With countless multicoloured streets to explore, historic attractions to visit, and restaurants and bars to sample, there’s no doubt that Porto is worthy of a few days of your time, but it’s compact size also allows for ticking off many of the major sights in just one day. From meandering through the vibrant, higgledy-piggledy old town to marvelling at the city’s impressive collection of azulejos, read on to discover how to make the most of one day in Porto.
Igreja do Carmo
Boasting one of Porto’s best azulejo displays, the 18th century Igreja do Carmo is one of the city’s most recognisable attractions. The entire side wall is decorated with beautiful blue and white ceramic tiles while towering wooden doorways and elaborately framed gated windows complete the dramatic picture.
Chapel of Souls
A short walk away, in the neighbourhood of Bolhão, Chapel of Souls is another wonderful example of azulejos. No part of the facade has been left untouched with more than 15,000 tiles depicting scenes from the lives of St Francis, St Catherine and many other saints.
São Bento Train Station
Whether you’ve got a train to catch or not, it’s worth paying a visit to the spectacular São Bento Train Station. Thousands of blue and white tiles adorn the walls while ornate stucco detailing dresses the ceiling, and it’s all spectacularly lit thanks to the soaring arched windows. The historical clock and traditional split flap timetable display are also worthy of consideration.
Livraria Lello Bookshop
Undoubtedly Porto’s most popular attraction, Livraria Lello Bookshop is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling when creating Harry Potter’s library and today it welcomes thousands of visitors every day with giant queues forming long before it opens at 9.30am. The intricate plaster detailing, stained glass windows and dramatic crimson staircase make for an impressive backdrop, but be prepared to share your experience with hundreds of other visitors. Don’t forget to buy your ticket before arriving.
Luís I Bridge
Straddling the River Douro with Porto on one side and Villa Nova de Gaia on the other, the Luís I Bridge offers a fantastic birdseye view of the city with the red roofs of Ribeira tumbling down before you. Designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the double-decked style enables pedestrians to share the upper level with just one metro train while the cars and lorries drive across below.
A topsy turvy collection of different sized houses decorated in a kaleidoscope of bold colours and tiles, Ribeira is Porto’s old town district and today forms the busiest tourist hub in the city. Despite this, it’s undoubtedly still worth a visit with a maze of cobbled streets to explore and a plethora of hidden bars and restaurants to discover.
Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata
A visit to Portugal wouldn’t be complete and even if you only have one day in Porto you can’t leave without sampling one (or two) of the country’s signature pastéis de nata. Some of the best in Porto can be found at Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata. The brand’s Lisbon branch is favoured by revered Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes, and Porto’s outlet is equally tasty with a warm, gooey custard filling encased with a satisfyingly flakey pastry case. Do as the locals do and eat it standing with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon and a side of strong espresso.