Porto is best known for its dazzling rich collection of cultural attractions. The historical heart of Oporto lies in Ribeira, a waterfront bairro that has you charmed by the maze of narrow streets and some of the city’s architectural treasures. The Old Town of Porto was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is abundant in features that can be described with an 18th century accent.
Top Attractions in Porto
Torro dos Clérigos
The Clérigos Tower liberally punctuates Porto’s skyline and is the city’s most visible landmark. The 75 meter high 18th century tower demands a decent fitness level for those who want to reach the top considering you’ll have to climb 240 steps. The effort, however, is greatly rewarded with some of the most breathtaking panoramic views over the city, the river, the coastline and the distant Douro Valley.
Igreja de São Francisco
The beautiful Church of St. Francis dates back to the 18th century and boast some of the most splendid Baroque interior encrusted with a gilded silver veneer, effectively showcasing one of Portugal’s best examples of worked gold. It’s a priceless sightseeing experience with the embellished high altar, the columns and the pillars all perfectly decorated. The north wall boasts the São Francisco's Tree of Jesse, a family tree in gilded and painted wood depicting Christ's genealogy.
Porto’s Cathedral should definitely be including in your sightseeing stops in this city. The cathedral boasts some of the best sweeping views over the old-town streets and the River Douro, but that’s just a taste of what can be expected inside. The 12th century resembles a mighty fortress, but with features like its 13th century rose window and the peaceful Baroque cloisters paneled with sky blue azulejo tiles soften up the shadowy complexion of the cathedral. Make sure you climb up the granite staircase and see the chapterhouse and the magnificent silver retable in the small chapel to the left of the chancel.
Cais da Ribeira
The riverside quarter of Cais da Ribeira consists of an array of narrow, winding streets, zigzagging alleyways; and low-slung, sun-starved arcades. The Ribeira is a true adventure of color and flavor with its terraces of townhouses painted in bright mustard, tangerine and tawny hues. It’s one of the city’s best places to relax thanks to the abundance of restaurants and cafés along the quayside. Check out Praça da Ribeira, the riverfront square for its great vibe once you’re done exploring the medieval relics that loom in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ponte de Dom Luís I
As one of Portugal’s most iconic structures, the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge in Oporto is an unmissable sight. It spans the River Douro, linking Oporto with Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank and was built by Gustave Eiffel’s assistant in 1886. For the best views of the bridge, head to the terrace of the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, on the south bank.
Arco da Rua Augusta
The Arco da Rua Augusta is one of the best places to see Lisbon’s huge riverfront square, Praça do Comércio, in all its glory. The arch of Arco da Rua Augusta lies at northern edge of the concourse near the southern tip of of Rua Augusta, the city's main pedestrianized thoroughfare.
Avenida dos Aliados
If you’re keen on experiencing Oporto’s vibrant and entertaining side, then take a stroll down this double avenue lined with shops, stores, boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Head to Aliados, Oporto’s grand commercial hub or to the foot of the thoroughfare to visit Praça da Liberdade, or Estação de São Bento.
Yes, a coffeehouse really counts as an attraction, and once you see it for yourself, you’ll know exactly why. Café Majestic boasts some of the most splendid stonework and a distinctive Art Nouveau façade on its exterior. Inside you’ll find that a vintage 1920’s atmosphere lingers in the air with the carved wood chairs and marble-topped tables that lend a majestic and bohemian ambiance to the salon. As one of Oporto’s most celebrated cafés, it’s also one of Europe’s most historical. Famed for its cakes and pastries, the café also specializes in conjuring up all sorts of delicate dishes made to order. J.K. Rowling worked on the draft of her first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone while sipping coffee at a table near the entrance, if that hasn’t got you convinced, we don’t know what will.