To get a complete picture of Portugal, visit Porto — the capital of the north and the country’s second city. It’s less polished than Lisbon, but it’s also full of Old World charm. Houses with red-tiled roofs tumble down the hills to the riverbank, prickly church towers dot the skyline, mosaic-patterned stones line streets, and flat-bottomed boats called rabelos ply the lazy river. The city has a gritty character, warts and all, and locals claim they’re working too hard to worry about being pretty. Porto offers two high-impact sightseeing thrills: the postcard-perfect ambience of the riverfront district and the opportunity to learn more about (and taste) the port wine that ages here. Porto also features sumptuous Baroque churches and civic buildings, a bustling real-world market hall, and quirky but worthwhile museums.
At a Glance
▲▲ Strolling the Cais da Ribeira Porto's picturesque riverfront, with arcades and colorful traditional homes.
▲▲ Stock Exchange Palace Astonishing monument to civic pride, with room after sumptuous room.
▲▲ Port-Wine Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia Porto's most popular tourist activity: touring the cellars where its most famous product ages…and tasting some, too.
▲ Cruising the Douro Lazy one-hour cruises up and down the river, offering the city's top views.
▲ São Francisco Church Gothic church dripping with Baroque gold.
▲ Avenida dos Aliados Porto's top urban street, where the city goes to work in elaborate buildings.
▲ Clérigos Church and Tower Porto's towering landmark, with a 225-step climb to sweeping views over the urban sprawl.
▲ São Bento Train Station Entry hall decorated with impressive azulejo (tile) murals.
▲ Cathedral (Sé) Huge church overlooking the town, with fine azulejo-decorated cloister and otherwise dull interior.
▲ Rua de Santa Catarina The main shopping drag, with Art Nouveau and Art Deco landmarks.
▲ Market Lively old-fashioned produce and meat market…with old-fashioned sanitary conditions.
▲ Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Museum and Park Sprawling park with impressive museum, Art Deco mansion, and relaxing grounds.
Port and Douro Wines Institute Classy one-stop spot for port tasting.
Tramway Museum Collection tracing the history of electrical transport.
House of Henry the Navigator Birthplace of the explorer, with history exhibits.
House of Music New Modernist concert hall with performances of jazz, fado, and more.