Looking for fun things to do in Porto? Our ideas range from what to see in Porto proper and where to stay in Porto to the best day trips from Porto for a well-rounded, enjoyable experience in northern Portugal.
Our guest author, Sara Riobom, comes to us with outstanding things to do in northern Portugal in and around her Porto home. Sara’s expert approach identifies the most fun things to do in Porto from an insider’s perspective. Read what she has to say about Porto and the compelling reasons to visit Portugal and its magical north!
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Porto May Be Small in Size, But It Plays Big with Visitors
Reasons to visit Portugal are myriad, but it is not by chance that Porto, a tiny city by the Portuguese Atlantic coast, has already received Best European Destination award 3 times. In fact, one shouldn’t measure the city by its size but by the reasons to visit Porto: a medieval atmosphere juxtaposed with contemporary buildings, its proximity to both the ocean and river recreation, the cultural opportunities combined with the laid-back attitude of its citizens – and let’s not forget the well-deserved fame of the Portuguese gastronomy!
My personal goal is to ensure that, after reading this article about the fun things to do in Porto and Northern Portugal, you’ll start looking for flights and browsing hotel reviews right away. Ready for the ride? 🙂
One of the Best Reasons to Visit Porto: It’s Affordable!
It is a well-known fact that Southern Europe is less expensive than Central or Northern Europe, and Portugal is no exception, particularly in its own North. Many visitors cite this as their number one of the best reasons to visit Portugal – it’s always a plus when a destination delivers great value to your travel budget!
You can have lunch for less than 8€ and dinner for 20 / 25€ at one of the many hidden gems in Porto. An espresso costs between 0,60€ and 1€ in esplanades by the ocean. Public transports range from 1,30€ (subway) and 3€ (the fancy tram line by the riverside).
Some of the best places to stay in Porto will surprise you with their rates. The average price per hotel room is 70€, but you can easily find a proper apartment for two people for 50€ / night.
Fun things to do in Porto don’t have to be expensive, either. The prices of tickets to main buildings are considerably low as well: in 2017, it cost 4€ to enter the famous Lello bookstore, for instance.
Must See Porto Attractions are Conveniently Close in the City Center
A small downtown area might seem a disadvantage at first, but in fact, it is a really good thing: this means that must see Porto attractions and the main monuments can be visited on foot or by using public transports!
You can check the most important monuments in two days and then concentrate on seeking out non-touristy things to do in Porto. Wander through side streets to discover where locals shop and socialize.Seek recommendations for good restaurants and inexpensive entertainment.
Get Acquainted by Mixing Typical and Unusual Things to Do in Porto
Visit the Best Places to See in Porto with the Tour That’s Right for You
Discover What to See in Porto with Cool Guided Transportation Options
Take advantage of the rest of your time in the city by taking day trips. The best day trips from Porto will take you to Douro Valley, Braga and Guimarães, Aveiro or Coimbra (see below for specific recommendations).
There are Always Plenty of Things to Do in Porto
For a small city, on offer are plenty of unusual things to do in Porto besides the traditional monuments checklist. There is always a festival going on, either dedicated to music, cinema, sports or food (we just love food on this side of the world!).
New Year’s Eve, São João festival and Christmas are the most important festivities in Porto, but Summer time is perfect for street markets, outdoor physical activities and chill out sessions in public gardens. These alternative things to do in Porto are a nice counterpoint to touristy activities.
Fun Things to Do in Porto will Match Your Interests
It’s amazing how such a small city can please completely different types of people. Are you traveling with your kids? No problem, just enjoy one of the best beaches and swimming pools in Porto.
Are you traveling with your sweetheart? Then make sure to have a romantic walk at the Crystal Palace gardens, or simply enjoy the sunset at one of the stunning viewpoints in the city.
Are you a wine lover? Then don’t miss the chance to visit some of the best Port wine cellars in the city, and make a day trip to either Douro Valley or the Green Wine region.
Top Things to Do in Porto for Different Interests
Porto is one of the safest cities in the world
Portugal is currently rated the 3rd safest country in the world, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranking only behind Iceland and New Zealand. In fact, there is very little to no violence at all, aside from the regular petty crime faced by all touristic cities. Just watch your purse and enjoy your stay in Porto!
If You’re a Foodie and/or Wine Lover, Porto’s Gastronomy will Impress
People invariably say one of the best things to do in Porto is eat! They immediately talk about francesinha (our monumental sandwich) or tripas à moda do Porto (the tripes’ stew. It’s much better than it sounds!). However, the gastronomy of Northern Portugal has much more to offer, from fresh grilled fish to amazing seafood stews, roasted lamb and baby goat, luscious cheeses and delicate charcuterie. And let’s not forget about the Portuguese sweets – they go far, far beyond the well-known pastel de nata (an egg custard pie).
The Best Day Trips from Porto Will Make You Fall in Love with Portugal
Day tripping, in my opinion, is the top reason why Porto should be a priority for your next vacation. This is one of the most fun things to do in northern Portugal. When you’re considering where to stay in Porto, keep in mind that you are going to want to allow time for day trips, so perhaps your expectations for accommodations might vary.
Besides the charm of this amazing medieval city, you can take the opportunity to visit the extraordinary cities of Guimarães and Braga, the ancient bastion of the catholic church in the Iberian Peninsula.
Moreover, you’re less than 2 hours away from not one but two of the best wine regions in the world:
- The Douro Valley, famous for producing the world-renowned Port wine, which presents a truly astonishing scenery
- The Green Wine region, a still-little-known hidden gem ready to be explored by avid travelers and wine lovers
In addition to this, you can also visit Aveiro, considered the Venice of Portugal, and Coimbra, the vibrant students’ city that boasts the oldest Portuguese university.
Portuguese People are Perfect Hosts
Being a Portuguese I am naturally biased when write this, but I am quoting dozens of travelers that I’ve met throughout the years: Portuguese people simply love to welcome people into their country! In fact, in 2018 Portugal was considered the friendliest country in the world by the international organization Internations.
We feel genuine pleasure helping people and making them feel at home in Portugal. So, get used to people getting out of their way to help you when you’re lost, receiving welcome gifts upon your arrival, talking to strangers on the street and making friends for life.
The Weather in Portugal is Amazing!
This is not strictly true (we also have a lot of rainy days during Winter and Spring), but compared to the rest of Europe we are rather spoiled when it comes to weather conditions. Our Summers are very warm and our Winters are very mild, especially in Northern Portugal. I find this is particularly relevant for older travelers or for families traveling with young kids, but who doesn’t want to discover Porto without caring too much about temperatures? Just bring a good raincoat, good shoes and sunscreen and leave it to us to fall in love with the city!
About the author
Sara Riobom is a Portuguese blogger at Portoalities, a blog about Porto and Northern Portugal. She shelved her degree in Engineering and quit her well paid job at a consulting firm to follow her passion of writing and telling stories. Contrary to just about everyone else’s expectations, this turned out to be a great idea.
Nowadays Sara is a professional in the most Portuguese of all hobbies: being a good host. When she is not showing visitors around Porto, Douro Valley, Braga and Guimarães, you can find her playing with her crazy cat, learning more about wine or happily arguing about cinema and literature.