As Portugal’s second city, Porto offers a dazzling array of sights and places of interest to delight visitors of all ages.
From UNESCO heritage sites, parks and botanical gardens to enthralling museums, stunning architecture and, of course, the banks of the Douro river, Porto has something for everyone and most of it within walking distance of our guest houses.
Here are just a few of our favourite places to visit, wander around or just hang out in soaking up the vibe.
1. World of Wine
An incredible redevelopment that really brings the WOW factor to the city, World of Wine is our top pick and includes seven different museums, 12 restaurants, an exhibition and events space and even a wine school dedicated to sharing the story of Port wine.
Visitors can explore the district, steep themselves in the wine’s history, drink in the atmosphere, soak up the experience and sample some of the finest examples of Port available. It is a fascinating journey through a world of wine taking in the huge diversity of grapes, soils, climates, landscapes and technical features of Portuguese wine production.
And if learning has stimulated your appetite, each of the 12 restaurants is certain to have something mouthwatering to tempt you. From seafood, steak, vegetarian and fine dining to traditional Portuguese dishes, desserts and brunch on a terrace with the finest views of the city, there truly is something for everyone.
2. Museo Serralves
For those seeking culture, Parque de Serralves offers a veritable feast for the senses. It houses pergolas, fountains and a tree-lined alley while the genuine Art Deco villa – La Casa de Serralves – has a skylight designed by French glassmaker René Lalique. If that is not enough, there is also a museum of contemporary art that has exhibited works by artists including Joan Miró, Claes Odenburg and Franz West.
3. Jardim Botanico
A small oasis of calm in the city, the 19th Century Jardim Botanico features an impressive cactus garden, greenhouses, small lakes, formal gardens flanked by towering camellia hedges and the incredible Natural History and Science Museum of Porto. This includes geology, palaeontology, zoology, archaeology and botany exhibits and features a number of interactive displays that are great for kids young and old.
Flanked on the north by the town hall and the south by Praça da Liberdade, Aliados is Porto’s main avenue. At its northern end is a cobbled square with trees and seating areas, while further south, the pedestrian area narrows. On both sides, there are myriad retail outlets nestled at the foot of some amazing architecture, not least the McDonald’s, which is said to be the most beautiful in the franchise.
5. Rua das Flores
If trinkets and tiny boutique stores are your thing, head to the Rua das Flores that heads south west from Sao Bento station. One of the most charmingly beautiful streets in the city, Rua das Flores houses a cornucopia of retail outlets, cafés, restaurants and bars on a largely pedestrianised street that also offers some shade thanks to the buildings that flank the narrow thoroughfare.
No trip to Porto is complete without a visit to Ribeira, the heart of the old town and a UNESCO Heritage site. This charming medieval area criss-crossed with narrow cobbled streets and dotted with bars and restaurants offers the best view of the Luis I bridge and is perfect for a riverside wander along the quayside as well as for clocking some of the most historical sites in the city. Take in the magnificent Igreja de São Francisco, the impressive Palácio da Bolsa and the stunning Sé cathedral, ride the funicular railway or just let yourself meander through the winding streets. Despite being quite touristy, this area is a must-visit.
7. Belas Artes Area
To the north of Ribeira is the area known as Belas Artes, which houses the University of Porto’s fine arts school. One of the districts that has managed to maintain much of its integrity and original features since the city started booming, Belas Artes is just a short walk from Utopian Collection and is home to some magnificent 1930s architecture.
8. Palacio de Cristal
One of the most beautiful places in Porto, Palacio de Cristal is the perfect place if you want to escape the hustle and bustle. With great views over the city and river, a new convention centre, an open air theatre and plenty of great spots to relax and have a picnic (while in the company of the peacocks and chickens that wander around the park), Palacio de Cristal is just over the street from our hotel. We recommend heading there in the late afternoon to watch the amazing sunset sunset from the park’s ancient tower.
9. Praça dos Leoes and Praça Carlos Alberto
A favourite hangout of Porto’s younger residents, these two squares and the area between showcase some incredible architecture – including the tiled façade of the Igreja de Carmo and surrounding building – alongside fountains, shops and a plethora of cafés, restaurants and bars. It’s a vibrant area that can get quite busy, but with a tree-shaded park just to the south (Jardim da Cordoaria), there is calming refuge should you need it.
10. Casa da Musica
The stunning 12-floor concert hall, completed in 2005, is one of the city’s landmarks and is a must for music lovers and architecture aficionados alike. You can take a guided tour of the building, attend one of the many classical, contemporary and jazz concerts held at the venue or enjoy good, reasonably priced food and drink at the rooftop restaurant and café, which also regularly showcases emerging musical talent. The building itself was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhas and won a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) prize in 2007.