In recent years, Portugal is a tourist destination increasingly requested by Europeans and not only: has spectacular landscapes, warm and welcoming people, sensational food, and... last but not least, affordable prices.

And tourists arrive here more and more often, although direct flights to the capital Lisbon are not among the cheapest, nor very many. From Lisbon to Porto it is only three and a half hours by train or bus and the prices for a ticket starting from 17 euros/way.

But is it worth the effort? I'd say it's 120% worth it! Porto is one of the most fantastic cities in Portugal, the second most important after the capital, Lisbon. The historic center of the city of Porto has been chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so all visitors will find plenty of attractions to enjoy every moment of the city.

A little history about Porto

Around 200 BC BC, at the mouth of the Douro River in the Atlantic Ocean, the Romans founded a commercial colony that they called Portus Cale. It seems that the name Cale was given in antiquity by the Phoenicians (cale means beautiful), and the "Beautiful Port" developed year by year primarily due to the "help" received from this natural port.

However, the true affirmation of the city came only in the era of the great geographical discoveries of the XV-XVII centuries. It is good to know that the development of the city is also due to the wine trade that has been produced in Porto since the time of the Romans.

Curiously, the wines produced here were absolutely normal wines until around 1860 when a British merchant, looking for a method to improve its preservation capacity, mixed the wine with a spirit drink.

The result was to the liking of the buyers so that the sales, respectively the production increased a lot, leading to the appearance of huge storage spaces in the southern part of the city, called Vila Nova Gaia.

What you can visit in Porto?

Douro River, Porto
Douro River

The Douro River runs through the city and separates Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia, the city on the left bank, where you also find the offices of the great Porto wine houses. This wine thing didn't put me off, and I confess that I haven't even visited one. It doesn't mean that I suggest you do the same... Specialist recommendations say that all tourists should at least take a tour of a winery! I know… shame on me!

What I found interesting, not to say curious, is that almost all the wineries have English names. You are probably wondering why…

Well, in the 17th century, due to the war with the French, the English ran out of imported French wines, which forced them to discover new places, and the Douro area was one of them.

After several attempts and combinations of different types - they even tried a mixture of wine and brandy, wanting to find a recipe that would keep it in a very good condition until it arrived back in England - they ended up "inventing" the famous "Wine of Porto". This lasted until 1781 when the famous Portuguese winery "Real Campanhia Velha" began to really enter the Port wine business.

Currently, various tours are organized at the wineries, in which the entire route is explained to you - starting from the grape to the final product -, tours that necessarily end with a tasting. Depending on the winery you will choose, the rates differ - if you have the Porto Card tourist card you will have free entry to one of the most famous wineries: Real Campanhia Velha - but in general a visit to a winery can cost you between 3 - 15 euros, tours being offered in different languages.

Returning to the city, I have to tell you something very important: prepare your feet and pack some Diclofenac gel in your luggage. Being located on the hills, the old center welcomes us with steep streets, full of history, monuments, and impressive buildings, which can exhaust you, BUT believe me: Porto is worth walking!

What not to miss in Porto

Ribeira area
Ribeira area
  • Freedom Square (Praça da Liberdade) which connects the old city center with the modern area. Starting from here, the "Avenida de los Aliados" boulevard begins, where, in addition to modern buildings from the 20th century, the city hall or various bank offices, we find the most beautiful McDonald's in the world.
  • the Ribeira area (the Ribeira neighborhood is one of the most important places to get to know the downtown area, as well as to have dinner or just a walk along the river)
  • the "Foz do Douro" area - located in the western part of the city, known as one of the most expensive areas, is the privileged area where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Here you will find the "Cheese Castle" (Castelo do Queijo) and the Sao Joao Batista Fortress
  • the area near "Santa Catarina" street (which I don't know why I liken it to Lipscani street in the center of Bucharest) where we find the oldest cafe in the city (Cafe Majestic), a small and charming church (Capilla de las Almas) and the famous "Mercado do Bolhao" market.

The Must-Visit places in Porto I recommend

Clerigos Church
Clerigos Church far in the background
  • Se Cathedral and a superb view of the Ribeira and Gaia area
  • Clerigos Church and Tower (Torre dos Clerigos) from which you can see every corner of the city (after climbing only 200 steps, you are rewarded in size)
  • Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palacio da Bolsa)
  • Port Wine Museum (Museo do Vinho do Porto)
  • The Carmo Church (Igreja do Carmo) and its sister next door, the Carmelitas Church (Igreja dos Carmelitas) which is one of the most interesting in Porto
  • Gardens of the Crystal Palace (Jardins do Palacio de Cristal) where you can relax your eyes with a spectacular view of the Douro River
  • The San Bento train station (Estacao de Sao Bento) which was built on the ruins of a monastery
  • For photography enthusiasts and not only, I recommend the Photography Museum (interestingly, the place where the museum is currently located has been used as a prison since its construction, in its cells we currently find the Portuguese Photography Center)
  • The bridges of the city of Porto, the most important of which is the "Don Luis I Bridge" that connects the city of Gaia with Porto, this iron bridge being one of the most emblematic images of the city.

Local Transport in Porto

Transport in Porto

If your legs hold you, you will visit the city on foot, but if you do not have at least military training, you will not be able to cope with it. You can buy metro, bus or tram tickets from the machines in the stations or from the driver, but it's not very profitable because the cheapest trip is 1.5 euros.

The best thing is to purchase a Porto Card with transport included and that's it, you've taken a big worry out of your head! In short – there are two types of Porto Card: with or without transport and can be purchased for one, two, three, or four days. Porto Card without transport – a card that is used to know the historical area. This also includes discounts, but as the name suggests, you cannot benefit from public transport. More information about the advantages offered by this card is at the end of this article.

Another option is the hop-on hop-off buses, i.e. the double-decker buses that stop at the main points of the city and offer you the opportunity to get off, visit and then resume your journey. In Porto there are two important ones:

  • Yellow Bus – as the name says, they are yellow, and there are 2 ticket options: 24h (costs 13 euros) or 48h (15 euros), you can get on and off as many times as you want, the ticket being valid both on the tourist bus” Yellow Bus" as well as on STCP bus lines. These buses have 3 itineraries: the historic area (takes one hour and 40 minutes and has 34 stops), the city bridges (takes 50 minutes making 12 stops), and the castles of Porto (takes one hour and 30 minutes making 53 stops).
  • CitySightseeing Portugal – red buses make two circuits: the red bus takes 1 hour 40 minutes and has 33 stops, and the blue bus takes 1 hour 15 minutes with 20 stops. The ticket costs 13 euros per person and is valid for 2 consecutive days.

What do you eat in Porto?


You certainly have plenty to choose from: restaurants for all tastes and budgets. Almost everywhere you can find fresh fish, especially the traditional Bacalhau (cod) and seafood.

The traditional food is Tripas, made of belly and intestines, and Francesinha, a kind of huge sandwich, consisting of several slices of bread, filled with various types of meat (ham, sausages, and beef) topped with a slice of cheese. A brown sauce made of tomato juice and beer is poured on top, and next to it, there must be a healthy portion of fried potatoes.

I can't leave out Pastel de Nata, an egg-based dessert, more than delicious.

Prices differ quite a bit depending on the location and… the level of the restaurant. In many places, you can find lunch menus, with prices starting from 12 euros.

For us, the most interesting location was a pub with a few tables on the banks of the Douro River, with a barbecue that automatically roasted fish and beef. A fish soup, a portion of cod with salad and a coffee: 13 euros. Atmosphere: unique because we felt the spirit of the bohemian tourist. As I said, it depends a lot on you, on the budget you have available, and on how frugal you are. A menu similar to a restaurant with a terrace and…. tablecloths cost at least 25 euros.

For the rest, you have tens if not hundreds of pastry shops that attract you with delicious dishes, with prices starting from 50 cents to... as much as your pockets can hold. The Portuguese beer you find everywhere is Sagres or Super Bock. For a 250 ml bottle or a glass of the same amount, you pay about 1.5 euros. Wine is served almost everywhere and by the glass with prices starting from 2 euros. Juice in a can or bottle of 250 ml has about the same price as beer and coffee starts at 0.50 euros.

Nota bene: the Portuguese eat dinner quite early so don't be surprised if after 9 pm you won't find the restaurant kitchens open. Even with lunch, it would be better not to leave the last hundred meters because after 3 pm you will find it quite difficult to find menus at civilized prices. I know, I know... it sounds strange but it is valid for both the Porto and Lisbon areas.

Accommodation in Porto

hotel room porto

I could talk to you a lot about this subject, but I would do it as alms. I could tell you about hotels X or Y, palaces and mansions, 5-star hotels, or tips that are internet-only tips.

The idea is simple: due to the very high flow of tourists, most hotels are full. There are cases where special or last-minute offers are launched, but in my humble opinion, this depends only on your luck as a tourist. So the only recommendations I will give are: search (if possible ahead of time) on booking or any other site with which you have had pleasant experiences for a hotel that fits your budget but is near a means of public transport (ideal the subway).

I, for one, like to stay as close to the center as possible, even if the hotel is not stellar and the reception is upstairs... As long as it's central and has a good price and has a private bathroom, that's enough for me.

How do you get to Porto?

I mentioned before that the direct flights are to Lisbon. So maybe it's not a bad idea to combine the Lisbon area and then move north to the Porto area. (What you can see in the Lisbon area can be found in our previous articles. Click here.) In Portugal, transport by train or bus is extremely civilized and very convenient both in terms of conditions and price. For timetables and prices, click here.

If you catch an offer with a flight to Porto, the airport "Francisco Sa Carneiro" (OPO) is located very close, 13 kilometers north of the city, an airport in contemporary architecture, with a capacity of up to 16 million passengers per year. Among the companies that operate here are Iberia, Lufthansa, or TAP, and also some low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet.

How to get to Porto from the airport? In my opinion, the easiest and cheapest way to travel from the airport is the METRO. The purple line E (Dragao Stadium – Airport) serves the airport with modern trains, every 10-15 minutes. In 20 or 30 minutes you will reach the city center (Bolhão or Casa da Muscia stations). To purchase the ticket you have two possibilities:

  • The Andante Card – is a wallet card that can be used for all means of transport in Porto and can be topped up with single tickets, 10 tickets, or daily passes. Single tickets start at 1.2 euros/journey and in the case of the subscription 7 euros/day (24 hours from the date of validation) or 15 euros for 3 days (72 hours from the date of validation).
  • PortoCard – is the tourist card of the city of Porto, used to obtain discounts and free entrances to the main museums and monuments. There is also a way to purchase the PortoCard with transport included (so you can benefit from free transport on the metro, bus, and certain train lines). Here is the leaflet with the full description and here are all the locations where it can be purchased. The prices are as follows: 1 day: 6 € / 2 days: 10 € / 3 days: 13 € / 4 days: 15 € for the option without transport. Porto Card with transport: Includes free tickets, discount, and unlimited access to transport at the following prices: 1 day: €13 / 2 days: €20 / 3 days: €25 / 4 days: €33.

The metro's operating hours are 6:00 – 12:00, with a frequency of 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the time and day you travel.

PUBLIC BUS, STCP lines 601, 602, 604, and 3M buses connect the airport with different parts of the city center. In my opinion, the bus is a bit slower and just as expensive as the subway. If you arrive at the airport at night, you can use the 3M bus, which operates daily from 00:00 – 05:00.

EXPRESS BUS. There are two companies that offer a direct transfer service between the airport and Porto: Transdev – offers a transfer service from the airport to the city center (at the Gare Rodoviaria bus station), the journey takes about 30 minutes and costs €2.50.

The bus stop is right in front of the arrivals terminal. GOINPORTO – makes the trip between the airport and the center with a stop in Boavista (from here you can take buses anywhere in the city). The ticket can be purchased online and has a price of €5/way (€9 if you bought a return ticket). In theory, you can buy directly when you board the bus, but it is recommended to purchase in advance.

TAXI is always the most comfortable but most expensive option. A taxi from the airport to the city center can cost between €20 and €25.

I recommend that you purchase the Porto card with transport at the airport so that you can save money. These cards are ideal for tourists who want to visit and use public transport as often as they need.

If you are not sure about some things, or you just want more information about what you can visit both in the city and in the northern part of Portugal, my advice is to contact the tourist office in Porto (in the city center of Rua Clube dos Fenians, no. 25, in the Aliados area) where you will benefit from all the information.

If you also plan to visit places near Porto, I recommend the Tourist TravelCard which is available for sale at Porto Central Station (Bento). The card offers unlimited travel for 1 or 3 days (24 or 72 hours) on the Aveiro, Braga, Guimaraes, and Marco lines, all for just €7.00 (1 day) or €15.00 (3 days).

That's eat, I mean "it" :D, see you next time.

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