Long overlooked for Lisbon, Porto, Portugal’s best-kept secret, is slowly emerging as a promising destination for travelers. Known for its wine bars and lovely old town, the city offers plenty of beautiful attractions. Three days is just enough time to experience the diversity Porto has to offer, but you can absolutely make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences. Our 3-day suggested itinerary will give you a real taste of this charming city and you will be introduced to its best attractions.
Things to know before traveling to Porto, Portugal:
Language – The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. Foreign travelers should not be discouraged from traveling in Portugal if one does not speak Portuguese because the Portuguese have a good understanding of English. Language should not be a concern while traveling on public transport as most signs have an English translation and all tourist attractions provide leaflets in English. Like most countries in the world, attempting to say a few basic words in Portuguese are always appreciated by the locals.
Money and costs – Portugal uses the euro, the same currency now used by most European Union countries with the exception of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Prior to travelling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks and bureaux de change to get the best rates.
Etiquette – The Portuguese are modest, traditional and conservative people. They are reserved and they value privacy. In Portuguese society rank is very important, and those senior to you must always be treated with respect. In social meetings, people shake hands with everyone present. Always greet with titles unless you’re on familiar terms with them or until your Portuguese friend suggests otherwise. In Portugal, men are addressed as Senhor (Mister) and women as Senhora (Mrs./Ms.).
Getting around – Portugal features an extensive public transport network consisting of metro, local trains, trams, buses and ferry networks. In Porto, you can get around using local buses, trams, metro and local trains. The center of the city is a fairly compact area which can be explored on foot. You may also explore the city using the 1 or 2-day open-top, hop-on, hop-off bus, which takes you to most of the city’s top tourist destinations.
Where to stay – Porto is awash with various accommodation options with something for every level of comfort and budget. The most frequent question from first time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Porto?” Without a doubt, the best place to stay in Porto is the historic center, which is situated in the middle of everything.
Hotels to consider in Porto:
Detailed itinerary: Best of Porto, Portugal in 3 days
Before you begin your sightseeing tour, go to the nearest Turismo (the most popular is located on 25, Rua Clube dos Fenianos) and get a city guide with map. Ask the tourism officers for practical tips while you’re there, so you can maximize your time in the city. You may also get a Porto Card, which comes in 1, 2, 3 or 4 day versions with or without public transport options. This card allows you to see the city’s attractions at a discounted price, and free use of all public transportation (if public transportation option is selected).
On your first day, take in a few of Porto’s most famous attractions and get an introduction to its rich history. There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting Praça da Ribeira (Ribeira Square), the magnificent square laid out in Medieval and neoclassical grid. Part of the historical center designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the square is lines up with restaurants, bars and cafes. From here, you will see the imposing Ponte de Dom Luis I, a double-deck metal arch bridge connecting Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
In the afternoon, visit the Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace), the historic neoclassical palace dedicated to the city’s past and present money merchants. To appreciate the rich history of this palace, we suggest joining one of the guided tours offered. You may also get one of the audio guides in the palace if you feel like exploring the palace complex on your own. End the day at the Farol Molhe do Douro, one of the best places to watch the sunset. You may also go back to Praça da Ribeira and enjoy a delicious seafood dinner.
On day 2, join a wine tasting tour to Douro Wine Region, a UNESCO World Heritage site where most of the port wine cellars are located. When you join a guided tour, you will be able to learn about the wine making process and techniques of Porto and taste classic red and white Port wines. Aside from wine tasting, you will see the wine-terraced hills and the Douro river valley. Check Douro Exclusive’s official website for more information.
In the evening, get a taste of Porto’s nightlife by joining the Pub Crawl Porto. You may also watch opera or ballet performance at the Casa da Musica (House of Music) and Teatro Nacional Sao Joao (Sao Joao National Theater).
Start your last day in Porto by going to one of the best morning hot spots in the city serving delicious coffee. Café Progresso near Torre dos Clérigos serve some of the best coffee and crepes in Porto. After breakfast, head to Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens), a lovely garden that offers stunning views of Vila Nova de Gaia and the river. Do not leave the city without visiting Livraria Lello, one of the most loved and visited libraries in Portugal. This famous library was where J.K Rowling wrote the first book in the Harry Potter series when she was still living in Porto. The afternoon can be spent on last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for.
Have you been to Porto or anywhere else in Portugal? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: View of the historic city of Porto, Portugal with the Dom Luiz bridge (Mapics / Shutterstock)