Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and has been an important center of commerce (and wine!) for centuries.
And although Porto is a popular destination for tourists, the city only receives about 1/3 the number of visitors that Lisbon receives.
Divided by the Douro River, this vibrant city, packed with cheerful locals and colorful houses, is irresistible in every way.
Between the historic buildings, the iconic Luis I Bridge and the endless hills, there is no shortage of things to do in Porto, and prioritizing your time well is the key to the game.
If you visit Porto in high season, July-August, Christmas or Easter, you will find a queue at most of the main tourist attractions in the city, Lello Bookstore, Torre dos Clérigos, Palácio da Bolsa, etc.
As the title indicates, in this post I am going to reveal a trick to be able to reserve your ticket in advance and skip the lines.
It seems obvious, but on my visit to Porto I found a lot of lines at the mentioned attractions and I was surprised how few people knew how to avoid these lines.
Stay until the end of the post to discover the 20 best things to see in Porto without the queues.
Best time to visit Porto
As Porto continues to grow in popularity, the question of when to visit becomes more difficult to answer.
Tourism in Porto has taken off in the last decade, and with more and more people visiting this beautiful city, it's important to choose your time carefully.
In Portugal, summer has traditionally been considered the best time to travel to places like the Algarve.
But the hot weather brings with it a large number of tourists and Porto continues to get more and more crowded each summer.
This means that accommodation availability becomes more limited and prices tend to rise. It also means finding queues at most attractions.
Consider visiting Porto during the shoulder season, as the city is just as good to visit between April and May and also later in September and October.
These months offer pleasant weather for sightseeing and fewer crowds at Porto's most sought after attractions.
Tips for visiting Porto, Portugal
Wear comfortable shoes Porto is a city for walking, and you will surely take many steps. Between the charming cobbled streets on the hills and the beautiful views of the river, you will need to pack your most reliable walking shoes.
The reason is simple: walking is the best way to enjoy the abundance of great things to do in Porto.
Restaurant hours: The Portuguese usually have lunch around 1 pm and dinner around 7 or 8 pm.
For this reason, most restaurants do not open until 12 or 12:30 and then close from 4 to 7 pm, reopening around 7 pm for dinner.
Portuguese is the official language spoken in Porto. However, it is very easy to get by with English. However, a little effort goes a long way.
Here are a few words worth learning and using during your visit to Porto:
- Hello = Hello!
- Goodbye bye
- Please please
- Thank you Obrigado (masculine), obrigada (feminine)
- Yes: Yes and No: Nao
In Porto it's a slow way of life At first we were surprised to learn that the average meal lasts between 2 and 4 hours, but then we quickly got used to it.
When you sit down at a restaurant for dinner, it is understood that you will stay until closing time.
The best payment methods in Porto Credit cards are accepted on the 90% of the places we went to. However, it is always useful to have a few euros in your pocket.
ATMs are easy to find, especially in tourist areas.
The best things to see in Porto without the queues
Explore Porto's two historic neighborhoods, Ribeira and Bolhão
The first thing is to start by exploring the historic heart of the city. The core of the center can be reduced to two colorful historical neighborhoods: Ribeira and Bolhão.
Both neighborhoods can be easily explored and it is worth getting lost in their cobbled streets.
Most of the accommodation is located in Ribeira, so you will probably spend a good part of your time here.
Also, because the area is so densely populated, you can easily wander around without a map or phone in hand – part of the magic is getting lost.
Located in the most privileged place of the lively riverside, Ribeira is famous for its narrow streets dotted with colorful buildings.
The area is full of quaint cafes, authentic restaurants, lively bars and small artsy shops.
It is also worth mentioning, Ribeira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Believe me when I tell you that this charming neighborhood is the most lively (and photogenic)
Enjoy your time and don't be in a hurry!
Like Ribeira, the neighboring district of Bolhão is another lively and densely populated neighborhood.
There's a lot to explore, but the two big points of interest you can't miss are Rua de Santa Catarina and Capilla Almas de Santa Catarina.
He Rua de Santa Catarina (Santa Catarina Boulevard), a very busy boulevard lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. Crowds are almost guaranteed, so be sure to bring your mask
He Souls of Santa Catarina Chapel (also known as Capilla de las Almas or Capilla de Santa Catarina), is located just off Rua de Santa Catarina.
This 18th-century church is possibly one of the most famous in Porto, thanks to the more than 15,000 hand-painted tiles that line its exterior.
If you're curious, the tiles depict the lives of notable saints.
Stroll through the Cais de Ribeira
As we have already said, you will probably spend a good part of your time in Ribeira. So it is fair to assume that you will become familiar with the promenade, called Cais de Ribeira.
Wrapped by colorful stacked buildings on one side and the gentle (yet boisterous) Douro River on the other, strolling along the waterfront is one of Porto's top attractions.
For whatever reason, my husband and I kept gravitating towards this area every night we were in town. But can we be blamed?
The area is very lively (usually half a dozen street performers) and seems like the only place you want to be at sunset.
The Cais de Ribeira is considered the liveliest place in Porto to enjoy good food and drinks, especially at night.
We spent most mornings in a sunny cafe people watching and then came back in the evening for another drink.
Taste Porto's most popular export product, Port wine
You probably already know that Porto is the birthplace of Port wine. So how could anyone visit Porto without trying it out and learning more about its history?
Lucky for you, there is no shortage of great port wineries to choose from. Seriously, there are ten within walking distance of Ribeira.
During the guided tour, we learn that the grapes are grown in the nearby Douro Valley, where the extreme weather conditions at the base of the mountainous region are perfect for growing grapes.
However, the extreme weather wreaks havoc on the winemaking process. To avoid this, the grapes are collected in the Douro Valley and taken to the port of Porto to be transformed into wine.
The challenge? Know where to dock the boat. Well, the winery owners quickly realized that taxes and fees were much lower in Gaia than in Porto, so they started building their businesses in Gaia.
Warning! Judging by the long queues we saw during our visit, I would say that port tasting is one of the most popular things to do in Porto, so it is advisable to book your visit in advance.
Here goes the first tip. Always try to book online and in advance the activity or tourist attraction you want to do.
You can choose the time you want and you will save queues to buy the ticket at the box office.
I honestly can't say that I've noticed a huge difference between one port cellar and another, so don't worry too much about this. Just make sure you sign up for a guided tour.
Great Port wineries, according to our experience
If you want my bearings, there are three great Port wineries that I recommend to first-time visitors:
Calem: The largest producer of Port wine, Calem, is a must for port lovers.
It is very likely that you have already tried their wine, or at least have seen it in stores.
Due to the high demand, book your visits in advance, especially if you are going to visit them in summer.
They offer a handful of tours, but I suggest the fado tour, which includes a 30-minute tour, two port samples, and a fado show.
I must say that the people of Calem They are absolute professionals. They know very well what a tour is and are very attentive and informative. We loved our tour here!
Sandman Founded in London in 1790 by Scotsman George Sandman, Sandman is one of the biggest names in the city.
The Port wine cellar has been in operation since 1811 and the brand is well known beyond the borders of Portugal.
I love that the tour guides wear capes, it gives the tour a very playful feel.
The port is great and the history of both the port and the founder is quite interesting.
Upon entering the building you will see a small area full of cards and artifacts, check it out.
Ferreira Caves: Founded in 1751, Caves Ferreira is one of Porto's oldest port wineries (celebrating over 250 years!).
It is a little further from the bridge that people use to cross from Ribeira to Gaia, so it receives fewer visitors.
Ferreira doesn't export port wine outside of Portugal as often as the other big names, so it feels like one of the more authentic wineries. Plus, it's owned by a woman, which is an added bonus.
Walk the Dom Luís I Bridge
Speaking of the bridge, built in 1886, walking across the Dom Luís I Bridge is an iconic Porto experience. The double-decker cast-iron bridge connects the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Designed by an apprentice to Gustav Eiffel, the beautiful bridge spans the Douro River and is considered an architectural feat.
When it was built, it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world.
One of the things we read in all our guidebooks before embarking on Porto was that walking across the bridge (especially at sunset) was one of the best things to do in Porto.
How right they were. We did it three nights in a row, before settling in the Cais de Riberia.
The Dom Luís I Bridge fills with tourists and visitors alike during the evening hours, all eager to catch a glimpse of the stunning views of Porto.
Relax in the Jardim do Morro during sunset
Once you've crossed the Dom Luís I Bridge, head straight to the Jardim do Morro for more stunning views of Porto at sunset.
You can go up to Serra do Pilar Monastery to get another beautiful point of view of Porto. There is a small hill to climb but it is well worth it.
Prepare the camera to take incredible photos for your Instagram.
See the tiles of the São Bento train station
Tile hunting is one of the most fun things to do in Porto, and you need look no further than the impressive São Bento Train Station.
Built in the 20th century and covered with 20,000 hand-painted tiles, the entrance to the train station is extremely beautiful, a true spectacle.
The tiles were hand-painted by Jorge Calaco and depict various scenes from Portugal's history: notable coronations and impressive royal events.
Even if you don't have to catch a train, be sure to spare some time to visit this popular Porto attraction.
Explore the Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
Speaking of amazing tiles, don't overlook the Sé do Porto! The venerable Porto Cathedral is one of the oldest structures in Porto and stands as a symbol of the city.
A striking tiled stone façade invites visitors to explore the cathedral in its entirety. You will have to pay a small entrance fee to enter the church, but it is worth it.
You'll be able to see the pictured Cloisters, a beautifully decorated church with an impressive stained glass window, and have the chance to climb to the top of the north bell tower for panoramic views of Porto.
The complete visit will not take you more than an hour, but I guarantee that it is one of the most memorable things to do in Porto. Do not miss it!
Skip the line to the Stock Exchange Palace (Palácio da Bolsa)
The Palacio de la Bolsa was built between 1842 and 1910 and is a testament to the obscene wealth of Portugal during the 19th century.
Built on the ruins of the Iglesia de San Francisco and originally serving as the Portuguese stock exchange, its glamorous interior was intended to encourage wealthy investors to consider Portugal's strong business ventures.
Speaking from my own experience, touring the Palacio de la Bolsa is one of the best things to do in Porto. In fact, it was one of the most memorable things we did on our trip.
As impressive as the exterior may be, you have to go inside to appreciate the breadth of splendor and detail that adorn these gilded walls.
During our visit we learned that the palace took more than 60 years to complete due to the grandeur of the details, especially in the stairway that leads past the Hall of Nations.
The star of the show, by far, is the astonishing Arab Room, which will take your breath away.
I also enjoyed the Pátio das Nações (Hall of Nations, the original business floor), the beautiful Court Room, and Gustav Eiffel's office.
This post is essentially about the best things to see in Porto without the queues, so let's get to it.
Note: You cannot visit the Palacio de la Bolsa without a guided tour, which is included with the ticket. The visits are carried out in four languages and the first person to sign up for a visit will be able to choose the language.
Again, the key is to book in advance. If you do not book online, in high season, you will arrive at the entrance of the building and there will be a queue. When I went there was a long queue. If you already have your ticket online, show it at the entrance and skip the line. That easy.
Visit the Livraria Lello without the queues
Often considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, Livararia Lello is a awesome bookstore believed to have inspired JK Rowling (the author of Harry Potter).
However, Rowling recently disproved this belief by telling readers that she never visited the bookstore during her stay in Porto, a decision she regrets.
In any case, this neo-Gothic bookstore is a true sight to behold. Magnificent floor-to-ceiling wooden bookcases grace the interior, while a spiral staircase invites visitors up to the vibrant stained glass window.
Warning This is one of Porto's most popular attractions and fills up quickly. Visitors must purchase the ticket in advance online. They are 5 euros and you can buy it HERE entrance Livraria Lello.
The time and effort are worth it, it is a unique experience in Porto. When else are you going to have an opportunity of this caliber?
Visit to the Church of San Francisco
The Church of San Francesco, built between 1393 and 1425, is inconspicuous from the outside, but it's inside where it really shines.
This church is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the country and the most prominent Gothic monument in Porto.
Visitors are presented with a grandiose display of extravagant gilded woodwork that will take your breath away There isn't an inch that hasn't been touched, the amount of gold used inside is said to weigh in excess of 880 pounds!
So yes, there is a reason that visiting this impressive church is one of the best things to do in Porto. However, keep in mind that visitors are not allowed to take photos or videos of the interior of the church.
The entrance to the Church of San Francisco includes a visit to the adjacent museum, which exceeded our expectations. We particularly enjoyed the catacombs, which were amazing.
Visit the Igreja do Carmo and the Igreja dos Carmelitas
Most people don't realize that the Igreja do Carmo and the Igreja dos Carmelitas are two different churches, because they look like one.
However, if you pay close attention, you'll notice that the two striking buildings are in fact separated by a narrow, inconspicuous 2-meter house that is very easy to miss.
But the house is good for something. He made sure that the two churches did not share a common wall, so that the monks and nuns could be properly separated.
You can tour the interior of the church (visiting one of the churches is free, the other is paid). However, I suggest you admire the tile from the outside, it is amazing and worth a few moments of your time.
Skip the line to the top of the Clérigos Tower
The Torre dos Clérigos opened its doors for the first time in 1763 and officially became the tallest monument in Porto. As you can imagine, the views from the top are some of the best in the city.
You can climb the 225 steps to the top of the bell tower to be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of Porto for a small entry fee (€5).
Admission includes a visit to the small museum, but let's face it, the tower is the star of the show.
Admittedly, the staircase can feel claustrophobic, so you'll want to embark on this popular Porto attraction at your own discretion.
There is usually quite a queue to go up to the towers. The way to avoid standing in line is to buy the ticket online in advance by selecting the time you want to go.
Show up at the chosen time and you will have direct access to the Torre dos Clérigos without queues:
Enjoy Portugal's most beloved treat, pastel de nata
Just like in Lisbon, you can't come to Porto without trying the country's most beloved delicacy, pastel de nata.
These delicious egg custards have put Portugal on the map and it's impossible not to try them. Most bakeries have these sweets on display, but the bakery worth visiting is Confeitaria do Bolhã.
Serving happy customers for over 120 years, Confeitaria do Bolhão it is one of the oldest bakeries in Porto. You absolutely must have a pastel de nata, but don't stop there.
Be sure to grab each and every tempting cake that catches your eye.
There's a reason locals and tourists alike flock to this pastry shop at all hours of the day.
It's up to the task. Also, you're going to need all the fuel you can get to be able to do the best things to do in Porto.
Visit the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
Designed by Portugal's best-known architect, Álvaro Siza Vierira, visiting the Serralves Contemporary Art Museums is a must for art lovers.
Located on the grounds of the Serralves estate, this famous Porto museum features an impressive collection of first-class modern art in a beautiful art-deco building.
Adorned with beautiful gardens, the museum building is a work of art and worth the visit on its own.
Stop by Casa de Cha for coffee and cake before embarking on the peaceful Treetop Walk.
Attend a performance at the Casa da Música
One of the true highlights of our trip to Porto (and the main reason I extended our stay), was attending a performance at the Casa da Música.
The Casa da Música is a hall concerts incredible and unique that was inaugurated in Porto in 2005. The building is a true masterpiece and the mere fact of being inside it is a privilege.
You can see performances there most days of the week and the prices are very affordable (we paid €6 each and would have gladly paid more if asked).
Stroll through the Jardim do Palacio De Cristal
If you visit Porto during the summer, don't miss the opportunity to visit the Palacio de Cristal gardens. Full of fountains, flower beds and young people (is that still said?
Be that as it may, I'll stick with it), this 19th-century landscaped garden is a great way to re-position yourself in nature.
helpful tip We walked from the city center to the gardens, but would choose Uber next time.
Taste Porto's most famous dish
Another of the things that I feel compelled to share about the best things to do in Porto is to try the emblematic dish of the city, the Francesinha.
The story goes that a French emigrant tried to adapt France's beloved croque-monsier to the Portuguese palate after moving to Porto. In essence, it is the Portuguese version of the croque monsieur.
Large portions of sausage, ham and steak, nestled between the bread and topped with a dipped egg, melted cheese and a good drizzle of beer-infused spiced tomato sauce.
The sandwich was received with great enthusiasm and quickly became an emblematic Porto dish.
The proper way to eat Francesinha is with a draft beer, and fortunately, Porto has some great beer.
Watch the sunset at the Miradouro da Vitoria
One of the best things to do in Porto is to watch the sunset from an epic miradouro (viewpoint).
The scenery is stunning, especially when the sunset glow envelops the city in deep shades of orange and red.
Of all the great viewpoints we explored during our trip, the Miradouro da Vitoria was one of the most memorable, because the expansive views of the city were unbeatable - you can see pretty much all of Porto's landmarks from here!
But keep in mind that the viewpoint is quite abandoned and has a tendency to get tired. But you're not there for the platform, you're there for the views.
Take a river cruise
Porto is a city built around a river, and what's the best way to appreciate a city built around a river? In the river.
As such, can you really visit Porto without taking a river cruise? There are so many options to choose from, you can't go wrong. River tours last 20 minutes and cost an average of 15 euros per person.
Going on a river tour is a great way to rest your legs after all those hills. Try to book as close to sunset hours as possible, when the colors of the city come into their own.
helpful tip If you are interested in taking a river cruise in Porto, you should buy tickets in advance. This is one of the most popular things to do in Porto and tickets sell out quickly during the summer months.
Visit the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
This is the thing, no visit to Porto is complete without a proper visit to the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso. The tiled exterior of the church is home to one of the most impressive displays of tile in the entire city.
The church was built in 1739, but was destroyed by storm in 1819, and again in 1823 due to cannon fire during the Siege of Porto. It was extensively rehabilitated and the tiles were added in 1932.
You can tour the church or admire it from the outside. You'll find plenty of people sitting on the outside steps and soaking in the happy feeling of the city.
Fancy a day trip? Do a wine tasting in the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is the jewel in Porto's crown, and making the (small) effort to visit the valley is definitely worth it. You will get to know Portugal's most loved wine region, which is located in the most picturesque setting.
The Douro River divides the valley in two and one of the best ways to explore the region is to take a river cruise. You will see rolling hills of vineyards and have the opportunity to do some wine tasting.
If you want to skip the boat, you can easily reach the Douro Valley from Porto by public transport. The scenic drive takes less than two hours and it's hard to imagine a better way to spend a relaxing afternoon.
In these charming hills you will find mostly port wines, but it is not difficult to find robust reds and delicate whites. There is something for all tastes.
The best restaurants in Porto
We had a handful of memorable meals in Porto. Below is a list of restaurants that really stood out for us, they are places we would return to without hesitation.
Song 32: The first time we tried to visit Cantinha 32 we were turned away without a reservation. We were not discouraged and promised to come back for lunch the next day. We were surprised by the delicious whole octopus dish, which is memorable to this day.
Restaurants Markets: This tiny (and I do mean tiny) restaurant only seats 12 people, so you'll need to book if you're visiting during peak tourist season. Another clear protagonist was the flamed shrimp, which is a must-order.
Casa Guedes: A very popular restaurant for some of the best sandwiches we've ever eaten, this is one place you can't miss.
tasco: Quite simply, Tasco makes you feel like royalty. I don't think I've had better service at any other restaurant, ever.
Cantinho do Avillez: It is impossible to find a “best things to do in Porto” list that does not mention Cantinho do Avillez and there is a reason for that: this place is one of the best restaurants in Porto!
The best things to do in Porto, Portugal (Summary of the post)
In summary, these are the best things to do in Porto:
- Explore Porto's historic district
- Stroll through the Cais de Ribeira
- harbor sign
- Stroll through the Crystal Palace Garden
- Stroll across the Dom Luis I Bridge
- Relax in the Jardim do Morro
- Monument of the Sierra del Pilar
- Visit to the Sao Bento train station
- Visit the Se do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
- Explore the Church of San Francisco
- Visit the Igreja do Carmo
- Try Porto's famous pastel de nata
- Visit the Livraria Lello
- Taste Porto's most famous dish
- Visit the Palacio de la Bolsa
- Watch the sunset at the Miradouro da Vitoria
- Climb the Clérigos Tower
- Tour the Escada Guindais
- Take a sightseeing river cruise
- Visit the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
- Visit the Serralves Museum
- Go wine tasting in the Douro Valley
Map of the main attractions in Porto
I hope this article on best things to see in Porto without queues help you!
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I am a passionate traveler with an innate desire to discover the world. To date, I have had the privilege of visiting 31 countries and most of them have left an indelible mark.
During my travels, I have gained valuable knowledge on how to travel efficiently. I have perfected itinerary planning, accommodation selection, and making the most of each experience. I am proud to share my tips and tricks with you so that you can enjoy hassle-free and unforgettable trips.
On this blog, you'll find a carefully curated selection of destinations, practical tips, and honest reviews of hotels and tourist attractions. My goal is to inspire you and provide you with useful resources so that you can plan your own adventures with confidence and peace of mind.
May travel fill you with joy and open you up to new possibilities!