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In a hurry? Discover the best of Porto in one day

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Porto

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 24/05/2024, 01:00

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

I think everyone has heard about Porto. It is very popular due to its amazing vibe and architecture, but also because of the Erasmus programme, which attracts student from all over the world. There are plenty of things to see and do here, but if you’re in a hurry and want to spend only one day in Porto, then I have some great suggestions for you.

Porto is located 4 hours by train from Lisbon. Tickets are quite cheap and I think that it’s worth doing a short trip there. I didn’t expect much from Porto. I know that it’s best not to have any expectations and not to look at some amazing travel photos from that destination. I didn’t do any of that at all and the visit to this historical city was a very pleasant surprise.

I am lucky because my sister lives in Porto and I have had a several occasions to spend a weekend there. I have seen all the tourists spots and those that are less popular. Out of all attractions, I chose a few that would suit those that don’t have much time and want to spend only one day in Porto. Here are a couple of my choices.

Where is Porto?

Porto (also known in English as Oporto) is located at the Douro River in the northern part of Portugal. It’s about 3 hours drive from Lisbon.

Its area extends over to the Atlantic Ocean. Its location makes the city quite windy and chilly during the winter months.

When to come to Porto?

The best time to come to Porto is April – May and then October. During the Summer months, the city is overcrowded and really busy with tourists. You can still find some quiet spots here, but if you want to spend only one day in Porto, you will visit the most popular spots. If you happen to visit the city during the high season, be ready for crowds.

Winter is quite cold and rainy in Porto. On a sunny day sightseeing is pleasant, but bare in mind that the houses here don’t have heating and quite often it’s colder inside than outside.

What is the best way to see Porto?

The best way to see Porto is on your own two feet. Walking is highly advisable. It’s such a beautiful city that it would be a shame to hire a taxi or rent a car. I normally like to get lost in the streets and just see whatever I can. It’s important not to rush as it spoils the whole experience.

If you would like someone to help you with seeing the best bits, or you want to see the nontouristy parts, then hire a local guide. I really recommend Withlocals, which is an amazing company that connects tourists and independent guides. They create amazing tours that you can adjust to your needs. By hiring a guide like this you help the locals, you support the local economy and you are creating something truly remarkable. I did a tour around Lisbon with them and can’t recommend them enough.

Make your holidays even more memorable! Go off the beaten path, discover all the hidden gems, eat where the locals eat. Get Your Guide organise custom tours with independent guides to create really special memories for you. Book your tour now! 

What to do in Porto in one day?

If you are visiting Porto only for a short amount of time, you will want to experience the best of it. Below you will find my favourite activities and sights.

Walk around the narrow streets of Porto

a street in porto. narrow stairs among old houses lead up the hill. people walk up the stairs in porto.
One of my favourite photos of Porto. This view can be seen from the main bridge.

Porto, similar to Lisbon, is small and very atmospheric. Its streets are full of history. It’s impossible not to fall in love with them. If you spend only one day in Porto, forget about major attractions and simply walk around and get lost. Have a look at the hidden corners, sit down somewhere and drink some wine and some beer and observe the life as it happens.

Walk the Dom Louis I bridge

the view from dom louis bridge in porto. view of the city and a boat sailing underneath.
Dom Louis I bridge is the main attraction here.

Dom Luis bridge is the symbol of Porto. To me the area around the city is amazing. It’s easy to imagine the boats with supplies sailing around, just like it was back in the 16th century. Today such boats still sail through the river, but they are mostly for tourists.

The area around the river is a must-see spot during your one day stay in Porto.

During the day, go to Jardim do Morro and stay there until the sunset. After dark, cross the main street and climb Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, where you can admire the views of the city.

people relaxing during sunset in porto
Jardim do Morro is a very small park, where people like to relax and where sunsets are magical.

I also recommend to walk along the river in Gaia – where you can visit the wineries. When you pass the crowd and the buildings, you will get to a place, where tourists don’t really go and where life is much slower. 🗺Map

Drink some Port in Gaia

joanna drinks port in porto's wineries.
If you know me, you know that I like trips like this.

Everyone who goes to Porto thinks that the wine Port comes from Porto. While the wineries are very close to Porto and it seems that the drink is produced here, not many people know that the other side of the river is not Porto anymore – it’s Porto de Gaia.

The drink is actually produced in Douro Valley and brought to Porto de Gaia, where it is put in barrels and then matures. From there it is bottled and sent out all over the world.

If you like alcoholic drinks, then the visit to one of the wineries will be a treat. During the tour, you will find out how the wine is made and you will have a chance to try Port. A standard tour with a guide costs 12 Euros and includes two tastings.

Recommended winery: Calem

Get some rest at Palacio de Cristal

one day in porto. Joanna sits at a viewpoint in porto overlooking the river and the city.
One of the most beautiful places in Porto and one of my favourites.

Tired with sightseeing? There are no better options for getting some rest than a beautiful park. Palacio de Cristal is a big park, situated on a hill, where you can admire beautiful views over the river and the city. It’s stunning at any time of the year, but a sunny day is the best for a visit. It’s worth stopping for a coffee at a small kiosk in the middle of the park and to watch the grazing peacocks. 🗺Map

Admire the azulejos at Sao Bento Station

people walking in sao bento station admiring the azulejos
This station is a work of art.

Definitely, something you should see in Porto. Azulejos at the Sao Bento station are true masterpieces. Sightseeing is free here and the impression is surreal – the life goes on as normal around the station, but you still feel like you are in a gallery. Trains come and go, people rush and you just stand there and can’t get your eyes off the walls. 🗺Map

Eat Francescinhia

How can I even eat this?

Francesinhia is a meal from Porto. It consists of …..hmm…. mostly everything: there is bread, every type of meat you can imagine (but there are some vegetarian options), it is baked with cheese on top and everything is soaked in orange sauce. Ah! I forgot about fries! In one simple phrase – it’s a heart attack on a plate.

Locals love Francesinhia. They usually have their favourite places to eat it and go there on a regular basis, at least once a week.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try it. Impressions? It tasted like I described it: like bread with cheese, meat, and sauce with a lot of fat.

Visit Cemitério de Agramonte

grave at the cemetery in porto
Can I say that this cemetery is nice and pleasant? Will that be offensive?

This part I left for the last because it’s not really something that you must see if you spend one day in Porto. I think there are plenty of other things you can do there. This cemetery really made a great impression on me. Maybe because that was my first time at a place like this in Portugal. Cemeteries here are completely different than those in Poland.

Cemitério de Argamonte isn’t a tourist place, so be respectful. No one will be offended if you just walk around and take some photos. It seems weird, but trust me, you will want to take some for sure. The graves at this cemetery are real works of art. 🗺Map

Where to stay in Porto?

Similar to Lisbon, in Porto it’s hard to find nice rooms in a reasonable price, especially during the high season. That’s why it’s worth planning ahead. If the below options are not good for you, check out some other offers.

  • O2 Hostel: Quite a new hostel in a renovated tenament house. Clean and spacious. The owners are very eco-friendly, so it’s a good place for those who care about our planet.
  • Canvas Atelier Hostel: Small, cozy hostel, where you can meet other travelers. Breakfast is served everyday and you can also attend a barbecue, or use it for your own, private party.
  • LightPoint: A new place on Booking.com. Interiors are very bright and spacious. There are private rooms and dormitories on offer.
  • Faria House: Very nice and clean rooms with helpful staff. Great location. What to want more?

How to get from Lisbon to Porto?

There are a couple of trains that connect both cities. You can easily book your ticket online. The Portuguese railway has a good site and you can also use GoEuro which is a nice website that offers affordable tickets. One way ticket costs 20-30 Euros. The trip takes 3-4 hours. There are also some flights between Lisbon and Porto. You can check GoEuro for latest offers. I recommend BlaBla Car, which is very effective in Portugal.