Porto may take second place to the city of Lisbon in many Portugal visitors' minds, but the fact is that the charming city of Porto a wonderful travel destination in its own right, and definitely worth slotting in for a visit during any Portuguese vacation. Here, we'll take a look at some of the best things to see and do in Porto, Portugal.
Ponte D. Luis I - The view from Ponte D. Luis I, the bridge that links Porto and Gaia, is absolutely breathtaking. It's one of the best photo opportunities in the city, and you can walk from one end to the other. Built in 1886, the architecture of the bridge itself is quite impressive, as is the fact that it's stood up to 21st-century traffic as admirably as it has. Best of all, walking across the bridge is free.
Rail Station Sao Bento - This historical railway station features a pictorial history of Portugal told in one of the nation's proudest artistic traditions, ornate azulejo tiles. It's truly an impressive sight, and a wonderful photo opportunity. Those who come here simply expecting to catch a train will unexpectedly find themselves in awe, and even those who have no intention of riding the rails should pay this train station a visit.
Zona Ribeirinha - TAfter crossing the Luis Bridge, you'll arrive at Zona Ribeirinha, a historical riverfront district with a wonderful sense of history. Here, you can stroll along the waterfront, stopping for port and ice cream as you go. The hills along the way are steep, but the cafes at the top are well worth the climb. It's also a great place to catch a river cruise for a very reasonable price.
Igreja de Santa Clara - This striking church was constructed before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, way back in 1416. It might not look like much from the outside, but inside, it's quite a masterpiece. Baroque and Rococo architectural flourishes abound, and the church exudes a feeling of tranquility and reverence that's undeniable.
Casa da Musica - Casa da Musica was built to commemorate Porto's 2001 nomination as Europe's cultural capital, and it's quite an impressive sight. Instead of emulating historical architectural styles, the building's designers took a radically different approach, and the result is no less than a masterwork of modern architecture. Of course, the building's appearance isn't the only thing visitors appreciate about Casa da Musica; the musical performances hosted here are quite enthralling, and the acoustics of the concert hall are top-notch.
World of Discoveries in Porto - This newly opened theme park truly has something for everyone. It recreates the history of Portuguese exploration in vivid detail, with life-sized statues and scenes detailing the intrepid and fearless adventurers of days gone by. Smart presentation and high-tech interactivity make this an experience one that is not to be missed.
Things to Do in Porto
With its rich history, vibrant culture, and wealth of natural beauty, there's no shortage of things to do in Porto, Portugal. Here's a rundown of the best tours and attractions in the Porto area.
Day Trip to Braga and Guimarães - The historic northern Portuguese cities of Braga and Guimarães are definitely worth a day trip. In the UNESCO world heritage site of Guimarães, you'll tour a 10th-century castle and experience what life was like in Portugal 1,000 years ago. Braga was founded by the Romans, more than 2,000 years ago, and is home to impressive Roman ruins, pastoral gardens, and several awe-inspiring historic centers of worship.
Douro Valley Wine Tour - You're probably aware that Porto is considered to be the birthplace of port, a fortified wine that has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in recent years. You may not be aware that it's also home to quite a few other varieties of wine. Catch a tour of the Douro Valley wine country when you travel to Porto. The landscapes are gorgeous, the wine is excellent, and the people of the valley are unfailingly welcoming.
Taste Porto Food Tours - Porto is a place that is steeped in rich culinary traditions, and Taste Porto Food Tours will help you experience Porto cuisine just like a local. You'll get the inside track on the best places to eat, and you'll gain insight into the cultural forces that shaped the food of Portugal, which is more intriguing than you might think.
Café Majestic - This Art Nouveau café first opened its doors in 1921. Its striking decorative interior made it a natural gathering spot for members of high society and local celebrities, alike. During the second half of the 20th century, the café fell into disrepair, but it has since been restored to its original splendor. This renowned eatery is always quite busy, but enjoying a cup of coffee while basking in such opulent surroundings is definitely worth braving the crowds.
Porto by Bike - The streets of Porto's historic Ribiera district may be too narrow to make driving them a pleasure, but they're ideal for bicycle travel. Touring Porto by bike will allow you to explore parts of the city that you'd be unlikely to see otherwise, and it's wonderful exercise, as an extra bonus. There are numerous bicycle tour providers around Porto, so finding one shouldn't be very difficult.
Xtreme Jet Boat River Safari - Adrenaline junkies and sightseers alike will have a blast with Xtreme Jet Boat River Safari in Porto. These well-organized and adrenaline-filled tours will leave a smile on your face and a thrill in your heart, and the prices are quite reasonable.
What to Expect from the Weather in Porto
Porto, Portugal's climate is quite hospitable, especially during the spring and summer months. Let's take a look at Porto's weather and climate to help guide you as you plan what to pack for your trip to Portugal and choose the best time of year to visit Portugal.
Porto has what is classified as a maritime climate, which basically means that it has warm summers and mild winters. Due to its position on the North Atlantic coast, cool ocean currents and northern trade winds keep the summers here from becoming overbearing, unlike the hotter summers found in Portugal's southern Alentejo and Algarve regions.
Porto Average Temperatures
On average, June through September are the hottest months in Porto. On especially warm days, the temperature may reach the high 80s Fahrenheit, but it is generally closer to the mid 70s. Summer nighttime lows are generally in the 50s - not too chilly, but you should definitely bring a sweatshirt, just in case.
The coldest months in Porto are December through February, when overnight low temperatures can dip into the low 40s, and daily highs rarely crest 65 degrees. Spring and fall tend to feature highs in the low-to-mid 60s.
Rainfall in Porto
Porto summers are relatively precipitation-free; with June, July, and August each averaging less than 8 days of rain per month. The rainfall definitely ramps up during the fall and winter; December may get 17 or more rainy days during the month, with October, November, and February not far behind. Spring showers are common, but not as numerous or productive as those that take place during winter months.
Hours of Sunshine in Porto
The summer months in Porto offer visitors plenty of opportunities to get a suntan, with an average of 10 hours of sunshine per day during the peak season. The winter, however, is quite the opposite. During the months of December, January, and February, the sun may only show its face for 4 hours per day or less. Spring and fall are transitional periods that can be quite unpredictable. One day may be gorgeous, while the next day's weather is gloomy and stark.
Swimming Weather in Porto
Due to it's northern locale, the Atlantic waters off the coast of Porto can be quite chilly, even during the summer. While the southern coast of Portugal is warm enough to permit swimming year-round, Porto's beaches are definitely best experienced during the warmer months.
Best Time to Visit Porto, Portugal
The busy season in Porto is definitely the summertime, but a great time can be had here nearly any time of year. The off-season has the perks of lower airfare and hotel rates, but sun lovers will probably find late April to mid-September to be the most pleasant time to visit.