Our second trip to Portugal was nothing short of spectacular (read about our Lisbon trip here). We decided to visit Porto during the Festa de São João do Porto weekend, which falls at the end of June every year. This festival celebrates Saint John the Baptist, and the entire city revels with family and friends with food, music, and fireworks. The partying continues all throughout the night and into the next morning. (You need to purchase a colorful plastic hammer to partake in the tradition of lightly pounding on the head of people you meet and see on the streets; it is quite hilarious!). We also ventured into the Douro Valley for a night to experience this world famous wine growing region, best known for grapes that are used in the production of Port wine.
Top Things to do in Porto
Festa de São João do Porto
This annual festival, traditionally a tribute to Saint John the Baptist, is a massive party that takes over the entire city of Porto. It is held on the 23rd of June, and lasts from the afternoon all the way until daybreak the following morning. Just after midnight there is an impressive fireworks display on the river Douro, followed by street parties and revelry.
Read more about our tips for visiting during the festival here.
Ribeira Square & Cais da Ribeira
Located alongside the Douro River, Ribeira Square is one of the main squares in Porto and is a centerpoint of Porto’s historical district. It is a fun area to visit, with shops, bars and restaurants, and it hosts markets and other special activities. Walk along the Cais da Ribeira for more shops and restaurants as well as great views of the water and iconic Rabelo boats.
Miradouro da Vitoria
A scenic spot to visit for a fantastic central view of Porto and the Douro River. This miradouro is located not far from Ribeira and a nice viewpoint to catch the sunset in the evening.
Clérigos Church & Tower (Torre dos Clérigos)
This church and tower date back to the 18th century and were designed in the Roman Baroque style. The church is free to visit and has a mixture of simplicity in overall structure with fine details and finishes, including a polychromed marble altarpiece.
Tips: You can walk up the tower for 360 degree panoramic views of Porto for a few euros.
Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas Descalcos
From the Clérigos Church, walk through the Praca de Lisboa to these “twin” (neighboring) churches. The churches date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and are nothing short of beautiful inside.Igreja do Carmo has a well-known facade covered in tiles along the adjacent road. The two churches are separated by a 1m wide house, created to divide the two churches; one church housed monks, the other housed nuns.
Mercado do Bolhão (Market Bolhao)
This historic market is set in a two-level neoclassical building and sells produce, meats, small goods and gifts, flowers, and more.
Tips: Walk through the Aliados area to get to the market.
Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
Located near the Mercado do Bolhão, the Chapel of Souls is famous for its blue tiled facade and is one of the most beautiful churches in Porto. The tiles depict images of the lives of various saints. The interior of the chapel still looks similar to how it would have looked when it was built in the early 18th century.
Praça da Liberdade
Located in Porto’s Baixa area, the Praça da Liberdade is another historic square with origins starting in the early 18th century. Notably, there is a monument dedicated to King Louis IV, who played an important role during the Liberal Wars.
Tips: Poke your head into the São Bento train station; the walls covering the main building are beautiful.
Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
Porto Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church from the 12th century, originally built in Romanesque style, with alterations during the baroque period. The cathedral is an architectural and historical landmark in Porto that is a must see.
Tips: Visit the cathedral and then purchase the extended 3 euro ticket to get into the cloisters. It's a great photo op area!
Pillory of Porto & Paco Episcopal
Located in the terrace outside Porto Cathedral is the Paco Episcopal (Episcopal Palace), the former residence of the bishops of Porto. Adjacent is the Pillory of Porto, an ornate, tall column that symbolizes the power of justice. The views from this terrace are nice as well; another great photo opportunity!
Tips: After visiting this area, head straight down from the cathedral to the water (there is a long way down with stairs and various viewpoints). Walk to the left as you leave the cathedral terrace to find the start of the stairs.
Dom Luís I Bridge
The Dom Luís I Bridge is an iconic bridge in Porto with its long span, metal arches, and double-deck spanse. You can walk over to the south side of the river to Vila Nova de Gaia. This bridge is the main attraction during the fireworks show for the Saint John’s Festival.
When in Porto, you MUST try some of the different ports. There are a ton of port houses you can visit for tours and/or tastings, such as Kopke, Calem, Taylor’s, Graham’s, etc. Most of these are located south of the Douro in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Tips: You may want to book a tour or tasting in advance if there are specific port houses you wish to visit. We highly recommend the Kopke port and chocolate tasting experience!
Teleférico de Gaia (cable car)
There is a cable car you can ride that starts/ends near the water in Vila Nova de Gaia and goes up to a beautiful viewpoint, called Miradouro da Serra do Pilar. It's worth it for both the views on the cable car as well as the views from the miradouro.
Tips: Round trip tickets were the same price as one-way so you can take it back down if you want (alternatively, there is a way to walk back down).
- Bolsa Palace
- Monument Church of St. Francis
- Parque da Cidade do Porto (just outside the city center)
- Livraria Lello
- Miguel Bombarda (artistic zone)
- Book a Douro River boat tour on one of the classic Rabelo boats (an iconic symbol of Porto)
Food and Drinks in Porto
Taberninha do Manel
Located on the south side of the Luís I Bridge, this restaurant is a great authentic tapas place for lunch or dinner.
Voltaria, Petisqueira Portuguesa
This little cafe has fresh salads and tapas, just off Rue das Flores, making it a nice casual spot for lunch or a midday snack.
- Miradouro Ignez: This is a great place to grab a glass of wine and enjoy a nice view
- Bacchus Vini
- A bolina
- Wine quay bar
Where to Stay in Porto
The House Ribeira Porto Hotel
Located a stone’s throw from Ribeira Square, this hotel is in the heart of all the action in Porto, and has spacious rooms with comfortable beds.
After spending time in Porto, we took the train out to the Douro Valley to experience this famous wine region. The train journey is very scenic, and you can do either do a day trip or spend the night. We went to Pinhão, but you can also head to Peso da Regua which is a bit closer to Porto. We had an amazing day filled with wine and port tasting, delicious food, and a tour through the valley.
You can read all about it here.