Porto has been captivating visitors for years thanks to its beautiful architecture, lively historic district, and infamous port houses.
If you’ve only got 48 hours to explore this vibrant city then fear not, as we’ve created the ultimate Porto itinerary below. So keep reading!
Day 1: Kick off your morning at Majestic Cafe
The Majestic Cafe is without a doubt one of the most picturesque cafes in Porto. It dates back to 1921 and to this day, the interior still oozes that suave 1920’s art-nouveau style… The chandeliers, carved wooden mirrors, and antique furniture will transport you back in time as you enjoy a delicious breakfast in a unique setting.
Order the French toast alongside your morning cup of coffee (or tea) and take in the amazing surroundings. If you’re one for people-watching, the cafe also has places to sit outside on the street.
Whilst their menu is a little on the pricey side, the cafe’s beautiful decor is well worth the visit. Plus, you’ll be sitting in a spot where J.K. Rowling worked on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone! The Majestic Cafe can get busy, especially during peak seasons, so we recommend arriving with plenty of time just in case you need to wait for a table.
Browse the shelves of Livaria Lello
Dubbed as “one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world”, Livaria Lello (A.K.A The Lello Bookstore) dates back to the early 1900s. It’s easily spotted from the street thanks to its showy facade, but inside is where the money’s really at!
As soon as you walk in, you’ll be greeted by an impressive forked staircase that leads up to the first-floor gallery. Above the gallery, there’s a massive stained glass skylight surrounded by intricately carved plaster. Keep an eye out for tributes to the building’s past, like the original transport trolley and special books collected by the bookstore over the years.
You may have read elsewhere that this was another one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite haunts whilst she was writing the first Harry Potter book, but she’s actually never been there. However, we still think the Lello Bookstore and its breathtaking neo-gothic interior is a must-see when in Porto.
Climb up Clérigos Tower
The Clérigos Tower is an icon in Porto. Standing at 76 meters tall, it’s the country’s tallest free-standing bell tower. As you can imagine, the views from the top are spectacular… but you’ll have to brave the 200 or so steps to the viewing deck.
You’ll be rewarded at the top with sweeping views over the Douro River and the red roofs of Porto’s old town. Just make sure to bring a camera!
We also recommend a visit to the Clérigos Church while you’re there. Both the church and the tower were built by the Brotherhood of the Clérigos in the 18th century and the entire church complex has been a National Monument since 1910. The complex also contains a small museum, the House of the Brotherhood, which has a collection of interesting artifacts.
In the evening, head into the old town and find a spot for dinner. If you like Italian, we can recommend Restaurante A Despensa or, if you’re feeling something exotic, check out BOA-BAO for some incredible Asian fusion food!
Day 2: Spend the morning strolling through the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal
With a delicious pastry in one hand and a coffee in the other, head over to the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Garden) for a relaxing walk. This is a great budget activity (it’s free!) with beautifully landscaped Victorian gardens, lovely views of the city, and even a peacock or two.
The gardens date back to the 1860s and were built to surround the Crystal Palace which sadly no longer exists. Today, the Super Bock arena stands in its place, hosting cultural and sporting events.
The Crystal Palace Park is surrounded by museums, so if you’re feeling cultural, take your pick from the Soares dos Reis National Museum, the Galeria Municipal do Porto, and the Romantic Museum (Museu Romântico da Quinta da Macieirinha).
Explore the vibrant streets of the Ribeira district
Right on the banks of the River Douro, Porto’s historic Ribeira district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains a labyrinth of streets just waiting to be discovered. It’s one of the city’s liveliest districts and definitely one of our favorite parts of the city!
Walk along the riverfront with its colorful houses, cafes, and traditional boats, taking time to admire another one of Porto’s icons, the Dom Luis I Bridge. The huge bridge is 176 meters long and was the longest of its kind when it was built in 1886. The impressive metal arch links the Ribeira district with the port wine houses across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Once you’ve had your fill, dive behind the riverfront to explore the maze of cobblestone streets which are packed with lively restaurants, bars, and cafes. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but we adore Jimão Tapas e Vinhos which serves Portuguese tapas.
Visit one of the Porto port houses
When in Porto, we had to include a tasting in one of the country’s infamous port houses. While they’re technically not in Porto, they’re just across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia… which is good enough for us!
You can take your pick from several port houses but bear in mind that many of them have a schedule to follow (you can’t just rock up at any time), and English-speaking tastings/tours are less common so they should be booked in advance.
Some of our favorite port houses are Kopke and Sandeman. Kopke is the oldest port house in the city, dating back to 1638. They have a range of wine flights, but their decade wine flight, which offers wines spaced out at roughly 10-year intervals is truly special. Whilst Sandeman offers tours and tastings, they also have a patio where you can enjoy port cocktails with amazing sunset views over the river.
We simply can’t get enough of Porto and its riverside charm, Mediaeval streets, and vibrant culture! With so much to see and do you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dull moment in this buzzing city. Whether you’re visiting for 48 hours or a week, you’ll be sure to have a blast.