What to see in Porto on a weekend?
Porto is a beautiful city that surprised us.
I don’t know why I had the idea that Porto was a purely industrial city with nothing interesting to see, but I was totally wrong… Since the first time we visited, we have returned several times. I think it is the Portuguese city that we have visited the most.
How many days do you have to spend? Read this post with the must-visit places in Porto
We decided to take a 15-day road trip in Portugal and we came from touring beautiful villages such as Guimaraes, which is a World Heritage Site, Braganza with its castle, and Chaves with its thermal baths.
The idea was to use Porto as a base of operations, to also know the villages around. We were going to stay five days and there was plenty of time. We decided to spend two full days visiting the beautiful city of Porto.
Here, you’ll find the best things to do in two days in Porto.
Porto, the origin of Portugal’s name
One of the first things we discovered (by chance reading I don’t remember where) is that the origin of the name of Portugal originated in Porto.
The mouth of the Douro River is in Porto. Well, 2200 years ago, the Romans conquered a city at the mouth of the Douro River called “Portus Cale”. This city Portus Cale is the Porto we know today and the name of Portugal is the result of the evolution of the name Portus Cale.
Porto and its famous wines
Another thing you have to have in mind when visiting Porto is the wine that has taken the same name of the city where it is manufactured. Porto is a sweet, intense, very rich wine with almost 20 degrees of alcohol, so you have to be careful 😉
The south bank of the river is full of wineries, curiously not to the city of Porto, but to the city of Vilanova de Gaia. A little later, I will tell you about their cellars.
If you want to do a tour of their vineyards and wineries this link is for you. Our recommendation is, if you go during the high tourist season, book in advance.
What to visit in Porto in 2 awesome days?
What’s the most important thing to see in Porto in two days? You can do the visits in this order if you want.
One thing I do recommend is that you buy the Porto Card without transportation if you are carrying your own car (€5 day or €8 two days) or with transportation if you arrived by plane (€10.50 a day or €18 two days), which you can buy at the airport and are therefore already saving money.
The non-transportation card gives you free access to some monuments and discounts on others. The card with transport also gives you unlimited transport.
Allied Avenue and Freedom Square
If you’re going to spend a weekend, that’s what you’d visit on a Friday afternoon night. You would walk along Allies Avenue with the Town Hall in the background and walk the city yourself or with a guide, including Freedom Square. You would also take the time to visit Sao Bento station.
- Dou you want to visit Porto with a professional guide? Click in this link to learn more about it.
Porto’s Sao Bento Station
The Sao Bento Train Station was built in the early 9th century on the remains of the former convent of San Bento del Ave María and what is really worth going to the station is its hall that is decorated with more than 20,000 tiles in which the history of Portugal is portrayed.
You will see this type of blue tiles in many places in Porto and northern Portugal, but those of The Sao Bento station are spectacular. What you see are scenes that represent key moments in the history of Portugal. My recommendation is that you take some time to see these images, not just arrive, take a look at it, take the photo, and go.
Once you leave Sao Bento station and considering it’s the first day in the evening, you can go for a walk and dine on the banks of the Douro River at any of the dozens of restaurants. The truth is that the environment is beautiful and worth it. The view of the bridge of Louis I Eiffel style from this point is very good and you have to view one of the most typical photos of Porto.
Just below the Luis I Bridge there is another bridge that you can walk across and that allows you to cross from one side of the river to the other. From this bridge that is about 10 or 15 meters above the river, young boys jump into the river. At night you won’t see them, but during the day, if you cross here, it’s a regular occurrence to see the kids hanging from the bridge ready to jump.
The Dos Guindais funicular
After dinner, if you feel like having a good view of Porto, it can be a good time to make the climb to the castle from the funicular. The Funicular of Porto or Funicular Dos Guindais connects the Ribeira, on the river bank, and the Batalha district, located in the upper part of Porto.
During the climb you can see the Bridge of Louis I, the medieval wall of Porto and see from above the wineries that are scattered along the other bank of the Douro River. It’s a very nice view and the natural reaction is to take a picture. I took 50…
The Porto funicular has many years of history. Its construction was carried out in 1891, and was renovated in 1994. The single ticket is quite cheap, about two euros, although the climb is short. You can also climb some stairs that run between the houses but when I saw them from above, pufff, it was too much for me.
This funicular is not the cable car that leaves the banks of Vilanova de Gaia, this cable car is very new, it costs € 8, but it is much longer and the views are very good. You can start the next day visiting the most important monuments of Porto. You would start with the Church and Tower of Clerics.
Church of the Clerics of Porto
The Church of the Clerics was built between 1735 and 1748 in Baroque style. The Clerics’ Tower is one of the most emblematic monuments of the city and one of those that attract the most attention.
When you are walking around, Porto will also serve as a reference point to know where you are because it is easily seen from anywhere. It was built by the brotherhood of the Poor Clerics in the old town.
The place where it is built is known as “the hill of the hanged” and the reason is on this hill was where the criminals who had been sentenced to death were buried.
The Clerics Tower
The Clerics Tower is the tallest tower in Portugal with 76 meters high and more than 200 steps. If you go up to the Tower (I recommend it) you will see a panoramic view of Porto that is really worth it.
On the rise to the tower, there are 49 bells that form a fairly large carillon. If they just ring when you’re going up, it’s just fantastic! When you’re up there, the views are magnificent.
Very close to the Church of the Clerics is a bookstore called Lello and Irmao.
Lello and Irmao Library
This bookstore is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in Europe. It has very large wooden shelves that reach the ceiling and a spectacular carved wooden staircase in the center of the premises. It’s pretty old. Do not miss the visit to this bookstore that, much more than a place to go to buy books, is a place to get lost in.
You’ll read that it’s served as a stage in some Harry Potter movie, but as far as I know, this isn’t true. The real Florish & Blotts of Harry Potter is a set. The catch is that it’s full of people and a lot of them stop to take a picture on the stairs. A few years ago, they didn’t charge for entering, they now charge 3 euros, but they deduct it from anything you buy inside. I think it’s an excellent initiative.
Continuing to street do Carmo, you can take tram 22, which stops right in front of the Church Our Lady do Carmo. The last stop of this tram is the Batalha square where the church of San Ildefonso is located. It is worth seeing its facade covered with the typical blue tiles that I have already told you.
From there, you can go along Rua Santa Catarina, which is one of the main commercial arteries of the city. Moving through it, on the right hand is the Café Majestic. A café from the 20s that maintains its original decoration and where you can have a drink and enjoy its historic atmosphere.
Moving forward a little further and then going down Rua de Fernandez Tomás you reach an important point in Porto, the Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhao Market).
Mercado do Bolhao
This visit is not a visit to buy anything, but to know one of the liveliest points of Porto. Watch the schedules, it is open from Monday to Saturday, and closes on Sundays. From Monday to Friday it closes at 17:00 and on Saturdays it closes at 13:00.
This market is one of most visited in Porto and has been operating for 100 years. In fact, it began in 1914. The truth is that the building is old, but it is a representative place of life in Porto and is an emblematic building.
In the whole of the northern part of Portugal and of course in Porto, one of the products that you will see in all fishmongers is the cod in salt and, of course, in this market you will get tired of seeing it. Although, you will also see shops of meat, flowers, fruit, perfumes…
The market has two or three floors distributed around a large central courtyard. Enjoy walking around the place and seeing its people. I recommend it. Sometimes, it gave the impression that you had come back a century in time…
When you leave the market, you can go down on Rua Formosa and you get to the avenue of the Allies. You were taking a night walk yesterday. Walk along the avenue, pass Freedom Square and leave on the left side the Sao Bento station and the Don Alfonso Henriques Avenue, you’ll arrive at the Cathedral (La Sé) of Porto.
Porto’s Cathedral (La Sé) and its surroundings
From the Cathedral there is a beautiful view of the banks of the Douro and the old town. It was built in the highest part of the city and is the most important religious building in Porto and was also a defensive building. When you get close, sometimes it seems more like a fortification than a cathedral. It’s very pretty, I really liked it.
It is located in the Batalha district, next to the walls. Its construction began in the twelfth century and is declared as a National Monument.
Admission to the Cathedral is free but if you want to enter the cloister you have to pay, € 3 the normal entrance and € 2 with a Porto card.
You leave the cathedral and go down to the banks of the Douro. On the way, you can stop at the Church of San Lorenzo dos Grilos and the Museum of Sacred Art.
The Church of San Lorenzo dos Grilos was completed in the eighteenth century and is simple inside, and why do I tell you this? because it is the exception in Porto, as in the church of San Francisco, which is at its maximum representation, the churches in Porto are ostentatious. However, this church has virtually unfurnished walls.
From inside the Church, you can access the Museum of Sacred Art and Archaeology of Porto, although to be honest, I do not quite understand why the word Archaeology is in its name. It’s a museum of sacred art. My opinion? Don’t waste time with it, there are more interesting things.
You continue to go down to the riverbank until you arrive at the Jardin do Infante, very close to the riverbank that you were also around yesterday. In this area, you have enough to see, Stock Exchange Palace, the church of San Francisco, and the Casa do Infante.
Church and Convent of San Francisco
The Church of San Francisco is one of the most important religious monuments of Porto along with the Church of the Clerics and the Cathedral. The Church is very beautiful, but the visit is worth it for its catacombs and ossuaries. It’s a little grim, but it’s interesting and you shouldn’t let it stop you from going.
Construction began at the end of the 14th century and is of Romanesque origins. As the name suggests, it was the Franciscan friars who built the church and inhabited its convent. The interior has three naves decorated with gilded carvings in which a good amount of gold was dedicated, in some places they said 300 kilos, in another 400… What is certain is that it is a church of ostentation, very luxurious.
On the left side nave, there is an altarpiece called the Jesé Tree. It is a wooden sculpture considered one of the best in the world of its kind. You have to stop and watch it because it is simply spectacular.
Many of the Franciscan friars and also, some noble families of the city are buried in the catacombs. In addition, there is an ossory with human bones that can be seen through a crystal placed on the ground.
The normal cost of entrance for adults is 3.50 euros, with the Porto Card or students there is a 25% discount.
Palacio da Bolsa (Palace Stock Exchange)
It is the headquarters of the Commercial Association of Porto and is located in the historic center of the city. As I’ve told you before, it’s a few steps from the Church of San Francisco. Palacio da Bolsa was built on the ruins of a Franciscan convent that was destroyed in a fire. Its construction began in 1842 and almost half a century passed until its inauguration in 1891.
This building is classified as a National Monument and is worth the visit. It has guided tours that I recommend you take because they tell you the history of this building and the curiosities that make the visit much more interesting.
Casa Do Infante
It is a very old house, built in the middle of the 14th century. It is named after Henry the Navigator, who was also called the Infante de Portugal. He is considered one of the forerunners of what was later the Portuguese colonial empire and one of the important figures at the beginning of the era of exploration.
This house is now a museum and you are charged a ticket of € 2.20 but it is free with the Porto card.
And I think you have had enough for today. So, taking advantage that you are in the Ribera, you can dine here. It’s Porto’s best place to dine, here or on the opposite bank.
For the next day, it is undoubtedly worth knowing the part of Vilanova de Gaia, its wineries, and taking a boat along the Douro River. Normally, if you pay for a boat ride you can also pay for a visit to one of the wineries on this side of the riverfront.
Although at first sight, it may seem that Vila Nova de Gaia is part of Porto, it is really another Portuguese city.
One of the most typical images of this walk are the “rabelos”. The rabelos are boats originally built to transport the wine barrels. Today, they are used as a tourist attraction to make small cruises in the Douro. Many photos have these little boats as protagonists, including the main photo of this article!
The boat ride can be hired on the waterfront and one of the ticket offices there. It includes the cable car, the boat ride, and two wineries all for about 15 euros.
Guided tour of Porto
If you usually hire guided tours in the cities you visit, you can also do it in Porto.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, Tram & Funicular Ticket
This is a very quiet way to visit a city. The reason is because it is very comfortable, you leave the car at the hotel and do not have to worry about parking.
With the tour bus, tram, and funicular you can get on and off at the stops that interest you the most. If you are like us who like to walk the cities, with this ticket, you can get off at a stop, walk, and look for the next stop that you are closest to to go to the next point that interests you. It is also ideal for cities with slopes.
Take a look at the prices for 23,40 euros is totally worth it.
The cable car ride
The cable car ride is very good, the cable car is modern and takes you to the Bridge of Louis I with interesting views. You can take a walk on the bridge and visit the castle if you want.
Once back down, you can take a walk and cross the bridge that goes under the bridge of Luis I. This is where you’ll see the kids jumping off the bridge if the weather and temperature allow, you’re accessing the shore of Porto where the boat is taken.
The boat ride is not the best tour, but it is interesting. They ride you on a boat, take you to one side so you can see the 6 bridges, they take you to the other and they let you go, end of story.
The good thing it had is that they first made a stop on the banks of the side of Vila Nova de Gaia, that’s where we got off to make a visit to the wineries. Another good thing is the price, for €15 you make the tour. Here you can take a look at it.
There are many and some are not very well indicated. In fact, the ticket included visiting two wineries but one of them was not able to find it. Also, pay attention to your watch because the cellars close at five o’clock in the afternoon or six at the latest.
If you have any time left, you can visit the Crystal Palace Gardens. They are in the upper part of Porto and it is a place from which you can enjoy the mouth of the Douro River in the Atlantic Ocean. It has spectacular views.
Where to sleep in Porto?
In Porto, you will find a wide variety of hotels for all tastes and budgets. Check out the Booking link, it’s our favorite place to book hotels and choose the one that best suits your needs.
Put the dates you are going to travel on, add the note filter (we always look from 8 up), you can also add that you need parking or that accept pets, among many others. When you find the one you like the most, make your reservation and you already have your hotel booked.
Porto best car rental
If you are arriving in Portugal by plane, it’s best to pick up the rental car at the airport. The best deals on car rental are on Rentalcars.com, I invite you to take a look and check for yourself.
I hope you enjoyed this post and being there!
Prepare your trip to Portugal
- 15 days of Road Trip in Portugal
- The Legend of the Rooster of Portugal
- What to see in Aveiro?
- Best things to do in Guimaraes?
- What to see in Lisbon and surroundings?
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