On the steep banks of the Douro, Porto is Portugal’s northern jewel. Its walkable center is crammed with cobbled streets and balconies adorned with flowerpots and stunning 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Meanwhile, the city’s contemporary character is evident in its thriving modern arts scene, buzzing restaurants and bars.
Following this Porto itinerary, you’ll find out what to do in Porto in two days to make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights and feel like you’ve earned that port wine at the end of the day.
Walk – Along the Douro River
The best way to start your Porto visit is by walking straight to the heart of the city and down to the Douro riverfront. After some time by the water, you’ll take in a few cultural landmarks and get a feel for the city.
Running along the Douro is the Ribeira riverfront, a boulevard home to restaurants and quaint tiled townhouses. From the riverfront you can look across to the city of Vila Nova de Gaia and the giant Luis I Bridge that links it with Porto. But don’t forget to look back to the buildings of Porto, with their beautiful tiles and balconies, that sit along this side of the river too.
Lunch — Semea
Vasco Coelho Santos, Semea’s globe-trotting, 31-year-old owner, is one of Porto’s most inventive chefs. He first got tongues wagging with Euskalduna Studio, his gastronomic showpiece launched back in 2016. Highly experimental and intentionally exclusive (it sits only 16), Euskalduna’s menu is that perfect combination of culinary ambition and cultural authenticity.
In Semea, Vasco has taken Euskalduna’s essence and remodelled it for a wider public. Reworkings of Portuguese favourites – stuffed veal tongue, for example, or pork head – are a particular speciality. So too are the desserts: the French toast alone is reason enough to travel to Porto. Small producers dominate the wine list, many of which are either organic or biodynamic.
Visit — Serralves Garden and Museum
Switch up classical architecture with contemporary art and head to the Serralves Museum. It’s the most important institution for contemporary art in Portugal, showcasing national exhibits in addition to work from international artists. The Serralves estate, where the museum is located, is a wondrous landmark with extensive gardens.
Dinner – Salta o Muro
This is a family restaurant that had been serving dishes since 1982 in their grocery shop up until 1988 when they finally got a license to become a restaurant. Grilled fish is the reason to visit it, but on Saturdays the restaurant makes an extraordinary fish stew called Caldeirada. Due to their longstanding presence in the culinary world, the owners have developed extensive contacts with the best fishermen in the north of Portugal and always have access to the freshest fish in the surrounding markets.
Breakfast – Padaria Ribeiro
There is virtually nothing that won’t satisfy your sweet craving at Padaria Ribeiro, a traditional bakery located in Porto’s city center. It opened in 1878 at the ancient Praça do Pão – roughly translated to “the bread square” where vendors would gather to sell all different varieties of bread – and it has not stopped amazing Porto’s palates ever since. Besides the traditional sweet (and savory) pastries from all around the country, you can also find different bread varieties and over 20 types of artisanal biscuits.
Shop – Mercado do Bolhão (and nearby charcuterie shops)
To experience a taste of local life in Porto, there’s no better choice than exploring Bolhão Market. Set inside an open air, two storey neoclassical building, it’s quite a grand home for something so humble. Along the outside you’ll find cafes, while inside you’ll find grocers, butchers and the inevitable souvenir stalls. The market was renovated and reopened to the public in September 2022.
Then head outside the market to visit some of the most historic shops in the city, such as Pérola do Bolhão, which sell cured meats, cheeses, and dried fruits.
Lunch – Casa Nanda
Sunday lunch in Porto is synonymous to family time. Today, experience being part of a family in Porto by enjoying lunch at this family-owned restaurant serving deep-rooted traditional dishes in a casual environment. Don’t miss the octopus filets with octopus rice.
Drink — Port wine in the Port wine cellars
Of course, when you come to Porto you have to try some of the city’s famous port wine. This fortified wine made from the grapes grown along the Douro Valley is Porto’s claim to fame. In the European Union, only fortified wine from Porto is allowed to call itself port.
In Vila Nova de Gaia you’ll find both large scale wine producers, as well as smaller operations. One of the more memorable is Niepoort found inside an old convent, where you can tour the cellars and taste a few samples.
Dinner – Vinum
Vinum is a celebration of the best food that the Trás-os-Montes region, Northern Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean have to offer. Each dish is specially created to be paired with the Douro’s fine wines.
The glass atrium has one of the best views Gaia: spectacular both during the day and the night, when all the medieval landmarks are beautifully floodlit. There is also an open-air terrace, ideal for enjoying Porto’s year-round sunshine with a glass of chilled white wine, or perhaps a lightly chilled Old Tawny Port.
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