If you are deciding whether to see Porto or Lisbon, why visit both cities? 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.
Finding the best of Porto in three days is to stay in or near the old town area for local restaurants, stunning tiled buildings and nighttime views of the River Douro.
If you are still undecided about Lisbon or Porto, you can 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
- Take the Free Walking Tour of Porto
- Eat locally near your Hotel for breakfast
- Walk and explore more of Porto on foot
- Try the restaurants across the river
- Enjoy the evening nightlife of Porto
And make sure to get your Travel Insurance before you leave home.
Our travel insurance provider was CoverMore when we started travelling in 2016. When we had to make a claim, it was an easy online claim with CoverMore, and their response was quick and efficient.
Just click below to organize a quote for yourself.
Getting to Porto from the Airport
The new airport of Porto has an official tourist centre, so make sure you load up on brochures on the things to do in Porto.
Take the Metro line (light rail) into the city centre for about €4.50. The trip takes an hour due to 15 stops along the way.
Luckily, our stop was about 1km from Hotel Menfiz on Ria da Firmeza, our base for the next three days.
Finding Street Art and Blue Tiles 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 got chatting 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.
The Tapas arrived, and 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 then offered a complimentary glass of Port before.
A great food experience is Celta Endovelico.
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 host 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 the history of Portugal and the evolution of travel.
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.
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.
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. Stunning.
Next was the must-see statue of the “Town Crier”, who, in years gone by, used to read the news to the local people.
3. Fado Singing in the Rain
We were on our way to a local jeweller to view the gold heart when the heavens opened to a torrential downpour lasting at least half an hour.
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, a history of either happy love or tragedy.
We were treated to a sample of each Fado song from Sandra, who was quite happy to be singing under an awning as the rain poured down. 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.
And part of the folklore is the handkerchief. A handkerchief was sewn with love messages and dropped down from windows to passing admirers as no dating was allowed in those days.
5. Livraria Lello Bookstore and Harry Potter connection
The rain now abated the next stop was to purchase tickets to the Livraria Lello bookstore, made famous for its inclusion in JK Rowlings Harry Potter. It was here JK Rowling often visited while teaching English in Porto.
Livraria Lello bookstore is a must-see in Porto to view the remarkable interior. The ticket is about €5, which they deduct from any book purchase.
6. University – Lion Square
Lion Square was very busy with student inductions for the new academic year. And as part of the initiation (induction) ceremony, students wear a black cape. 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 between both churches is the world’s narrowest house, built to ensure the churches wouldn’t be touching.
We entered the church on the left to find it was beautifully decorated with a gold-painted wood interior.
7. Eating Bacalhau and Drinking Port
Time to sample some local food of Bacalhau, a potato bread mixed with dry cod with some 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.”
8. Clerigos Tower
When in Porto, climb the Clerigos Tower and visit the museum of artefacts.
The church is beautiful, and the views from the tower are spectacular. The cost to enter is about €5 each.
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)
When in Porto, a walk along the famous Flower Street, named many years ago for its flower boxes on all of the houses. Today the street is made beautiful with 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.
Currently, there is a lot of cheap real estate for sale as many buildings are in need of major repair due to the economic crisis in 2008.
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 with its most beautiful interior, as well as the local history Museum housing an original Roman bath.
Crossing the River Duoro
No trip to Porto would be complete without a walk to the River Duoro and Dom Luis I.
What you may not know is 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.
With the Free Walking Tour of Porto now finished, 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 or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.
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.
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.
Another great reason to cross the bridge.
Ride the Cable Car in Porto
Time to return to Porto via the cable car to the upper level of the Pont de Luis Bridge with a view across to the Cathedral.
It’s a short trip costing about €5, but you get a free wine-tasting coupon.
Enjoy a Gallo with a Pastel Queijo
Another local food and drink to try are a local coffee called Gallo (milk and coffee), along with a Pastel Queijo (custard tart.)
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 a cheese and meat board and some locally grown olives, yum.
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 €2.50 each or take Bus 500 at about €1.85 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.
Reaching the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean at Matosinhos was busy with surfers enjoying the incoming tide. We decided after Crystal Palace to get the local Bus, 500, to take us the rest of the way.
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).
Lunchtime fish restaurants on Rue Herios de France, where freshly caught fish is prepared and cooked on large BBQs, are one of the best things to do in Porto.
After choosing your seafood, like squid, prawns, and octopus, you can add a fresh salad. We chose to eat at the restaurant Palato. Delicious.
And what to 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.
Porto, a Beautiful City to Visit
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.
A great way to leave the beautiful city of Porto.