A 3-day Porto itinerary: How to spend a long weekend in Porto

by Jan

Planning to spend 3 days in Porto?  With stunning architecture, unique cultural attractions, and a Unesco World Heritage site, Porto is perfect for a city break. It’s a compact city, so easy to pack lots in, but with only 3 days you’ll need a good plan.  Our 3-day Porto itinerary will help you maximise your time and make the most of your weekend getaway.

Porto is a coastal city overlooking the Douro River in northwest Portugal.  It is Portugal’s second largest city and famed for its port wine houses and Azuela churches.  It’s a charming, characterful city, where visitors can happily while away the hours meandering the narrow, cobbled streets.  We have just returned from 3 days in Porto and had an amazing trip.

Our 3-day itinerary includes many of the city’s main attractions and best things to do in Porto.  However, we visited at a leisurely pace, allowing plenty of time to stop and enjoy the local food and drink.

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Practical information for Porto

How to get to Porto

The international airport, Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro is about 11km from Porto Old Town.  We took a taxi, which is the easiest and quickest way to get in.  If you’re coming from the UK, you can book regular direct flights with Easy Jet.  The flight takes 2 hours 25 (if the French aren’t on strike!).

Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, you could take the Metro or a bus.  The Metro takes about 25 minutes, and the bus takes 30 minutes, but both are significantly cheaper.

If you are flying with Easy Jet, watch out for the latest hand luggage restrictions.  Your basic allowance now only includes an under seat flight bag.  I bought this new bag from 5 cities on Amazon, which meets the maximum allowance.

Getting around in Porto

Porto is relatively small compared to some cities and very compact, which makes it easy to navigate on foot.  This is ideal if you are a first-timer in Porto, as there is something new to discover at every corner.

However, Porto is extremely hilly and many of the streets are cobbled, so walking may be difficult for some.

If you don’t want to walk, Porto has a good network of public transport with buses, trains, trams and ferries.

How long do you need to visit Porto?

2-3 days is ideal for a city break in Porto.  Our itinerary is for 3 days, which includes travel both ways.  This was the perfect length to see the city at a leisurely pace plenty of stops for lunch and drinks.

If you want to spend longer, you could do some day trips out of Porto.  Excursions include a visit to the beaches, Douro vineyards, or seawater swimming pools (Piscina as Marés).

Accommodation in Porto

We stayed in a charming, old apartment in Baixa, a perfect location for visiting all the top sights in Porto.  The Clerigos Apartments and SBV Perfect River View both have ideal locations in the centre for sightseeing.

Porto is extremely popular for city breaks and accommodation in the main historic centre is in high demand at weekends.  It is worth booking in advance to secure a convenient location and price.

Booking.com has an excellent choice of accommodation in Porto or you could try Airbnb.

3-day itinerary in Porto: Day 1

Hopefully we have helped with some basic information for your trip planning.  So, without further delay, read on for our amazing 3-day itinerary in Porto.

Baixa & Miragaia

The first destinations on our 3-day itinerary are Baixa and Miragaia, the historic old quarters of Porto.  We took time for a quick lunch, then set off by foot on our self-guided walking tour of Porto.

You’ll find old buildings and magnificent, blue-tiled churches at every turn, so Porto is a wonderful place for a meander.  If you miss something on the first day, you can always revisit later in the weekend.

Carmelitas and Carmo Churches (Igreja dos Carmelitas & Igreja do Carmo)

Igreja dos Carmelitas Church and Carmo Churches

Two of the must-see attractions in the Baixa district of Porto are the Carmelitas and Carmo Churches (Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo).

These two 18th century churches stand together, only separated by one of the world’s narrowest houses, the Hidden House.  It is purported to have been built to discourage inappropriate liaisons between the nuns and monks who lived either side.

The side wall of the baroque style Carmo Church is tiled with a panel of elaborate blue and white tiles.  These azulejos tiles are widespread across the buildings of  Porto.

Clérigos church tower (Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos)

Clerigos church tower, Porto, Portugal

At 75 metres high, the Clérigos church Tower is one of the highest bell towers in Portugal.  It is also one of the most famous landmarks in Porto.

Visitors can climb the 225 steps to the top of the Clérigos Tower for panoramic views over Porto.  There is a small admission charge.

Jadim da Cordoaria

Don’t miss the chance to walk through the Jadim da Cordoaria, a sculpture park near the Torre dos Clérigos.  Not only is this one of Porto’s prettiest parks, but home to the “Thirteen Laughing at Each Other” statue.

The statue is a collection of four sets of bronze artworks, each with men laughing on the benches.  Take a moment to sit with the laughing characters, or have fun trying to replicate the poses.

São Bento train station (Estacio de São Bento)

Sao Bento Station, Porto, Portugal

Even if you’re not catching a train, spare a few minutes to pop into Porto’s beautiful São Bento station.  Built in 1900, the blue tiled walls depict historic events from the past.  Long windows, an ornate ceiling and a large clock make this one of the prettiest stations in Europe.

As you exit the station, keep your eye out for Igreja de Santo Antonio dos Congregados, another of Porto’s magnificent blue and white tiled churches.

Parque de las Virtudes

After taking in all the highlights of Porto’s old town, we headed upwards towards Jardim do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens).

We navigated our way through the Miragaia district, a network of narrow medieval streets stopping at the Miradouro Ignez Bar.  Here we had our first taste of Northern Portugal’s Vinho Verde, whilst enjoying rooftop views over the Douro Valley.

You will pass through Parque de las Virtudes, as you make your way to the top.   This split-level garden overlooking the Douro River has a hip vibe and is a popular hangout for watching the sun set.

Crystal Palace Gardens (Jardim do Palacio de Cristal)

View of bridge from crystal palace gardens, Porto, Portugal

The Victorian-style, Crystal Palace Gardens sit atop a hill, so it’s a steep walk, but worth it.

These botanical gardens offer a tranquil, green space, where peacocks and geese wander freely.  As well as the various themed gardens, you’ll also find fountains, a lake, a modern art gallery, and a chapel.  Plus, it has some of the best views in the city over the Douro Valley.

3-day itinerary in Porto: Day 2

Ribeira, Vila Nova de Gaia, & Afurada

Ribeira, Porto, Portugal

Day 2 of our 3-day Porto itinerary is all about exploring the riverside areas of the Douro Valley.  Porto sits on one side of this magnificent river and Vila Nova de Gaia on the other.  However, as this is where the Port Wine Cellars are, it is essential you see both.

Ribeira

However, before you cross the river you need to spend some time in Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage area on the Porto riverside.

On your way down to the river take a quick stop at Miradouro da Vitória, another of Porto’s best viewpoints.  Ignore the sign that says it is private property, as this is open to the public.  You’ll get panoramic views over the terracotta rooftops of Ribeira.

Ribeira, Porto, Portugal

The riverside quarter of Ribeira is a vibrant area with pastel houses, cobblestone alleys, and winding streets.  You’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafés.

Despite being one of the most popular areas for tourists, Ribeira has retained an authentic charm and you can still evidence of everyday life, like the laundry hanging out.

Dom Luís I Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luís I)

From Ribeira, cross the Dom Luís I Bridge to get to Vila Nova de Gaia.  The cast iron bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel, is one of 6 impressive bridges along this stretch of river.

Dom Luis 1 Bridge, Porto, Portugal

There are two levels for pedestrians, but it is easier to access the lower level from here and return on the top.

In the afternoons, it’s fun to watch daredevil youngsters jumping off the lower deck into the water.  Apparently, it is a Porto ritual that’s been going for years.  By night the crowds gather to watch the evening sunset on their return to Porto.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia is the city on the opposite side of the River Douro.  The riverside area of Gaia is a bustling area, with market stalls, bars, and restaurants.

Gaia is also home to the famous port wine houses.  Port is the strong fortified wine, which gave the city and country its name.  Gaia has long history of growing vines and exporting wine, which dates to before Roman times.

Wine Cella, Gaia, Porto, Portugal

Today, you still have a choice of over 60 wine lodges in Villa Nova de Gaia, each offering tours of their cellars and port tasting.   If you don’t want to pay for a tour, most riverside bars offer 5 ports for 5 Euros.

You can also see the traditional, wooden Ribero boats, used for transportation, along the river.

Street art in Gaia

The Half Rabbit Street Art, Porto, Portugal

Just behind the main riverfront is the World of Wine (WOW), a cluster of upmarket restaurants and museums.  We took a quick look, but found the atmosphere rather sterile.

However, in the winding back streets leading up to WOW, we discovered a stunning street art installation, the “Half Rabbit”.  This enormous 3D rabbit was created using litter and recycled materials from the streets of Gaia.  The artist, Bordalo II, wanted to illustrate how wasteful our society is.

São Pedro da Afurada

Sardines in Afurada, Porto, Portugal

You’ll find an excellent choice of places to eat in Gaia.  However, if you want some delicious, authentic Portuguese food, head to São Pedro da Afurada.

Afurada, a traditional fishing village, is renowned for its amazing fish restaurants.  It’s so fresh you can see it grilling outside.  We walked there along the river from Gaia, which took about 40 minutes, but you could use public transport.

Another attraction in Afurada is the communal wash house.  Local women will come together to do their washing in communal rooms, before hanging it to dry on the beach.

The Six Bridges Riverboat Cruise & Gaia Cable Car

Boat on River Douro, Porto, Portugal

One of the best things to do on a Porto city break is a sightseeing boat cruise on the River Douro.  Most tours cost about 15 Euros and last 1 hour.  You can book on the day and just come back at the time of your trip.  It’s a relaxing journey and you get a different aspect of Ribeira from the water.

After your cruise, take the Gaia Cable Car (telérifico de Gaia) back up to bridge level.  It’s a really short trip (about 5 minutes) but needs to be done!

You’ll get a beautiful view of the 16th century monastery (Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar) as the gondola alights.  Jardim do Morro is another hilltop park that’s popular in the evenings with sunset lovers.

3-day itinerary in Porto: Day 3

Sé & Baixa

On the final day of our 3-day itinerary in Porto, we headed back to Baixa for some shopping and sights that we’d missed the first day.  I wanted to see the Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls), another Azulejo-tiled church on rue de Santa Caterina.  Admission to this church is free.

Capela das Almas, Porto, Portugal

Another of Porto’s top historic attractions is the Igreja de Santa Ildefonso, which stands proudly overlooking the city.

Plus, if you haven’t already seen Sé  Cathedral (Sé do Porto), this would be a good opportunity.  Admission is free, but it costs 3 Euros to enter the cloisters.

Another of Porto’s top attractions near here is the magnificent Palácio da Bolsa, the Stock Exchange Palace.  Remember to look up, as it has some of the most impressive ceilings.

Sunset view of Porto, Portugal

Brunch in Porto

The last stop of the day before heading to the airport was brunch.  We went to Zenith, one of the hippest brunch venues in Porto.  It gets very busy – we had to queue about 30 minutes – but it’s worth it.  The food was exquisite and the staff were amazing.

After brunch, it was a sad farewell to Porto and back to the airport, with many memories made.

Best travel guides for Porto

If you’re looking for more information on the best things to see and do in Porto, we always find the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides very inspiring.  As the name suggests, the Top 10 Porto travel guide provides top ten lists to everything, from museums and monuments to restaurants and bars.

Another good option for helping you get the most out of your visit is the Lonely Planet Pocket Porto.  This gives information by neighbourhood and comes with a useful map. These travel guides come in a handy, pocket-friendly format, so are ideal for popping in your bag or pocket.  And you can never go wrong with a Pocket Rough Guide to Porto, which provide practical information about all the city’s experiences.

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission. (Read our full Disclosure Policy)

Have you any comments or questions about our 3-day Porto itinerary?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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