Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is a treasure trove of culture, history, and stunning landscapes. With just one day to explore this beautiful city, you might think it’s impossible to experience everything it has to offer. But fear not! We’ve crafted the perfect guide on what to do in Porto in one day, ensuring you make the most of your trip. So buckle up and let’s dive into this unforgettable journey.
Morning: A Taste of History at São Bento Railway Station and Lello Bookstore
Start your day at the iconic São Bento Railway Station. This historical landmark isn’t just a transport hub; it’s also a living museum showcasing the exquisite Portuguese azulejo tilework. The moment you step inside, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking display of over 20,000 blue and white ceramic tiles depicting various scenes of Portuguese history. What better way to kick off your adventure in Porto in one day than by immersing yourself in the city’s rich past?
After soaking in the history at São Bento, make your way to Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. The stunning neo-Gothic architecture, stained glass ceiling, and the famous red staircase are sure to take your breath away. Rumor has it that J.K. Rowling found inspiration for the Hogwarts Library while frequenting this bookstore during her time in Porto. So, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, this is a must-visit spot on your one-day trip!
Late Morning: A Spiritual Encounter at Clérigos Church and Tower
As you continue your Porto adventure, head towards Clérigos Church and its iconic tower. The Baroque-style church is a masterpiece by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, and its 75-meter high tower offers one of the best panoramic views of the city. Climbing the 225 steps to the top may be challenging, but the reward is a stunning view that’s well worth the effort. This is an opportunity to capture unforgettable memories of your day in Porto.
Lunchtime: A Culinary Journey at Mercado do Bolhão
When it comes to what to do in Porto in one day, no visit is complete without indulging in the city’s mouthwatering cuisine. Make your way to the lively Mercado do Bolhão for a taste of Porto’s gastronomic delights. This traditional market is a haven for food lovers, featuring a variety of fresh produce, seafood, and specialty food stalls. Treat yourself to a delicious “francesinha” sandwich or savor some “pasteis de nata” as you explore the market’s bustling atmosphere.
Afternoon: Riverside Stroll and Wine Tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia
After satisfying your taste buds, it’s time to stroll along the picturesque Ribeira district. The colorful buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and the stunning view of the Douro River create a magical atmosphere perfect for a leisurely walk. Don’t forget to snap some photos of the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge!
Next, cross the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia. This area is famous for its Port wine cellars, and a visit to Porto wouldn’t be complete without a wine tasting experience. Stop by one of the renowned cellars, like Graham’s or Taylor’s, for a guided tour and indulge in the rich flavors of Port wine. This is an essential part of any one-day Porto adventure.
Evening: Sunset at Jardins do Palácio de Cristal and Dinner at a Traditional Tasca
As the day winds down, make your way toJardins do Palácio de Cristal to enjoy a mesmerizing sunset. This enchanting garden is home to an array of exotic plants, beautiful sculptures, and a magnificent domed pavilion. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and find the perfect spot to watch the sun setting over the city. The view from the garden’s lookout points is absolutely stunning, making it an ideal location to relax and reflect on your Porto experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about the garden, you can check out their official website.
Finally, it’s time to experience the vibrant Porto nightlife. Head to a traditional “tasca” for an authentic Portuguese dining experience. Tascas are small, family-run eateries known for their hearty dishes and welcoming atmosphere. You can sample some local favorites like “bacalhau à Gomes de Sá” (salted cod with potatoes and onions) or “tripas à moda do Porto” (tripe with white beans). For a list of recommended tascas in Porto, take a look at this helpful guide.
One Final Tip: Getting Around Porto
Throughout your one-day journey in Porto, you’ll find that the city is best explored on foot. However, if you prefer a more convenient way to get around, consider using the Andante Card, which allows unlimited access to Porto’s public transportation network, including buses, trams, and the metro. This way, you can easily hop on and off at various points of interest, making the most of your day in Porto.
The Ribeira District in Porto
We recommend starting your visit to Porto starting from ribeira, the district that stretches along the river Douro. Unesco inspectors didn’t have to think much about it when they decided to put ribeira on the List of World Heritage Sites.
A maze of cobbled streets on steep climbs, low houses with colorful facades, tree-lined squares, flowery balconies, clothes lying to dry, old ones outside the doors, bars, restaurants and craft shops contribute to creating a unique urban landscape. In the lower part of the Ribeira starts the iron bridge Dom Luis I.
Dom Luis I Bridge in Porto
The pupils of Gustave Eiffel, the author of the famous Tower of Paris and the equally famous Statue of Liberty, brought the master’s teachings to many parts of the world.
It was one of them, Téophile Seyrig, who designed the Dom Luis I, the iron bridge of Porto that connects the Ribeira district with the sister town of Vila Nova de Gaia. A few years earlier he had collaborated with Eiffel on the construction of the nearby Dona Maria Bridge.
He worked alone on the design of the Dom Luis I and judging by the result, Seyrig had learned early and well the teachings of the master: the scenic effect of the bridge, especially at sunset or at night is spectacular. Built in 1881 and opened in 1886, the bridge has always performed the task of disposing of car traffic. Today, in the upper floor, trains from porto’s new metro pass by while buses, trams and pedestrians pass downstairs. A walk along the more than 170 meters long overlooking the Douro are one of the things to do absolutely in Porto.
São Bento Station in Porto
It is not very often that you enter a station not to catch a train but just to admire its architecture. The anonymous façade of São Bento station (San Benedetto) does not reveal the beauty of the atrium leading to the tracks.
More than 20,000 Azulejos (tiles) painted in blue and white in the early 1900s by Jorge Colaco, Portugal’s most prominent decorator. Built in the place where in 1600 there was a Benedictine monastery that then fell into disrepair, the station is now one of Porto’s most visited tourist attractions.As soon as you enter you are invading by the blue/blue color of the tiles that reproduce the history of the means of transport in chronological order, from the beginnings to the appearance of the train. The large panels depict scenes from Portugal’s history including the solemn entrance of D. João I in Porto, with his betrothed, D. Filipa de Lencastre.
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The Lello and Irmao Bookstore in Porto
Considered by many to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world, the “Lello e Irmao” attracts tourists, most of them un interested in books and much to the extraordinary atmosphere and architecture of the place.
Considered a true “Cathedral of the Book” was built in the late 1800s to a design by the Portuguese engineer and politician Francisco Xavier Esteves. The magical atmosphere, the result of the fusion of Gothic and Liberty style of the place and a skilful use of wood, has not escaped the Harry Potter sets that have chosen the bookcase as the set for some shooting. Extraordinary is the massive 8-shaped wooden central staircase that leads to the upper floors where there is also a café to sit in to enjoy the show. No less interesting is the neo-Gothic exterior façade. Theoretically in the library it is forbidden to photograph but it seems that the managers are quite tolerant!
A Culinary Journey Through Porto: Must-Try Dishes for a One-Day Feast
As you explore Porto in one day, it’s essential to taste the local flavors that make this city a gastronomic paradise. Here are some must-try dishes and where to find them:
Francesinha: This iconic Porto sandwich, made of layers of various meats, melted cheese, and a beer-infused tomato sauce, is an absolute must-try. Head to Café Santiago for one of the city’s best renditions of this hearty meal.
Bacalhau: Portugal is famous for its salted cod dishes, and Porto is no exception. Try “Bacalhau à Brás” (shredded cod with potatoes, onions, and eggs) or “Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá” (cod with potatoes, onions, and olives). O Gaveto is an excellent choice for these traditional dishes.
Tripas à Moda do Porto: This local specialty, made with tripe, white beans, and various meats, is a nod to Porto’s history. For an authentic taste of this dish, visit A Cozinha do Manel.
Pastel de Nata: These famous custard tarts are a must-try Portuguese pastry. You can find them at many bakeries throughout the city, but Manteigaria is known for its exceptionally delicious pastéis de nata.
Petiscos: Similar to tapas, petiscos are small plates of Portuguese delicacies, perfect for sampling various dishes. Check out Taberna Santo António for a wide selection of petiscos in a cozy atmosphere.
By indulging in these local dishes, you’ll truly experience the essence of Porto’s cuisine during your one-day visit. So don’t be shy—explore, taste, and savor every bite!
As you embark on your incredible one-day journey in Porto, you may want to delve deeper into the city’s history, culture, and attractions. For a more in-depth look at all that Porto has to offer, check out these helpful resources:
- Visit Porto Travel: The official tourism website offers a wealth of information on attractions, events, and experiences in Porto and the surrounding regions. You’ll find insider tips, suggested itineraries, and even downloadable maps to help you make the most of your trip.
- Porto Card: To save on entrance fees and public transportation, consider purchasing the Porto Card. This tourist card provides free or discounted entry to several museums, monuments, and attractions, as well as unlimited access to the city’s public transportation.
- Taste Porto: For foodies eager to explore Porto’s culinary scene, Taste Porto offers a range of guided food tours that introduce you to the city’s gastronomic gems. From market tours to petiscos (Portuguese tapas) crawls, you’ll discover the city’s flavors through the eyes of a local.
- Porto Walkers: If you’re interested in guided walking tours, Porto Walkers is a highly recommended option. They offer free and paid tours that cover various aspects of Porto’s history, architecture, and culture, ensuring you get a well-rounded experience of the city.
- Cruise on the Douro River: To truly appreciate the beauty of Porto and its surrounding landscapes, consider taking a Douro River cruise. These cruises range from short trips along the city’s riverbanks to multi-day adventures through the Douro Valley’s stunning vineyards and terraces.
Remember, Porto is a city that rewards curiosity and exploration. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, there’s always something new to discover. So while this one-day guide offers an excellent starting point for your Porto adventure, don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten path and create your own unique experience. Happy travels!