Beginners Guide to One Day in Porto
Are you visiting Portugal soon? You’ve made a super great choice. Congrats! Portugal is one of my favorite countries in the entire world.
Furthermore, in my humble opinion, Portugal is one of the best destinations for new solo travelers. It’s affordable, safe, diverse (cities, beaches, and more!), and plain ol’ awesome. I could probably visit this country fifty million times and never feel bored. Gotta book that return flight soon, haha.
Now, while most travelers stick to Lisbon (with good reason, I love Lisbon), you want to add the country’s second city, Porto, if you have two or three days to spare in your itinerary. Of course, an extended is even longer considering Porto has many amazing day trips such as Braga, Guimaraes, and Douro Valley. If you’re feeling even more ambitious, you could attempt the Portuguese Coastal Camino, which begins in Porto itself!
Of course, one day in Porto will even suffice – which is the topic of this post. You can reasonably do and see a lot in Porto with a short amount of time on your hands.
Why Should You Spend One Day in Porto?
So many good reasons to spend one day in Porto. As for me, I loved Porto’s “rough around the edges” charm, as well as its scenic river location and taste for good port. The city was accessible and safe for solo female travelers.
I’m sure you’ll love it too!
After all, in 2017 Forbes voted claimed Porto was THE city to visit. Not to mention, I personally think that Porto offers such a strong contrast to the Portugal we all see in the glossy travel magazines. You know what image I’m talking about here. The beaches, the surfing, the sand. Portugal’s “second city” offers a special insight into the day lives of its hardworking people.
Much like Italy, Portugal’s north and south are like night and day.
By going to Porto, you leave with a more whole picture of the country. And isn’t that why we travel? To truly discover a place? Absolutely.
Is it even possible to see all of Porto in a single day?
Well… no, not really.
No, no! Don’t leave! Hear me out!
We can all agree one day isn’t enough time to see every single attraction in any destination. To be blunt, I don’t recommend taking a day trip to Porto from Lisbon. The train between the two cities takes approximately 2 and a half hours, and you don’t want to feel rushed or aggravated. So definitely plan on spending the night if you’re arriving from the Portuguese capital.
On the other hand, Porto is very accessible from the university city Coimbra and a much more realistic day trip. And if you’re staying somewhere north, like Braga, then even better for you.
Finally, Porto is simple and compact enough to navigate for you to see a LOT in the span of a day. Walking is the ideal method of transportation for your day. I promise You don’t need to take the metro across the city to truly get a taste of Porto. Which is great! The less time lost on public transit, the better.
Arrival By Train for Your One Day in Porto
For my own visit, I took the train between Lisbon and Porto. But remember, you want to spend the night in this case!
To maximize your valuable time, know what station you will arrive in ahead of time. Portugal’s second city has two train stations: São Bento and Campanha. The former station, adorned with gorgeous blue tile, is located right in the city center. Odds are, though, you will arrive in Campanha, which is much larger and accommodates trains from further away, including the Lisbon trains.
Campanha is a bit further out of town, but nothing to worry about. Here’s what you do.
Upon arrival, take the metro directly to São Bento. It’s very affordable and takes approximately five minutes to reach the center. Hey, if I can do it and not get lost, so can you!
As I’ve said, Porto is also easily accessible via rail from other major cities such as Coimbra and Braga. Braga trains arrive right downtown, making it a perfect situation for you!
Speaking of which, I need to visit both of those places soon. I’m still sad that I missed Coimbra on my visit.
What guide to Porto would be complete without gushing about the hostels? Seriously, Porto has a variety of award-winning hostels. Seriously, Portuguese hostels are legendary in their quality.
I stayed in Tattva Design Hostel. The hostel was spacious and well-designed, and honestly felt more like a hotel than a hostel. Each dorm bed had a privacy shade, which was especially nice for someone like me (aka someone who values her “alone time” very much). At Tattva, a restaurant is also on site and dinner with the staff is offered on a regular basis.
If Tattva doesn’t appeal to you, so many other options are available for the choosing. I’ve heard great things about Gallery Hostel, too.
Not sold on a hostel? Don’t worry. Porto has a lot of hotels, too, haha.
Porto in a Day … For Literature Nerds!
Porto is a great destination for those of you who have literary interests. Your bookish heart will be very happy with your choice.
Even more awesome, Porto especially rocks if you’re a big Harry Potter fan. JK Rowling was inspired to write Harry Potter here at the Majestic Cafe. This ornate cafe, with its elegantly carved wood and chandeliers, can be found downtown on Rua Santa Catarina 112. Be warned that Majestic Cafe isn’t a cheap affair. Still, the inside is beautiful with a classy coffee menu and a smartly dressed piano player serenading you as you drink. Worth spending a bit of money especially if you love Harry Potter.
And if you’re obsessed with book stores? Ohhh, you’re in for a major treat. Livraria Lello & Irmão is a dream come true. JK Rowling is said to have frequented this bookstore, and Lonely Planet ranks it as one of the most beautiful libraries in the entire world.
If you’re a literature lover, like me, then check out this post on literary Porto for more details on how to enjoy your stay.
Go and Ogle at the Blue Tiles
Ahh, Portuguese tiles are legendary and Porto has plenty of stunning examples especially in blues.
Yes, intricate blue tiles decorate many of Porto’s buildings including São Bento train station – which makes it convenient for those arriving to the city by rail. Some tiles depict incredible scenes from Portugal’s extensive history, while others are simple and soft, showing flowers and leaves.
And let’s be honest who doesn’t love free art? At the train station, you can learn history and see art for the price of nothing.
You can also see many blue tiles just by roaming around the city.
You Must Enjoy Porto’s Waterfront
No guide to Porto would be complete without fawning over the amazing waterfront.
Just … you guys, this place is perfect for people watching and photos. Perfect. And, of course, you need to see the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge. The double-deck metal arch makes the construction very unique. Did you know this bridge was the largest of its kind when it was first built? Crazy.
Additionally, Porto’s waterfront is definitely a hot spot, a bustling dock where all the tourists gather for boat rides and food. However, don’t let the crowds turn you off. I found this area an absolutely lovely place to relax especially on a sunny afternoon.
If you want a meal here, venture a few streets away (avoiding restaurants aimed at tourists) and you can discover cheap and delicious food.
Eat Cheap and Right at Bolhão Market
Still thinking about food? You can eat right at Bolhão Market.
This lovely market dates back to 1850, and has a diverse selection of fruits, vegetables, fish, cheeses, and more. It’s also an ideal place for you to try some local Porto cuisine – which is quite different than the meals you’ll find in the south of the country. For example, you can chow down on Francesinha at this market. Francesinha is a sandwich made from bread (erm, obviously, haha), ham, and sausage. Then it’s covered with cheese, fries, and beer sauce. Mmmm, calories. Love it.
Of course, healthier options are available if you’re trying to watch your waistline, but hey, you’re traveling. Don’t beat yourself up.
For more information about food in Porto, check out this post about where to eat.
Don’t forget to sample Port on your trip to Porto!
I wasn’t a big fan of port before going on this trip. I highly recommend booking a tour at Taylor’s and enjoy a port tasting! This place was founded in 1692 so there is much history for you to learn.
Now Taylor’s technically isn’t located in Porto, but rather, in Vila Nova de Gaia, right across the Duoro River.
From Taylor’s, you’ll have a great view of the city, and learn a lot about the art of making port.
Want even more suggestions? Check out these 7 things to do in Porto.
Finally take in the beauty of Porto
Don’t come to Porto expecting to see sweeping European sites similar to Ben Big or the Eiffel Tower. Otherwise you’ll feel disappointed.
Instead you need to allow yourself to soak in Porto’s atmosphere: colorful tiles in the walls, small boats with chipped paint rocking in the harbor, the tram’s rickety wheels hauling passengers uphill. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a completely different time.
Wander down a small street and get lost on your day in Porto. I promise you won’t regret it. Unless you miss your train, in which case, don’t blame me.
Share your travel experiences and thoughts in the comments. Thanks for sticking around! I hope you enjoyed my guide! Let me know all about your one day in Porto!
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