A general summary of things to do and places to eat in A Cidade Invicta.
This page is largely for our wedding guests but also other readers that may want a consolidated look at what there is to see and do in Porto. As the name suggests, Porto has a long history as an important port city. Its roots stretch back to pre-Roman times and it is the namesake of the country. A small but mighty city, it’s called A Cidade Invicta (“the undefeated/invincible city”) due to the fact that it was never successfully conquered. When you walk along the famous Ribeira area, you’ll see the remnants of the walls that helped make this city so invincible.
Because Porto is both small and vibrant, it’s possible to see a lot of the major sites in one day, yet you could spend a full year in the harbor city and still not experience all it has to offer. The recommendations below will give you a great sampling of the city and hopefully encourage you to return.
What to See: A Walking Tour
The city of Porto is about 16 sq mi/41.4 sq km. It’s easy to walk around the entire city in one day, but also a bit tiring especially if hills aren’t your thing. If you have mobility issues, there are tourist tuk-tuks for hire that can drive you down some of the smaller, historic alleyways.
Porte Dom Luis
To begin your walk, start at the top of the Dom Luis bridge. This will give you a stunning view of Porto, Gaia, and the Duoro River. From here, walk back to the Porto side and bear left to the Sé (also known in English as the Porto Cathedral). You can enter the church for a small donation or you can simply admire the outside and yet another stunning view of Porto, Gaia, and the river from the church’s front yard.
From the Sé/church, walk towards the river to an overlook called Miradouro da Rua das Aldas. Here, you’ll start to sense a theme that a lot about Porto is simply admiring the beauty of the city. To the left of this viewpoint, you’ll see Igreja dos Grilos (the Church of Crickets), a controversial structure built by the Jesuits in 1577.
Walk to Ribeira
When you turn your back to this church, you’ll see a small alley to the left. There should be a yellow scallop shell with an arrow pointing down the alley. This sea shell symbol is a directional marker for pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago. If you get lost in Porto at any point and want to make it to the river to orient yourself, follow these shells.
This alley will lead you down a path and through an area called Sé, one of Porto’s most historic neighborhoods that remains relatively untouched. Follow the footpath (and the shells!) all the way to the river. If you’re hungry or thirsty, there are several restaurants and cafés along the path. There are also a few cute shops and the entrance to Igreja dos Grilos if you want to visit. If you have problems walking, be prepared to take this path very slowly or consider hiring a tuk-tuk tour to take you around this neighborhood later. The path is a bit steep with uneven steps and cobblestones.
When you reach the end of this walk, you will be at Ribeira: an extremely popular area of Porto with shops, restaurants, and bars all along the river. You will also now be at the base of the Porte de Dom Luis.
Although there are a lot of places to eat, try to resist if you can! The food in this area is fine, but overpriced. It’s good food, but overpriced. If you want to have a meal on the river, I would recommend walking under the Dom Luis and away from the main Ribeira area to À Bolina Bar (about a five-minute walk). They have great starters, drinks, and a nice, laid-back atmosphere. This place is small and can fill up quickly, so it’s worth it to call ahead and book a table if you know you’ll want to have lunch there.
Rua dos Flores
From Ribeira, you can now walk away from the river and back towards the center of Porto. If you have problems walking, this is another point where you will either need to go slow or take a bus or Uber. The walk is very steep!
Take the route that will bring you through the Rua dos Flores (Street of Flowers). This is filled with shops, restaurants, cafés, street art, and probably a few street musicians. This street also has one of my favorite murals in Porto: a four-story tall blue cat!
When you get to the end of Rua dos Flores, be sure to cross the Praça de Almeida Garrett to São Bento Train Station. The entryway of the station is covered floor-to-ceiling with the beautiful azulejos (blue tiles) Porto is known for.
Aliados and Torre dos Clérigos
Walk from São Bento up a small hill to Torre dos Clérigos (Clergymen’s Tower). This will take you past Aliados (Avenida dos Aliados), which has a well-known statue of Dom Pedro V and a nice view that ends with the City Hall.
Clérigos is a Baroque church built in the 18th century and it is one of the most recognizable points in the Porto skyline. You can visit the museum inside or walk up the tower stairs to view Porto from 75 m (despite what their website implies, this is not the highest viewpoint in Porto — that’s 17º Bar on top of the Hotel Dom Henrique Downtown).
Igreja do Carmo and Cedofeita
Now that you’re at the top of the hill, you can explore the Cedofeita neighborhood, which has beautiful architecture and nice shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, etc. I’ll list some of my favorites below.
As you walk to Cedofeita, you’ll pass the Square of Lions, Livraria Lello, and the Igreja do Carmo. The Square of Lions is a student area, but still pretty to look at. The Livraria Lello is a famous bookstore with a grand staircase and beautiful decorations inside.
This bookstore is often called the “Harry Potter bookstore” because JK Rowling started formulating the idea of Harry Potter in Porto (if you see people walking around in Hogwarts robes, those are the actual school uniforms for the local university) and it has a very magical look. This bookstore always has a massive line. Getting in costs €5 (which is taken off any purchase you make) and I strongly recommend arriving when they first open at 9 a.m. and buying your ticket online. If you buy online, you get to enter through a separate, much shorter line.
Igreja do Carmo is an interesting church because it is actually three separate buildings even though it looks like one. The side of the church is a popular Instagram spot because of the beautiful mosaic of azulejos.
Rua da Santa Catarina
After Cedofeita, head to Rua da Santa Catarina. This will be another up-and-down walk, but if you take the path that walks you by the Trindade metro stop, then the up part will not be so steep.
Rua da Santa Catarina is the big shopping area of Porto. You’ll find a lot of European clothing brands that range from cheap-and-affordable to slightly more upscale (but nothing luxury — that’s on Avenida dos Aliados). This is also where you’ll find the stunning Capela das Almas and the Mercado do Bolhão (which took over three years to restore!), which is a historic market with local vendors.
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
If you’re up for seeing one more church, walk down Rua da Santa Catarina in the direction of the river to the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso. Here, you’ll also get to see Plaća da Batalha, which has a famous hotdog place that I’ll mention in the food section (not like American hotdogs — much better!).
Walking Tour Summary
- Start at the Ponte Dom Luis
- Walk to the Sé
- Walk to the Miradouro da Rua das Aldas and then follow the yellow scallop shells through a historic neighborhood to Ribeira
- Follow this street to São Bento train station
- From here, cross Aliados and walk up the hill to Torre dos Clérigos
- Walk through Ribeira before turning away from the river, up a hill, and to Rua das Flores
- Explore Cedofeita area (Igreja do Carmo, Livraria Lello) and eventually make your way back down-and-up a hill to Rua da Santa Catarina (highlights: Mercado do Bolhão and Capela das Almas)
- Follow Rua da Catarina to the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
Other Places to Check Out
Palacio da Cristal
Beautiful gardens with beautiful views. Free! Also has peacocks and chickens.
A large garden and modern art complex. You’ll need to take a bus to get there. There is a lot of walking once you’re there. Plan to spend at least 2–3 hours.
Where to Eat & Drink
For seafood, there’s the “seafood street” in Matosinhos, which is about 15/20 mins away by bus from Porto. It’s part of Porto proper. In the summer, the whole street is basically covered in smoke because of all the grills going outside of each restaurant. The best restaurants for seafood are Tito II or Lage Sr. do Padrão (but really, only go here if Tito II is too full). O Lusitano is also good!
Wine, beer, cocktails
For wine: Definitely have the Vinho Verde while you’re there and anything you can find from the Duoro Valley.
- Aduela: A small bar known for good wine, Porto tonics, and getting so busy that the outside crowds spills out around the whole block. Be prepared to stand outside with your drink or sit on a curb unless you arrive before 17:00.
- Capela Incomum: A former church. Great for wine and tapas!
- Virtudes: This is a small park that is very popular with locals. There are cheap drink places nearby or you can bring your own. Be prepared to sit on the ground or stand in a gaggle of people.
- MiraJazz: Excellent wine selection and a beautiful view of the Duoro River! They open at 16:00. It’s usually a good idea to get there sooner rather than later.
- Maus Hábitos: Great for wine, cocktails, etc.
- Miraduoro Ignez: If MiraJazz is too full, this place usually has space as well as the same great wine selection and beautiful view.
- Bar of Soap: Another good bar for cocktails or beer. The vibe is really nice in there and the staff is great. They have these great ostrich lamps that I keep trying to either buy or steal ☺. They host a lot of drag events, so check their website to see what’s coming up!
- Letraria: This is a beer place where they make their brew their own beer. They usually have 10 or so on tap. They also have a nice backyard area for sitting.
- Terraplana: Another great bar for wine, cocktails, or beer. They are also known for their pizza that’s baked in a large, stone pizza oven. They have a nice upstairs area and backyard.
Restaurants for Portuguese Food
For each restaurant, call ahead and make a reservation. Porto has gotten very popular and crowded. The past few times I have been, a reservation has been required (even on a weekday night).
- Aquele Tasca: A small corner restaurant with delicious appetizers for sharing or individual meals. Try the flaming chorizo!
- Roma: Very lowkey and family run. Their menu changes every day. They’re known for their leitão—roasted pork dish—on Saturdays. Everything is made fresh!
- Brasão: A popular restaurant for Portugal’s famous francesinha (a large sandwich with multiple meats, egg, cheese, and sauce—it’s massive and delicious!). There are two different locations for this restaurant. Both are excellent!
- Casa Guedes: (No reservation needed/possible.) There are a few of these all over Porto and they’re all basically the same. They sell “bifanhas” which is a pork sandwich. I always go to this one: Praça dos Poveiros 130, 4000-393 Porto, Portugal (and afterwards, there are a lot of great places to get drinks around the square or down one of the nearby roads).
- Gazela: These are the famous Porto hotdogs. It’s a good place for a quick lunch!
- Fabrica: Seems touristy, but this is a great place to try Porto’s famous pastel de nata.
Port wine is famous in Porto, but you’ll find all of the Port wineries are actually across the river in Gaia. If you are interested in a Port wine tour, Sandeman and Calem are two of the most popular. For something more casual, you can also go to any riverside bars/restaurants in Gaia and ask for a tasting of the Port wines. I recommend going to the restaurants in front of the Mercado Beira-Rio. They have the most reasonable prices and you will be a bit removed from the tourist crowds. You will also be close to the gondola, which is a nice ride to take you back to the top of the Ponte Dom Luis.
Leave a Reply