Portugal's second city, Porto dramatically balances on the Douro River and has done since the first Roman settlements occupied the area in northern Portugal from the 8th-century. Porto, as we know it today, was founded in 1123. It is the perfect city break; large enough to eat, drink and keep yourself entertained in all corners of the city, yet small enough to be totally walkable (just make sure you have appropriate footwear). Porto is a fantasy waiting to be explored.
Porto's currency is the Euro (€). €1 = £0.83 / $1.10 (as of 2022)
Top 5 things to see
Sunset on Dom Luís I Bridge
The absolute must-see activity in Porto is watching sunset on the Dom Luís I Bridge. In fact, it must be near the top of your European bucket-list. During the hour before the sun sets, the charming and characterful city slowly hushes to a quiet buzz as locals and tourists look forward to the spectacle. There can't be many better city sunsets in the world.
Two Passports Top Tip
For alternative views over Porto, visit Jardim do Morro and Miradouro da Serra do Pilar - both are close by to the Dom Luís I Bridge.
Ribeira is the riverside district in Porto's Old Town as is as beautiful by the river as it is from the looming Dom Luís I Bridge; in fact, the entire district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Each building looks different from its neighbour and provides perfect photo opportunities as any time of day. In the glorious Portuguese sunshine, the buildings pop with colour and show every immaculate detail possible. At night, they come alive and welcome you into the endless bars and restaurants. As you'd imagine, its bars are tourist-oriented - stop by for a drink at sunset and admire the river, but there are far more authentic bars and restaurants further from the river.
These elegant landscaped gardens date back to the 19th-century and can be found nestled in the Massarelos neighbourhood. Starting on a hill, the botanical gardens slowly slope towards the edge of the cliff by the river, and provide unmatched views of the Douro.
Numerous gardens lay beside each others offering various views over the city; the iconic Torreão do Jardim do Palácio have unrivalled views westwards towards Ponte da Arrábida - another of Porto's iconic bridges. Small medieval-like forts provide tight spiral staircases opening up views eastwards directly down the Douro, whilst the vibrant yellow Rose Garden House is the final touch and a magical photo opportunity.
Leave anywhere from 2 hours to half-a-day to explore the gardens.
Around almost every corner on every street in Porto, you'll find the iconic, mesmerising blue and white azulejo tiles. The introduction of the tiles in Portugal is controversial, with some studies suggesting they stretch as far back as the 12th-century, symbolising a family's wealth. Some of our favourite spots to see these include:
Estátua da Varanda
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
São Bento Station
Igreja do Carmo
Rua da Assunção
Capela das Almas
Foz do Douro
A simple 30-minute tram ride away is the stretching beaches of Foz do Douro. The Atlantic Sea crashes into the jagged coastline, making it one of the world's most popular destinations for surfers. Beach bars lean over the sand and display panoramic views of the sea; however you'll pay dearly for it. Instead, buy some food and drink from a local supermarket for a fraction of the price and have a picnic by the sea.
The tram journey is an activity in itself. The old-style Number 1 tram departs from Infante by Ribeira and weaves west to the beach. Try to sit on the left side for exceptional views of the Douro and Ponte da Arrábida.
Tram tickets cost €6 return for any time of day. I'd recommend Foz do Douro for half-a-day.
Provides access to a host of museums and attractions throughout the city, as well as travel on all public transport throughout the city and discounts on Douro cruises and city tours.
1 day = €13.
2 days = €20.
3 days = €25.
4 days = €33.
Where to eat and drink
The city is full of fantastic food and drink spots throughout the city, highlighting Northern Portuguese cuisine. Move away from Riberia and São Bento, which are full of tourist traps, and head into the Vitoria and Santa Ildefonso neighbourhoods for some authentic taverns.
For more information, read our How to Eat and Drink like a Local in Porto.
Castro specialises in pastel de natas, sweet custard tarts that complement the strong coffee perfectly. The golden counter of pastel de natas will welcome you in; be sure to sit round the corner and watch the pastry chef create them in front of you.
Padeirinha Doce provides a host of sweet and savoury treats alongside your coffee and pastel de nata. Be sure to try one of the special croquettes - seafood, beef, and chicken options available.
You should pay no more than €2 for a pastel de nata and coffee.
Conga serves the city's best bifanas - slow cooked pork stuffed in crispy bread rolls and dunked into its spicy juices. It's the perfect lunch snack to keep exploring.
Mercado do Bolhão is one of the city's historic markets, split over two levels. Take in the fabulous produce, before selecting your personal picnic hamper to take by the river!
Brasão Coliseu is Porto's best restaurant for the iconic francesinha, a cross between a sandwich and a lasagne, filled with ham, chorizo and cheese, topped with a spicy sauce. Its interior spawns two levels of exposed brick and dark wood. Book a table or get there early. Café Santiago opposite is an excellent alternative.
Pedro do Frangos on Rua do Bonjardim opposite Conga, north of São Bento, serves platters of authentic spicy chicken and chips for affordable prices in a rustic setting.
O Solar do Pátio is a beautifully tucked away restaurant off the busy Rua de Mouzinho de Silveira. A more sophisticated, romantic spot for great food and port tastings too.
For the adults
Cruz in Cais de Gaia, over the river, is the perfect bar to try Port - a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley. The bar's terrace boasts excellent views over the Douro River and across to Ribeira. If you can't get into Cruz, Cais de Gaia hosts a variety of fantastic port caves for port tasting!
Cantina 32 is a pretty wine bar providing an intimate setting on one of Porto's most famous streets - Rua was Flores.
Taberna do Largo close by is a little touristic, however the small square by the terrace is vibrant at night, hosting talented musicians.
Base Porto in Praça de Lisboa is a spectacle at night, lighting up in the middle of the green, serving cocktails, wine and cider.
Rua de Cândido dos Reis, nearby Base Porto, is a street lined with fun bars of all shapes and sizes. The Wall Bar and The Gin House are particularly fun!
You should be paying no more than €4 for a glass of wine or port, and no more than €2 for a beer. Cocktails range between €5-8.
Tipping isn't required, but you can add an extra euro to your bill if the service was particularly good.
Some areas of the city can feel a bit rough and seedy. Around São Bento Station and its surrounding streets, you may be approached by people offering drugs. Just be mindful of this, say no, and keep walking if approached.
Two Passports Top Tip: This is not Spain!
It might sound obvious, but please don't confuse the cultures. Tapas and siestas are not part of the Portuguese culture. Some words might be similar, but don't presume these similarities extend to their food and culture, because they don't.
When to Go
Low Season: December to February
Chilly days and long nights, but temperature can rise to 20 degrees. Good deals on hotels.
Shoulder Season: March to April, September to November
You'll be in for warmer days and flowers start to bloom in the early year. Good deals on attractions and hotels can still be found.
High Season: May to August
Very, VERY hot. Tourist attractions and Ribeira will be heaving.
How to Get There
Porto Airport (OPO)
The airport you'll be flying into, OPO serves most destinations within Europe, as well as the eastern side of North America and Brazil. A clean and easy-to-navigate airport, however the signs for the metro station can be confusing as you go downstairs and through a car park.
To get into the city you can get a taxi which will cost approximately €25. Or, the far easier and cost-effective option, is a metro direct to Trindade Metro station. On the purple line, a one-way T4 ticket costs €2.60. The ticket machines are easy to navigate and translate to multiple languages. You can either buy signal-use paper tickets, or an Andante card to tap-in, tap-out - these cost €0.60 and can be topped up with credit.
Travelling by train
Travelling by train from Lisbon? You'll be coming into either São Bento or Campanhã.
Travelling in the city
Porto is a walkable city, despite the endless hills and steps, but there may be some instances where you wish to use public transport. I'd stay away from the slow buses and stick to the 6-line metro system instead - it is easy to navigate, clean and efficient. You can tap-in and tap-out using Andante cards, mentioned above.
If you plan on using the metro system often in one day, you can buy a 24 hour pass starting from €4.15. These do not include the trams.
Or, take the more romantic yellow trams which weave through the city. One-way tickets cost €3.