Porto is one of the most touristic cities in Portugal, which is not surprising considering its great cultural heritage. Its architectural richness, its gastronomic offer and its artistic proposal make Porto one of the best destinations to travel to.
If you are planning a visit to this Portuguese city in January and want to prepare your travel itinerary, keep in mind that everything Porto has to offer is usually joined by all kinds of plans, from the most typical to some unusual ones.
1. Eating Bolo Rei on Dia de Reis (King's Day)
As in Spain and other countries, Portugal celebrates the Christian holiday of Dia de Reis or Three Kings Day. Therefore, if you are in Porto on January 6, it is the ideal opportunity to get to know the way the locals celebrate this holiday.
One of the traditions for that day is to try the Bolo de Rei, the Portuguese version of the Three Kings' cake.
Unlike the Spanish sweet, the Bolo de Rei contains raisins and nuts, as well as port wine. You can order it in a bakery or take it with a hot chocolate in a cafeteria. Undoubtedly, a delicacy that should be present in any gastronomic tour of the city.
If you want to know more traditions linked to the Christmas holidays, I recommend you take a look at the 10 best things to do in Porto at Christmas.
2. Listen to the janeiras
Another plan I propose you in Porto in January is closely related to Christmas. The janeiras are a type of traditional Christmas music from Portugal.
They are popular songs with years of history. During the month of January, you can listen to them in the different Christmas markets of the city, as well as in some bars and establishments
Christmas in Porto is a holiday with a tradition strongly linked to music. In the past, the streets were filled with bands and groups singing the traditional janeiras. Nowadays, this no longer takes place. However, you can listen to the popular songs of the city in different venues and establishments
This plan is perfect if you are interested in learning about the popular culture of the city. It is also ideal if you are a music lover. In this case, I also advise you to check out the best Fado shows in Porto, another of Portugal's traditional music genres.
3. Contemplate the Sé cathedral and take shelter from the rain
One of the best things to see and do in Porto in January (and throughout the rest of the year) is the most important religious building in the city. It is also the perfect activity to do on a rainy day, which are common in January.
The Sé Cathedral is located in the Batalha neighborhood, in the highest part of the city. Its construction dates back to the 12th century, although it has undergone many reconstructions, the latter being what makes it so special.
The cathedral is the result of a mixture of different styles, including Baroque, Romanesque and Gothic, something that can be seen in its architectural details, although if you are not an art connoisseur, it is best to hire a guided tour of the cathedral, which was declared a National Monument.
What I like most are the views it offers, thanks to its strategic location. Also worth admiring is the cloister, which dates back to the 14th century and allows access to the Casas do Cabildo.
4. Relax contemplating the colors of winter from the Dom Luis I bridge
Another of the most emblematic constructions of the city is the Dom Luis I bridge, the symbol of the commercial growth that Oporto experienced in the 19th century. Visiting it is a perfect activity to do on a sunny day in January, since you will not be hot during the walk
Beyond the historical importance and architectural legacy of the bridge, what makes your visit essential are the views it offers of the city, embellished by the brightness of winter. From there you will be able to see the different cruise ships that navigate the river throughout the year, as well as the colorful little houses of Miragaia on one of the banks.
The reason for its construction was due to the need to communicate Miragaia and Vila Nova, neighborhoods located on opposite banks of the Douro River. Originating in 1886, the Dom Luis I Bridge is the work of a disciple of the great architect Gustave Eiffel, Téophile Seytir, who at the time worked for the famous Belgian company Société de Willebroeck.
The bridge has two levels, one for the metro and the other exclusively for vehicles. If you are going to cross the bridge on foot, you can do it on both floors, since they have a pedestrian lane.
5. Discover the street art that floods the city
If you are an art lover and you have some free time in Oporto, it is essential that you dedicate some time in your travel itinerary to contemplate its street art.
Porto is a city, above all, cultural, and the artistic wealth of the city exceeds the walls of its best museums flooding the steep streets that compose it.
One of my favorite pastimes when I visit Porto, is to get lost in the city in search of graffiti, each one more curious. Why do I propose this plan for the month of January? In this month, the streets are emptier of tourists, so you can walk around the city with total tranquility and see the graffiti without difficulty.
The best graffiti in Porto
In particular, highlights Nobre e Leal, a work of the artist Mr Dheo that is located in the Trindade subway. You will be amazed by the hyperrealism and the contrast of its colors.
Another of the best graffiti in the city pays homage to the Spanish cultural heritage. It is a graffiti called Don Quixote, which represents the two protagonists of Cervantes' star work.
In addition to the above, this work of art stands out for its historical importance, as it was the first legal graffiti in Oporto. The merit is not only of a single artist, but in it three renowned graffiti artists collaborated: Mesk, Fedor and Mots. It is located at the intersection of Diogo Brandão and Miguel Bombarda streets.
6. Get to know São Bento Train Station
The São Bento train station is one of the most beautiful in Europe and, if you don't believe me, you only have to see it with your own eyes to realize what I'm saying. This plan is ideal for your trip to Porto in January, as you can take shelter from the rain and cold.
This station began to provide its services in the late nineteenth century, although the official inauguration was held in 1916. The building was constructed on the ruins of the Convent of São Bento, which burned to the ground in the 18th century. Imitating the French model, this station is the work of the Portuguese architect José Porto, Marques da Silva.
Its construction responds to the creation of railway routes that bet the country in the twentieth century, making São Bento in the communications center of Portugal. In addition to its curious history and architecture, one of the most striking things about the station are the tiles that decorate the main lobby.
These exceed 20,000 in number and were painted by the Tangier-born Portuguese painter Jorge Colaço. Through these tiles, you can take a journey through the history of Porto, as they illustrate the most famous episodes of the city.
7. Music to your ears at Casa da Musica
With this plan, you will have the opportunity to get to know a much more modern construction. Casa da Musica is a futuristic style building designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
The origin of Casa da Musica is due to a competition held between Rotterdam and Portugal, in which it was stipulated that a Portuguese architect had to design a Dutch work, at the same time that a Dutch architect did the same in Portugal.
Finally, in 2005, this modern building was born, which breaks with the classical architecture of Porto. In fact, the latter is what makes it more interesting, providing a magnificent visual effect when seen next to the old churches of the city.
You can visit the Casa da Musica to admire its architecture or attend one of its concerts. My recommendation is to check the monthly calendar to schedule your visit with a musical performance, preferably a Fado concert. This way, you will get a much more complete experience. In addition, you can take shelter from the cold for a few hours.
8. Visit the wineries of Vila Nova de Gaia
First of all, we must clarify that, technically, Vila Nova de Gaia is a different city from Oporto. Although only the Douro River separates them, the truth is that, when you cross the bank, you will be crossing the limits of Oporto. If you dare, be sure to visit one of its wineries to enjoy a glass of wine while it is cold outside.
However, the beauty of Vila Nova de Gaia forces you to make a small excursion to get to know it. To get to this other city, all you have to do is cross the Dom Luis I bridge, either on foot or by public transport.
If it is a nice day, it may be a good idea to hire a rabelo, which is nothing more than a small boat made of wood that originally served to transport wine. This way, you can take a walk along the banks of the river and admire the views that the city offers.
In case the day does not allow it, do not reject the idea of visiting Vila Nova de Gaia, as the city has a lot to offer. One of the most popular activities is the visit to its famous wineries. You can hire a tour of the most famous ones or do the tour on your own, although you will have to book in advance.
9. Give your legs a rest and take a ride on streetcar 22
After so much walking and so many hills, your legs are probably asking for a break. If so, I recommend you take a ride on streetcar 22. This plan is perfect for the worst days weather-wise, as you will be able to see the main sights of the city indoors.
Although you can also ride Porto's tourist bus, I recommend the streetcar. Streetcar 22 runs through the city center, starting its route at Rua de Carmo and ending at Batalha, where you can get off or return to the point of origin by a different route than the one already traveled.
Although it is not a route too long to be done on foot, there are some very steep streets, not recommended for families or for those days when you are more tired. Therefore, this is one of the best plans to do with children in Oporto.
Beyond its itinerary, the streetcar 22 stands out for its beautiful interior made of wood, reminiscent of the vintage streetcars. Therefore, during the trip you will be transported back in time, feeling like a movie character.
10. Climb the Clérigos Tower and enjoy the view
Another of the most important buildings of the religious heritage of Porto is the Clérigos Tower, which crowns the church of the same name and is one of the most interesting monuments in Porto.
Its name is due to the brotherhood behind its construction: the brotherhood of the Poor Clerics. The architectural complex dates from the late 18th century. Specifically, it was built between 1735 and 1748.
The tower is the highest in all of Porto, so you can imagine the panoramic views it offers of the city. If you like photography, from there you will be able to take the best pictures taking advantage of the winter light and, with luck, the fog that usually rises on the river and gives Porto a mysterious air.
Of course, everything has a price: to get to the top, you will have to climb more than 200 steps. The soundtrack is orchestrated by a total of 49 bells, which scare more than one tourist. To get here, you can make use of the city's public transport, whether by metro, streetcar or bus.
Temperatures in Porto in January
Compared to January temperatures in other European cities, Porto's weather in this month is quite pleasant. The city has an average temperature of about 10°C and, to top it off, snow is not part of Porto's weather plans.
However, it is true that rainfall is frequent, so you will have to take it into account when packing your suitcase. Don't forget to pack a good raincoat and rain boots. Of course, always carry an umbrella when you go sightseeing.
In case you plan to visit nearby cities (something that I strongly recommend), take into account the possible temperature changes that may occur at your destination. Especially if you plan to travel from Porto to Aveiro by boat.
Prices in Porto in January
Portugal has experienced a tourist boom in recent years, something that is motivated by the measures of the country's government. Thus, Portugal stands out for the huge amount of tourists it attracts in the months of July and August.
This, obviously, is reflected in prices, which go through the roof during the summer season. However, while Porto tends to be expensive in summer, in winter it is not so expensive. This month is low season in the city, so you will find the trip cheaper than if you had planned it between June and August.
In addition to the favor you will do to your pocket traveling to Porto in January, you will also be able to enjoy the trip with more peace of mind. Since it is low season and there are fewer tourists.
Thus, you will not have to wait in line to enter the sights, you can access a greater number of sites and enjoy your walks without having to go dodging people. Finally, this does not mean that you should not visit the city on other dates, as there are many things you can do in Porto in summer.
What to bring in your suitcase to visit Oporto in January
Rains are usually the bread and butter of Porto in January. Therefore, you should bring clothes suitable for those days. Be sure to pack warm clothes with hoods, which are usually a great help for unexpected precipitation.
On the other hand, in addition to waterproof boots, it is also advisable to pack good walking shoes in your luggage. These should be shoes that you have already tried before and that are comfortable, since you will be doing long walks during your trip.
Finally, don't forget to include in your suitcase some formal clothes for those situations that require it, such as restaurants or theaters.