Is Porto worth visiting? A common question since Porto often gets overlooked in favor of Lisbon and the Algarve. Get my take on the city, why I enjoyed it, plus plenty of photos!
On my first trip to Portugal, I originally didn't plan to visit Porto. There wasn't much information on the city and I didn't know a single person who had been there. I wasn't sure if Porto was worth visiting or taking time away from other places like Lisbon.
In the end, Jake and I decided to do a last-minute day trip to Porto. We felt we had explored Lisbon and Sintra enough and wanted to check out Porto for ourselves.
After our quick day trip, we both felt we made a huge mistake by focusing our time in Lisbon and agreed that we liked Porto better.
Fast forward a few years and we decided to focus most of our time in Porto on a return trip to Portugal. Our second trip to Porto confirmed that not only is Porto is worth visiting but you may even prefer it to other cities in Portugal. Or like me, it may even end up being your favorite city in Portugal.
To sum it up, I'm so glad I've been able to spend a good amount of time exploring this city and I'll take you through all the reasons why the answer is yes to "is Porto worth visiting?"
Porto is very different from Lisbon and the coastal towns
Porto has a very different vibe than the rest of Portugal.
Lisbon has a party reputation, is much bigger, and has been extensively rebuilt (much of Lisbon destroyed by the 1755 earthquake).
Porto, on the hand, maintains many of its historic buildings and original layout. It offers a very old-world vibe.
Lisbon attracts visitors from around the world whereas Porto seems to be more popular with Europeans. Porto feels a little more authentic. Yes, there are touristy areas, but it's just not as pronounced as other areas in Portugal.
The coastal areas of Portugal, like the Algarve, are another huge draw to Portugal. Obviously there is a different vibe to a river based, inland city. Where coastal towns seem to be built on tourism and fun in the sun, Porto is an actual working city that relies on more than just tourism.
Porto for Harry Potter fans
JK Rowling spent two years in Porto and that, to me, is reason enough to visit! I could immediately see why Rowling enjoyed Porto so much. There were many times I was reminded of Edinburgh (where Rowling lives today) with the overall architecture and old-world vibe.
She frequently visited the bookstore, Livraria Lello, and says it served as inspiration for the Hogwarts library.
Though the bookstore is now crowded with tourists, it’s magical to visit.
Porto tourist attractions
Porto offers plenty of tourist attractions and sights to keep a visitor busy for at least two days. Below are some of the top tours and sights.
- Igreja do Carmo - baroque-styled church
- Livraria Lello bookstore
- 3-Hour Food and Wine Tasting Tour
- Highlights & Hidden Gems of Porto: Private City Tour
- 3-Hour of Porto Highlights on an Electric Bike - Guided Tour
- Bolsa Palace
- Church of São Francisco
- Stroll Cais da Ribeira - river side street with bars, shops, and tiny homes stacked on top of each other
- Luís I Bridge - two level bridge (cross on the upper level for incredible views)
- Praça de Lisboa - park
- Clérigos Tower - climb the tower for views of the city
- Sao Bento station - train station with beautiful tile
- Rua das Flores - popular street
- Avenida dos Aliados - popular street
Is Porto safe? Yes!
Porto is a great city for any type of trip, including solo trips. I felt incredible safe while exploring Porto. More so than in Lisbon. You can read more about that in my Lisbon vs. Porto blog post.
The overall vibe I got from Porto was that it's a tourist AND working city boasting gorgeous river views and attracts visitors that appreciate wine/port, great food, shopping, and nature (Porto is the entrance to the Douro Valley).
Not once did I feel unsafe. And while the city may feel "gritty" in parts, it's not dirty. By gritty I mean graffiti and areas that just feel really old and haven't been restored to a shiny and new appearance.
Porto is easy on the wallet
Porto seems to have a bit more luxury at an affordable price than other popular areas in Portugal (Lisbon and coastal towns).
I've had a much easier time finding a fantastic hotel, in a good location, at a reasonable price in Porto than I did in Lisbon. Lisbon is not the ultra-cheap destination it's touted as.
There were plenty of 4-star hotels under $260 a night (many around $150 or so on Booking.com) and several 5-star hotels that were under $400 a night.
We got a steal of a deal at Maison Albar Le Monumental, a 5-star hotel that exceeded all expectations, for $320 a night. Though, it now runs around $390 on Booking.com. To give some perspective, this hotel would easily go for $1,000 a night in the US.
Other hotels I considered were:
- ICON Duplo Ribeira
- InterContinental Porto
- Infante Sagres – Luxury Historic Hotel
- Pestana Porto - A Brasileira
- Vignette Collection Casa Da Companhia, an IHG Hotel
Because Jake and I travel so much, we rarely stay at luxury hotels or eat at Michelin star restaurants. Our philosophy is we would rather travel as much as possible than spend top dollar at fancy hotels and restaurants. Porto was a city we were able splurge and not spend a fortune.
Porto has an excellent dining scene
Maybe it's the fact that Porto is located in a wine region, but the food here is outstanding. Cities focused on wine always seem to appreciate good food.
From Michelin star multi-course experiences to Portuguese sandwich stalls, there’s something to fit every preference and budget.
Porto is walkable
I love a compact, walkabout city and Porto is 100% walkable. Just get ready for some serious hills. Walking around the city is enjoyable and atmospheric. It makes visiting Porto a breeze as you don't have to plan around public transportation.
Uber is readily available if needed.
If you're a wine or Port lover, you'll want to include Porto on your itinerary. This is the birthplace or Port afterall. Even those that don't love Port will enjoy the tasting experience. The port lodges have a great atmosphere and many come with wonderful views.
The tastings are similar to wine tastings where you have several options to choose from and the different styles will be explained to you throughout the tasting. Some places are more casual while others offer a more in-depth experience.
Porto is the entrance to the Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is another reason why I 100% answer yes to "is Porto worth visiting?". This region is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen and Porto is the entrance.
Most visitors spend a few days exploring Porto before moving on to the Douro Valley for luxury hotel stays, wine vineyards and tastings with dramatic views, and an escape to nature.
Porto photo diary
When I said Porto can be "gritty", this is about as gritty as it gets. There are some streets with graffiti that are very old. Streets like this never felt seedy or unsafe...which was sometimes the case in Lisbon.
Is Porto worth visiting? My answer is yes! Including Porto in your itinerary will give you a diverse look at Portugal. You'll also have the opportunity for some amazing port tastings, sunset rooftop cocktails with incredible views, insane food, and the chance to see the Douro Valley since it's right next door!
The restaurant, shopping, and coffee shop scene in Porto is also on point. A visit to Porto will easily keep you busy for at least two days.