‘Porto is famous for its bridges, port wine, and wonderful culture. It doesn’t get quite as much credit as Lisbon, but it’s equally beautiful. These are 11 must-see sights in Porto for first-time visitors…’
Porto has so much to offer visitors, whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, or just a few days unwinding in the City of Bridges. Regardless of your plans, there are few things that every first-timer should experience. These are the 11 must-see sights in Porto for first-time visitors.
Chill out on the river with a Port Tasting
There are multiple port distilleries on the banks of the Douro River. Each is steeped in history and has its own story to tell. You can pay for a tour of the facilities in additon to lounging outside and literally sampling the fruits of their labour. Or the labour of their fruits?
You can order port in regular single glasses or a variety of smaller measures from the tasting menu. There are numerous ranges available and I was surprised to be able to order a white port. I always assumed it was red only, but the good people of Porto have developed an amazing selection of whites. Probably order up both because it would be rude not to, yes? In addition, the port is often served with a plate of complimentary crackers to enhance the taste.
We enjoyed ours in the sun on the terrace of the distillery and watched the world go by. A little distance away, a busker played the most amazing rendition of Despacito on his Spanish guitar. It was bliss.
Climb Torre de Clerigos
This iconic tower in the middle of town is the unofficial landmark of Porto. It can be seen from so many places across the city. We were lucky enough to have an apartment in town with a balcony that looked right over the tower. This meant Les had LOTS of time to get photos without having to drag me around the streets. Score!
The tower was renovated in 2014 and stands 75 metres high. It has 225 stairs, so best of luck to you with that. If you make it up, the viewpoint from the top offers an unrivalled 360-degree view of Porto.
Walk the Dom Luís 1 Bridge
Although Porto is known as the City of Bridges, the Dom Luís is by far the most iconic. Crossing the Douro River, this massive structure has a lower deck for cars and other traffic and an upper level for pedestrians and trains.
The views afforded from walking along the top deck are superb. The views are fantastic by day and the lights are beautiful after sunset. Above all the other experiences and attractions, walking the Dom Luis Bridge is my number one pick for must-see sights in Porto for first-time visitors.
Enjoy the views from the Funicular
The Guidais Funicular is a rather novel way to make the distance between Riberia and Porto city centre.
There are two cars on the line, each with the ability to hold 25 people. Or maybe 15 really big ones; I’m not sure. Anyway, the line stretches over 920ft and the ascent is pretty steep. It’s a cheap way to travel and the scenery from the cable cars is well worth the fee.
Check out the art at Sao Bento Station
Sao Bento is the main rail station is the centre of Porto and it’s a kind of art gallery in itself.
The vivid stories told across the intricate tile on the walls in the main waiting area are worth the visit, even if you have no plans to take a train anywhere. The station is compact, so there’s no labyrinth of ticket machines and stern guards to navigate in order to check out the walls.
Visit the staircase in Livaria Lello
This is by no means essential viewing unless you’re a Harry Potter fan or have a love of bookstores. However, it is a pretty impressive staircase.
Livaria Lello is a central bookshop with a rather grand staircase. It was, apparently, the inspiration for the staircase in Hogwart’s in the Harry Potter series. This is mainly because JK Rowling lived in Porto before she wrote the record-breaking novels.
The bookstore is so popular with visitors that it now charges an entrance fee. The shop was right across the street from our apartment. Every time we walked past, day or night, a long line of HP fans were patiently queuing outside.
Visit the Arab Room at Palacio de Bolsa
The 19th Century Bolsa Palace is classified as a Portuguese historic landmark. It sits in the city centre, in Infante D Henrique Square.
The Palace is a national monument and is famous for its rather impressively lavish interior decoration. The Arab Room, which is decorated in a Moorish style, is the most exotic of the rooms. The sumptuous room is declared with brightly coloured mosaic tiles with gold edging and features beautiful round windows. In conclusion, it’s probably way better than your hotel room.
Spend a quiet minute in Porto Cathedral
The Cathedral of Porto is a huge Romanesque Catholic church in the middle of the old town. It’s one of the oldest churches in Porto and by far the most iconic.
The church is easily identifiable by its large towers and a stunning rose window. Built on the highest point in Porto, the cathedral is home to three red marble fonts. Why they need three is beyond me, but that’s just the way it is. I guess, why stop at one if you can have more, right?
Take a Walk in Serralves Museum and Gardens
Serralves Park existed in Porto for many years as a private estate. With the intention of turning it into a cultural space for the people of the city, it was purchased by the Portuguese government in 1986.
The park is the centre for agricultural excellence in the region. It offers many activities and events for the public to enjoy. Once the park itself was established in 1986, work turned to develop a centre for contemporary art within the grounds. The Serralves Museum was opened in 1996.
Eat a Francesinha sandwich
The Francesinha sandwich is legendary in Porto. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted, though. The sandwich is a change-up (read: improvement…) on the French Croque monsieur.
The Francesinha comprises two door-stop sized slices of white bread and more meat than I’ve ever seen. It’s topped with egg and then smothered with cheese and served with a special sauce. It’s so enormous that even Les had trouble with it. And he has hollow legs. The sandwiches are on menus all over the city and they’re magnificent.
Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Cafe Majestic
Since 29121, this exclusive Art Nouveau cafe has been a fixture of Porto’s vibrant cafe scene.
Majestic is considered to be one of the most beautiful cafes in the world and is a Porto institution. Visiting the establishment for afternoon tea or almond cake and a glass of port is a must when visiting the city. After all, you’re on vacation!
What are your must-see sights in Porto for first-time visitors?
must-see sights in porto for first time visitors
must-see sights in porto for first time visit