruise and a full-day cruise on the Douro River.

During a long trip, visitors will visit the beautiful Douro valley, located next to the Douro River, creating an extremely poetic natural landscape. Stretching on steep mountain slopes are terraced fields with lush, fertile vineyards.

Continuing the journey, the famous winery town of Pinhão is also the main destination of visitors on the tour.

Vinyards along Douro River. | porto blog

Douro Valley and Wine Day Tour from Porto

Porto travel blog: What and where to eat?

The best thing when coming to Porto is that you can delightfully enjoy fresh seafood, prepared in the own style of Portuguese cuisine. Local people are quite fond of drinking, so you can find this drink on all menus, from high-end restaurants to casual dining spots.

Here, diners can try delicious traditional local dishes such as Pastéis de bacalhau (Salted Cod Fritters), Caldeirada de peixe (Portuguese fish stew), Francesinha (Portuguese Sandwich), Polvo à Lagareiro (Portuguese style grilled octopus with smashed potatoes) to sip with fine wine.

Polvo à Lagareiro | porto blog

To save money, it is best to have lunch and dinner in set meals. Such a meal costs from €6 –€10/set, both cheap and quality.

Note: A small note to avoid “unjustly losing money” for you when dining is that during the meal, the waiter often brings out a few delicious seafood plates that you did not order. You will have to pay extra if you eat them, otherwise the waiter will bring them back and no charge.

I love good food and fine wine, Porto both have what I want. Right from the moment I arrived in Porto, while waiting for the owner of Airbnb to stop by to open the door in the Jardim do Marques area. I stopped by a small restaurant that looks very local to find some food, I couldn’t help but suprise because the food was delicious, greasy and rich.

Franceshina was the first dish that I tried. At first, the dish was served at the suggestion of the owner and I was quite surprised because the appearance of the dish was not very attractive. Just something square topped with molten cheese and eggs with sauce and fries. It looked like a boring American dish. But right the first bite, I experienced the flavors of the ham, beef, sausage and sandwich inside, melted with eggs, cheese and beer-flavored sauce to form a combination of flavors that exploded on the tip of my tongue. Although the European portion is not small at all, I ate it all as quickly as possible because of… the deliciousness. So delicious, that night, when I went to the downtown area at Aliados station, I had to stop at another restaurant to taste it once again. The price for this dish ranges from 8-10 euros depending on the restaurant.

Franceshina, must-try dish in Porto | porto blog

Port Wine is the next addictive drink during my stay in Porto. Good food must be accompanied by good wine. I did not hesitate to try it because some friends living in Europe told me that “if you leave Porto without try its fine wine, you have never been to Porto yet”. I just think it’s too common a statement. However, I was stunned by the taste of this Port Wine. The first taste is sweet that is not acrid like many ordinary red wines, the aftertaste is the heat flowing into the larynx, which is more wonderful when sipping with a little wind whistling through the skin.

Tasting Port Wine.

Zenith – Brunch & Cocktails Bar

Playing will be tiring. What do you need to regain your energy? You can try the signature brunch of Zenith Cafe with a special “classic Eggs Benedict” dish with poached eggs and homemade hollandaise sauce.

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Address: Praça de Carlos Alberto 86, 4050-158 Porto, Portugal
Hours: 9AM–8PM
Getting there: Tram 18 to Carmo
Tel: +351 22 017 1557
Website: https://www.zenithcaffe.pt/

Lado B Café (Coliseu)

Every Porto guide book will suggests you to try the “Francesihna”, a traditional Portuguese sandwich consisting of 3 layers of bread, grilled sausage, ham and beef, baked in the oven with melted cheese, and topped with wine, beer, tomatoes and sauce.

Which restaurant should I choose? Lado B restaurant may look like a fast food restaurant but their Francesihnas is actually a local favorite.

Address: ao Coliseu, R. de Passos Manuel 190 Frente, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal
Hours: 12–10PM/Sunday: Closed
Getting there: Metro D to Aliados
Tel: +351 22 201 4269
Website: ladobcafe.pt

Lhau! Lhau! Maria!

If you want to experience like a culinary expert? Come to Lhau! Lhau! Maria! “Pastéis de bacalhau” is one of the most favorite dishes here. This dish is a real delight with its crispy cheese crust and sea bass filling inside.

Address: R. do Dr. Ricardo Jorge 67, 4050-514 Porto, Portugal
Gettint there: Metro D to Aliados
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 12PM–3:30PM, 7PM–11PM
Price: 20 €
Tel: +351 22 205 7869
Website: lhaulhaumaria.com

Vogue Café

You might even find some familiar faces on magazine covers which framed and hung on the wall here. This is where fashionistas hang out.

Address: R. de Avis 10, 4050-075 Porto, Portugal
Access: Metro D to Aliados
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 11AM – 1PM (Saturday, Saturday open until 2PM)
Tel: +351 22 339 8550
Website: voguecafe.pt

Base Bar

Located next to the University of Porto campus, this hidden gem is a popular spot for students. Try the local draft beer and enjoy a lazy afternoon lying on the grass.

Address: Base – Quisque Jardim, Passeio dos Clerigos, R. das Carmelitas 151, 4050-163 Porto, Portugal
Getting there: Metro D to São Bento
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 11AM – 1PM (Saturday, Saturday open until 2:00)
Tel: +351 910 076 920
Website: baseporto.com

Porto travel blog: Where to stay?

The cost of staying in Porto ranges from 20 – 30 euros for a night in a hostel and 40 – 50 euros for a night in a hotel. However, I recommend using Airbnb because it costs less than $25 to get a good place to stay. However, the big minus point is that most hosts do not speak English and have to communicate by text message to automatically translate.

Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.

Torel Avantgarde

Check out more top rated and best hotels in Porto on Agoda.com and Booking.com

In addition, you can refer to one of the best Airbnb in Porto for budget stay:

Douro Classic by Upperground

–> Use this link https://www.airbnb.com/c/anht5185, to register for an Airbnb account and book a room, you will get a discount up to $55 for the first booking.

Porto travel blog: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Porto you can refer to

Are you looking for more top things to do in Porto: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And Portugal travel guide here.

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