Most of the best things to see and do in Porto take place during the summer. Which is logical, since this time of the year has a very particular attraction when it comes to the Iberian Peninsula and specifically the northern end of the Portuguese territory.
To make your trip planning easier I have researched activities to do and attractions to visit that will keep you busy throughout your trip. So you can return home knowing that you have seen the best secrets that Porto has to offer to its most curious, imaginative and intrepid tourists.
1. Stand Up Paddle at Matosinhos Beach
Matosinhos is a city that is part of the Greater Porto Metropolitan Area. It is located right in front of the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and during the summer it is one of the favorite destinations among the locals. This is because of the beach activities it offers to all visitors who wish to spend an afternoon at Praia de Matosinhos.
If you decide to reach this point of the city you can enjoy the sea as you wish, but something I can recommend is to participate in the Stand Up Paddle classes that usually take place on days with moderate swell. If you don't know what this sport is all about, you just have to understand that it is basically standing on a surfboard paddling just as if you were in a kayak.
This part of the city is worth visiting for several reasons. The first is that despite being far away you can get there quickly by subway through the blue line, getting off at Matosinhos Sul station or at Camara de Matosinhos if you want to walk a little more through this beautiful neighborhood.
The second reason is that Matosinhos is very close to Parque da Cidade do Porto and this public space is one of the most beautiful to spend an afternoon picnic after having spent a whole morning having fun among the waves of the nearby and kilometer-long beach.
2. Celebrate the Festa de São João with the locals
The Festa de São João is a festival held annually in Porto on the eve of St. John's Day. It is a festival that combines Catholic traditions with other pagan traditions, as it began as a celebration of the summer solstice, but with the arrival of Catholicism was established as a religious festival.
It is a celebration that begins during the afternoon of June 23 and lasts until the morning of the 24th. In Porto it is celebrated in various ways, although the most common is to attend the crowded gatherings that form in the streets of the city center. Some people will be beating each other with plastic hammers and garlic flowers while there are all kinds of street concerts as people dance and drink to traditional Portuguese music.
Wine is drunk, canned sardines are eaten and it is quite common for people to start a kind of pilgrimage from the city center to the shores of the Foz do Douro or the suburb of Matosinhos to welcome the sun singing on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The next day of this celebration is a good opportunity to undertake one of those day trips from Porto, as many of the city's tourists will be hungover and that means that the other destinations will be a little freer than in the rest of the season.
3. Attend Primavera Sound if you like music festivals.
Summer is a season of concerts and music festivals for many of Europe's top tourist destinations. Porto is no exception to this rule, as every summer features a new edition of Primavera Sound, a 3-day festival held in Porto's Parque da Cidade. It is an event that combines world-famous international artists with other representatives of the best-known Portuguese music scene of the moment.
Attending is a good idea if your stay coincides with this event, which is usually held during the first weekend of June. Although you also have to keep in mind that this event usually changes its schedule every year depending on the other editions of the festival, since it also takes place in Barcelona, where it originally comes from.
If you attend this festival it is recommended that you stay in the areas of Foz do Douro or Matosinhos. They are beautiful, quiet, safe and very close to this famous park of Oporto. If you feel like getting to know a little more about the authentic Portuguese music you also have the option to attend some of the best Fado shows in Oporto. These are usually held in the city center in all kinds of historic taverns such as Casa da Mariquinhas.
4. Spend an evening at Jardim do Palácio de Cristal
The Jardim do Palácio de Cristal is a public park that was designed in the middle of the 19th century and has a very special place in the hearts of the locals. Visiting it in summer can be an excellent idea due to the fact that the rose gardens will be at their best and the Arrábida Bridge Viewpoint can be a perfect escape from the tourist influx and the strong sun that characterizes the season.
Another positive aspect of coming to this public park is that it is not located in the tourist epicenter of Porto and is actually part of the residential areas that are already on the outskirts of the city center. That means you could spend a beautiful summer morning or afternoon as the locals do, while also touring one of the Victorian secrets of a city that for centuries had a very significant English influence.
The Arrábida Bridge Viewpoint is also one of the city's best kept secrets, as it gives you a full perspective of the Douro River from a beautiful hill. It is not usually saturated with tourists like the other tourist attractions of the city during this time of the year.
5. Sunbathe on one of the beaches of Foz do Duoro
The Foz do Douro is the western end of the city of Porto. It is located right at the mouth of the river in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the neighborhood that has formed in this geographical corner is one of the most beautiful of Porto's residential environment. There are cafes, restaurants, bars and all kinds of gastronomic establishments that are accompanied by a very vibrant cultural and commercial offer.
The interesting thing about visiting this part of the city during the summer is that you could go to some of its beaches to sun bathe. This is one of the favorite activities for those who want to get a tan in the best style of the southern coast of Portugal, without having to leave the beautiful capital of the north, as this city is known throughout the country.
If you decide to go to this site you can also benefit from the issue of getting family entertainment activities with children in Oporto, because it is no secret that running and playing in the sand is something that can amuse the little ones of the house as well as adults.
Be sure to visit the Felgueiras Lighthouse at sunset. Since you will enjoy a spectacle of nature that combines a significantly strong waves, while crashing against a breakwater. This creates small rainbows if the light conditions are right.
6. Enjoy a sunset in Jardim do Morro
As you may have noticed from the recommendations I've given you, many of Porto's summer attractions are just outside the more touristy spots in the city center. Clearly, you will visit the must-see spots like the Clérigos Tower or the Ribeira neighborhood, but places like the Jardim do Morro, located on the south bank of the Douro River, is also something worth experiencing when in Porto during the summer.
It is a park that belongs to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia and from this hill you can see a complete perspective of downtown Porto. Just as if it would see itself in a mirror. It is a good place to include in your summer tourist itinerary, because you can enjoy several plans in the same part of the day and without having to waste so much time in queues and waiting for the tourist influx.
For example, the cable car that takes you down in less than 5 minutes to the banks of the Douro River at the height of the center of Gaia can be an entertaining activity, as well as the visit and tour of the Monastery of the Serra do Pilar which is located directly opposite this beautiful park.
Walking across the high level of the Don Luis I Bridge can be ideal on your return to Oporto. You can also take the metro at Jardim do Morro and get off at the famous Sao Bento station, a place equally worth visiting. Especially after sunset when the tourist influx has dropped.
7. Visit the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the most important modern art institutions in the far south of Europe. Its facilities are the work of the architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, one of the main exponents of Portuguese modernism. It receives some 5 million visitors annually according to estimates by the local tourist office and it is an excellent idea to make it part of your itinerary of plans and activities in Porto if you are spending the summer in the city.
The first reason has to do with a matter of comfort and convenience, since during the summer this is a space that lets you escape from the streets full of tourists and offers a more intimate and sincere look at the cultural identity of this city. Going beyond the architectural details of Baroque and neo-Gothic Portuguese.
You also come away understanding that Porto is a modern and cosmopolitan city that has nothing to envy to Lisbon or any of the Mediterranean capitals of Europe. Especially when it comes to cultural offerings that go beyond monuments of a glorious past.
Keep in mind that this museum is located in the urban complex of Serralves Park and by visiting it you are also having access to the beautiful gardens that connect to the Serralves House. Which is an Art Deco property that is one of the greatest modern architectural treasures in all of Portugal.
Being an art museum that is not so connected to the historical past of the city, you are also guaranteed that it will be one of the less crowded attractions during the summer. Which is ideal for you to enjoy the museum and the surrounding suburbs in complete peace and quiet. Any of the other best museums in Porto are a recommended activity if you are visiting the city during the summer months.
8. Take a gastronomic tour of the Bolhão and Ribeira neighborhoods
Speaking of food, you have to know that the north of Portugal and the Portuguese south have very different culinary identities and this gap widens during the summer, due to the fact that each region wants to show the best of its gastronomy to the millions of tourists that flood both ends of the country. Arroz de Cabidela, Posta a Mirandés and Caldo Verde are some of the stars of Porto's culinary scene.
At the same time, Portugal's strong fishing culture means that there are plenty of seafood recipes and if you want to return home with a real insight into the summer flavors of this city then it's a good idea to go on some of Porto' s best gastronomic tours. Some will take you to the most iconic corners of the local culinary industry such as Folias de Baco or Casa Guedes, but others will focus on more informal and unknown aspects of Porto's street food.
Keep in mind that this is a good summer activity for the fact that you can get to know the kind of foods that characterize this time of year, as there is a significant contrast with what is eaten in Porto in the winter. It is also an opportunity to gain access to restaurants that will be inaccessible by reservation particularly due to the significant volume of visitors during this season.
9. Visit the Stock Exchange Palace
Porto's Stock Exchange Palace is undoubtedly one of the architectural gems that Porto has to offer to tourists interested in learning about the beauty of a city that has more than 1500 years of history. This building was built for more than 50 years in the 19th century and today is the headquarters of the Commercial Association of Porto.
It has several rooms among which stand out the Arab Hall with a direct inspiration in the Alhambra and the beautiful granite and marble staircase that is located right at the reception of the place. The Ferreira Borges Market and the Church of San Francisco are other worthwhile sites that are less than 50 meters away from this beautiful and famous palace.
Keep in mind that this can be an ideal place to visit in summer, as it is a safe escape from the overwhelming heat that defines the Iberian Peninsula at this time of the year, while you can also enjoy one of the most important monuments of the historic center of the city.
10. Take a trip to the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is a small region dedicated to viticulture that is located about 70 kilometers away from downtown Porto. Historically, it is a place that has 2,000 years of perfecting wine production and the well-known Port Wine is produced in this region of the country.
Having a guided excursion to the Douro Valley wine fields from Porto can be a good plan for your summer visit in the region. First for the fact that it is something you can perfectly do in just one day if you are looking for a break from the intense tourist movement that defines this city during the summer.
Second for the fact that this season is especially beautiful for appreciating the beauty of this area full of vineyards that sit on meandering hills on the banks of the Douro River.
In fact, it can be the perfect farewell to your stay in the city, as it is common to want to tour the surroundings of a site. Especially when you are getting ready to set off for a new destination.
Temperatures in Porto in summer
Summer in Portugal is quite strong and Porto is no exception to the rule. On your trip you will encounter temperatures that can easily range between 30 and 25 degrees Celsius in a single week, but the average temperature for these months is around 26 or 24 degrees Celsius if there is no heat wave developing.
The influx of tourists in Porto in summer
The busiest months for the tourist industry in Porto are the summer months and therefore you can expect a significant influx in each and every one of the most famous corners of the city.
Actually, taking this into account I chose many of the activities in this list of recommendations, because they are equally beautiful, but they are a bit far from the typical tourist circuit that millions of people will be following during the whole season.
Prices in Oporto in summer
The highest prices of the year in terms of consumer services in Porto are in the summer. This is logical, since the whole of Europe makes the most of its tourist attraction during this time of the year and Porto is no exception.
However, one thing I can point out is that on average Portugal is a cheaper destination than other European alternatives, at least if you book your big expenses well in advance.
What to pack to visit Porto in summer?
During the summer in Porto you will urgently need three things. The first one is comfortable and breathable clothes that will help you feel cool among the sunny streets of the city.
The second one is footwear that will also favor the long walking sessions you will have on the steep streets of this city full of hills and stairs. The third thing you cannot miss in your suitcase is sunscreen, as the sun in Portugal is quite strong at this time of the year and it is essential that you take care of your skin health to continue enjoying the trip.