9 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Porto

Jul 22, 2021

From serene fishing villages to windy Atlantic beaches and historic windmills, Portugal is a dreamy destination where you'll fall in love with sandy islands, fjord-like river valleys, and terraced vineyards and olive groves—and discover what it means to be Portuguese.

At the same time, Portugal's capital, Porto, is an underrated destination that combines a remarkably charming and walkable old town with an excellent port—a combination you can't find anywhere else in the country.

Porto's magical setting also makes it a prime port of call for the best cruise ships in the world, with ultra-modern liners arriving at the picturesque Porto Fos ("Old Port") while gleaming ocean liners serving as floating luxury hotels.

Here's what you should know about the best places to visit in Portugal.

Explore the best places to visit in Portugal with our full guide to Portugal's top attractions.

Ponta Delgada

Photo of Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada: en.wikipedia.org

Though most travelers visit Brazil's third largest city on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, Ponta Delgada is much less visited. Its port, one of the largest in the region, has some of the best deepwater anchorage in the south, which is perfect for yacht owners, while the island of Terceira is the home of Europe's oldest airport. Ponta Delgada has a gorgeous beachfront, a lively downtown square, and a few historic churches, giving it a European feel. This is best reached by long bus or ferry ride from the capital city of Salvador on the Brazilian mainland.

São Bento Train Station

Photo of São Bento railway station
São Bento railway station: en.wikipedia.org

Built between 1874 and 1878, São Bento Station is a distinctive neoclassical building in the Neo-Renaissance style. The granite facade and magnificent marble interiors reflect Portugal's taste for Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. A visit to this imposing railway terminal takes you back to the glamour and grandeur of a bygone era.

Igreja de São Francisco

Photo of Church of São Francisco (Porto)
Church of São Francisco (Porto): en.wikipedia.org

The Church of Saint Francis is a striking baroque church built over a labyrinth of churches, crypts and chapels in Porto. The cathedral's 14th-century high altar contains an extraordinary gold sculpture of Saint Francis of Assisi, the beloved saint of 15th-century Europe, being blessed by three heavenly females, while below is a statue of Francis in flowing robes. On a pillar between the saint and the women stands a statue of Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Francis and the first person to convert to his order. Her feet rest on a lion-like figure of Our Lord. A little farther down is a dramatic sculpture of Saint Augustine in a large oval-shaped niche carved out of an orange stone.

Sé Velha (Old Cathedral)

Photo of Old Cathedral of Coimbra
Old Cathedral of Coimbra: en.wikipedia.org

Old Cathedral (Sé Velha) dates back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest churches in the country. Surrounded by the hills of Porto, it has a beautiful view of the Douro river below. The cathedral features a solid bronze door carved with grotesque images of beasts and demons, each one bearing a hand-fashioned knife. Inside, the church has an unusual wooden carved ceiling. Sé Velha is open to the public and free to visit.

Cais da Ribeira

Photo of Dom Luís I Bridge
Dom Luís I Bridge: en.wikipedia.org

With its famous Port wine cellars (Portaria), its beautifully crafted waterfront and its palatial mansions set in gardens with great views over the Douro River, Porto is among the most captivating cities in the world. You'll find a whole range of restaurants and bars where Porto is famous for eating and drinking, and experiencing a bit of Portuguese 'joie de vivre' – among them Portus, which serves dishes like ricotta pizza or the famous Porchat sausage, and Vinoteca at Velada Rua do Padro. There are many beautiful museums and art galleries in the city, including some of the oldest churches in Portugal. In the summer, crowds pour into the Ribeira for sightseeing, shopping and dining on the banks of the Douro.

São Jorge Castle

Photo of São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle: en.wikipedia.org

Situated on a hill just above the city of Porto, São Jorge Castle was built between 1624 and 1626 as a defensive fortress. The castle overlooks the Douro River and the Porto Bridge, so from its height the fortress commands the city and the river below. The most remarkable feature of the castle is the twin octagonal cupolas of the Ajuda Gate, while other structures include the walled medieval city, a row of cloisters, a small chapel and the monumental Arch of São Jorge.

Porto Cathedral and Tower

Photo of Porto Cathedral
Porto Cathedral: en.wikipedia.org

Porto's claim to fame is the glorious Renaissance-style cathedral of its former bishop, with its distinctive copper spire, copper-clad dome, and rose windows. It stands in the middle of the Porto's fortified "Golden Square," (Praça de Honra), lined with historical monuments and banks. To see the cathedral interior, you must purchase a timed ticket from the ticket office for the well-worth-it Tower visit, which will take you to the top, some 87m above the ground and is the country's second-highest tower. The interior displays a series of dazzling stained-glass windows, as well as the tomb of Dom João V, who is buried inside the church. The cathedral's former chapterhouse is now the tourist information office.

Santa Luzia Church

Photo of Tavira
Tavira: en.wikipedia.org

Santa Luzia Church is a picturesque 16th-century Roman Catholic church in Porto, just two blocks away from the old harbor. The interior is stunning, with 16th-century gilt statues and elaborate wood carvings. Services are held at the beautiful Gothic style baptistery. The church can be accessed via Rua Beira Mar, by bus no. 16 (€1.20, runs every 10 minutes, 5:45am-8:30pm) from the Baixa's Mercado do Bonfim. If you take the ferry, you can catch the boat on Rua João Lopes da Silva (Mar-Oct), going from Cais do Sodré in Lisbon. Afterward, take the Passeio Marítimo Santo Luís in Rua Santo Luís, by the waterfront.

Lagos de São Miguel

Photo of Lagos, Portugal
Lagos, Portugal: en.wikipedia.org

The island of São Miguel is one of the smallest in the archipelago and the capital of the Azores, Porto. This Portuguese port city, also known as the city of wine, is most notable for its nightlife, particularly in the Cidade das Artes area, and for its cultural and musical offerings. It's easy to navigate, with most of the main sights either within walking distance or close to the center by city transport. If you have time, spend it here; it has a number of sights and options for water sports, and a beautiful coastline. São Miguel's airport is currently the only one with daily flights to Europe and Brazil.