Captivated by houses with orange rooftops, I dreamt of visiting Porto for a long time. So, when I took my parents to Lisbon last summer, I knew I had to include Porto into my weekend trip to Madrid. So here I was after a couple of months spending 2 days in Porto without any real plan but determined to explore the city as much as possible.
Actually, the itinerary for my 2 days in Porto was formed after chatting with my Uber driver on the way to my hotel. When I mentioned to Antonio (the driver) that I was in town for just 2 days, he gave me his top recommendations.
Here’s my itinerary for two days in Porto, wandering through the narrow streets, breathing in the fresh air and loving everything about it.
Start your discovery of Porto with a walk. There’s a good chance that your promenade will take you to Rua Santa Catarina, the main street of Porto. This pedestrian street is where you will find high street brands, independent local shops, craft stalls and restaurants like the iconic Café Majestic. This beautiful cafe decorated in the Art Nouveau style is filled with tourists. After all, it has been voted as one of the top 10 most beautiful cafes in the world. Do not hesitate to stop by to admire its beauty and take a coffee break (if you don’t mind the queue).
Have coffee with the locals
Porto is a little bit like France in the sense that they like their pastries. It’s easy finding a place with good pastry. Either walk inside a bakery shop or look at the counter in a cafe to see the extent of sweets and savoury pastries. If you are in accommodation that doesn’t include breakfast, then I suggest you venture to a local cafe and order a coffee with a tart. It’s delicious, cheap and the perfect way to interact with the locals.
Taste the Francesinha, the speciality of Porto
Portugal’s cuisine is as rich and varied as its landscape. Fish, seafood, wine, and delicious pastries; these are all parts of the Portuguese gastronomy. Bacalhau (cod in English) is so important in Portuguese dishes that it’s in nearly every restaurant’s menu. In addition to cod and pasteis de nata that you will find anywhere, each region has its own speciality. The Porto region produces quality wines like Port wine and the Douro, however, what’s appreciated by the locals is the francesinha.
Francesinha which means “little Frenchie” is Porto’s take on the French “croque madame”! The sandwich is layered with pork, smoked sausage, bacon, and topped with beefsteak, a fried egg and covered in cheesy sauce. If you are vegetarian and cannot eat pork for religious reasons, you can still taste this dish as seveal restaurant offfervergetarian options.
If you like walking tours and love food, then why not join a
“>food walking tour.
Discover the art of azujelos
A sight that you will see everywhere in Portugal is azujelos. This ceramic tilework decorates the interior and exterior of most places like palaces, churches, monasteries, houses, schools, restaurants, shops, and train stations. Azulejos are one of the most prominent features in Portuguese architectures. The tiles which are applied to walls, ceilings and floors depict scenes from the Portuguese history. São Bento and Capela das Almas (on Rua Santa Catarina) are my two recommendations for the beautiful azulejos. One cool activity, while you are in Porto, is to participate in a tile painting workshop. It is the best way to learn about azulejo as well as a great activity to do with your significant other or your kids. Alba and Marisa from Gazete Azulejos offer a 2 hours workshop for €25 (to book click here)
Take a walk in the gardens of Palacio de Cristal
The gardens of the Crystal Palace (Jardim do Palácio de Cristal) offers a great view of the Douro River, Porto and Gaia. I dropped by on my way to my hotel but hoped I had spent more time there because the garden is charming and well maintained. My visit coincided with a book fair, so it was strolling and checking the different stands. If you have the opportunity to stop by, make sure to visit the rose garden and watch the peacocks.
Take a stroll around the Ribeira neighbourhood
Ribeira (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is the most historic and colourful area in Porto and a visit there is a must. Actually, Antonio told me that if I had a do one thing in Porto, it was that! What can you do around Ribeira you may ask? You can stroll around the banks, take a look at the artisan shops, have a drink at one of the many restaurants’ terraces or sit on the edge of the river banks, admire the Douro River and beautifully coloured buildings. It is the perfect spot to see the beauty of the town. You can also cross the Luis I bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia (the other side of the river). The area also has several bars and restaurants with a beautiful panoramic view of Porto.
Take a boat trip along the Douro
Porto is famous not only for its rich culture but also for its bridges. After all the city is known as “the City of bridges”. So, the best way to see and admire the six bridges is by taking a boat cruise along the Douro River. The cruise is done in a typical old boat called “rabellobarco”. The boats were initially used to transport port wines. Now, you can climb on-board them either on the banks of Ribeira or Gaia; prices range from €15 to €80 depending on the tour and activities on offer. Once on board, sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery along the estuary, admire the bridges’ architecture and other landmarks like the Crystal Palace. Consider taking either the Six Bridges cruise or a day trip to the Douro Valley.
Walk the Dom Luis Bridge
To enjoy the most picturesque views of Porto’s colourful houses and orange rooftops, walk on the Dom Luis Bridge. The bridge connects Ribeiro to Vila Nova de Gaia. It has two levels, the top level is used by pedestrians and for the metro lines (so be careful and watch out for them). It’s the perfect place to watch Porto from above.
Visit the Bolhão market
I love going to markets. Perhaps because I grew up in France where markets have a significant role in people’s daily life, but I enjoy walking around in them. people go to Bolhão market to get high-quality fish, fruit and vegetables or pretty much anything they like. You can grab ingredients there for an improvised picnic and eat by the banks of the river.
Take a day trip from Porto
You’ve seen all the things you wanted to see and still have some time for more discoveries? Why not consider a day or two trips from Porto. Porto is the perfect location for exploring the northern part of the country as well as Spain.
Portugal and neighbouring Spain are both incredible. Getting from one country to the other is so easy especially from Porto, you can just jump on a bus or train. If you are wondering which country – Spain vs Portugal – is to your liking, why not visit Galicia?
Coimbra – Visit one of the oldest universities in Europe and most fascinating towns in Portugal.
Aveiro – Check out the Venice of Portugal and colourful houses.
Vigo – Cross the border to Galicia. Vigo is a historic town as well as an important fishing port so finding delicious fresh seafood will not be a problem.
More than 2 days in Porto?
Two days in Porto is a short time to see most of the attractions. I wish I had more time to do some of the attractions below:
Visit the cellars and enjoy a good port – Some would say that it’s unthinkable to leave Porto without tasting the sweet wine its named after. You can arrange a wine tasting session in one of the cellars located in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Livraria Lello – This beautiful bookstore inspired J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, so the bookstore is packed with fans. Expect a long queue.
Climb the 240 steps of the Torre dos Clérigos for a rewarding panoramic view over the historic centre. Get your ticket here.
Visit the free exhibitions of the Center Português de Fotografia.
Preparing your trip
Getting to Porto
By air: Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport is about 20 km from the city centre. It is well connected to the city centre of Porto and Gaia with the Metro line E. You can reach the city centre for about 20 to 25 € by taxi ride or cheaper with an Uber. CheckoutSkyscanner for the best deals!
By train: If you are travelling by train, two options are available for you: Campanhã station: Porto’s main station connects to Lisbon and Madrid (or Spain in general). You can reach the station with metro lines A, B, C, E and F. The other station, Sao Bento station connects to the north of Portugal. It has beautiful architecture and is a great place to see azulejos. For more details, please check here.
When to visit
People in Porto are lucky because the city has nice weather (warm summers and mild winters) enjoys warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. With both the ocean and river at the city’s doorstep, air is pure. For that reason, the best time to visit Porto is between spring and Autumn (March to October)
The best way to get around Porto if you only have 2 days in the city is on foot. If you want to take public transport, note that they are only a few metro stations in the city centre.
Where to stay for 2 days in Porto
Plan your stay in Porto
I choose the best accommodation for my stay in Porto. I booked Crowne Plaza Porto, an upscale hotel in the Boavista area, about 15-minute taxi ride from Porto’s historic centre. Although it was a little far from Ribeira, it was easily accessible by metro or bus.
The hotel has a nice restaurant which offers an impressive breakfast buffet and a bar with an outdoor patio. The rooms are spacious with aromatherapy sleep sprays to make your night even more enjoyable. The staff were professional, warm and accommodating. They even made my restaurant reservation at the famous Bacalhau. Although Crowne Plaza is considered a business hotel, it caters to all needs whether you are a business traveller or a city-breaks fan.
If you prefer to stay for central, there are plenty of accommodation options in Porto to choose from – checkoutBooking.com to find your perfect accommodation.
How would you spend 2 days in Porto?
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