What to see in Porto in one day? Read more about our journey through secret places, wine tastings and culture.
Portugal has always intrigued us: land of navigators and wonderers. Crossroads of people, such as Celts, Romans and Moors, who left the indelible mark of their passage on this land that looks towards the Atlantic. Country of salt cod and wine, the sweet and liquorish one of the city of Porto.
Our journey to discover Portugal and its rich seafaring past begins in Porto, in the north of the country. But what to see in Porto in one day? We decided to let ourselves be carried away by the atmosphere of this city with its decadent charm and to discover what surprises this place had in store for us.
The things to see in Porto are all within walking distance. Every corner hides azulejos, decorated churches and glimpses of the Rio Douro – golden river – which runs for over 200 km from the border with Spain to the sea, crossing fishermen villages, vine terraces and UNESCO World Heritage valleys. From the lush valleys of the Douro come the grapes that give life to the local wine that gives its name to the city.
WHAT TO SEE IN PORT IN ONE DAY
Our day begins with a walk through the colourful houses of Ribeira – the most typical district of Porto as well as a UNESCO heritage site – and with a tasting of the famous wine. To reach the numerous cellars we cross the Dom Luis I bridge, built between 1881 and 1886 by Téophile Seyrig, a pupil of Gustave Eiffel (yes, the one of the Parisian Tower). Crossing one of the two levels of the bridge we reach the bank of Vila Nova de Gaia, where most of the wineries and major producers of Porto are.
Here we find our little corner of paradise at Graham’s cellars. The tastings here are upon reservation only and is fully booked for the day. But we soon realise that the bar terrace, surrounded by lush vineyards, is just fine for an offhand tasting and a bite to eat. The hours flow slowly and pleasantly. We enjoy the Port aged 10 years while we observe the boats, barcos rabelos, sliding slowly on the quiet back of the Douro.
São Bento station, in Praca Almeida Garrett, whose main hall is lined with over twenty thousand traditional white and blue Azulejos. The paintings, made by the master Jorge Colaco in the early twentieth century, tell important moments in the history of Portugal and the means of transport, up to the train. A really special place.
Not far from the station is the splendid Igresia do Carmo, Rococo architecture, with a side facade covered with azulejos depicting scenes from the life and the cult of the Virgin Mary.
From there we reach the equally spectacular Capela das Almas – Chapel of Souls – one of the most beautiful churches in Porto. The tiles covering the facades are entirely hand painted and tell the life of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine. This blue masterpiece is located on one of the busiest streets in the center, Rua de Santa Catarina.
Towards evening, we head back to the beautiful Ribeira which, at sunset, takes on a special charm. Fresh air accompanies our walk along the river. From the restaurants come the laughter of a few table companions and the smell of fresh fish. Enchanted, we stop to listen to the sweet notes of a street artist playing the piano. The lights of the city reflect on the waters of the Duoro. And so it ends our one-day visit to Porto.
WHAT TO SEE IN PORTO IN A DAY: THE MAP
ULTIMATE DETOURS’ DISCOVERIES
Among the surprises that Porto had for us there is also an extraordinary food discovery: Casa Guedes, in Praça dos Poveiros, 130. This traditional tavern with an authentic atmosphere serves the best pork knuckle sandwich in the world at € 3.20. Seriously. For something more elaborate, choose the version with Serra cheese, a mountain cheese from the Serra da Estrela. In addition to the famous sandwiches you can also try the presunto – smoked ham. The wine is also something unique. It comes from the owners’ farm and it’s the traditional farmers’ wine that you could only find in small village taverns. Space is tight at this no-frills tasca – tavern – so be prepared to wait for a table inside or on the little terrace on the square.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND PORTO
The city has an excellent network of trams and subways, although all things to see in Porto are within walking distance. Another incredibly cheap transport is Uber, which takes you around the city with € 2-3.
NEXT STOP LISBON
If you planning to visit Porto and Lisbon in the same weekend, you can jump on a high-speed train that reaches Lisbon in 2.5 hours. The departure is from Porto Campanhã station. The price is € 30.80, but booking in advance, you can find Promo Tickets at €12/18.
If you want to add a stop on your trip to Portugal read more about our weekend in Lisbon with a complete guide on what to see in two days in the Portuguese capital.