Located in the north of Portugal and serving as the starting point for a number of pilgrims walking the Camino Portugues, Porto is a truly vibrant city.
With both sides of the Douro river stacked with buildings of all sizes and colours, Porto is a visual wonder. The perfect spot for a few days, if you’re starting your Camino from this gorgeous city, here are 10 unmissable things to do in Porto.
1. Clérigos Tower
The Baroque bell tower known as Torre dos Clérigos is one of Porto’s most iconic monuments. Built in the 18th century, the tower sits over the Clérigos church and is 76 metres tall. If you are not scared of heights, we recommend you climb the 200 steps that take you to the top of the tower, where you will enjoy some of the best panoramic views of the city and the Douro River. There is a small charge to get in.
2. Port Wine
Port wine is, of course, named after the city. Learn about how it is made and the history of the world’s favourite sweet wine in the cellars across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, the wine-making quarter. The story of Port also offers an interesting insight into European history and geopolitics. Port wine was born when England boycotted French wines in the 17th century. They started to import Portuguese wine instead, and this iconic drink is just as delicious today!
3. Cathedral Sé do Porto
Porto’s Cathedral, or Sé, is a Romanesque church-fortress building dating back to the 12th century, although Baroque elements have been added at a later stage. Make sure you get your Camino stamp to mark the beginning of your journey if you are starting the Camino Portugues along the Coast. The entry fee to the cathedral includes access to the cloister, chapter room, tower and cathedral itself.
Get lost in the Ribeira (Riverside quarter)! These maze-like medieval streets are narrow and enchanting. This old area of the city is a must-see. If it’s a sunny day and you’re in the mood to relax and people-watch, grab a Sangria at one of the riverside cafes and enjoy!
5. Avenida dos Aliados
Porto’s most majestic avenue is dedicated to their centuries-old alliance with the British. It’s a great spot to pick up a coffee, pastry and engage in some retail therapy.
6. Ponte Dom Luís I
Ponte Dom Luís I connects the Old Town with Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro River. It’s one of the city’s most emblematic features. The Dom Luis Bridge is quite an imposing structure built in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame). The upper level has a pedestrian walkway and a metro line, while the lower level is designed for cars and other road traffic.
Another must see in the city is Funicular dos Guindais (cablecar) which leads to the bridge on the North side of the river.
7. Walk along the Douro River
Head out of town towards the mouth of the river for fantastic views of the city, a perfect break if you are looking for peace and serenity in the city.
When the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean you will find Matosinhos, home to a great sandy beach and fantastic fish restaurants. We generally recommend jumping on the metro from Porto to start your walking on the coastal Camino from here. You’ll skip the outskirts of town and get straight onto the trail.
9. Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello is the country’s most beautiful library, and probably among the world’s best also. It is here where JK Rowling got inspired for her Harry Potter best sellers. Just around the corner from the library, is the Praça dos leões where you will find the 400-year-old Fountain of the Lions but also the oldest building of Porto University.
10. Flavours of Porto
I would also recommend that you watch the sunset at Passeio das Virtudes while drinking a beer and enjoying some peanuts as the locals do. And you can’t leave Porto without sampling some of the region’s most famous food specialities, including Francesinha, tripes “a la mode do porto” but also an espresso coffee with Pastel de Nata at Cafe Majestic.