Porto is such a beautiful and interesting city that you have to savor it slowly. That’s why we decided to stay for one week in Porto. I tell you my experience with recommendations of what to see and do within this time.
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How to get to Porto
Portugal is very well connected by train and bus. Both are cheap to travel within the country. Porto is only about 4 hours from Lisbon. We chose to take the bus since it was easier for us to reach the bus station.
We arrived at about 6 pm to Rodoviário do Campo station where the Rede Expressos buses arrive. When we saw that it was not far from where we were staying and as we didn’t know how to use the metro yet we preferred to walk. It was a mistake. Not because of the distance (which was less than 2 km) but because of the irregular street’s surface and levels.
There are constant ups and downs (especially ups, how tiring!). To top it off, we already had a somewhat heavy suitcase after visiting Lisbon and Granada. Some streets have cobblestones and narrow sidewalks.
By the way, some sidewalks, both in Porto and in Lisbon are covered with tiles that when it rains they get slippery, so be careful.
It might interest you: what to see and do in Lisbon in a week.
The accommodation we rented.
The apartment we rented was the RS Porto flats.
We arrived at our accommodation just in time to meet our host. We had a small apartment, ideal for 2 people, with a kitchen, washing machine, oven, free Wi-Fi and a coffee maker! It was quite comfortable for one week in Porto.
The place is somewhat close to the center. It was possible to get there by walking in about 10 minutes. The area where we stayed is known as Lapa. There is a subway stop called Faria Guimarães one block away and we found it quite convenient.
There’re also some shops nearby, including a Pingo Doce supermarket 2 blocks away. Here is where we did most of our groceries shopping.
What to see one week in Porto
Unfortunately, we had several days with rain and drizzle so we couldn’t take advantage of the time as we’d have liked. Many times we delayed our outings or we changed plans due to the rain.
We visited in winter, and I think it was not an ideal time to see this city. Now I know that in Porto it usually rains a lot in winter. Anyway, it did not affect its beauty at all and we enjoyed the occasional sunny moment.
The weather is also a bit colder than in Lisbon, so take it into consideration when packing.
Our first day in Porto was to get to know the city a bit, so we walked to the center and to the river. These are some suggestions of places that you have to see one week in Porto.
Praça da Liberdade
Praça da Liberdade or Freedom Square is located in Baixa or lower part of the city. It is a large square dating from the beginning of the 18th century. It is essential (and inevitable) to see it if you spend one week in Porto.
The oldest building of those around is an ex-convent in neoclassical style where the city walls were once located (yes! this city had once walls). This building is now known as Palácio das Cardosas and functions as a hotel.
At the other end is the Porto City Hall. Also here you can see a sculpture of King Peter IV of Portugal (also known as Peter I of Brazil).
The square is very pretty and the buildings that surround it are majestic. Here you will find the famous letters of Porto in case you want to take your picture, of course … you will have to wait because everyone wants theirs.
At Christmas time, which is when I visited Porto, they decorate this square with a large tree and lights, so it’s worth coming at night too
São Bento Train Station
São Bento train station is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, that’s why you should see it on your trip to Porto. It was built at the end of the 19th century by the architect José Marques da Silva.
The building has a French style and its atrium is lined with 20,000 white and blue tiles. They represent historical events of the North of the country. Jorge Colaço painted them between 1905 and 1906.
This is the main station in Porto so you will probably have to use it sometime. If you are not going to travel by train, be sure to take a look inside.
Another must-see for one week in Porto is its beautiful Cathedral or Sé de Porto, one of the oldest and most important buildings in the city.
Its construction dates from the 12th century in Romanesque style. You can see this style on its facade with 2 towers and a rose window in the center. Later they added elements in Gothic and Baroque styles.
From the cathedral, you can go down to the banks of the Douro or Ribeira in Portuguese. This is a very tourist place and where you will find many restaurants. Here you can take that postcard photo with the beautiful and colorful buildings of Porto.
You can relax watching the views from one of the terraces of the many cafes and restaurants or take a boat ride.
Louis I Bridge
Being on the banks of the Douro River, you will see an impressive steel bridge. This is the Louis I bridge that was designed by François Gustave Théophile Seyrig, one of Gustave Eiffel‘s collaborators. At that time he was already working with the Belgian company Société de Willebroeck who won the contest to build this bridge.
They built it between 1881 and 1886 linking Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. It measures 44.6 m high and 385.25 m long in its longest part.
This bridge has two levels, a subway line passes through the top and motorized vehicles below. On both levels, there are sidewalks for people to pass. We walked to Vila Nova de Gaia from below and returned to Porto from above.
By the way, be cautious if you get impressed by the heights because I felt my stomach turn as I passed by ? . Be careful if you are taking photos with your phone or camera too, if you drop something, you will lose it forever .? .
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia is the neighboring city of Porto, which is reached by just crossing the bridge. On this side of the bridge, you will see the wineries of the worldly famous port wine. Here you can find souvenirs with miniatures of wine that come in nice packaging and wooden boxes. They are a good gift option.
You can also take a ride on the Gaia cable car to see the river and the landscape from the heights. I enjoyed coming to this side because there are boats with barrels that give it an old and romantic vibe.
What to do one week in Porto
Besides places to see, there are activities that you can do if you spend one week in Porto.
See the Cathedral inside
I already mentioned that the Cathedral is a must-see building, but I also recommend that you pay the fee to see the interior.
The entrance costs € 3.00 euros and you can climb to the top to get beautiful views of Porto. We weren’t planning to enter but asking about the price seemed so cheap that we decided to give it a try and I’m glad we did.
I really liked this cathedral, both outside and inside. In a future post, I’ll tell you how my visit was and I will give you more details of this historic place
If you like wine, this city is for you. There are many wineries where you can request a guided tour and tastings of the Porto wine.
If you don’t want to visit any winery, take a walk near them in Gaia anyway, so you can have an idea of the manufacture of this product.
Check out some of these wine tours offered in Porto:
Climb Dos Clerigos Tower
Dos Clerigos Tower belongs to the church of the same name. It has a Baroque style and was built between 1754 and 1763. Originally they planned that the church had two towers, but the second one was never built.
The tower measures 76 meters and is open to the public to be visited. Of course, you must have the physical condition to climb the 240 steps. The entrance to the Tower costs €5.00 and with this same ticket, it’s possible to enter the Clérigos museum. If you also want to visit the church, the ticket price is €6.50 for everything. This is the official site in case you need more information.
We didn’t enter, mostly because we didn’t know about this tower. We didn’t research all the attractions we could visit one week in Porto. Later I’ll tell you about some sites from which you can buy combined tickets in case you are interested.
Take a cruise on the Douro or a ride in the cable car
Another activity you can do if you stay one week in Porto is to take a boat trip on the river. There are several cruises from which you can choose, there are for a few hours and also those that take all day.
So you can enjoy the views of Porto and Gaia, besides knowing all the bridges of the city. These are some options that might interest you:
In Gaia, you can also get on the cable car as I mentioned. The trip lasts only 5 minutes and I thought that €6 euros for one way and €9 for the round trip were too much, so we skipped it.
By the way, in Porto, as in Lisbon there are those charming old trams, so if you haven’t taken a ride in one, here is another chance.
Visit Lello bookstore
Another site that you can visit especially if you are fans of Harry Potter, is the Lello bookstore. They say that J.K. Rowling was inspired by this bookstore to create the Hogwarts library. You may know already that Rowling lived in Porto for a time.
Besides that gothic air, it stands out its peculiar and winding staircase. Although I am a fan of HP I decided to not enter as they charge €5 per person. If you buy a book (which I have heard have very high prices) they discount it from your purchase.
I have seen the photos and although it’s true that it’s beautiful, I don’t think anything out of the ordinary. Besides, I also read some reviews that say that it is so full of people that it’s impossible to take a decent photo. Anyway, we were happy to see it on the outside, that also looks very pretty. we also entered to look at their souvenir shop a few steps later.
In their store, they also have some gifts that any Potterhead would love. I had to leave empty-handed 🙁 I’ve already told you that their products are somewhat expensive.
Get lost in its alleys
Another thing to do if you have one week in Porto is to get lost in its narrow streets. These alleys are surrounded by colorful and decadent buildings with unsurpassed charm.
When you go down to Ribeira, you can go through the alleys and stairs. You can go through inhabited areas where you will have a glimpse of Portuguese daily life.
Eat (a lot of) pasteis de nata
And if you haven’t tried the pasteis de nata yet, you have to. In Porto, they are slightly cheaper than in Lisbon. Although the most famous are those of Belem in Lisbon, the ones I tried in Porto are very tasty as well.
On our way to the Ribeira in the Douro river, we passed by a bakery where we bought a couple of them. I’m not sure of the name of the place, but I think it was Pão Quente Carlão.
And I’m not sure because we couldn’t get in since they had cleaned the floor and it was wet (ups!). I guess they were going to close. Even so, the person in charge kindly took us the cakes and some round pieces of bread to the door ?. It was a small place on the Rua da Arménia, a little hidden but it was worth it.
Take day trips to nearby towns
One of the reasons we decided to stay one week in Porto is to make day trips to nearby cities. In this case, we dedicated one day to Guimaraes, another to Braga and the last one to Coimbra.
The first two are an hour by train away from Porto, so they are easy and relaxed day trips. Coimbra is a little further, but there is a train that takes you in about an hour and a half. I will tell you all about these places in the next post.
There are other interesting places that you can visit too, like Aveiro, the Douro Valley or Matosinhos if you want a beach destination.
Do some shopping
Finally, you can also go shopping if you spend one week in Porto. There are many interesting places to shop and several shopping centers. Some travelers, who are more minimalist, do not like to make many buys to avoid luggage excess. But I still can’t help it, one of the reasons I pack little is to be able to carry more things back home?yay!
Well, this time we visited a fairly large shopping center we reached using the subway. The Norte Shopping mall has many well-known brands and a huge hypermarket called Continente. The metro stop where you have to get down is Sete Bicas. Walking a few steps you reach the shopping center.
If you don’t want to go that far on the Rua Santa Catarina in the center there’re many shops and a mall with the same name. Also on the Ribeira, it’s possible to find some souvenirs.
If you want more suggestions on what to buy as a souvenir and where to shop, check out this post: Shopping in Porto to know more about the subject.
Other options to see and do one week in Porto
Porto is a lovely city and you’ll see that even one week will not be enough. There are a lot of other places and monuments that you can see and visit. As I mentioned before, during my trip we had some days with showers so we could not walk around pleasantly.
There are various places that remained unvisited either due to rain or ignorance of them. But I want to give you as much information as I can for you to plan your activities.
For example, other sites that I didn’t visit but that you can add to your one week in Porto itinerary are:
Palácio da Bolsa
The Palácio da Bolsa is a neoclassical building that houses the Porto House of Commerce. They began to build it in 1842 and is open to visitors. The price is €10 per adult.
There are some combined tickets to visit the Palácio da Bolsa and the Dos Clérigos Tower for € 15 euros (also including Misericordia Museum). Ask if you are interested in visiting both.
Gardens of the Crystal Palace
These gardens are free to visit and besides they also have splendid views of the Duero River. They are called gardens of the Crystal Palace because in this area there was a Palace that unfortunately no longer exists.
Museu do Carro Electrico
This museum is about the history of the tram in Porto. They display replicas, drivers’ uniforms and photographs of this transport that has fallen into disuse. The price of the adult ticket is €4.00.
Museu de Arte Sacra e Arqueologia
This museum is very near the Cathedral. It’s located inside the beautiful Church of St. Lawrence, also known as the Church dos Grilos. They have a collection of religious sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, and some archaeological objects.
The entrance to the museum is €2 and the entrance to the church is free. If you are in the area without much to do, it would be worthwhile to enter the church at least, because from the outside it’s a very nice building.
The bishops of Porto had their residence in this palace. It also served at some point as the seat of government. It has a Baroque style because, despite existing since the 13th century, it was completely reformed in the 18th century.
It’s located on the grounds of the Cathedral. The price of the ticket is €5 euros. There’s also a combined ticket for €14 euros with access to the Arte Sacra museum, the cathedral, Dos Clérigos Tower and this palace.
Ending our one week in Porto
Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Porto? (and we also lost our bus to Spain, but I will tell you about it in another post ?).
I fell in love with this city despite having some doubts before visiting it. Once I read that it’s a messy and dirty city, but what I found is far from being like that.
Its unevenness is attractive even if it’s tiring for walking. I loved its colorful buildings, it’s Baroque architecture and the Ribeira’s vintage and romantic vibes. Honestly, I liked it more than Lisbon, due to its old-fashioned look (although Lisbon is charming too). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Let me know your opinions and doubts. Tell me if you have already visited Porto or if you would like to visit it, what other places would you recommend seeing… In short, anything you can think of.
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