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Is Porto Worth Visiting? And How to Avoid the Crowds

Guest contributor Mike Jensen is a self-proclaimed adventure junkie and travel blogger. Here, he shares his experience visiting Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city.


Are you wondering: Is Porto worth visiting on your trip to Portugal?

Yes… So long as you don’t have to choose between Lisbon or Porto. (Because then I’d recommend Lisbon.)

If you have time, why visit Porto?

In short, Porto is a gem for history buffs, those who enjoy the charms of a picturesque smaller city, foodies, wine enthusiasts and, of course, Harry Potter fans.

Is Porto, Portugal, worth visiting?
Porto is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe

Is Porto worth visiting? Reasons to go

Porto is one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe right now.

Beautiful Old Town

One reason Porto is so popular?

Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with centuries-old architecture and deep historical roots. Its stunning Old Town straddles the picturesque Douro River, complete with six bridges.

You’ll find amazing Beaux-Arts-style buildings, Baroque churches, beautiful palaces and much more. Many buildings are decorated with lovely azulejos (blue-and-white tiles).

Is Porto worth visiting? Yes. One reason: To walk across the iconic Dom Luis 1 Bridge.
In Porto, you can’t miss the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge; it dominates the cityscape

Great food

Then there’s the food. Porto has some of Europe’s best chefs and freshest seafood, caught right off the Portuguese coast.

Great wine

Porto is also home to its namesake port wine. Vila Nova de Gaia cellar tours offer insights into the production of this sweet fortified wine, along with ample tasting opportunities.

The world’s most famous bookstore

The city has a special connection with the Harry Potter series, largely due to J.K. Rowling’s time spent here in the early 1990s.

There are several spots in Porto believed to have inspired settings in the Harry Potter books – the most famous being the Livraria Lello bookstore (more on this later).

Pleasant weather and friendly people

Combine this with the almost year-round stunning weather and welcoming locals, and you have a very attractive small city.

The only problem with Porto?

The downside to being so popular is that Porto can at times get too crowded for its own good.

As for those annoying tourists (obviously, I’m not one of them!), I’ll offer some tips at the end of this post on how to enjoy the best of Porto – away from the crowds.

9 Top things to do in Porto, Portugal

River view of Porto through a window
What to see in Porto? Lots! Just look out this window!

Let’s now cover the Porto attractions we hit on our trip, so you can get a better idea of why the city is such a hit.

Be aware that you need a few days to take in all of the best things to do in Porto.

1) Get lost in the Ribeira (Porto Old Town)

The Ribeira is one of Porto's oldest neighborhoods and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Ribeira is one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods

The historic Old Town of Porto is found in the heart of the city – the Ribeira district.

It’s crisscrossed by narrow cobblestone streets brimming with 18th century townhouses. Covering a huge area on the northern side of the Douro River, the streets wind their way across multiple hills.

Porto's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Porto’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Many of the Porto sights covered below are found in the Ribeira area.

Don’t just walk along the main streets near the river or alongside the Clerigos Tower like most tourists. Choose any and every side street and see where it may lead.

We found countless buildings with beautifully ornate facades, fantastic coffee shops and restaurants, and a store where we couldn’t resist buying some new coffee mugs!

Porto guided walking tour

If you’re not the type to just wander, how about this 3-hour guided walking tour of Porto?

You’ll delve into the rich history of this beautiful city and visit some of the main attractions in Porto.

2) Climb Clerigos Tower

Perhaps the easiest landmark to spot in the city is the Clerigos Tower.

Climb up to the top of Clerigos Tower for panoramic views of Porto.
Climb up to the top of Clerigos Tower for panoramic views of Porto

Built between 1754 and 1763, the tall bell tower is part of the Baroque-style Clerigos Church.

It towers above the Old Town on the “hill of the hanged men,” where executed prisoners were buried.

You’ll no doubt pass the tower countless times on your Porto visit. But don’t just walk by. Pop inside too.

It’s 225 steps to the top of the 250-ft-high tower, but you’re rewarded with a spectacular 360-degree view of the city.

Afterward, you can tour the House of the Brotherhood (a museum) and its infirmary, where sick priests and other clergy were nursed.

Clerigos Tower, Porto

  • Hours: The church and tower are open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (reduced hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day).
  • Cost: The cost to climb the tower and tour the museum is 8 Euros (about $8.70 USD). A guided tour is an additional 1.5 Euros ($1.60 USD).
  • Tickets: Book the Clerigos Tower online.

3) Admire Sao Bento Station

The 20th century Sao Bento railway station was named after a Benedictine monastery that once occupied the same spot.
The 20th century Sao Bento railway station was named after a Benedictine monastery that once occupied the same spot

Located right in the heart of downtown Porto is one of the bigger train stations – Sao Bento Station.

If you take the train from Lisbon to Porto or leave Porto by train, you may very well end up at this beautiful station. And if not? Peek inside anyway.

Opened in the early 1900s, the Porto train station depicts Portugal’s rich history in a museum-worthy display of azulejo tiles.

Azulejos were introduced to Portugal in the 15th century by the Spanish.
Azulejos were introduced to Portugal in the 15th century by the Spanish

Azulejo is a form of Portuguese-painted ceramic tilework.

Some 20,000 tiles cover almost every wall of the station’s foyer – portraying the battles, victories, pilgrimages and royal weddings of Portugal’s past.

Sao Bento in Porto, Portugal, is one of the most beautiful train stations you're ever likely to see.
The Sao Bento is one of the most beautiful train stations you’re ever likely to see

When walking around Porto, you’ll be struck by how many of the buildings are covered in these magnificent blue-and-white tiles.

You see these tiles on churches, cafes, even run-of-the-mill apartments… These tile displays are everywhere.

The Sao Bento station tells a great story of Portugal's past - all in a wondrous display of azulejo tiles.
The Sao Bento station tells a rich story of Portugal’s past – all in azulejo tiles

But the most eye-popping work of azulejo art is inside the Sao Bento train station.

Simply enter the train station from the front, camera at the ready, and try to take it all in.

4) Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello is one of the world's oldest and most beautiful bookstores
Livraria Lello is one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful bookstores

The now-famous Art Nouveau bookshop, Livraria Lello, is usually on most people’s “Porto must-see” list.

Considered one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, its crimson double-spiral staircase is a showstopper, as is the stained glass skylight that illuminates the store.

Livraria Lello Bookshop, Porto
There’s no denying that this is a magnificent bookstore!

For Harry Potter devotees, especially, it’s a must-do in Porto.

Livraria Lello is said to have sparked J.K. Rowling’s vision of Hogwarts. When living in Porto, she visited this bookstore regularly.

Or so the story goes…

These days, you have to pay for a ticket and line up to visit the bookshop. This sometimes takes 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on how early (or late) you go.

The Harry Potter effect: Now you have to pay to see J.K. Rowling's old haunt
The Harry Potter effect: Now you have to pay to see J.K. Rowling’s old haunt

Livraria Lello Tickets

  • Open: Livraria Lello is open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
  • Closed: December 25th, January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, June 24th (check the Livraria Lello website).
  • Cost: The entrance fee is 8 Euros ($8.60 USD). If you buy a book, that amount is deducted from the ticket price. You can buy your tickets online. But note they don’t give you priority entry.

Alternative Porto bookstores

Can you get into the Livraria Lello bookshop without queuing for ages? Are there other great bookstores that are less crowded?

Jump to more tips to avoid the Porto crowds for answers!

5) Majestic Café

If you’re on the Harry Potter trail, you may also want to stop for a cappuccino at the very popular Majestic Café.

Porto's Majestic Café is a classy place to stop for a shot of caffeine.
The café is a classy place to stop for a shot of caffeine (Credit: Majestic Café)

In the 1920s, it was the go-to hangout for politicians, writers and intellectuals.

Rowling also reportedly penned an early draft of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” at one of the white marble tables.

The café is indeed a gorgeous space, with marble floors and chandeliers reminiscent of the Parisian Belle Epoque era. (There’s even a piano too!)

But as you’d expect, the coffee is more expensive than what you’d get at an “ordinary” café.

The city's intellectual elite once gathered at the Majestic Café to share ideas.
The city’s intellectual elite once gathered at the café to share ideas (Credit: Majestic Café)

So is the Majestic Café worth all the buzz?

You decide…

Majestic Café, Porto

  • Hours: The Majestic Café is open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.
  • Cost: A cappuccino costs 6.50 Euros ($7 USD).

6) Stroll Cais da Ribeira

If you wind your way down to the riverside in Porto, you’ll eventually reach Cais da Ribeira.

The mostly pedestrian street runs along the waterfront. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Porto – and rightfully so.

This lively riverside promenade is perfect for taking a leisurely stroll along the Douro River.

The Cas da Ribeira by the Douro River is fun for people-watching, strolling and eating.
The Cas da Ribeira by the Douro River is fun for people-watching, strolling and eating

Soak in the views of the candy-colored houses along the road. See the traditional rabelo boats moored in the river. Be amazed by the towering Luis I Bridge overhead (covered next).

And take in all the port wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank!

With its many cafés, bars and restaurants, Cais da Ribeira is also a great spot for lunch, dinner or even just a drink.

Enjoy at least a drink at the Cais da Ribeira (great Douro rivers and a fun vibe)
Have a drink at the Cais da Ribeira – great Douro river views and a fun vibe!

Most of the restaurants fill up quite quickly, so be sure to get there early!

7) Cross the Luis I Bridge

The upper level of the Dom Luis I Bridge is, gulp, 190 feet above the Douro River!
The Luis 1 Bridge is the most famous of Porto’s six bridges

Now that you’ve immersed yourself in the riverside of Porto, you’ll be itching to get up close and personal with that arched bridge that commands your attention overhead.

The double-deck Luis I Bridge (or Dom Luis I Bridge) is a remarkable piece of engineering. It was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel – yes, of Eiffel Tower fame.

The Luis I Bridge is a beautiful bridge!

Eiffel’s influence can be seen in the Victorian wrought iron architecture, reminding you of the famous tower in Paris. This is especially evident as you cross the lower deck.

At the time of its completion in 1886, it was the longest arch bridge in the world, spanning 564 feet (172 meters).

The Luis 1 Bridge is the most famous of Porto's six bridges.
The upper level of the Dom Luis I Bridge is, gulp, 190 feet above the Douro River!

You can also walk on the upper deck of the bridge, where the local trams run. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the whole city up there.

If you’re not up for climbing between the two levels, cheat and take the 19th century Funicular dos Guindais up from the Cais da Ribeira end.

Funicular dos Guindais Tickets and Schedule

You’ll find the funicular station right beside the stairs.

  • Hours: It normally operates from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
  • Cost: One way is 4 Euros ($4.30 USD), while a two-way ticket is 6 Euros ($6.50 USD). Bring exact cash as they don’t give change or accept cards.

8) Ride a bike along the River Douro

Hankering for a little adventure and perhaps some exercise?

Then a bike ride along the Douro River – north to the sandy beaches of Foz and Matosinhos – is just the ticket.

The ride is almost 100% flat and on separate bike paths, with only a few inconvenient sections on the road.

Renting a bicycle to pedal along the Douro River is lots of fun - and good exercise too
Rent a bicycle to pedal along the Douro River – fun and good exercise too (Credit: Durus Rent A Bike)

If you love seafood, time your ride so you hit Matosinhos for lunch. The 7-mile ride will take about 45 minutes.

Along with its beach, the small fishing town of Matosinhos is famous for its fish restaurants – not surprising, given that fishing in Portugal is so popular! Many fishing boats pull up right in the Matoshinhos harbor.

Just follow your nose to the string of restaurants lining the main road. Here’s you’ll find fish barbecued outside on open-air grills.

Don’t worry about which resto to pick – they’re all supposed to be good (and they all looked good to us).

Porto bike rentals (for a Douro River ride)

You can hire bikes from a number of places around town.

It’s easiest, though, to rent right near the Luis I Bridge, next to the funicular. You’ll find a few outfits there, including:

Expect to pay about 12 Euros ($13 USD) for an 8-hour bicycle rental. Shops open around 9:30 am.

Tip: If it’s a busy time of year, reserve bikes ahead of time, as the bike rental shops can run out.

We were lucky on the day we arrived – we just walked in and rented a bike. But the next day, at the same shop, none were available. A tour group had taken them all!

Porto bicycle tours

If you’d prefer a guided bicycle tour, there’s this 3-hour Porto private tour. It includes pedaling through Porto’s city parks, to Foz and Matosinhos, then back past the famous port wine cellars of Gaia.

For a cycling tour that goes beyond the riverside and ventures into the hilly streets, consider this e-bike highlights tour of Porto.

The city’s steep streets can be a bit tough with a regular bike. An electric bike lets you enjoy the sights without the strain. Plus, you’ll learn all about Porto’s rich history from the accompanying experienced guide.

9) Take a Porto wine tour

You probably know that the city of Porto is famous for its port wine.

The grapes are grown upstream from Porto in the Douro River Valley. They’re then processed, aged and shipped to various places along the river.

If you’re looking for the port wine action, it’s all on the opposite side of the Douro River from Cais de Ribeira – in the Vila Nova de Gaia area. Dozens of cellars offer port tastings and winery tours here.

In Porto? Of course, you must go on a port wine tour and tasting.
In Porto? Of course, you must go on a port wine tour and tasting (Credit: Graham’s Port Lodge)

We chose one of the oldest and most renowned port wine houses – Graham’s 1890 Port Lodge.

The family-owned business is further up the hill from many of the other port houses.

It has an incredible view from its balcony – one of the reasons we wanted to go here.

It has a huge collection of port bottles. Held in the cool dark cellars, some (covered with mold) date as far back as the 1800s.

You want port? (Credit: Graham’s Port Lodge)

You can choose to do a tour alone or with port wine tasting. (Good port tastes bold and sweet, but not cloyingly sweet.)

There are different levels of tastings as well, from classic to vintage and tawny ports. Some are aged upwards of 30 years. 

A combined tour and tasting takes about two hours.

The Graham's port wine business was founded back in 1820
The Graham’s port wine business was founded back in 1820 (Credit: Graham’s Port Lodge)

Afterward, check out the shop. You might want to pick up a bottle of fine port to take home!

Porto port wine tour of Graham’s 1890 Lodge

  • Reservations: The Graham’s port tour is by reservation only. To book your tour, see here.
  • Hours: Graham’s is open every day April to October from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm (last visit 5:30 pm), and November to March from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. It’s closed December 25, January 1 and February 20 and 21.
  • Cost: Visits, including a tasting, start from 17 Euros (about $18 USD).

Tours can be booked in English, Portuguese, French and Spanish. There’s also the adjoining Vinum Restaurant.

Comprehensive port wine lodges tour

For a more comprehensive port experience, try this highly-rated half-day tour of Porto’s port wine lodges.

Guided by a wine expert, visit a selection of wine lodges to sample the distinct port wine varieties.

You’ll learn professional tasting techniques and how to distinguish between the various port families. The tour also includes a visit to an interactive port wine museum.

More Porto sightseeing

The experiences above just scratch the surface. There are many other interesting places to see in Porto and activities to enjoy.

Red tuk-tuk in Porto
Yes, you can explore Porto by tuk-tuk!

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take in all the Porto highlights. It can be difficult during the high season, as some places have long lines.

When you’re planning what to do in Porto on your visit, you might want to also include the following:

Other Porto churches

Even though Clerigos Church, with its iconic tower, gets the most attention, Porto’s Old Town is full of impressive churches. There’s also the Church of Sao Francisco, Porto Cathedral and Igreja do Carmo.

Use Google Maps and be prepared for a bit of walking!

Jardins do Palacio de Cristal

If you’re looking for free things to do in Porto, check out the Crystal Palace Gardens (Jardins do Palácio de Cristal).

These free botanical gardens are located high on a hill overlooking Porto.

You get gorgeous views of Porto and the Douro River from the Crystal Palace Gardens.
You get gorgeous views of Porto and the Douro River from the Crystal Palace Gardens

Smell the flowers in the rose garden (and the fragrances in the aromatic plant garden). Watch peacocks strut about. And delight in the sculptures, fountains and views of Porto.

The gardens are also a quiet place to escape to – not many visitors find their way to them.

There’s a cafe, restaurant and children’s playground. The garden is open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.

A little bit of everything in Porto

Planning a Porto itinerary can be hard and takes a lot of time. Why not let someone else handle it?

This small-group full-day Porto sightseeing tour is perfect for taking in the city’s main tourist attractions – especially if you’ll only have one day in Porto.

Spend the day exploring the city’s beautiful streets and historic landmarks, while learning about Porto’s history. It includes a port wine tasting, lunch and an afternoon rabelo boat cruise along the Douro River.

A typical Douro River cruise sightseeing boat in Porto
A typical Douro River cruise sightseeing boat in Porto

For something a bit snappier, try this 1½-hour private electric tuk-tuk sightseeing tour of historic Porto. It’s 5-star-rated!

Your feet will thank you for skipping out on hiking up Porto’s hills, while an experienced guide gives you the lowdown on the city.

Douro Valley day trip

To truly immerse yourself in the port wine experience, visit the Douro Valley. It’s one of the best day trips from Porto – a journey into the soul of Portugal’s famous tipple, where every sip tells a story.

You’re spoiled for choice, as there are several great tour options for visiting the Douro wine region. Here are two of the top ones:

Wine tasting, lunch and (optional) river cruise

This small-group guided tour of the Douro Valley is highly rated and has thousands of 5-star reviews. It’s offered by Cooltour Oporto.

The group size is limited to 8 people. It’s a full-day tour and includes:

  • A 50-minute sightseeing cruise from Pinhao on the Douro River in a traditional rabelo boat (optional)
  • Visits to two family-run wine estates or quintas (like Quinta dos Castel Ares, Quinta de Santa Eufemia, Quinta da Gaivosa or Quinta do Monte Travesso) for port wine and wine tastings
  • A 3-course lunch, paired with Douro wines (could be at Tipico, Restaurant Douro In or similar)
  • Hotel pick-up and drop-off in central Porto

Wine venture and boat trip, with lunch

BL Heritage Tours also get rave reviews for their all-day small-group wine tasting tour in the Douro Valley. They’re recommended on Rick Steves’ Douro Valley community forums by guests who’ve gone with them.

Like Cooltour Oporto’s tours, they keep the group size small – limited to 8 guests – and transportation is by minivan.

The tour includes:

  • Visits to two small family-owned wineries and learning from the owners first-hand about their craft
  • A one-hour boat ride on the Douro River in a quiet electric boat (with port wine cocktails and snacks)
  • A home-made 3-course lunch at a local quinta like Quinta da Chaquedas or Quinta do Bucheiro

Best restaurants in Porto

For me, Porto is one of the best places to eat in Europe.

Fresh seafood straight from the Atlantic Ocean? Chefs who seriously know how to cook? Love it!

We visited a range of restaurants, many based on tips from friends who also run a travel blog. The following are three of our favorite Porto restaurants:

Mistu

The restaurant that stands out for us the most is Mistu.

Just check their TripAdvisor reviews, and you’ll get an idea why.

Misto gets rave reviews - and it's definitely one of the best Porto restaurants in our view!
This small resto gets rave reviews – and it’s definitely one of the best Porto restaurants in our view! (Credit: Mistu)

Oozing charm, Mistu is a small eatery tucked away in the back streets of Porto’s historic center.

It serves some yummy dishes and desserts, with a hint of Asian, South American and Portuguese flavors. We loved their hump steak and tiger shrimp with cuttlefish risotto.

Dishes are meant to be shared, and it’s worth sampling as big an assortment of food as possible.

TapaBento

Tapabento is a more down-to-earth restaurant. You’ll find it opposite the side entrance to Sao Bento Station.

Where to eat in Porto? We highly recommend Tapabento.
Where to eat in Porto? We also recommend TapaBento (Credit: TapaBento)

The small and cozy place serves a variety of local dishes – from foie gras and fish soup to pork cheeks. But for us, the prawns and tuna were the best.

Their desserts are also to die for! But hey, I have a sweet tooth, so I’m probably biased.

As it’s extremely popular and affordable, be sure to contact Tapabento for a reservation. They’re open 12 noon to 3:00 pm for lunch, then 7:00 pm to midnight for dinner (they’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). 

Manteigaria

No trip to Portugal is complete without eating at least a few pasteis de nata.

These small sweet tarts are made with flakey pastry and filled with vanilla custard.

Mmmm... Pasteis de nata are a highlight of Portugal's food culture
Mmmm… These custard tarts are a highlight of Portugal’s food culture

It’s best to get them warm from a place dedicated to making only these tasty treats.

My favorite pastel de nata bakery in Porto (and Lisbon) is Manteigaria. They have two shops in Porto, one right down the street from the Clerigos Tower.

Porto food tours

Want to sample everything from Portuguese Bolinhos de Bacalhau (codfish cakes) to sweet custard tarts? And taste local Portuguese wine too?

There are several great walking food tours in Porto.

One is Taste Porto. Recommended by the likes of Rick Steves and Anthony Bourdain, they’re the original food tour operator in Porto.

Their 3½-hour downtown and Bolhao Market tour is the longest-running Porto food tour.

Don’t expect the usual food tastings like the famous Portuguese francesinha sandwich. Taste Porto is all about introducing you to food and wine you wouldn’t easily find on your own – at family-run cafés, restos and specialty food shops.

If they’re sold out, try this top-notch food and wine tasting tour, where you’ll taste a whole range of regional Portuguese delights. In 3 hours, you’ll stroll through historic Ribeira and other districts – stopping at cafés and generations-old taverns along the way.

Another great option? Go on this award-winning private Porto food tour with a local guide passionate about food. You’ll visit hidden gems and savor different food and drink tastings.

Where to stay in Porto

From boutique and luxury hotels to Airbnbs, there are many inviting places to stay in Porto.

Eurostars das Artes Hotel

The 4-star Eurostars das Artes is an affordable luxury hotel in Porto
The 4-star Eurostars das Artes is an affordable luxury hotel in Porto

We wish we’d booked the Eurostars das Artes Hotel. It was right opposite our Airbnb.

Within walking distance of downtown, the 4-star Eurostars das Artes has 89 rooms with hardwood floors and a clean minimalist look.

Eurostars das Artes: Check rates and availability

PortoBay Flores

The PortoBay Flores mixes elements from a centuries-old palace with contemporary design
The PortoBay Flores mixes elements from a centuries-old palace with contemporary design

If you want to kick things up a notch, both in terms of convenience and luxury, the new PortoBay Flores is the hotel to book.

Formerly a 500-year-old palace, this 5-star hotel is located right in the city center. It has 66 sophisticated rooms, a heated indoor pool and a wellness spa with hammam.

PortoBay Flores: Check rates and availability

The Rebello Hotel & Spa

Rebello Hotel & Spa, Porto
The Rebello Hotel & Spa is a new Porto hotel, offering 5-star accommodations on the Gaia side of the river

For an escape from the hustle and bustle of Porto’s historic center, cross the Dom Luis 1 Bridge and stay at this new luxury hotel on the Gaia side of the Douro River.

Studios and one- and two-bedroom suites at The Rebello Hotel & Spa have kitchens and offer gorgeous views of Porto. And the staff are super friendly.

The Rebello Hotel & Spa: Check rates and availability

Airbnb

There are also dozens of well-located Airbnbs in Porto; many are right in the center too.

You just have to book early to get the best ones (something we unfortunately neglected to do).

Best time to visit Porto

In the last five years or so, both Porto and Lisbon have become extremely sought-after places to visit in Europe.

They’re both vibrant historic cities with lots to see and do. They also enjoy beautiful weather for far longer than most other European cities.

The problem is, like many other much-loved European destinations (hello Venice!), you’re likely to rub shoulders with hordes of other people. That’s why you should plan wisely.

Porto in the summer months

Is it worth visiting Porto in summer?

Well, summers are hot – with maximum temps in northern Portugal reaching almost 86 F (30 C).

Don't visit Porto in high summer; it's too hot, and you'll wish you were on a Portugal beach instead!
Don’t visit Porto in high summer; it’s too hot, and you’ll wish you were on a Portugal beach instead!

This is also the peak tourist season, so we’d recommend avoiding July and August.

And don’t visit on a holiday weekend! We found this out the hard way. We went on a long weekend in May, when much of northern Europe was on vacation. Not the best idea!

We managed to avoid the crowds (most of the time) – but we mostly stuck to the less-popular-yet-still-good attractions. 

Porto in spring and fall

Is Porto a good place to visit in the spring and autumn months?

Weather-wise, we think the best time to visit Porto is in late spring. From May to early June, it’s pleasantly warm with a maximum temperature of about 68 F (20 C) – ideal weather for exploring.

September is also nice, though it can still be a bit crowded. Try October to avoid the crowds.

Just don’t expect to have Porto to yourself, as many other tourists also like to travel these months.

Porto in November

What is Porto like in November?

Well, we think there are many benefits to visiting Porto in November.

Firstly, it’s not too cold. Expect temps in the mid-50s to mid-70s F (around 10 to 20 C).

Just be prepared for rain. But then again, the sun sometimes shines for days in November!

The best part, though, is it’s out of season – so the crowds are gone and hotels are less expensive. We also think the Gothic churches and architecture look strikingly moody when the days are a bit gray.

November in Porto can bring a little rain, but you could also be blessed with warm sunny weather.
November in Porto can bring a little rain, but you could also be blessed with warm sunny weather

Mind you, I think November will become more popular in future.

One of the most crowd-pleasing cities in Portugal to visit, Porto has won several awards lately for “best city.”

It was named “Europe’s Leading City Break Destination” in the 2023 World Travel Awards. The year before, it won the “World’s Leading City Destination” award.

So I expect Porto will pop up on more travelers’ radars as people seek out warmish cities to visit this time of year.

Is Porto nice to visit in winter?

That depends on what you mean by “nice.”

Rain on a Douro River cruise in Porto in winter
Yes, it’ll rain in Porto in winter – but it won’t rain all the time!

The winter weather in Porto tends to be mild compared to many other European destinations.

But it’s not balmy.

From December to February, daytime temps hover in the mid-50s F (slightly over 10 C). And you should expect rain. (It sometimes gets very wet.)

On the other hand, you won’t have to contend with crowds if visiting Porto in winter.

4 More tips to avoid the Porto crowds

So, aside from avoiding the peaks of summer, school holidays and long weekends in Europe, how else can you avoid the crowds?

1) Explore the Ribeira off-the-beaten-path

Ribeira-Porto
It’s easy to escape the crowds in Ribeira – just walk up the hillside and get lost in a tangle of quiet cobbled alleys

The Praca da Ribeira – the Ribeira’s main riverfront square – is a favorite spot for tourists. Café tables and restaurants are packed most of the time.

But walk just a few streets away from the square, up the hillside, and you can lose yourself in picturesque twisty alleys far removed from the hustle and bustle.

2) Visit Livraria Lello early or late in the day

Go early, or late, to avoid the crowds in Livraria Lello
Go early, or late, to avoid the crowds in Livraria Lello

What’s the best time to visit Livraria Lello?

If you want to avoid standing in line for ages with thousands of other people, early is always better. In fact, try to get there before the bookshop opens – around 8.30 am is about right. 

Your other choice is to go later in the day, just before the bookstore closes.

By this time, the tour groups and Porto day trippers have mostly left – meaning you shouldn’t have to wait very long at all.

Who knows, you may (almost) have the bookshop to yourself!

3) Visit other bookstores instead of Livraria Lello

Here’s a thought.

What about skipping Livraria Lello and checking out some of the other great bookstores in Porto instead?

Livraria Lello isn't the only book shop in town; other Porto bookstores are worth browsing too
Livraria Lello isn’t the only book shop in town; other Porto bookstores are worth browsing too

Chamine da Mota

Home to more than one million books in many different languages (including English), this lovely second-hand bookstore in Porto is catnip for bookworms.

You’ll find rare books at Chamine da Mota too, along with a collection of ancient music boxes and typewriters.

It’s open from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm (closed on Sundays).

Café Candelabro

Café Candelabro is a bookstore, library, café and wine bar all rolled into one. With a slightly dishevelled feel, it’s cozy and comfortable, and attracts a nice mix of locals and visitors.

Open from midday to late. 

Library and bookstore at Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art

The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Europe’s most visited contemporary art museums.

But it’s not just a modern art museum. This unique Art Deco building also has an extensive fine arts section.

There’s also an excellent bookshop, plus some beautifully manicured gardens to stroll through.

A visit makes for a fine half-day outing in Porto. Serralves’ museum tickets are 13 Euros ($14 USD), including a treetop walk.

It’s open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (7:00 pm on weekends).

4) Reserve in advance

Restaurants and tours, including bike rentals, should be booked at least a day or two ahead – even weeks, if possible.

This way, even if the city is busy, you can make the most of your visit and not miss out on the highlights.

Is Porto worth a day trip from Lisbon?

Porto is roughly 200 miles away from Lisbon.

Train from Lisbon to Porto

There’s a major train line connecting the two cities, with many trains running between Porto and Lisbon each day. The journey time ranges from 2 hours 50 minutes to about 3 hours 20 minutes, depending on whether you take a high-speed train or not.

The first train from Lisbon departs a little after 6:00 am (depending on the season) and the last train from Porto leaves at 10:30 am.

For train schedules and to book, see the official Comboios de Portugal site.

That means you can do a day trip from Lisbon to Porto – if you don’t mind about 6 hours of travel time.

Should you do a day trip to Porto from Lisbon? I don’t recommend it.

You’d spend a lot of time simply commuting on the train. And then you’d be rushed trying to take in Porto.

Frankly, I think a do-it-yourself Porto day trip would be more exhausting than it’s worth.

Guided tour from Lisbon to Porto

In my view, the better way to go would be on an all-day tour, where someone else handles the logistics.

This private 12-hour tour from Lisbon to Porto, for example, includes transportation, a guide, visiting the main Porto sights, a Douro River cruise in a traditional rabelo boat and port wine tasting at a wine cellar.

Last words on “Is Porto, Portugal, worth visiting?”

Hopefully, I’ve cleared up any doubts on the question: “Is Porto worth it?”

With its Old Town brimming with its azulejo-tiled architecture, beautiful bookstores and gastronomic restaurants, this charming Portuguese city is a delight to explore. And let’s not forget its signature port wine and those Douro Valley tours!

So, yes, Porto is worth visiting… Especially during the shoulder season. It’s simply one of the most beautiful places in Portugal!

Enjoy your visit to Porto!

Experience more of Europe!

Split, Croatia: An ancient palace built for the Roman emperor Diocletian, Diocletian’s Palace forms about half the Old Town of Split. You can get some sweet Insta shots here!

Italy: This country knows how to define la dolce vita! Discover the most beautiful place to visit in Italy.

Stockholm, Sweden: From squeezing through a skinny 35-inch alley to ogling treasures in the Royal Palace, there are lots of interesting things you can do in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Is Porto worth visiting?

Photo credits: 6, 9, 38 Mike Jensen | Hotel photos courtesy the respective hotels


About the author

Mike Jensen is an avid adventurer who’s traveled to over 43 countries. He loves powder skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, fishing and camping – and has been heard to say: “If it ain’t outdoors, I’m not doing it!”

You can read about Mike’s exploits on TheAdvenTourist.