How to See the Best of Porto in Three Days

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When you travel, you often need to compromise on what you can see. One of our sayings is, “You can see anything you want, but you can’t see everything.” But, if you are trying to decide whether to see Porto or Lisbon, we suggest visiting both.

We loved our three days in Porto and our three days in Lisbon, as each city has something different to experience.

Porto is a smaller city and very easy to get around with a concentration of the old town. But if you love beaches, it’s about a 30-minute tram ride to the seaside for fresh seafood and sea air.

In three days, you can see the best of Porto by staying in or near the old town area, which has local restaurants, stunning tiled buildings, and nighttime views of the River Douro.

A view of a bridge over a river at night
Looking over the Douro River with Ponte Luís, I glowing

If you are still undecided about Lisbon or Porto, check out The Best of Lisbon in Three Days.

And if you want to spend a few days in a fishing village on the Algarve, take A Short Break in Tavira, Portugal.

How to See the Best of Porto in Three Days

  1. Use our Free Walking Tour of Porto.
  2. Eat locally near your Hotel for breakfast.
  3. Walk and explore more of Porto on foot.
  4. Try the restaurants across the river.
  5. Enjoy the evening nightlife of Porto.

Getting to Porto from the Airport

A bridge over a river
The Ponte Luís I bridge takes trains, cars and pedestrians.

Porto Airport (Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport) has an official tourist centre where you can grab brochures about what to do in Porto.

You can take the Metro Line Purple (light rail) into the city centre for about €4.50. Our trip took an hour due to 15 stops along the way, which normally takes 35 minutes.

Luckily, our stop was about 1km from Hotel Menfiz on Ria da Firmeza, our base for the next three days.

Where to Stay in Porto

When choosing accommodation for your stay, we have a few favourites.

728*90 has lower prices, where after your 10th night is booked, your next night is free based on your average stay rate. It’s always great to get a bonus night.

When we are staying longer and need a kitchen, we use Airbnb.

Finding Street Art and Blue Tiles in Porto

A large rock with blue and white tiles covering its surface
Tiled Street Art in Porto, Portugal
A large building with blue and white tiles
Decorative blue and white tiles cover many buildings in Porto, Portugal

As soon as you step out of your hotel, you will find plenty of examples of tiles incorporated into buildings. It will have you taking many photos and wondering where to buy a tile souvenir.


FREE Walking Tour of Porto 

After breakfast, we had a rendezvous at the train station around 10 a.m. for a Free Walking Tour of Porto.

Little did we know we would spend two great hours learning more about Porto.

At 10 am, we found Sandra and her friend Alex, who hosted the Free Walking Tour of Porto with Simply B (gratuity invited). Friends from our hotel, Margaret and Charlie, arrived and then a lovely Polish couple, Kasia and Radek, now living in London, joined us.

1. Discovering the Beauty of Porto Train Station

The first stop of the Free Walking Tour of Porto is, of course, the Sao Bento Train Station.

Once inside the 100-year-old train station, you can view the azulejo tiles depicting Portugal’s history and travel’s evolution.

Around Porto, the Azulejo Tile brought to the city by King Manuel I of Portugal is an added feature on any of Porto’s buildings.

A decorative tile display featuring a kingly figure on a horse
The history of Porto is displayed in tiles at Sao Bento Train Station
Blue and White Tiles depicting history in Porto, Portugal

2. Praca da Liberdade

The next stop on the Free Walking Tour of Porto was a walk to the main square, Praca da Liberdade.

The original size of the square was expanded to match and compete with larger European cities while still keeping its beautiful Art Deco buildings.

The buildings on the square were originally banks and professional offices. So, it was intriguing when we entered McDonald’s on the square to view the beautiful old bar, tiles, and leadlight windows.

An art deco interior of a restaurant
Possibly the most elegant McDonald’s in the world. Art Deco building, Porto, Portugal

Next was the must-see statue of the “Town Crier”, who, in years gone by, used to read the news to the local people.

Two women next to a statue of a man and a post box
Maura and our tour guide with the Town Crier of Porto

3. Fado Singing in the Rain

We were visiting a local jeweller to view the gold heart when the heavens opened to a torrential downpour lasting at least half an hour.

A lady in black wearing gold jewellery
Maura trying on some of the gold jewellery

Our Free Walking Tour of Porto guide, Sandra, wasn’t flustered. Instead, she got us to introduce ourselves. Sandra then told us about Fado singing and the history of happy love or tragedy.

We were treated to a sample of each Fado song from Sandra, who was quite happy to sing under an awning as the rain poured down. It’s a special treat.

4. Gold Heart Jewellery

Visiting the local jeweller is one of the things to do in Porto.

We found the story about the gold heart jewellery fascinating. With the men always away working or fishing, it was the woman of the house who always held the gold.

Any money earned was converted to gold and worn as chains around the neck.

Part of the folklore is the handkerchief. In those days, a handkerchief was sewn with love messages and dropped from windows to passing admirers, as dating was prohibited.

5. Livraria Lello Bookstore and Harry Potter connection

The rain now abated, and the next stop was to purchase tickets to the Livraria Lello bookstore, made famous for its inclusion in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. It was here JK Rowling often visited while teaching English in Porto.

Livraria Lello bookstore is a must-see in Porto if you want to view its remarkable interior. The ticket for entry is €8, which they deduct from any book purchase.

An ornate staircase inside a bookstore
Inside the Livraria Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal

6. University – Lion Square

Lion Square was very busy with student inductions for the new academic year. Students wear a black cape during the initiation (induction) ceremony. So, when we saw an initiation ceremony one night, we stayed to watch.

It all looked strange and mysterious before we were asked to move on!

However, the main tourist attraction in Lion Square is the two churches built side by side, one for the Carmelites and the other for the public.

What is fascinating is that the world’s narrowest house, built between both churches, was designed to prevent the churches from touching.

We entered the church on the left to find it was beautifully decorated with a gold-painted wood interior.

a group of people in an initiation ceremony
Initiation Ceremony – Very Mysterious, Porto, Portugal
Two churches side by side with a small building between them
The two Churches in Lion Square, Porto

7. Eating Bacalhau and Drinking Port

It was time to sample some local food: Bacalhau, a potato bread mixed with dry cod and cheese in its centre. It was yummy, especially when washed down with a white Port.

We stopped in at Casa Portuguesa to buy our “Portugal Experience.”

A handsome man holding a glass of wine and some food
Terry about to enjoy Bacalhau and White Port in Porto

8. Clerigos Tower

In Porto, climb the Clerigos Tower and visit the Museum of Artefacts.

The church is beautiful, and the views from the tower are spectacular. Entry for the combined tower and museum is €8 per adult.

A tall tower in a street
Clerigos Tower, Porto
An ornate interior of a church
Inside the Church of Clerigos Tower, Porto

9. Porto Tourist Information Centre

Next, a stop at the local tourist information centre run by the local government. The feature we liked about this tourist office was its interactive centre of local landmarks and nearby towns of interest.

10. Rue Das Flores (Flower St)

In Porto, walk along the famous Flower Street, named many years ago for its flower boxes on all houses.

Today, the street is beautiful, and there are a variety of boutique shops and cafes.

One shop we visited was selling jams in tubes, so we had a good time tasting the various combinations of fruit mixed with spices or alcohol.

Our Free Walking Tour of Porto took us to the statue of the Infante the Explorer, one of the six children of the Royals John and Phillipa.

Near here, make sure to check out the Stock Exchange building, which has its most beautiful interior, and the local history museum, which houses an original Roman bath.

A large plaza with outdoor seating
Praça da Ribeira outdoor cafe alongside the Duoro river

Crossing the River Duoro

A large bridge crossing a river with a boat in the foreground
Dom Luís I Bridge on the River Duoro

No trip to Porto would be complete without a walk to the River Duoro and Dom Luis I.

You may not know that The Dom Luis I Bridge is on two levels: one level for those living at the top of the gorge and a lower level for those on the waterfront.

We were lucky enough to see the River Duoro at high tide, where we witnessed the river flowing up against the incoming sea.

After finishing the Free Walking Tour of Porto, we checked out the various riverside cafes.


You Must Try the Local Dish, Francesinha

With Kasia and Radek, we crossed the river on the recommendation of our Free Walking Tour of Porto guide Sandra to try a local dish called Francesinha at Bar Misha Restaurant.

Francesinha (meaning Little Frenchie Girl) is a Portuguese sandwich made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, steak, roast meat covered with melted cheese, and a hot, thick tomato and beer sauce served with French fries.

A large sandwich on a plate
Francesinha, the dish of Porto

One of these and you don’t need to eat for two days!

After a fabulous meal of Francesinha for the boys and the Sardines for the girls with a green wine (a little like a Moscato but not sweet), we only paid 21 for each couple.

Tip: The food on the river’s opposite side is better and cheaper than on the Porto side.

Surprisingly, the next stop was a Porto cellar for some wine tasting.

The area is known as the city of Gaia, with cellars of Porto Wine. That’s another great reason to cross the bridge.

A meal of sardines and salad
A meal of sardines, much bigger than the ones we get in cans in New Zealand

Ride the Cable Car in Porto

It is time to return to Porto. We will take the cable car to the upper level of the Pont de Luis Bridge, from which we can see the Cathedral.

It’s a short trip that costs about €7 one way or €10 for a return trip.

If you want to combine the Cable car with a river cruise, a tour package is the best value for money.

Two couples in a cable car
The Gaia Cable Car

Enjoy a Gallo with a Pastel Queijo 

Another local food and drink to try is a local coffee called Gallo (milk and coffee) and a Pastel Queijo (cheese tart). We also discovered Pastel de Nata a delicious custard tart.

A display of custard tarts
Pastel de Nata, too delicious just to have one

An Evening in Porto

Dining at Celta Endvelico in Porto

Dinner tonight was the tapas bar Celta Endovelico after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor. Unfortunately, the rain in Porto started at about 5 pm, so we were a little wet on our 1km walk to the restaurant, but the friendly staff warmly greeted us.

After reviewing the Tapas menu, we let the staff choose the dishes for us, along with local wine and beer.

While waiting for the meals, we chatted with the Owner, thinking we were in an Irish bar. But no, we were in a Celtic bar. After a brief history lesson, we learned the north of Portugal, reaching up to Bretagne, France, has a joint Celtic heritage.

When the Tapas arrived, we were not disappointed with the selection of local mushrooms, pork, egg baskets, and a string potato dish with a spicy sauce.

After a lovely coffee and a small slice of lime and pistachio cheesecake to share, we were offered a complimentary glass of Port.

A great food experience is Celta Endovelico.

A meal of mixed food on a restaurant table
Tapas at Celta Endvelico in Porto

An Evening in Porto

What better way to enjoy an evening than a walk to the River Duoro to refresh yourself with a local Sangria?

You can choose either a red sangria or a white sangria. Both are delicious, accompanied by cheese, meat board and some locally grown olives.

A view of a bridge over a river at night
Looking over the Douro River with Ponte Luís I glowing

Visit the Beaches of Porto

You have a few options for getting to the seaside suburb of Matosinhos, 8kms from the centre of Porto. You can walk along the pedestrian walkway, ride the Tourist Tram at about €3.50 each or take Bus 500 at about €2 each.

We started walking initially as we wanted more photo opportunities in Porto. And it meant we could walk up the hill to Crystal Palace, an event centre and garden area.

We did find Crystal Palace a little disappointing, but at least it did have great views.

A large blue sign saying 'Porto'
Porto sign at Crystal Palace

Reaching the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean at Matosinhos was busy, with surfers enjoying the incoming tide. After Crystal Palace, we decided to take the local bus, 500, the rest of the way.

An old fashioned tram
Tourist Tram of Porto. There is also a museum dedicated to these in Porto

While searching for somewhere to eat, we learned of a Porto tragedy on the 1st of December 1947.

On the beach were statues of women lamenting their loss of the many lives lost at sea (around 147 men).

A statue of a group of women in anguish
Matosinhos Beach Statues of 1947 Tragedy at Sea

Lunchtime fish restaurants on Rue Herios de France, where freshly caught fish is prepared and cooked on large BBQs, are one of Porto’s best things to do.

You can add a fresh salad after choosing your seafood, like squid, prawns, and octopus. We chose to eat at the restaurant Palato. Delicious.

Red and green peppers being barbequed over coals
BBQ lunch at Restaurant Palato on Rue Herios de France, Porto

And what do you do after a delicious lunch? Find a spot on the beach to sit and watch the surfers. Or take a walk along the seafront promenade to visit the old fort. Maybe discard the shoes and paddle your feet.

A plate of squid and prawns
Squid, Prawns, and Octopus at Restaurant Palato, Porto

Porto, a Beautiful City to Visit

A large building with a tower at night
Praca da Liberdade at night

On our last night in Porto, we found ourselves back at Celta Endovelico to taste more dishes from its menu.

An evening walk to see the main square at night, the cathedral lit up, and the Douro River looks amazing.

We have enjoyed the best three days in Porto and are off to Lisbon by train in the morning.

But before we leave, it’s one more breakfast near our hotel, at our little cafe for two coffees and two Mista (a layered toasted sandwich of meat, cheese, and tomato) for only €5.

It is a great way to leave the beautiful city of Porto.




  1. Deb says:

    What a beautiful place. Enjoy :))

    • Terry&Maura says:

      Will do – Lynda says Hi too

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