One Perfect Day in Porto: An itinerary that will make you fall in love with this city

Porto city seen from Serra Do Pilar

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Before we started our first ever Camino de Santiago (we chose the Camino Portuguese), we spent a few days in and around Portugal’s capital Lisbon, followed by a few days in Porto (Portus Cale in Roman times), the city that lent the country its name.

If you are in Porto for a conference, or similar to us, plan to start your Camino from here, you may only have a day to get to know this beautiful city. We have therefore created a one-day itinerary of experiences that packs as much in as sensible while giving you an insider’s view of the city that will make you want to come back for more.

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Porto is a city that is easy to fall in love with. We really liked Lisbon, but with its deeper and narrower Douro river valley, its striking bridges and historic (sometimes a bit scruffy) architecture, Porto is even more picturesque than Lisbon (in our opinion anyway).

If you love churches, you’re in heaven here (pun intended). It seems the number of churches, especially those with blue azulejo tiles (inside, outside or both), is only topped by the number of places where you can enjoy a drink and/or meal. People from Porto are not called Tripeiros (Tripe-Eaters) for no reason: they love their food (and tripe is just one, albeit unusual, delicacy you can taste here).

Porto is a very walkable city. We had first planned to get the Andante card (which works in the same way as the one in Lisbon) but ended up walking pretty much everywhere… another good training opportunity if you’re starting your Camino from here.

Map of Accommodation, Points of Interest, Eateries and Transport

Below is a map of the recommended accommodation, points of interest, eateries and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.

Porto narrow street

Porto's narrow cobble-stoned streets just wait to be explored

So, let’s get right into it…

Breakfast

For a day of exploring, you need a good base. Our recommendation is to choose one of the Hungry Biker cafes around the corner from the stunning São Bento Railway Station – Do Norte Café [Google Maps location] or Floresta Café [Google Maps location]. Both open at 8:30, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the food before the next activity on this itineray.

Mid-Morning

After breakfast, head to the Portuguese Center of Photography [Goolge Maps location] to start your exploration with a free walking tour. Tours start next to the statue of Camilo Castelo Branco, a few meters from the Clérigos Tower at 10:30 (look for a guide with a yellow umbrella) and take around 2.5 hours.

Knowledgeable and enthusiastic, your morning tour guide will give you a great overview of the history of the city as you walk past some of the main sights. No wonder Porto’s historic centre was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Don’t forget to tip your guide if you enjoyed the tour.

Clerigos Tower, Porto, Portugal

The morning walking tour includes historic landmarks such as the Clérigos Tower

Early Afternoon

Big breakfast or not, by the time the tour is finished, you’ll have worked up an appetite, for sure. Why not try some local specialties? Tripe may not be on everyone’s culinary bucket list, but if it is, by all means, try Tripas à Moda do Porto.

Other local delicacies include

  • Bifana: a pork sandwich. Try it at Conga [Google Maps location] or Sol e Sombra Bifanas [Google Maps location].
  • Francesinha (the Frenchy): a layered roast beef/ham/sausage sandwich covered in cheese, bathed in tomato sauce and (often) accompanied by fries. You may want to share one because it really is as filling as it sounds. Our recommendations are Churrasqueira Lameiras [Google Maps location] or Dona Francesinha Porto [Google Maps location].

Best time to visit Porto

While Porto is an all-year-round destination, we recommend to visit Porto in late Spring (May/June) or early Autumn (September), when the weather is at its most pleasant. That said, if you are planning to walk the Camino, you may also want to consider March or April. Best avoided are the busy Summer months (July and August). Most rain falls between October and January.

To learn more about the weather in Porto all year round, check out Weatherspark.

After Lunch

Why not explore the area you’ve walked through in the morning a bit more?

For a bit of old-world charm with a Harry Potter touch, pop inside Livraria Lello [Official website, Google Maps location]. We’re still not sure if having to pay to access a bookshop is the biggest scam or just a clever income and crowd management strategy (to be fair, your entry is being deducted if you buy a book). We let you decide. If you include this experience make sure to book your time slot in advance online to not miss out – 14:00 would work best if you head here straight after lunch.

Alternatively, climb up the Torre dos Clérigos / Clerics’ Tower [Official website, Google Maps location] for (yet more) gorgeous views over the city or stroll a bit more around the Sé / Barredo / Ribeira neighbourhoods for your Instagram fix. If you find yourself at the Ribeira waterfront and are too lazy to walk back up, take the Funicular dos Guindais, just to the east of the Dom Luís I Bridge [Google Maps location].

Inside Livraria Lello

Visit Livraria Lello, one of Porto's oldest bookshops, for a bit of old world charm with a Harry Potter touch

Mid-Afternoon

Given you only have a day (and the tours really are that good), we recommend joining the Free Tour of the Old Town (Ribeira neighbourhood). Giving you an insight into the cultural side (or soul) of Porto, it covers a different area (and a different, though no less enthusiastic guide, will provide their own twist to the tour). The meeting point is the same as in the morning. The tour starts at 15:00 and takes about 2 hours.

Igreja Paroquial De Santo Ildefonso

St Ildefonso - One of many churches in Porto that are covered in Azulejo tiles

Early Evening

Your tour will be finished just in time to make it to Casa da Guitarra for another cultural experience: Fado as 6h (Fado at 6). Introducing you to this beautiful melancholic and uniquely Portuguese style of music, the show takes 60 minutes (including a 15-minute break during which some port wine is being served).

You may want to reserve your spot online in advance to not miss out. While called Fado at 6, due to popular demand, there may be additional shows later in the evening (except in the Winter).

Fado performance

Discover the beauty of Fado music with a performance at Casa da Guitarra

Evening

After the show, you may want to head back across the Dom Luís I Bridge to watch the sunset from the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar just outside the monastery (where you finished your cultural tour). It is one of the best spots (of not THE best spot) to watch the sunset in Porto.

Porto sunset | Image courtesy of Everaldo Coelho

Enjoy an incredible sunset from the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar | Image courtesy of Everaldo Coelho on Unsplash

Your tour guide/s, for sure, will share some recommendations for dinner with you (if not ask). So either before or after sunset, dip into some more authentic Porto cuisine.

Finish off the day with a stroll along the Vila Nova de Gaia waterfront, and maybe some more port wine for dessert.

Porto at night

Stroll along the Vila Nova de Gaia Waterfront after dinner

Where to stay in Porto

To follow this itinerary, we recommend to book (at least) 2 nights (for a full day of exploration). Our recommendations are close to the major sights and won’t break the bank:

NameProperty FeaturesTypePrice IndicatorBook Now
Cocoon Almada700m from Sao Bento Train StationOne bedroom apartment$$Book Now
Fervenca Suites250m from Jardim do Morro Train StationApartments$$$Book Now
Get CozyShared lounge
Non-smoking rooms
Bed and Breakfast$$Book Now
Sustainability Certification included as appropriate, but not validated. $ is USD50 and below. $$$$ is USD150 and above. A marks where we stayed and would highly recommend to our friends and family.

What else to do in/around Porto

If you have more than just a day in Porto, why not head out of town and explore the Douro Valley on one of these tours?

Have you been to Porto?

What has been your favourite experience (and why)? And what would you add to or change in our itinerary? Please let me know.

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One Perfect Day in Porto: An itinerary that will make you fall in love with this city
Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulryken/" target="_blank">Paul Ryken</a>

Author: Paul Ryken

Paul Ryken is a goal-setter and goal achiever, never tell him he can't do anything. kinda guy..a grandfather, a husband, and a practicing minimalist who makes sustainable, ethical purchasing decisions. He lives a values-based, quality over quantity lifestyle. For fitness and mental health, he runs six days a week and is on a mission to complete a marathon on every continent before the age of 60. As a digital nomad with carry-on luggage only, he chooses experiences over material items. He primarily writes about sports, travel finances and technology.