Porto Top Ten
1. Porto’s historic centre and Ribeira Square
2. The Port Wine Cellars
3. Serralves House and Museum of Contemporary Art
4. The Casa da Música
5. The Clérigos Tower
6. The Lello Bookshop
7. The Café Majestic
8. Guindais Funicular
9. São Bento train station
10. Estádio do Dragão
- Porto is a beautiful city steeped in history
- There is so much to see and do
- The food and wine is among the best in the world
- Porto’s historic shops
Porto’s historic centre and Ribeira Square
Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe – it was the Romans who named it Portus Cale, after its original Celtic name. Millennia later, Porto’s historic centre was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Walking Porto’s fine boulevards, grand public squares and atmospheric cobbled alleyways of the Ribeira district you certainly get a sense of its rich and varied history. Head to Ribeira Square to soak up the atmosphere at a local bar or restaurant, relax by the fountain or simply people watch.
The Port Wine Cellars
You simply can’t come to Porto without visiting its Port wine cellars. Even if you don’t wish to indulge, these wonderful historic houses offer fascinating tours which give you a glimpse into the proud and – sometimes astonishing – history of the city and the industry. Many have restaurants attached where you can enjoy local produce and the Portuguese version of tapas, petiscos, after or before your tour.
Serralves: House and Museum of Contemporary Art
The art deco Serralves Villa is located in beautiful flower-filled gardens which also house Porto’s Museum of Contemporary Art. You can purchase a ticket that gives you access to both, which is well worth doing if you can spare the time to explore the architecturally important art deco house and the exhibitions of contemporary art. Schedule time to linger in the gardens too and discover the many public works of art located amongst the planting. In summer months, you might wish to enjoy a picnic by the fountains or, in less clement weather, head to the museum’s welcoming café.
What to do
- Give yourself time to enjoy the sights at a leisurely pace
- Don’t try to pack everything into a tight schedule – come back and visit us again!
- Pick the top highlights that are unmissable for you and focus on those.
The Casa da Música
Casa da Música is the home of Porto’s symphony orchestra. Rem Koolhaas’s innovative architecture is worth a look all on its own, but make the effort to take a tour of the concert hall – they run every day in Portuguese or in English. If you’re lucky you might snatch a chance to eavesdrop on rehearsals – or book tickets in advance and enjoy an evening performance.
The Clérigos Tower
Offering some of the best views across the city, the Clérigos Tower is well worth a visit. Each floor houses information about the tower, its architect, the Brotherhood of the Clerics and the church below before depositing you on the roof to enjoy sweeping panoramic views across Porto.
The Lello Bookshop
The Lello Bookshop is one of the most visited bookshops in the world, thanks to one of its very famous fans. It is credited with inspiring JK Rowling descriptions of the library at Hogwarts. These days, if you want to explore its charm for yourself, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to enter, although this is redeemable against a purchase.
You will like
- The view from the top of Clérigos Tower
- The delicate patisseries at Café Majestic
- Tripas a moda do Porto – who knew tripe could taste so good?
The Café Majestic
Café Majestic first opened its doors in 1921 and soon became a favourite haunt for Porto’s vibrant literary and artistic scenes. Today, it remains a beautiful example of the art nouveau decorative style of architect João Queiroz and a wonderful spot to stop for lunch or afternoon tea and be transported back to that glorious Belle Epoque. Find it in the heart of Porto’s shopping district on Santa Catarina street.
If you fancy heading across the River Douro to Vila Nova da Gaia, home of Porto’s famous port houses, what better way to get there than on one of the little wooden boats that serve as river taxis across the water from the Porto side to the Gaia side. The funicular railway will take you down the hill to the Ribeira quayside where you can catch the river taxi across to Gaia – and is an even more welcome transport when you make your way back up the hillside again on the return leg!
São Bento Train Station
Named after a Benedictine monastery that occupied its site in the sixteenth century, Porto’s main train station is especially notable because of its magnificent 20,000 tin-glazed azulejo ceramic tiles placed over a period of 11 years between 1905 and 1916 by artist Jorge Colaço. The beautiful tilework depicts Portuguese history: royalty, wars and transportation and seafaring history.
Football fans shouldn’t miss a visit to FC Porto’s home ground, Estádio do Dragão, while in Porto. Hop on the metro at either Bolhão or São Bento railway station and you can be at the ground within 15 minutes. If you’re lucky enough to be in Porto on a match day, book tickets in advance and you can revel in the unbeatable atmosphere and enjoy world-class soccer. On other days, you can still soak up the atmosphere on a stadium tour and a visit to the stadium’s family-friendly museum.
What you need to know
- On sunny days, head to the garden at Café Majestic to enjoy afternoon tea in the sunshine
- When you’re ordering your Francesinha be warned: this isn’t a sandwich you can pick up – you are about to enjoy a dish which definitely demands cutlery!
- Check the times of the tours at Casa da Música before you go so you arrive in time for a tour in your preferred language.
You can’t make a visit to Porto without tasting its two most famous dishes: Francesinha and Tripas a moda do Porto. Francesinha – or the “little Frenchie” – is the Porto take on a Croque Monsieur, beefed up with pork, smoked sausage, bacon, beefsteak and topped with a fried egg and cheese. The connection to tripe, meanwhile, dates back to a famous tale about the city’s generosity when called up by Henry the Navigator to supply his ships – leaving themselves with only tripe to eat. These days its served in a delicious hearty broth with white beans and is a must-try when you come to Porto.