Porto hasn’t caught the attention of global travelers quite like the country’s capital—yet. One of Europe’s oldest cities, Porto is dotted with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and its maze of Gothic architecture and historic wonders are sure to captivate any traveler. Rolling hillsides yield to terracotta rooftops, while the Douro River winds around the city, ushering in a light, coastal breeze. Nicknamed the “Granite City,” granite buildings dating back to the town’s Medieval period catch the afternoon light, plus its six bridges each offer up stunning views of the city from their vantage points.
During your Porto cruise, you’ll discover the stories and significance of the city’s top attractions as you tour Ribeira Square and Porto Cathedral. Explore Porto’s eclectic culinary scene, which fuses traditional Portuguese dishes with modern twists. Share tapas, try fresh-caught seafood from the harbor, and sample unique regional eats like meaty Francesinha sandwiches or tripas a moda do porto, a stew with origin stories in the 14th century. Sip and savor sweet port wine named for the region as you hop between wineries, or venture beyond the city to stroll the sands and splash in the Atlantic Ocean.
Porto’s colorful historic district balances its proud UNESCO World Heritage status with contemporary restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. People watch and relax along the square, then pop into a riverside cafe for views of boats bobbing in the harbor. It’s walking distance to several attractions nearby, including the unmissable Livraria Lello and Porto Cathedral.
A Porto cruise isn’t complete without seeing its signature cathedral, which has been deemed the “birthplace” of the city itself. From Romanesque to Baroque styles, Porto Cathedral has worn many faces over the centuries. Pass through the Largo da Se on the way to the church’s interior for romantic city views and a glimpse of the Douro River.
Bibliophiles will rejoice at the sight of Livraria Lello, an opulent, Instagrammable bookstore known around the world for its red staircase and collection of rare books. Though only built back in 1906, this Art Nouveau achievement possesses a timeless quality. Take photos from the steps of what some say is the most beautiful bookshop in the world, or lose yourself among the aisles of books.
Wine aficionados won’t want to miss a guided tour of Mateus Palace, which is featured on the label of Mateus rosé. Enjoy a wine tasting and browse the mansion’s collection of 17th- and 18th-century art. Stop in the ornate garden of shaped hedges, and admire the grounds and farmland surrounding the palace.
Sweet, red Port wine originates and is sourced in the Douro Valley. During your time in Porto, go on a tour of the scenic, fertile wine country. Stop in Amarante for a tasting, enjoying the lush countryside beyond Porto. Near Peso da Régua, visit a local winery and discover the difference between dry-aged Ports and other varieties known to the region.
Romanesque, baroque, and gothic vistas are all a critical part of Porto’s charm, and you’ll learn stories of the city on a guided architecture tour. Glorious sights like the bell tower of Clérigos Church, the São Bento Station, and the Monument Church Of St Francis all display wildly varying styles—a testament to Porto’s versatility.
A short drive through Portugal’s beautiful countryside will bring you to Guimaraes Castle. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, explore the first king of Portugal’s former residence and hear royal stories and legends before making another historic stop at Dukes of Braganza Palace, a well-preserved medieval castle.
Enjoy a beach break at one of Porto’s most famous beaches, Gondarém Beach or Praia dos Ingleses. Take a long walk along Gondarém’s rocky shore and dip your toes in the Atlantic, then grab a bite or a cold drink at one of the beachy restaurants nearby. At Praia dos Ingleses, jump into the cool waters, then pop into a neighboring cafe to warm up with coffee or tea.
Culinary experiences in Portugal are one of a kind, and Porto is definitely a foodie’s city. Hearty sandwiches, fresh seafood, and comforting stews like caldo verde, a kale and potato-based soup, dominate the menus. Try the city’s most popular dish, Francesinha, a take on the French croque monsieur or madame. Porto’s restaurants battle it out for the title of “best Francesinha,” but you’ll have to decide for yourself when you sample this hearty meat sandwich drenched in cheese, sauce, and topped with a fried egg.
The strategic position of the Douro River made Porto a desirable location for trade and commerce throughout its history. The city industrialized over time, but much of its Gothic architecture and all-granite buildings from the medieval period have endured. Porto’s wealth of history, including its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, make it one of the country’s most important and captivating destinations.
Cruise ships sail into the Porto Leixoes Cruise Terminal north of the Douro River. The terminal is equipped with Wi-Fi, information stations, and gift shops. From the terminal, you can board a hop-on/hop-off bus that’ll take you closer to the city of Porto.
Porto’s public transportation system is extensive, making it easy to get around. The city’s best sights and attractions are easily navigable by foot. Taxis are available as well. Many travelers prefer to take the tram system, which allows you to see the city’s cobblestoned center. The novelty and nostalgia of riding the streetcar is a fun way to take in the city.
In Porto, you’ll find a unique fusion of old and new, particularly when it comes to its shopping scene. Modern, cutting-edge fashion, boutiques, and art galleries dot the Ribeira Square, contrasting with its age-old gothic architecture. Don’t miss the chance to stock up on your favorite Port wine, or enjoy cultural relics of Portuguese life and culture at locally-owned shopped A Vida Portuguesa. Grab a coffee on the second floor of The Feeting Room, then go shopping for boutique items and shoes by Portuguese designers. Hunt for vintage treasures at Patch Porto, a thrifting haven for retro clothing and home goods.
You’ll use the euro as your main currency while you cruise Porto, Portugal. It’s recommended you keep a bit of cash for small expenses and purchases along the way. Credit cards are also commonly accepted in Porto. When tipping for coffee or a beverage, you can round to the nearest euro. Leave a 5% to 10% tip at restaurants for excellent service, particularly at fine dining establishments. Unlike other parts of Europe, you typically won’t see a service charge added to your bill in lieu of tipping.
Porto, Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon, is one of Europe’s oldest cities and was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Of course, Porto’s name itself hints at perhaps Portugal’s most famous export—port. This is where the fortified wine was first produced. The city has a rich history and is reminiscent of times gone by. You wouldn’t be wrong to compare it to an ideal Shakespearean backdrop. In Porto, the skyline is composed of sky-high bell towers, opulent baroque churches, and majestic beaux art buildings, which all create a romantic air that’s only heightened by the glorious shafts of sunlight that illuminate the city.