City Guides

What to Do with 48 Hours in Porto, Portugal

If you only have a couple of days, here are the must-dos.

After years of being outshined by the cosmopolitan glow of Lisbon, Porto—Portugal’s once scrappy but now sublime second city—has been stealing the spotlight these days. 

Cinematic landscapes, balmy weather, and a blossoming food and wine scene have all contributed to a boom in international visitors to Portugal. The winner of European Best Destination in 2012, 2014, and 2017, Porto now draws a record number of travelers with an average of 1.6 million visitors each year. 

Planning to visit this incredible city in the coming year? Here’s a guide to a perfect 48 hours in Porto.

Day one

Morning. Start your day right with a carb-loaded breakfast and a cup of coffee at Confeitaria Serrana, a traditional Portuguese bakery and café located by the São Bento train station. Here you can try Portugal’s iconic bolas de Berlim—fluffy donuts sliced in half and filled with thick egg cream. The sugar-coated calorie bomb is a city favorite and will give you plenty of fuel for exploring the city’s cobblestone streets on foot. 

Speaking of walking, get ready to do lots of it. Despite being fairly hilly, the city is small enough that you can access most of the must-see spots by foot. And you’ll be glad you did—walking not only saves you an Uber fare but allows you to stumble into the city’s many hidden jewels like a tiny family-run restaurant, a lookout point with a dazzling river view, a hip under-the-radar bar, etc.

Afternoon. After breakfast, you’re in the perfect spot to explore Ribeira, one of the city’s most picturesque and popular neighborhoods. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this colorful district sits on the banks of the Douro River in the heart of the old town. Here you can follow winding medieval streets and zigzagging staircases to some of the city’s top attractions, including the splendid Igreja de São Francisco monastery church and Torre de Clérigos—a baroque tower with a 225-step staircase and breathtaking views of the city. 

When you get hungry, you’ll have your pick of the neighborhood’s many traditional and innovative restaurants. If you can land a coveted outside table facing the Douro River at Adega São Nicolau—one of Porto’s finest restaurants—we recommend the crispy octopus fritters and homemade desserts. 

Evening. No trip to Porto would be complete without trying the city’s namesake wine. You can cross the Dom Luis I Bridge by foot to get to Vila Nova de Gaia on the far bank of the river from the Ribeira district. Vila Nova de Gaia—or simply “Gaia”—is home to an overwhelming number of port wine cellars, in addition to unparalleled lookout points. Of the more than 60 port lodges, we recommend the CV Kopke, Sandeman, and Quinta do Noval.

End the evening with dinner on a terrace overlooking the historic city center across the river. You’ll have no shortage of excellent restaurants to choose from along the riverbank, but you won’t want to miss the Michelin-starred restaurant and stunning views at The Yeatman hotel. 

Hop a river taxi back to the north bank of the river and take a tram to Porto’s center. Finish off the night at Maus Hábitos (“bad habits”)—a local haunt with DJs and live music. 

Day two

What to Do with 48 Hours in Porto

The Livraria (Library) Lello

Morning. After grabbing a flaky pastel de nata at one of the city’s countless pastelerias (it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to these creamy, traditional pastries, but we recommend the Majestic Café or Fábrica da Nata), it’s time to venture out to the city’s sunny beaches. Depending on how ambitious you’re feeling, you could rent a car and drive a few hours south to some of the best beaches in the country. But since you’re short on time, you may want to stick to the city’s many local beaches—only a short tram ride away from the center are the beaches of Praia de Matosinhos and Praia do Carneiro. 

Afternoon. Once you’ve had your fill of sea and sunning, you can retreat indoors at the Livraria Lello—the famous bookstore that is thought to have inspired Hogwarts. After taking selfies in the beautiful space with its art nouveau staircase, you can head to the nearby O Diplomata. At this lively café and restaurant, you can customize your own pancake creations with toppings like ice cream, fruit, and granola. Don’t worry if you come late—brunch is served until 4:00 p.m. 

Work off your hearty lunch with shopping at the hip Armazém, a converted warehouse with a gallery, café, shops, and an indoor fireplace. 

Evening. To finish off your 48 hours in Porto, grab Portuguese-style tapas by candlelight at the cozy Museu D’ Avo. The chouriço (pork sausage) is not to be missed. 

After dinner, bid the city adieu (for now) at one of its signature relaxed bars. We suggest kicking back with a beer at Miradouro Ignez, where you can watch the sunset over the Porto’s red-tiled roofs and the Douro River—a view that is certain to have you already planning your trip back.

Embrace the Lifeafar and book your next adventure at Casa do Cativo, our boutique hotel located right in the heart of Porto. And follow us on Instagram for more travel inspiration and to share your Lifeafar moments with #Lifeafar. 

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