Travel blog

Exploring Porto – a weekend guide

Since visiting Lisbon back in 2018, Mar and I have been desperate to get back and explore more of Portugal! We had two places on our list that were the front runners, the Algarve and Porto, but due to the time of year we wanted to visit, we opted for the latter as a city break was slightly more fitting.

We’ve never been to anywhere else in Portugal, other than Lisbon, so were super excited to see a bit more of what the country has to offer. First time round, we fell in love with the people, the culture and the gorgeous buildings, so had pretty high hopes for Porto. SPOILER ALERT – it DID NOT disappoint!

Porto is filled with beautiful buildings and architecture, incredibly yummy food, and of course delicious wines / port!

We spent three days exploring the city, and despite the pretty miserable weather, we certainly made the most of our time there!

Check out what we got up to during our weekend in Porto!

  • Luís I Bridge
  • Ribeira Square / Cais da Ribeira
  • Avenida dos Aliados / Liberdade Square
  • São Bento railway station
  • Fernandine Walls of Porto
  • Cordoaria Garden
  • Livraria Lello
  • Estádio do Dragão
  • Clérigos Church / Clérigos Tower
  • Porto Cathedral
  • Igreja da Serra do Pilar
  • Convento de Corpus Christi
  • Church Santo Ildefonso
  • Ireja do Carmo
  • Aveiro

Top sites / spaces / architecture

Luís I Bridge

I would argue this is Porto’s most renowned spot, and is a MUST when visiting (even if it’s only for a day). Porto is known as the city of bridges, with six in total, but the Luis I bridge is definitely the one we recommend adding to your itinerary!

The bridge was designed by the same engineer that oversaw the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which you can tell just by looking at the bridge. It it the main bridge crossing the Douro from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. The bridge was named after King Luis I, however when the bridge was inaugurated in his honour in 1886, he never showed up!! So, ‘Dom’ was dropped and the bridge became known as Luis I instead.

Ribeira Square / Cais da Ribeira

Located along the Douro riverbank, the Ribeira Square and Cais da Ribeira cannot be missed. They are located right next to the Luis I bridge so is an easy addition to your itinerary. It is home to lots of restaurants, cafes and shops and is located close to many hotels / hostels, so is easily accessible.

We loved the vibe of the square and enjoyed a few beers overlooking the Luis I bridge, the perfect people-watching spot!

Avenida dos Aliados / Liberdade Square

Liberdade (Liberty / Freedom) Square is the most important square in Porto. It links the old and new town, and is very close to São Bento railway.

Avenida dos Aliados is classed as the city centre in Porto and is home to many buildings, including the town hall, various banks, shops and restaurants.

When we visited in November 2018, it was also hosting a PORTO sign (similar to IAMSTERDAM) that many people were taking pictures with!

São Bento railway station

We’ve seen some pretty epic train stations in our time (Grand Central, Washington DC) but this is definitely up there as one of the most beautiful train stations I’ve ever seen. The walls in the entrance are covered in beautiful murals – blue and white paintings cover all the walls – and the architecture is really something!

We visited here twice – once just to check out the building and a second time to catch a train to Aveiro!

Fernandine Walls of Porto

The Fernandina Wall is a medieval castle located in the centre of Porto. Many of the structures (walls and towers), are integrated into the buildings within the old town.

Cordoaria Garden

We visited Cordoaria Garden on a very misty day, making the garden look super spooky yet still so beautiful.

The garden is located in close proximity to several of Porto’s top sights. Despite the garden not remaining in their original design, due to weather damage, it still maintains several original statues and a romantic ambiance.

Livraria Lello

The Lello bookshop is located in central Porto – although quite discreet from the street, the queue of people outside is quite a good indication that you’re at the right place!

The bookshop looks amazing, it features a beautiful staircase as soon as you walk in. The bookshop is over 100 years old and is rumoured to be the inspiration behind J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter books!

CONFESSION… we didn’t actually go inside, neither of us are really Harry Potter fans (sorry if this offends anyone!) and we couldn’t really face the idea of being squished inside the library / bookshop with lots of Harry Potter fans! That being said – I imagine it’s pretty amazing inside and if it was a little quieter we definitely would have brought a ticket to get inside!

Note – the ticket sales are from a little shop on the corner of the street not the actual book shop, so save yourself the hassle of asking the door person and buy one in advance to avoid walking back and forth 🙂

Estádio do Dragão

As Mar is an avid football fan (and in addition to the not so dry weather), we decided to buy tickets to an FC Porto home game. It was at the Estádio do Dragão a 52,000 seat stadium located just outside the city centre, it only cost us 5 euros to get an Uber there.

Luckily we were under the roofed part of the stadium so didn’t get wet, and as tickets were less than 20 euros each, it’s definitely a worthwhile activity if you’re interested in football!

Porto’s churches / places of worship

Clérigos Church / Clérigos Tower

Another hot spot in central Porto (you can probably tell everything is pretty closely situated!). You will first see the Church if you walk up the hill from the south end of Avenida dos Aliados, as it sits directly at the top of the hill

The tower is located to the rear of the church, which we stumbled across after visiting the Cordoaria Garden, again we saw it on a very misty day, which made it look really spooky but so so cool!

Porto Cathedral

This one wasn’t actually on our list to start off with, we kinda stumbled upon it, which is surprising (even to us) as it’s another one of Porto’s most renowned sights!

We visited super early on a Monday morning, and there was no-one else around which was so nice. We only visited the grounds, we didn’t get a chance to go inside the Cathedral, but from what I’ve seen online, it looks really pretty!

Porto is full of ‘instagramable’ spots, and this is definitely one of them. There are beautiful views across the roof tops to the other landmarks, so make sure to take it all in!

Some others include…

Igreja da Serra do Pilar

This church is located at the top of quite a steep hill (warning). It’s located right next to Luis I bridge and also the cable cart.

My favourite part about this building was actually the view you get from the surrounding grounds. If you walk past the building towards the river, you get such an amazing view of the Cais da Ribeira and Luis I bridge.

Convento de Corpus Christi

This is another spot we ‘stumbled’ across whilst wandering round Porto. This time we were on the opposite side of the river, in search of a wine tasting!

It’s free to walk around the grounds and you can pay to do a tour inside the church but it was closed when we walked past so were only able to enjoy it from the outside.

Church Santo Ildefonso

You might be able to tell, Porto has a fair few churches / religious buildings, which to some may sound a little repetitive BUT they’re all so unique so we definitely recommend stopping by at least a couple!

My favourite was the Church Santo Ildefonso – it’s beautiful exterior is so enchanting. It’s located right by the shopping district, only a few moments from the central sights (including Cais da Ribeira, Liberdade Square and Luis I bridge).

Ireja do Carmo

CONFESSION – we actually found this place through another blogger’s post on top spots to visit in Porto and were so drawn in by the side of the building we had to visit!

The church is so picturesque, and there are actually two churches right next to each other, only separated by a tiny (1m wide) house in the middle, built to separate monks and nuns.

The area gets really busy so try and get there early to avoid the crowds. The Ireja do Carmo is located right by the Hospital, the bookshop and the Cordoaria Garden. The tiled side wall is often filled with individuals wanting their insta shot (GUILTY!) but the front of the building is equally as beautiful.

Porto and beyond

Aveiro

Last but not least we get to possibly one of my favourite parts about our trip to Porto. We decided to spend a couple of hours visiting Aveiro on our penultimate day. The weather was dry, and as it’s only an hour or so on the train, we thought it was worth a visit.

Aveiro, known to some as little venice, is located south of Porto. The train from Porto takes you along the coast, stopping at lots of beautiful little beachside towns / villages. When you arrive in Aveiro, you have to walk a little way to reach the water and the gondolas. We didn’t take a trip in a gondola but they looked reasonably priced.

It was a bizarre little town but had such a nice vibe. We stopped there for a lovely lunch, and took some time to take in the area before heading back to Porto later that afternoon.

We’d definitely recommend a trip to Aveiro if you’ve got a bit of extra time!

Food and drink

One of the things we love most about portugal is the great food and delicious wine!

Make sure you check out some of the amazing eateries, beautiful cafes and riverside wine tastings (not forgetting the infamous Porto Port!).

p.s. we’ve heard the Majestic Cafe is pretty beautiful inside! It was closed when we passed but we’ve heard good things!


We simply love Portugal!

There’s no other way to express it – we love everything that we’ve experienced in Portugal so far! We’ve still yet to tick off a beach holiday in the Algarve but we will, and we have high expectations based on both Lisbon and Porto!

What’s your favourite thing about Portugal? We love hearing about your travels, so make sure to let us know what you got up to when you visited Porto!

Adios for now,

Char & Mar x

p.s. if there’s anything you’d like to see more of in our travel guides, be sure to leave a comment and we’ll see what we can do!

1 thought on “Exploring Porto – a weekend guide”

  1. So cool to read your experience in my country 🙂 I’m from Lisbon but currently I live in Porto and it was great to see your photos eheh happy travels and greetings from Portugal, PedroL

    Like

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