When I was first planning the Portugal leg of my trip, Porto actually wasn’t on my radar. I thought I’d visit Lisbon and that’d be it. Then, by a stroke of fate, I saw some photos of Porto in a Facebook travel group that I’m part of and I just knew that I had to go there.
I was there for 3-4 days and really enjoyed the chill, laid-back vibe of the city. Here are my Top 5 things to do in Porto:
1) Livraria Lello
As a bookworm and wordnerd, Livraria Lello was one of my favourite things about Porto. Touted as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, this bookstore did not let me down. There is a €5 entrance fee, but that did not deter anyone at all as there was a line to enter. The bookstore is especially crowded on weekends, so if you can, visit on a weekday for a more pleasant experience.
As I wandered around, it was clear why it is said that Livraria Lello was JK Rowling’s inspiration for the Hogwarts library. The beautiful staircase and woodwork was a definite highlight!
To be honest, there were moments when the crowd really put me off… but I was lucky because I hung around a little bit (looking at the books), and at one point there was a slight lull in the crowd which made my experience a lot more fun and comfortable.
If you love books, beautiful libraries and/or are a Harry Potter fan, I think Livraria Lello is a must-visit. (Funny anecdote: I asked a lady to help me take the photo below, and she said “You’re wearing a timeturner, I have to help you!”. LOL! Potterheads, unite!)
Tip: If you buy a book, they will offset the €5 entrance fee against your purchase. There’s a small selection of English books, and I would suggest buying a book by Fernando Pessoa, a renowned Portuguese writer.
2) Visit a Port Wine cellar
Porto is home to a plethora of port wine cellars on the Gaia-side of the Douro. You can’t miss the large white buildings with their names spelled out on top of them! Port wine is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro Valley and these wine cellars are where the wine are stored, aged and eventually bottled.
Even if you are not a wine aficionado, it’s still worth visiting a port wine cellar. For as low as €6, you will learn about the history of port wine making in Porto, the process of making the wine and the different varieties. At the end, you get to sample two port wines. Not a bad way to spend an hour or two! Prices vary depending on the number of port wine you’d like to sample.
Tip: If you have limited time, it may be helpful to call ahead to the cellar you’re interested in touring to reserve a slot as sometimes English tours are limited. I hadn’t planned ahead so it took me a few visits to different cellars to find an English tour! Eventually, I toured the Ferreira cellars.
3) Cruise on the Douro
The most popular cruise is the 6-bridges cruise which takes you along the river Douro to view (you guessed it!) six of the bridges. It’s about one hour long, and a beautiful, relaxing way to see more of Porto.
I took my cruise in the late evening and saw the sunset along the river which was stunning!
Tip: There are a few cruise operators, and generally a ticket costs around €12. However, there are often some package prices that can help you save some money. For instance, I bought a package for entrance to Palacio da Bolsa and a cruise which saved me €6!
4) Palacio da Bolsa
Palacio da Bolsa is home to Porto’s stock exchange, which sounds like an utterly dull place to visit.
You would be dead wrong.
The somewhat generic facade hides a wealth of beauty in its interiors. Built in the late 19th century, this building was built to impress, and it definitely does. Among the rooms open to visitors are the Hall of Nations, the courtroom, and the General Assembly room (pictured below).
The highlight is the famed Arabian Hall, which was built to emulate the Al-hambra in Granada. The detail in the woodwork and stained windows are a marvel!
Entrance to the building is strictly via a 1-hour guided tour. Admission is €8 for adults.
5) Walk in the Ribeira area
The Ribeira is Porto’s Old Quarter, the equivalent of Lisbon’s Alfama. Wander through its narrow cobblestoned streets, look up to admire the balconied terraces and soak in its sense of history. This charming, historic area should not be missed!
Afterwards, take a break in Praça de Ribeira and walk onwards to Ponte de Dom Luís I to take in the views of the river.
In the end, I was truly glad that I didn’t miss out on the delights of Porto. Its quiet charm and chill vibes really appealed to me! If I do visit again, I’d love to take day trips into the Douro Valley and check out the Portuguese countryside.
Do you have a favourite place in Porto?