Porto — the capital of Portugal's north and the country's second city — is less polished than its rival, Lisbon. But block for block, it may be even more full of gritty, 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 ply the lazy river. 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 just across the river. The city also features sumptuous Baroque churches and civic buildings, a bustling market hall, atmospheric lanes of glorious azulejo-tiled houses, a variety of good restaurants and appealing boutiques, and quirky but worthwhile museums.
At a Glance
▲▲ Port-Wine Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia Touring the cellars and sampling Porto's most famous product is this city's top tourist activity, especially for connoisseurs.
▲▲ 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.
▲ Cruising the Douro Lazy one-hour cruises up and down the river, offering the city's top views.
▲ Do-It-Yourself Vintage Trolley Tour Wonderful overview of the city and a trip out to the ocean park beach using all three vintage trolley lines (outlined in Rick Steves Portugal).
▲ 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.
▲ Porto Cathedral Huge church overlooking the town, with fine azulejo-decorated cloister and otherwise dull interior.
▲ Rua de Santa Catarina Main shopping drag, with Art Nouveau and Art Deco landmarks.
▲ Misericórdia Church and Museum Church connected to a former hospital, now home to a fine exhibit showing the good works and treasures of Porto's all-powerful charity
▲ Bolhão Market Lively produce and meat market.
▲ Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Museum and Park Sprawling park with impressive museum, Art Deco mansion, and relaxing grounds.
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.