How To Spend One Day in Porto

You are here Home > Best Travel Tips > How To Spend One Day in Porto

Make the most of one day in Porto with our itineraries for 24 hours in Portugal’s second city.

One day in Porto Portugal cover image for Pinterest with four photos from the city

Why visit Porto?

Porto is one of those cities that casts a spell from the moment you arrive. Its historic centre spills down to the banks of the Douro River, where UNESCO decorated houses perch above ancient port cellars. It’s a captivating mix of old-world grandeur and a grittier, spirited, contemporary scene (and a few pockets of overtourism.)

Surprisingly, you can get a lot done with only one day in Porto, thanks to its compact central layout that groups many of this beautiful city’s highlights together.

So, here we have a one day itinerary for Porto for first timers. And one which focuses on the more unusual things to do in Porto.

Both are based on my time in the city as a professional travel writer. Both only scratch the surface of all there is to see.

 Let’s dive in, shall we?

Note: if you book or buy through any of the links on this page, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Cheers!

Use Porto as a base for a Douro Valley cruise

Porto’s relationship with the river that runs through it is as strong as they come and one of the best things to do in Porto involves heading into the Douro Valley on the water.

You can book a river cruise with Avalon Waterways right here. If you mention the code INSIDETRAVELLAB you can get a discount of $100 per person for cruises in 2024 and 2025. 

How to Spend One Day in Porto for First-Time Visitors

This one day in Porto itinerary for first timers guides you through the iconic landmarks and experiences that make Porto so irresistible. Get ready to uncover the best things this city offers, all squeezed into a one day itinerary.

One Day in Porto Itinerary Map

Morning: Tackle the Highlights

The best way to discover Porto is to start at its very core and keep adding one great place after another to your list. But first, breakfast!

 Pastel de Nata Porto breakfast
Eating a pastel de nata is the perfect way to start the day

Get Your Pastel de Nata Dose

Yes, yes, so the original Pastel de Nata comes from Belem in Lisbon, rather than Porto.

But the city still makes a great job of them. This flaky, custard-filled pastry is a delight and the perfect way to fuel your exploration. Grab one of their perfect pastries and a strong coffee before getting started.

Recommended spot: My Coffee Porto, a charming little spot tucked into the Escadas do Codeçal.

Begin walking along the riverbanks in Vila Nova de Gaia. Take the cable car up to the Jardim do Morro for spectacular views. Walk across the main Ponte Luis I bridge and then head via São Bento down into Ribeira. If you walk at a quick pace, you can cover this in the morning and leave your afternoon free for other things. If you prefer to amble and take your time, you could make this last all day.

In a little more detail…

blue and white azulejo tiles, one day in Porto Portugal
These iconic blue and white tiles are found all over Porto

São Bento Train Station 

Even if you’re not catching a train, stepping inside this architectural marvel is an absolute must. Over 20,000 stunning azulejo tiles cover the walls of the grand atrium, filling it with the iconic blue-and-white ceramic artwork that Portugal is famous for.

The station itself is a testament to the Beaux-Arts architectural style, popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its grand arches and intricate details. And the tiles depict scenes from the country’s complex history, from battles to royal processions.

Even after a gazillion visits, I always find myself popping in while walking past and admiring the sheer artistry inside special.

Just don’t bank on getting that instagram shot first time. It’s a working station and there will be crowds…

Walk to Porto Cathedral 

Leaving São Bento behind, a scenic stroll through the historic centre guides you towards the Cathedral of Porto (Sé do Porto). This imposing Romanesque structure, perched atop a hill, dominates the city’s skyline. A national monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its history is deeply entwined with Porto itself – indeed, some believe the city grew from this very spot.

The cathedral’s predominantly Romanesque style is punctuated by gorgeous Baroque additions, as a result of changing tastes. Step inside to admire the Gothic cloisters and the glittering altar. You’re standing in a place which has witnessed coronations, royal weddings, and other pivotal events in the nation’s narrative.

Tip: The square in front of the cathedral offers sweeping city views. Take a moment here to catch your breath and soak in the stunning panorama before continuing your journey.

Ribeira district in Porto - one day in Porto
The Ribeira District is the heart of the city

Explore the Ribeira District

The descent from Porto Cathedral leads you straight into the heart of the Ribeira District, a UNESCO-listed area that thrums with energy.

Here, colourful houses huddle along the banks of the Douro River on the Cais da Ribeira, their facades adorned with charming details. Cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways tempt you to wander, with lively cafes and restaurants beckoning at every turn.

The Ribeira is one of those places where it’s best to simply let yourself get a little lost. You might stumble upon hidden squares, impromptu street performances, or a tiny shop filled with local treasures. The iconic Dom Luís I Bridge frames your view. This area is where the essence of Porto truly comes to life.

Portugal - Porto - Eat authentic fare at O Buraco restaurant
The food is half the fun in Porto

Lunch: Taste Porto’s Delights

By this point, you’ve likely worked up an appetite, and luckily, the Ribeira is brimming with fantastic spots to refuel. Here are two of your best options in the Ribeira District:

  • Terra Nova: For those seeking classic Portuguese seafood dishes with a view, Terra Nova is a lovely choice. Its intimate bi-level space offers glimpses of the Douro, and the menu showcases fresh and flavorful preparations of fish, shellfish, and more. It’s also impossible not to have a great time here.
  • The Wine Box: If a lighter meal and a glass of something special sounds tempting, head to The Wine Box. This stylish spot boasts a fantastic selection of wines and ports, perfectly paired with tasty small plates and charcuterie.

Keep in mind that Portugal generally enjoys later mealtimes than other European countries. To avoid restaurants being full or closed for their afternoon break, try aiming for lunch between 12:30 pm and 2 pm.

Portugal - Porto - Rabelo boat with Ribeira in the background, one day in Porto
Sail the Douro on a traditional “Rabelo” boat

Afternoon: Douro River Cruise 

The Ribeira’s charm reaches its peak directly on the River Douro, where a quintessential Porto experience awaits: a river cruise. These cruises come in many varieties to suit your preference and timeframe. 

Traditional “Rabelo” boats (once used to transport port wine barrels) provide a historical touch, while larger vessels offer comfortable seating and sometimes even refreshments. The most popular option is the “Six Bridges Cruise,” taking you under all six of Porto’s magnificent bridges – each boasting a unique character.

No matter which cruise you choose, you’ll encounter great views. Glide past the colourful houses of Ribeira, admire the city’s skyline unfold, and gain a fresh perspective of landmarks you’ve already witnessed from the streets. It’s a perfect way to slow down and soak in the undeniable beauty of Porto.

Cruises depart throughout the day from the Cais da Ribeira. While pre-booking is possible, you can often simply walk up and purchase your ticket on the spot. 

Tip: If you decide to stay one more day, consider a day trip to the Douro Valley for a spectacular Port wine experience. It’s easy to book a guided tour and learn about this wine region which shaped Porto’s history. Better yet, plan a whole week along the Douro with Avalon on the Alegria cruise, using Porto as a base.

Afternoon: Iconic Landmarks and Cultural Experiences

If you’re skipping the cruise, then it’s time to delve further into Porto’s treasures. This afternoon journey leads you through narrow streets towards a feast for both the eyes and the imagination.

Portugal - Porto - Livraria Lello - unique things to do in Porto
The Livraria Lello is one of the most beautiful book shops in the world

A Word About Livraria Lello: The Harry Potter Bookshop

A short walk from Ribeira lies Livraria Lello. Often hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops, its interior is a magical display of carved wood, stained glass, and a dramatic, swirling staircase. It’s rumoured that J.K. Rowling drew inspiration from this very space while living in Porto, weaving elements of its magical ambience into the beloved Harry Potter world.

Whether you’re a die-hard Potter fan or simply an admirer of beautiful spaces, Livraria Lello is beautiful. The lines can get long, so it’s worth purchasing your ticket online in advance. If possible, try to visit earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when crowds may be lighter.

Tip: Livraria Lello is just a stone’s throw away from the Praça da Liberdade and Avenida dos Aliados, a grand boulevard lined with stunning turn-of-the-century architecture – including the ornate City Hall building. Allow enough time to explore the area after your bookstore visit.

Can you see Livraria Lello in just one day in Porto? Well, yes, but you must be prepared to make it your main event. Head straight there in the morning to be among the first to enter. Otherwise, make your peace with long queues and the fact that you may have to miss out on many of the other highlights in order to queue long enough to get in.

Clérigos Tower 

The Clérigos Tower (Torre dos Clérigos), a Baroque masterpiece, dominates the city skyline. Built in the 18th century as part of the Clérigos Church (Igreja dos Clérigos), it’s the place to get a bird’s eye view of Porto.

Be prepared for a workout: it’s more than 200 steps to the very top of the tower. The views along the way are spectacular, and the final panorama from the tower’s platform is a reward in itself.

With red-tiled rooftops, winding streets, and the sparkling Douro River laid out before you, this truly captures the beauty of Porto.

Igreja do Carmo & Igreja dos Carmelitas 

Next stop: the side-by-side churches of Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas. While their facades appear joined, a narrow house (said to have been built to maintain the separation of nuns and monks) stands between them.

The real highlight, however, lies in the churches’ exterior walls. Adorned with Portugal’s iconic blue and white tiles called azulejo, they depict scenes from the Bible and Carmelite Order. These tiled masterpieces offer a fascinating glimpse into Portugal’s religious history and artistic traditions.

Take a few moments to admire the churches from different vantage points within the square. As the light changes throughout the day, the tiles reveal various details and create a play of colour that is truly captivating.

Port Tasting - one day in porto
End the day with a spot of port wine tasting

Optional Early Evening: Vila Nova de Gaia for Port Wine Tasting 

If your energy reserves aren’t depleted yet, continue your Porto adventure across the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge back to Vila Nova de Gaia. This town, intrinsically linked to Porto, is where the magic of port wine truly comes alive. Centuries-old port lodges (port wine cellars) line the riverfront, offering fascinating tours into the history and production process of this famous fortified wine.

Many tours culminate in a tasting session, allowing you to savour the different port varieties, from young and fruity rubies to complex and nuanced tawnies. 

Even if you’re not a wine aficionado, it’s important to experience stepping into these historic spaces and learning about this deeply rooted tradition. 

While you’re over there, look out for the beautiful Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar. Plus, the bling of the House of Sardines ;-)

For more suggestions, see our list of other unusual things to do in Portugal.

Dinner: Immerse in Porto’s Food Scene

Food is a big deal in Portugal. But where to start with Porto’s culinary scene? The Baixa area, known for its lively atmosphere, is the perfect place to experience authentic local food. Here are three of the best restaurants in the area:

  • Café Santiago: If you’re feeling adventurous, Café Santiago is home to the legendary ‘Francesinha’. This behemoth of a sandwich overflowing with meat, sausage, and melted cheese is a Porto institution. Be warned – you may not need to eat for a week.
  • Buraquinho: For a taste of traditional, home-cooked Portuguese fare, this no-frills spot delivers. Friendly service and generous portions make it a favourite among locals and visitors seeking unpretentious, delicious food.
  • ÉLeBê Baixa: If you’re looking for Portuguese cuisine with a modern twist, ÉLeBê Baixa is the right place. They showcase seasonal ingredients in innovative dishes, with a beautiful outdoor terrace for al fresco dining.

Evening: A Touch of Fado (Optional)

Should your energy allow, there’s one more quintessential Porto experience to be had: the haunting beauty of a Fado show. This traditional musical style, with its melancholic melodies and expressive vocals, embodies the Portuguese soul. 

For a truly immersive experience, consider Fado na Baixa. This unique venue presents both a live Fado performance and a short documentary delving into the music’s captivating history.

Fado performances typically begin later in the evening, often around 9 or 10 PM, providing the perfect way to conclude your Porto adventure. As the soulful voices fill the room, you’ll feel deeply connected to the very essence of this special city.

How to Spend One Day in Porto for Return Visitors

If you’ve already fallen for Porto’s major attractions, this one-day itinerary alternative offers a great way to uncover the hidden gems and experiences this city has to offer. Whether alone or with a tour guide, get ready to venture beyond the familiar and truly dive into Porto’s less-explored side.

Morning: Culture & Local Markets

Let’s start the day delving beneath the surface, exploring spots beloved by locals, offering a more authentic feel of Porto’s daily rhythm.


Skip the tourist-filled pastry shops and experience a different side to Porto’s café scene. Here are two off-the-beaten-track options:

  • Noshi Coffee: Bright and airy, Noshi boasts high-quality speciality coffee and a tempting menu of healthy breakfast and brunch dishes. Their tucked-away patio is a peaceful oasis.
  • Mercador Café: Tucked into a 19th-century building, this café retains its beautiful tiled facade and original charm. Their focus on local produce makes it a delicious way to start your day.
Abigail King in Palacio Bolsa in Porto Portugal

Palácio da Bolsa 

Leaving the cafés behind, head towards the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace). While perhaps not a hidden gem, its interior often gets overlooked by those on their first visit to Porto. Step inside and be dazzled by the opulence – from the magnificent Arabian Room, inspired by the Alhambra, to the Pátio das Nações (Nations Courtyard) with its ornate glass ceiling.

Mercado do Bolhão 

Next, immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the Mercado do Bolhão. This traditional market is a feast for the senses. Vendors hawk their fresh produce, the air fills with scents of spices and baked goods, and chatter and lively conversation provides the backdrop to it all.

Church of Saint Ildefonso

From the lively market square, venture down Rua de Santa Catarina towards the Church of Saint Ildefonso. Though its Baroque facade is beautiful, the real highlight lies in its intricate azulejo tilework. Depicting scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso, thousands of blue and white ceramic tiles cover the church’s exterior.

Chapel of Souls

A few steps further along lies the captivating Chapel of Souls (Capela das Almas). Its entire exterior is covered in covered in blue tiles illustrating stories of saints Francis of Assisi and Catherine. This masterpiece is as much a work of art as it is a place of worship.

Lunch: Lunch Spots Off the Beaten Path

After a morning of soaking in Porto’s cultural treasures, step off the tourist trail for a true taste of local life. Here’s a trio of ‘tascas’ serving authentic Portuguese fare in less-crowded settings:

  • Tasquinha do Bé: This small, family-run tasca is a bit of a hidden gem. Expect a homey atmosphere, traditional dishes made with fresh ingredients, and very friendly service. Located on Rua de Cedofeita, just a short walk from the Chapel of Souls.
  • Tasca Caseira: A no-frills spot with classic Portuguese cuisine. Expect generous portions, flavourful food, and a cosy atmosphere. Located at Rua de 31 de Janeiro, a short walk from the chapel.
  • Casa Guedes Tradicional: While larger and slightly more well-known, Casa Guedes still retains the charm of a traditional Portuguese restaurant. You’ll find their famous ‘sandes de pernil’ (roasted pork sandwiches), great francesinhas, and other hearty meals. Located on Praça dos Poveiros, about a 10-minute walk from the Chapel of Souls.
  • Real Bolhão: Housed in a traditional marketplace, Real Bolhão is a lively eatery that offers authentic Portuguese dishes with big flavours. Locals and visitors alike rave about their classic recipes.

Hooked on Portugeuese food? See our guide to where to eat in Lisbon and this excellent Bola de Lamego recipe.

Afternoon: Artistic Exploration and Viewpoints

Shift gears this afternoon as we venture away from the bustling city centre towards some art and a touch of nature.

Serralves Museum & Gardens

Porto has a vibrant modern art scene, and the Serralves Museum is its crown jewel.

Explore both the striking art deco villa and the contemporary art museum, which showcases innovative works by Portuguese and international artists. 

Serralves’ expansive gardens are equally captivating – wander through manicured lawns, lush pathways, and tranquil ponds.

Cork bags as souvenirs, one day in Porto Portugal
Shop till you drop on Rua de Santa Catarina 

Rua de Santa Catarina 

If you’re longing for a spot of shopping, Rua de Santa Catarina is Porto’s main commercial street. Amidst international brands, you’ll still find traditional shops and artisan boutiques selling delightful Portuguese goods. Keep an eye out for beautiful ceramics, embroidered linens, and local food products.

Miradouro da Vitória

Seeking a spectacular view without the crowds that flock to better-known viewpoints? Your reward is the Miradouro da Vitória. This hidden terrace offers a lush panorama of the city, allowing you take in the Douro River, red rooftops, and Porto’s iconic bridges.

Casa da Musica, one day in Porto Portugal
Casa Musica is unmistakeable

Casa Musica

Finish your afternoon with a coffee or a concert at Rem Koolhaas’ Casa de Musica. This nine-floor-high asymmetrical polyhedron is the centre of arts and culture in Porto, and a wonderful place to while away the day’s final hours of sunshine. Even if you don’t have time to see a performance, the building is worth visiting for its architectural prowess alone.

Dinner & Evening: Cedofeita 

For your evening in Porto, venture into the up-and-coming Cedofeita neighbourhood. Its hip atmosphere and independent spirit offer a refreshing contrast to the well-trodden tourist zones. Here are two dining spots to wrap up your Porto adventure:

  • A Grade: This intimate restaurant puts a contemporary twist on traditional Portuguese cuisine. The menu changes seasonally, ensuring the freshest ingredients shine through in their beautifully presented plates.
  • Trasca: Embrace the Portuguese spirit of conviviality at this bustling spot. Share a selection of flavorful ‘petiscos’ (Portuguese tapas), surrounded by locals and visitors alike enjoying the lively atmosphere.

I’d avoid dining in one of the riverside spots alongside Vila Nova de Gaia. They’re not the best!

Still got time to kill? This list of unusual things to do in Porto has plenty of other suggestions to keep you occupied.

Practical Considerations

Now that you have your itinerary for visiting the second-largest city in Portugal, let’s discuss some practicalities.

Best Time to Visit Porto 

Porto’s coastal location means its weather generally remains mild throughout the year. For warm, sunny days and the liveliest atmosphere, the high season runs from July to August. 

However, expect crowds and higher prices in the summer. The shoulder seasons – spring (April-June) and autumn (September-October)– offer a fantastic balance of pleasant weather, smaller crowds, and potentially better deals on accommodation.

No matter the season, Porto’s location means some rain is always a possibility. Pack a light rain jacket or umbrella to be prepared for any weather surprises.

And let me say once again: comfortable walking shoes.

Wandering around Porto Portugal
One of the best things to do in Porto is explore on foot

Getting to Porto

Porto has a decent-sized international airport (Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport) with frequent flights to major European and beyond,  making air travel a convenient choice. 

Train lines also link Porto with Lisbon and other destinations in Portugal and Spain, offering a relaxed way to travel and admire the scenery.

Depending on your starting location, long-distance buses are another possibility. While often the most time-consuming, they can potentially be the most budget-friendly way to reach Porto.

Getting Around Porto 

Porto is a walkable city right in the centre, but with only one day in Porto, you may need some help.

Be prepared for some hills and charming cobblestone streets – comfortable shoes are key!

For venturing further afield or when your legs need a break, Porto has a reliable public transportation system. This includes a metro line, buses, and even a charming historic cable car line.

Google Maps is your friend for navigating Porto. For an added cultural experience, consider a free walking tour, a wonderful way to explore and learn about the city’s history. If exploring on your own, taxis and ride-sharing apps are readily available when you want to give your feet some rest.

Portugal - Porto -  rabbit street art
Did you know that Porto is famous for its street art?

Where to Stay in Porto

The perfect place to stay in Porto depends on the kind of experience you’re seeking. If you yearn to be in the heart of the action with everything within easy walking distance, here are two central neighbourhoods ideal for your base:

Book well in advance, especially for peak season, as the best spots in central areas fill up quickly.

More About Travel in Portugal