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10 places you can’t miss during your first visit to Porto

Associação de Turismo do Porto e Norte, AR CC BY-NC-ND

Porto is packed with places worth visiting. And we guarantee that every time you come here, you will certainly find something new to see, something to experience, a flavour to try… However, if you are preparing your first visit to the “Invicta City”, there are some places you cannot miss.

From the Historic Centre, to the most fashionable shops of Rua de Santa Catarina , taking in the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace), or the unique Port wine lodges, here is our list of the 10 places you cannot miss out on:

Historic Centre of Porto

Arriving in the city, let yourself be lead straight to the Historic Centre. Classified as a World Cultural Heritage Site since 1996, you will find a wealth of monuments and sights where buildings from the medieval era sit alongside others from the modern era.

The Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis), the Hard Club and Praça da Ribeira are must-see attractions. Discover the narrow streets of the area, the narrow and vivid buildings, with their black granite, contrasting with the clean clothes drying in the sun.

Palácio da Bolsa 

Close to the Hard Club, the Palácio da Bolsa deserves its own chapter. Constructed between 1842 and 1910, this building, which belongs to the Porto Chamber of Commerce, is one of the prettiest in the city and hosts guided tours.

After your visit, cross the D. Luís I bridge towards the Port wine lodges. On the southern banks of the River Douro, there is a viewpoint with stone benches which offers excellent views of the bridge and from where you can observe and take photos of the buildings of Ribeira Square, before heading off to discover the wonderful world of Port wine.

Port wine lodges 

On the riverbank, you can visit Sandeman lodge (Largo Miguel Bombarda, 3). On Ramos Pinto Avenue, you can find Ramos Pinto lodge (number 380) and Ferreira lodge (number 70). In neighbouring streets, you will find other Port wine lodges. This is the case of Graham’s lodge, in Rua do Agro 141, where as well as a guided tour through the corridors of barrels and vats, you can visit an interesting museum and taste the best Port wines in modern tasting rooms. From the area of the lodges, you can also go on a cable car trip up to the Jardim do Morro (Hilltop Garden), the Serra do Pilar Monastery or take a Metro trip back to the Baixa (City Centre) area of Porto.

Baixa (City Centre)

This area has undergone an incredible transformation in the last three years. And today it is home to both fashion designers and cake designers. It is host to regular city markets and craft fairs. It is also home to wine cellars, with the best Portuguese wines – with origins from the Douro river to the Dão river, via the nectars of Alentejo - , and wine bars which have introduced the custom of an after work drink. All these are neighbours to traditional shops as well as more cosmopolitan businesses. 

It is the ideal place for lunch – or dinner! There are options for all budgets, from restaurants serving traditional dishes with family-run friendliness to gourmet spaces, as well as “signature” restaurants. Generally, all of them offer menus and special prices at lunchtime.

Lello Bookshop

After recharging your batteries, you will be up to a visit to Lello Bookshop. Located on the Rua das Carmelitas, the British newspaper The Guardian described it the third most beautiful bookshop in the world. Its iconic staircases are regarded as the first example of the use of reinforced concrete in Portugal.

As a rule, the owners do not allow tourists to take photographs of the inside of the shop, but they do make some exceptions. Prepare a reason that’s impossible to refuse!

Torre dos Clérigos

One of Porto’s bookplates, the Torre dos Clérigos was constructed between 1754 and 1763. The project was started by Nicolau Nasoni and the idea to build it came about in 1731, with the Brotherhood of Poor Clerics decided to construct a building for religious meetings. It has six floors and is 76 metres high. To get to the top, visitors have to climb 255 steps, but the view makes it all worthwhile. The price? Just 2 Euros.

In 2014, the Church reopened to the public, after restoration works. Just another reason to not leave it out of your visit!

Café Majestic

In the mid-afternoon, rest your legs and let yourself be delighted by the Café Majestic’s rabanadas (delicacy similar to French toast), Porto’s most historical café. It is situated in the busy Rua de Santa Catarina (where the main fashion and accessory shops are to be found) and is one of the most emblematic places in the city of Porto. The building where it is located dates from 1916 and is one of the best examples of art nouveau in the city.

Casa da Música (Music House)

The Casa da Música or Music House is the first building to be constructed in Portugal exclusively dedicated to music and, despite only having been opened in 2005, is the daughter of the Porto 2001 – European Capital of Culture festival. 

There are free shows which you can enjoy during your visit to the building. And, once a month, there is an event which you should definitely make the most of if you have the opportunity: Clubbing is a party with live band performances and DJ, normally from more alternative musical scenes, and which has earned a guaranteed place in the city’s nightlife listings.

Serralves 

The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, through its entrance on Rua D. João de Castro, 210, is the most important museum in Porto and one of the best in the country. Lose yourself in the beautiful gardens and in the park. On Sundays, admission is free until 1pm and gives access to the museum and this immense green space.

Parque da Cidade (City Park)

It is Porto’s “green lung”. With 83 hectares of green spaces, walking trails and various sporting equipment, Parque da Cidade is Porto’s largest park. It is a pleasant place, with nearly 10 kilometres of walks and diverse and rich fauna and flora.

Finish the day eating a francesinha in the Edifício Transparente (Transparent Building), watching the local surfers, or jump across to the Lota de Matosinhos area to eat flame grilled fish or seafood.

We are certain you are going to be so enchanted by the city of Porto that you will want to come back again. We will be here to welcome you. And if you would like more information or assistance to prepare for your trip, do not hesitate to contact us. It is our pleasure to help!

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