Top 10 things to do in Porto for first-time visitors

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Top 10 things to do in Porto for first-time visitors

Porto is one of the most historically vibrant and picturesque cities I have ever had the pleasure of exploring! With a great mix of historical sights, spectacular views, seaside walks and delicious port wine, Porto has something for everyone! Here are the top 10 things to do in Porto for all you first-time visitors!

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1) Go on a walking tour

First up is a walking tour! It’s one of the best ways to get your bearings in a new city and start to learn all about it!

Your guide will give you a real insight into the history and culture of Porto as well as share lots of local knowledge and fun stories as they show you around the best spots in the city.

You meet your guide in front of Porto’s magnificent cathedral and then walk down to the São Bento Train Station to look at its incredible tiles.

You’ll discover the historical neighbourhood and its mazes of narrow streets, passing through one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and see the remains of the medieval city walls.

You’ll encounter lovely houses with amazing tiles, along with artistic shops full of local crafts and 19th century gardens filled with fragrant flowers.

It’s a great tour and you’ll love getting to know more about beautiful Porto and discover some of its most charming areas, such as Pena Ventosa and Vitória Hill.

Get your tickets for the Porto Walking Tour.

Medieval style boats on the Porto seafront harbour

2) Go on a Port wine tasting tour

You can’t travel to Porto and not try its world famous port wine!

You can learn all about the history of Porto’s wine production process on a guided tour. There are a few available but the Port Wine Lodges Tour offers seven different wines to try as well as a cellar tour over half a day.

Even if you’re not a big wine drinker, you’ll still enjoy learning a little bit more about the background of port wine because it’s such an integral part of Porto’s heritage.

But if you’re partial to a little tipple you’ll particularly enjoy the wine tasting at the end of the wine tour. It’s one of the best tasting port wines you will ever try!

I must admit I like a nice glass of vino but I wasn’t convinced I would be all that bothered with wine tasting. But I didn’t want to visit Porto and not have a glass of wine and I’m so glad I did because it turns out wine tasting is SO much fun!

I was so taken with the port that I went on to spend over €70 on a couple of bottles to last the rest of the trip as well as a keepsake vintage bottle! Although the vintage bottle is more of an investment, right? 😉

Get your tickets for the Port Wine Lodges Tour (includes seven wine tastings).

Inside the dark Sandemans Winery cellar filled with barrels

3) Visit Clérigos tower for 360 views of Porto

Clérigos Church was the first place I visited in Porto and I’ve got to say it set the bar pretty high right off the bat!

The church itself is a stunning baroque style church dating back to 1732. However, it’s the church’s tower that is the real star of Porto!

Clérigos Tower offers one of the best views of Porto at over 75 metres high, up 240 steps! Go on a clear day with good visibility and if you can time it just right, you’ll catch a killer sunset.

Get your tickets for the Clérigos Viewing Tower.

Clérigos Tower with a 360 view of Porto in the background

4) Visit Livraria Lello

When I say, “peek inside” I really mean, pay €5 for the pleasure of simply browsing in this bookshop! 😂 But you can also visit the bookshop for free as part of a Porto walking tour.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m recommending a visit to a bookshop, right? But this bookshop is simply stunning inside!

I felt it was a real throwback to the grand bookshops and libraries of centuries past and was even one of JK Rowling’s inspirations when creating Hogwarts!

Harry Potter connection aside, Livraria Lello is a serious beauty with its intricate plaster wood carvings, detailed stainless glass skylight and grand central staircase.

It’s no wonder why Lonely Planet listed it as the third most beautiful bookshop in the world!

Make sure to head down first thing in the morning for this one as it gets pretty packed with Potter fans later in the day (as to be expected!).

Inside Livraria Lello an ornate bookshop with a central grand staircase in Porto

5) Go inside São Bento Railway Station

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first went inside São Bento Railway Station. The bright and detailed tiles done in the traditional Portuguese cobalt blue style are just amazing!

There are over 20,000 tiles on the walls dating from 1905–1916, all depicting scenes from significant historical moments in Portugal’s history. These include: the Battle of Valdevez in 1140 and the arrival of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster in Porto.

It’s right off the main square so make sure to sneak in for a peek! Or you can find out more about the history of the train station as part of a Porto walking tour.

Detailed blue and white historic tiles on the São Bento Railway Station in Porto

6) Go on the Porto Bridge Climb experience 

The Porto Bridge Climb is the only experience of its kind. Not only in Portugal but in all of Europe! Which is exactly why you need to do it whilst you’re in Porto!

As part of the guided climb, you’ll make your way up 262 steps to the arch of the Arrábida Bridge – over 200 feet above Porto’s harbour!

There is no view quite like this in Porto! When you reach the top, your guide will hand you a chocolate cup filled with sweet port to enjoy whilst he gives you the low down on the landmarks and buildings along Porto’s skyline.

It’s also really affordable at only £15 per person – an utter bargain for such a unique experience!

Mel standing in a superman pose in climbing gear, hiking to the top of the Porto Bridge with the city in the background at sunset

7) Take the cable cars to the top of Dom Luís I Bridge

The Dom Luís I Bridge is a double-decked metal arch bridge that joins Porto and neighbouring city, Vila Nova de Gaia over the Douro River. And the cable cars are the most scenic (and fun!) way of getting to the upper deck of the bridge.

Enjoy walking along the bridge afterwards for the most amazing views of Porto’s historic harbour.

Cable cars in Porto with the city's port and boats in the background

8) Visit the Church of São Francisco

This fascinating 14th century church goes way back. I mean waaaaay back!

The actual Franciscan order was established in Porto around 1223 with the Church of São Francisco (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) being built between 1383 and 1410.

The interior is seriously impressive, with extravagant and intricate decor dripping in 880 pounds of gold. Get ready for your jaw to drop because it’s one hell of a site to behold with its sheer grandeur!

The only draw back is you can’t take any pictures inside but it’s so worth the visit!

Don’t forget to check out the church’s basement catacombs holding tombs of members of the Franciscan order where allegedly they are laid to await judgment day (yikes!).

It’s creepy but a fascinating juxtaposition with the church’s opulent gold interior.

Outside facade of the medieval Church of São Francisco in Porto

9) Have afternoon tea at the Majestic Café

This little cafe is just gorgeous inside! It first opened in 1921 and was the meeting point of Porto’s elite including well-known politicians, writer and artists of the time.

It’s a perfect time capsule of the elegant and romantic belle époque period of the 1920s with its marble walls and gilded mirrors.

You feel like you’re on board a grand, turn of the century ship with the live piano music, fine china and staff wearing crisp white jackets and golden buttons. 

Stay for afternoon tea and a bit of cake whilst enjoying the cafe’s unique ambience right in the centre of Porto.

Inside the Majestic Café, a turn of the century grand cafe with decorative light fixtures and a grand piano

10) Take Porto’s old tram along the harbour

Porto’s old tram is one of the best ways to get around Porto – but also one of the most fun!

The tram cars are so well kept considering they have been running through the most iconic parts of Porto since 1895!

The tram runs every twenty minutes, from 9am to 5pm and are a great way to get along the seafront and also avoid those steep Porto hills!

Old fashioned tram by the seafront in Porto

For more on Porto check out my YouTube video:

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What top things to do in Porto will you be putting on your city break itinerary? 😄

Quick FYI guys – this post contains affiliate links to various tours that I recommend. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

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