Porto in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

If you plan to spend a long weekend in Porto, this is a great plan. You will be able to enjoy the city to the fullest without missing any of the main attractions.

Camilla Graciano

Camilla Graciano

12 min read

Porto in 3 Days: a guidebook for getting the most out of your visit

Porto | ©Magda Ehlers

In Porto you will find a city with a great historical heritage and plenty to see and do. From a walk with the best views of the river, to enjoy the Portuguese gastronomy and discover the narrow cobbled streets of La Ribeira, its historic center that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

With three days you can get to know enough to take the best of the city and enjoy the most varied plans. Take note of this guide to get to know

Day 1: A stroll through the center of Oporto

Bolhao Market| ©Pietro Faccioli
Bolhao Market| ©Pietro Faccioli

The best way to start your trip in Oporto is to visit some of the most emblematic and popular places. Therefore, your first day will be full of history, culture, breathtaking views and some wineries, to get the best first impression of the city. You will visit the mythical Bolhao Market, the popular Sé Cathedral, the Stock Exchange Palace, the San Francisco Church, have a bite to eat at Cais da Ribeira, cross the Don Luis I Bridge and appreciate the best views from Serra do Pilar.

Strolling through the Bolhao Market

Your first stop will be the Bolhao Market, early in the morning. This emblematic market of the city of Porto opens its doors early, so from 7 in the morning you can already enter and your visit is worth it. Its construction is very characteristic, typical of neoclassical architecture, and vendors are distributed between two floors.

In this market you will find all kinds of fresh produce such as meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables, restaurants, flower and plant stores and bakeries, where you can have breakfast or take a coffee and something to eat while you continue your tour of the city.

Visiting the Sé Cathedral and its Cloister

This Cathedral and its Cloister are two places that you must visit in Porto and they are about 10 minutes walk from the Bolhao Market.

The construction of the mythical Sé Cathedraldates back to the 12th century, although it was renovated several times later, housing a mixture of different styles: baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic. The Cloister was built in the 4th century, its tile decoration tells some religious scenes from history and you can access it directly from inside the Cathedral.

Also, another reason why you can not miss this historic site, is because the Sé Cathedral was declared a National Monument and knowing it you will understand why. You can visit this Cathedral from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 7 pm and access is free, except to visit the Cloister, the approximate price of admission is about 3 € per person.

Visiting the Palacio de la Bolsa

The Palacio de la Bolsa, formerly a former convent of San Francisco until the mid-nineteenth century and today one of the most important and visited architectural beauties of the city, which is classified as a National Monument. You will arrive from the Sé Cathedral about 5 minutes walk.

You can visit it with a guided tour to know it in depth and access the Patio of the Nations, the Arab Room, the Library that houses more than 10,000 copies and the Presential Room. It is necessary to book in advance on the official website of this attraction.

Admire the unique style of the Church of San Francisco.

Church of San Francisco| ©Georges Jansoone
Church of San Francisco| ©Georges Jansoone

Next to the Palacio de la Bolsa, formerly the convent of San Francisco, the Church of San Francisco still stands. It is one of the best known religious monuments and was built at the beginning of the 14th century. It has Romanesque and Gothic elements, in addition to the Baroque style in its interior, where it is said that more than 300 kilos of gold dust were used.

Under the floor of this church, some of the Franciscan friars and some members of noble families of the city are buried. Your visit also includes a tour of these catacombs and its museum.

Stop at Cais da Ribeira for a bite to eat.

After this historical tour of the city and before crossing the bridge to continue with the first day of your visit in Porto, I recommend you to have something to eat in Cais da Ribeira, the most touristic and picturesque area of Porto, to recharge your batteries.

There you will find a great gastronomic offer, but personally, I recommend these two restaurants that I liked the most: Escondidinho do Barredo, a small family restaurant with typical Portuguese food that you will love and Taberna Dos Mercadores, another Portuguese restaurant with an abundant variety of dishes.

Food is something very characteristic of Porto, so I leave you this guide so you can know the best gastronomic tours of the city and include some in your itinerary.

Crossing the Don Luis I Bridge

Having recharged energy, the first day will continue walking over the bridge that crosses the waters of the Douro River and connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. The Don Luis I Bridge was built in 1886, becoming one of the most emblematic sites of the city. Its history dates back to the 19th century, when there was a very large commercial growth in Porto and the connections between Miragaia, a fishermen's neighborhood on the shore of Porto, and Vila Nova da Gaia on the other side of the Douro River had to be reinforced.

The bridge has an imposing iron arch for which many tons of material were used and two floors, one through which the Porto subway circulates and the one below through which cars pass. With 400 meters long, this bridge has become a symbol of Porto and its views are magnificent, you will have the best position to appreciate the Ribeira from another point of view.

You can cross it walking or sailing on the waters of the Douro River, taking a cruise tour.

Book a train tour with cruise on the Douro River

Enjoy good wine in a winery in Vila Nova de Gaia.

It would be a sin to leave Porto without visiting one of its characteristic wineries and on the Gaia side you have a lot to choose from. Personally I recommend Cálem or Sandeman.

There you can enjoy guided tours to learn about the history of the winery, learn about the wine production process and have a wine tasting included.

Enjoy the best views of Porto from Jardím do Morro and the miradouro da Serra do Pilar

Jardím do Morro is the highest point of Gaia and I recommend you to go up there to marvel at the best views. There you will also find a lake and a wide variety of local fauna.

You can get there by cable car from the Super Bock square in Cais de Gaia and is located in the vicinity of Serra do Pilar which houses a viewpoint with the best views of the historic center of Oporto. I definitely recommend you to go up to the viewpoint and take your camera with you to get the best pictures.

Finish the day having dinner at the Ribeira de Gaia

Once you come down from the viewpoint, I recommend you to finish your first day enjoying good Portuguese food in Ribeira de Gaia. Note that taberninha do Manel is a very good option to try typical food in a quaint restaurant.

Day 2: Visit the most emblematic monuments of Porto and taste Portuguese food.

Lello bookstore.| ©Wells T
Lello bookstore.| ©Wells T

On your second day in Porto, you will continue to see some of the most emblematic buildings, taste typical Portuguese cuisine and take pictures of the best landscapes of the city. You will visit the mythical Livraria Lello, the Church of Carmen, the famous Clérigos Tower, taste typical Portuguese food, Praça da Liberdade, São Bento station, walk along Santa Catarina street and visit Café Majestic.

Visit one of the most emblematic places in Porto: Livraria Lello.

Your second day will start in the historical center of the city, visiting one of the most essential places in Oporto, the Lello Bookstore, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. In addition, this is the bookstore where the author of Harry Potter was inspired.

If you allow me, I give you a tip. This is one of the most visited places in the city, so I recommend you to go early so you can enter without problems and walk through it at your own pace. The bookstore will be open every day from 9 am to 7 pm and the entrance fee is approximately 5 euros, you can purchase it from the official website.

Appreciate the imposing Church of Carmen

Just a few minutes walk from Livraria Lello, you will reach the Church of Carmen, which is one of the most beautiful in Porto, with a marked rococo style and was built in granite in 1762.

Its exterior is beautiful, covered with the typical tiles that dress the whole city, which in this case, represent the imposition of the scapular on Mount Carmel. You can visit this church every day between 7:30 in the morning and 7 in the evening.

This second day will start very early, so I recommend you to go to a typical Porto coffee shop that is located a few meters from the church, Leitaria da Quinta do Paço. There you can have a coffee and try the classic éclair, which are thin, elongated buns that are baked until they are crispy and hollow and filled, you will have different varieties and flavors to choose from. You will thank me!

The best views of the city from the tower of the church of Los Clérigos

The Church of the Clérigos was built in 1748 and together with its Tower, forms a very recognized architectural ensemble of the city of Oporto. Undoubtedly, it is well worth a visit.

The Clérigos Tower is the highest in Portugal, with 76 meters high and to get there you will have to climb more than 200 steps. There, you will finally reach one of the best panoramic views of the city of Oporto.

Note that the entrance to the church is free, but to access the Tower and the museum that houses one of the best museums in Oporto, you will have to take an entrance fee of about 5 euros, approximately.

Try a typical francesinha in a Portuguese restaurant.

Francesinha| ©Jayphen
Francesinha| ©Jayphen

After going up and down the stairs of the Clérigos Tower, it is a good time to recharge your batteries and then continue with everything that remains on your second day in Oporto. For this, I recommend one of the typical Portuguese meals: a francesinha.

In the area you will have a variety of places to choose from, if I may I recommend Brasão Aliados one of the most recognized restaurants or Francesinhas Al Forno da Baixa which also has a very good reputation.

Strolling around Praça da Liberdade

Once you've recharged your energy, you'll be left to walk around the area a bit more and the next stop will be: Praça da Liberdade. It is located a few meters from the Clérigos Tower and it is the most important square in Porto that connects the old and the modern side of the city.

In the center of this square, you will be surprised by an imposing monument of about 10 meters high, which is the statue of King Pedro IV, made of bronze in 1862. If you look closely, you will see that the monarch shows the Constitutional Charter.

Getting to know the São Bento train station

São Bento station is an emblem of the city and is located just a few steps from Praça da Liberdade. What is really fascinating about this station, is in its walls filled with more than thousands of tiles, which recreate scenes of battles and all the history of transport. The tiles are a classic of Porto, but this is a work of art.

Take a shopping trip along Rua Santa Catarina

Rua Santa Catarina is a pedestrian and the most commercial street of Porto that extends from the highest part of the city in Batalha Square to Marques de Pombal Square. Walking along it you can go into the stores to make all kinds of purchases in stores or street vendors. You can also stroll through the Via Catarina shopping center.

If you are not a fan of shopping, this walk will also be for you because you will find there the most picturesque facades, such as the small Chapel of the Souls, which is covered with the typical blue tiles of Oporto. In addition, you will have restaurants and coffee shops to take a moment to rest.

You should definitely stop at Café Majestic, an emblem of the city, to feel part of Porto's history. It is an elegant café from the 1920s that was inaugurated in 1921 as Café Élite and became a venue for meetings of illustrious personalities of the time and a place of inspiration for writers and artists. This café was declared a cultural heritage site in 1983.

End the day in a classic restaurant in the city.

To end the second day in Porto, I recommend one of the classics of the city: Casa Guedes and its typical sandwich of pork leg and cheese. A must. This is one of the busiest and most popular places in the city, so try to arrive early or book in advance so you don't have to wait so long.

Anyway, here is a guide to the best gastronomic tours in Porto that can also be a great plan to end your second day in the city.

Day 3: A little more culture and a guided excursion to the outskirts of Porto.

Elevated bridge at the Serralves Foundation| ©Angel D
Elevated bridge at the Serralves Foundation| ©Angel D

On your third day in Porto, you will have a little bit of everything, some more culture and history in the center and a trip to enjoy the surroundings. You will visit the mythical Serralves Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Casa da Música.

Enjoy the Serralves Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Your third and last day will start at the Serralves Foundation, one of the most visited museums in Porto and Portugal. There you will find the Serralves House and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art. Absorbing the art and culture of the place and strolling through its wooded gardens, is a great plan.

Note that ticket prices vary between 12 and 20 euros, depending on what you want to see and the places you have included in each pass.

Visit Casa da Música

From the Serralves Foundation you can take the bus to get quickly and directly to the Casa da Música, which is undoubtedly a work of architectural and artistic art. It is a concert hall in Porto that hosts three orchestras: Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Orquestra Barroca and Remix Ensemble. To visit it in depth I recommend that you visit it as part of the itinerary of one of the tours of Porto.

Note that you can visit the Casa de Música de Porto every day between 9:30 am and 6 pm.

Take a guided tour to the outskirts of Porto

You could say that by now, you already know the basics of Porto and to finish the 3-day itinerary in Porto, I recommend you to take a guided tour of the outskirts of the city so you can enjoy the surrounding beauties.

Here I leave you a guide of the best tours from Porto where you will have some options to choose the one you prefer. For my part, I recommend:

  • A guided tour to Aveiro: Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal and is located 45 minutes away from Porto by road. The tour takes about 4 hours in total and I recommend it especially for its proximity, as you will have enough time to do it.
  • A guided tour to Minho: the region of Minho is a former province of Portugal and is located about 90 kilometers from Porto. With this tour you will have the possibility to visit two cities in the area in 9 hours from Porto and get to know the best natural and rural landscapes.

Book a tour from Porto

A great option: the Porto sightseeing bus

Sightseeing bus through the streets of Porto| ©Alquiler de Coches
Sightseeing bus through the streets of Porto| ©Alquiler de Coches

The Porto tourist bus will be your great ally in your 3-day trip around the city, since most of the activities and attractions I mentioned in this post are included in its route.

The best of all is that this bus has free stops, so you can use it as the perfect means of transportation to move around the city, without spending extra money on transportation and saving time.

I advise you to make a list of the attractions you want to visit and check if they are included in the bus route in order to organize your trip in the best way and make the most of your 3 days in Oporto, without having to worry about anything.