Porto has been turning heads for centuries. Set between the Douro River and the seaside, this ancient city in northern Portugal is famed for its hilltop miradouros (viewpoints), medieval monuments and Unesco-listed historic center. It’s also a place with seemingly limitless possibilities when it comes to culture, cuisine and nightlife.

This four-day itinerary takes you through some of the city’s iconic experiences – from Eiffel-inspired bridge walks to port-sipping above 300-year-old cellars. You’ll also find lesser-known delights along the way, including quintessential only-in-Porto moments like biting into a francesinha or wandering beneath the cedars of Serralves. 

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Day 1 

Start the day with coffee and views

Do as the locals do and keep breakfast low-key with a cimbalino (espresso) and a pastel de nata (yes, Portuguese custard tarts are a perfectly acceptable breakfast choice). A top choice is the determinedly archaic Confeitaria do Bolhão, a patisserie that has been doing business since 1896.

A 12-minute walk southwest of there stands the unmistakable spire of the Torre dos Clérigos. The 76m (249ft) tower is the artistry of Nicolau Nasoni, who is oft considered the architect of Porto, and Clérigos is arguably his most famous contribution. Climb the 200-plus steps for a sweeping view of the city. The spiral staircases are narrow and often crowded, so if you’re claustrophobic or impatient, give it a miss and wander along Porto’s architecturally striking main boulevard, Avenida dos Aliados, instead.

Francesinha (meaning Little Frenchie or simply Frenchie in Portuguese) is a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto
Francesinha: a tender meat sandwich covered with melted cheese and crowned with a fried egg © Craig Hastings / Getty Images

Spend the afternoon exploring Ribeira 

For lunch, tuck into a classic Porto dish: the francesinha. Wrapped in cheese, drowned in tomato sauce and crowned with a fried egg, this meaty masterpiece has more layers than the movie Inception (and takes just as long to finish). Café Santiago serves one of the best. Alternatively, if you’re not into meat, head to Vegana By Tentúgal, serving delicious plant-based cuisine. 

Burn off the meal on a stroll past some of Porto’s most important landmarks. Don’t miss the baroque Igreja de Santo Ildefonso and the mighty, a cathedral where centuries’ worth of architecture is bundled into one structure. Make your way down into the Ribeira. This riverfront district is a magnet for tourists and lovestruck couples – and for good reason: it’s loud and lively and boasts some of the best views in town. 

It’s also packed with blockbuster sights. Peer back in time on a visit inside the medieval Casa do Infante and take in the dazzling interior of the Igreja de São Francisco. Take a break at one of the picturesque cafes on the Praça da Ribeira, a riverfront square with magnificent views across the Douro. If you don’t mind the crowds, take a ride along the vintage Number 1 tram, which trundles along the riverside. 

Eat a fabulous meal, then join the party people in Baixa

In the evening, take a taxi to O Paparico, a romantic stone-walled restaurant that looks traditional but is anything but. Expect gastronomic fireworks that showcase Portugal’s best produce including Açores king crab and Bísaro pork. 

The party scene doesn’t kick off until around midnight, so enjoy the evening air after dinner by pulling up a beanbag beneath the Passeio dos Clérigos olive trees at Base, a trendy open-air bar. Once the Clérigos clock strikes midnight, join the throngs of partygoers spilling out onto parallel streets Rua da Galeria de Paris and Rua de Cândido dos Reis, which are packed wall-to-wall with nightclubs and bars. 

Day 2 

Porto in the distance behind the Garden Of The Crystal Palace, Portugal
Stroll among the small gardens of Jardins do Palácio de Cristal with views over Porto © trabantos / Shutterstock

Start the morning amid gardens and panoramic views

Grab breakfast and a specialty brew at Noshi Coffee (vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets are well catered for), then stroll over to the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. Watch the peacocks parading the grounds for photos and scope out the small gardens scattered across the park’s eight hectares (20 acres). The southern part of the park has sweeping views over the town. Eventually, zigzag your way back down to the river.

Enjoy a leisurely afternoon along the coast

Hire a bike at Biclas & Triclas and pedal west along the Douro River. It’s about a 20-minute ride out to Foz do Douro, Porto’s westernmost neighborhood. Here you can watch the waves crashing over the coast and dig your feet in the sand at Praia dos Ingleses. From there, follow the seaside promenade a few more kilometers north to Matosinhos. 

This seaside district is the perfect destination for a market-fresh lunch. Browse the options on restaurant-packed Rua Heróis de França, though you can’t go wrong with seafood icons like Restaurante Lage Senhor do Padrão. After lunch, enjoy some downtime on Praia de Matosinhos, a wide expanse of sand and surf. Pedal back along the river to return your wheels. 

Cap the evening in Miragaia   

After dropping off the bike, spend the evening exploring Miragaia. Located just west of Ribeira, this atmospheric district (and the former Jewish quarter during the Middle Ages) is a delight to explore. Hidden among the lanes, you’ll find some captivating street art – including a massive mural by Daniel Eime on Largo de Artur Arcos (near Biclas & Triclas) and a distinctive "carving" by Vhils a few blocks up the road. Have sunset drinks at Mirajazz – a hard-to-find roof terrace that’s well worth the effort seeking out. Back at street level, wander your way up to Bota & Birra, an intimate dinner spot with a small but well-executed selection of tapas, steaks and seafood.  

Day 3

Tourist admiring Porto and Dom Luis I bridge
The Ponte Dom Luís I is an iconic sight and your best way to get to Vila Nova de Gaia © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Enter the world of port 

In the morning, take a scenic walk across the top level of the Ponte de Dom Luís I, a striking bridge built by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. Crossing the river, you’ll reach Vila Nova de Gaia – home of the port wine lodges. Start off with a visit to the World of Wine (WOW), a dazzling, cultural district squeezed inside former port wine cellars. WOW has seven museums, a dozen different restaurants and cafes, and an entire afternoon’s worth of fun to be had. The Wine Experience and the immersive Pink Palace – an Insta-ready whirl through the rosé industry – are both highlights, as is Porto Region Across the Ages, which delves into the city’s fascinating history. 

Have lunch on the terrace

For lunch, take your pick of the outstanding restaurants in WOW, which have sweeping views over Porto. You can munch on fish and chips at the Golden Catch, linger over all-day brunch fare at VP, feast on vegetarian cooking at Root & Vine – or skip straight to dessert at Suspiro. Afterward, head out for more port exploring starting at the legendary Taylor’s. On a self-guided audio tour, you can freely roam the extensive property, wandering through its 300-year-old cellars and admiring the views from the terrace before tasting two different ports at the end.  

See a Gaia sunset then taste creative petiscos 

Before sunset, ride the Teleférico de Gaia up from the riverfront for glorious views over Porto, the Douro and its various bridges. At the top, find a spot on the grass of the Jardim do Morro and watch the sunset from this fabulous overlook of both Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. 

Later, make your way back across the Douro (on foot or aboard the D metro line) and have dinner at Tapabento. Here you can enjoy modern petiscos (Portuguese sharing plates) like foie gras toast with pear in moscatel and caramelized walnuts, or garlicky Bulhão pato clams. End the night with cocktails and a twinkling panorama from LIFT Rooftop Via Catarina, an open-air lounge on the 14th floor of the ViaCatarina Shopping car park. 

Day 4 

Azulejos tiles historical scene on a side facade of Carmo Church in Porto, Portugal
A blue religious mural of azulejos on a wall near a traffic light in Porto © fotokon / Getty Images

Immerse yourself in art nouveau and azulejos  

Join other out-of-towners over coffee and French toast in the glorious Café Majestic, a grand Art Nouveau confection of oversized mirrors, cherubs and ornate wood carving. After getting your fill of its decorative extravagance, head out for a self-guided walking tour taking in some of Porto’s finest azulejos – those blue-and-white tiles that transform buildings into elaborate works of art. 

It’s a short walk to Capela das Almas, an 18th-century church that depicts scenes from the life of St Francis and St Catherine. South of there check out the baroque, tile-covered Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, before heading into São Bento train station for a Portuguese history lesson writ large in beautifully painted ceramic tiles. From there, it’s a 10-minute saunter to Igreja do Carmo. Its shimmering tile-covered east side is a must for Instagrammers. 

Visit Porto’s art and garden mecca 

Grab lunch at A Tasquinha, a classic spot serving traditional Portuguese recipes, then hop on the bus (number 201 or 207) and head to Serralves. Here you’ll find one of Portugal’s finest contemporary art museums set amid 18 hectares of parkland. Spend some time checking out the latest exhibition, then immerse yourself in the verdant greenery outside. You’ll find forested sections, fountains, ponds, rose gardens, and even pastures for the park’s barnyard animals. End the visit with a Treetop Walk, which provides memorable vantage points from wooden platforms above the grounds. 

Catch a concert at the Casa da Música

Take bus 201 back toward the center and disembark at Largo de Ferreira Lapa. Nearby, you’ll find Casa Agrícola, a classy Portuguese restaurant set in an 18th-century building. From here it’s a 10-minute walk to the neighborhood’s big attraction: the Casa da Música, a futuristic concert hall designed by the famed architect Rem Koolhaas. Have a look around the building, then head inside to hear the world-class acoustics during a performance. Afterward, take a taxi over to Capela Incomum, a 19th-century chapel that’s been wonderfully transformed into a hushed and reverent wine bar.

This article was first published Aug 22, 2019 and updated Jun 25, 2022.

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