Porto is a northern coastal city and the birthplace of the internationally renowned Port wine, with European wide protection of the name, reserved for the wine produced in Portugal, much like champagne. It is also home to Livraria Lello; the 3rd most beautiful bookshop in the world.

When searching for what to do in Porto, pictures do not do the city justice. Porto has so much more to offer than the traditional tourist hotspots.

On many websites and travel blogs describe Porto as an ideal destination for the elderly with sights to see such as churches and gardens, and this is no lie. The city has beautiful churches such as the Igreja de São Francisco and gorgeous gardens like the Crystal Palace gardens (as seen in the image in point 5).

However, Porto is also the perfect destination for millennials - or anyone for that matter - that want to take a dip into traditional, unspoiled Portuguese culture.

Plus, despite the dated travel guides in books and online, there is an abundance of exciting things to see and do that for some reason aren’t mentioned on most of the travel and tourism websites. 

Check out my top recommendations for a first time trip to Portugal including some of the best destinations not to miss.


1. Douro Riverside Walk

Douro Riverside Walk, Porto

If spending your time underground on a wine cellar tour doesn’t sound like fun to you, an alternative could be taking a walk along the stunning Douro riverside, taking in the picturesque red-roofed buildings and basking in the clear skied sunshine that Portugal enjoys almost all year round.

You don’t even have to pass up the cultural opportunity Port wine presents, as tastings are available along the river as well as all over the city. Both Port and cherry liqueur can be tasted in chocolate shot glasses - a definite must for a historically cultured taste sensation. 


2. Bus Tour

Porto hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour bus

One thing mentioned on some tourist guide sites is the hop-on hop-off bus tours, an increasingly popular sightseeing method in a lot of cities.

The hop-on hop-off bus tours offered in Porto are brilliant value; offering a 48 hour bus ticket in conjunction with a Douro River cruise for as little as €18.

Bus routes cover all of the most popular sites in Porto as well as some lesser known ports of call circling all the way around the city and along the coast line with many hop-on hop-off stops along the beachfront and harbour.


3. Go Surfing

Surf in Porto

The beachfront may just look picturesque and like a good photo opportunity, but there are a lot of exciting activities to try out.

If going to learn to surf in Portugal appeals to you then why not tick it off you bucket list in this city. Porto has surf schools offering private lessons and family lessons to help you get on your feet - literally - and ride the waves. 


4. Visit Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello, Porto

As previously mentioned, Porto is the proud home of the 3rd most beautiful bookshop in the world; Livraria Lello.

Although built in 1906 after being designed in the Neo-Manueline style, the bookshop has become an increasingly popular place of interest for one particular lot of fans. J.K. Rowling, author of the multi-billion book and film franchise, lived in Porto and wrote some of Harry Potter while living there.

So apart from being a beautifully carved gallery for hardback alternate universes and world renowned treatises, the store is overflowing with the wizarding world. 

However, don’t fret if the written works aren’t for you, as just three doors up from the famous book store, lies a gelato cafe with sorbets and macaroons exquisite enough to make it famous in its own right. It’s a compromise capable of bringing together anyone, whether a Gryffindor, Slytherin or no house at all. 


5. Put the Map Down & Get Wonderfully Lost

Crystal Palace Gardens, Porto

If the above didn’t sell you on a visit to Porto then it has one more thing up its sleeve to convince you; it’s an explorer’s paradise. 

A city isn’t often recommended to explorer travellers; its a concrete jungle, not a natural wildlife filled climate - but that doesn’t mean a city can’t have exciting boulevards off the beaten track, and Porto is the perfect example of this.

You can get off the map lost down Porto’s culture-rich side streets in small, family owned craft shops and experimental cafe restaurants with grasping recipes to fuel your next side street.

You might want to learn some essential phases to know before visiting Portugal to impress the locals.

Porto deserves your time, and if the city centre’s cavern streets off the main squares aren’t adventurous enough, Porto has a brilliant new metro, so there’s an abundance of vibrant urban paths to wander. 

Disclaimer: it is not a requirement to actually get lost.


Plan a Trip to Portugal 

By Ailsa Watson