With its majestic (and surprisingly easy to access) viewpoints, its setting on the picturesque Duoro River, its famous port wine, and its seemingly endless walls of azulejos, the small city of Porto, Portugal is a delight for the senses–and this one day in Porto itinerary will show you the best of it!
While Porto is a small city (population 215,000, give or take), it is a dense one, with something new to discover around every corner.
With 24 hours in Porto or less, you certainly won’t be able to see it all–but with careful planning, you’ll leave with an excellent taste of the beauty, history, food, and wine that the second-largest city in Portugal has to offer.
Here’s how to make the most one day in Porto, Portugal!
Table of Contents
The Perfect One Day in Porto Itinerary
For bibliophiles, start your morning at Livraria Lello.
Depending on what kind of traveler you are, there’s a good chance that Livraria Lello is either at the top of your Porto bucket list… or that you couldn’t care less about paying money to get inside a bookshop.
If you do hope to visit this gorgeous bookstore during your one day in Porto, there’s only one time to do it: right when they open, at 9:30 AM.
Livraria Lello rose to fame for a convoluted reason: the store kind of looks like it could be in Hogwarts, and J.K. Rowling worked on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone in Porto, ergo, Livraria Lello could have inspired Hogwarts!
It’s a stretch, yes, but the store is stunning, and I’m convinced that in the age of social media it’d be famous regardless.
To enter, you’ll need to pre-purchase a ticket voucher for 5 Euro.
The cost of the ticket is redeemable toward the purchase of a book (we bought a pretty copy of Love in the Time of Cholera).
Take a short walk over to the Igreja do Carmo.
Just up the street from Livraria Lello, you’ll find the beautiful Igreja do Carmo.
This church is home to one of the most popular walls of azulejos (Portuguese hand-painted tiles) in Porto!
As you approach, the wall will be right in front of you, and it’s quite the sight.
Now, as far as going inside: there are many churches on this itinerary for Porto in a day, and going inside every one of them would get tedious (for the most part, they have a similar interior style).
We recommend choosing a couple to go into, and simply enjoying the rest from the outside.
The Igrejo do Carmo is one of the better churches to enter, as it’s particularly large and ornate and nominal the entrance fee also covers a museum in the former monastery that’s worth a look.
Stroll over to the famous Sao Bento Train Station.
From one set of famous azulejos to the next!
Your next stop during your day in Porto is the gorgeous Sao Bento Train Station, with its magnificent walls of azulejos complemented by the hustle and bustle of a working train station.
The famous views are located just inside the main doors, you won’t need a ticket to access them.
Make your way to the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso.
About a 15-minute walk away from Sao Bento, you’ll find yourself at the Igrejo de Santo Ildefonso, one of the most photographed churches in Porto!
Along the way, depending on which route you take, you’ll pass by either city hall (it’s beautiful) or the (theoretical) Mercado do Bohlao, which has unfortunately been closed and set up in a temporary location for years.
Looking for a great lunch near the Igrejao de Santo Ildefonso?
Check out the Chapel of Souls.
I feel like I keep repeating this, but it’s only because it’s true: the Chapel of Souls is home to some of the most gorgeous azulejos in Porto!
Unlike the other churches on this one day Porto travel guide, the Chapel of Souls doesn’t incorporate azulejos into its exterior decor–the exterior is entirely azulejos.
It’s quite the sight, especially viewed from the corner when you can appreciate both angles.
While small, this chapel does also boast a similar (beautiful) interior style to other Porto churches, and is free to visit–something to keep in mind if you’re traveling Porto on a budget.
Grab a snack (or not) at the Majestic Cafe.
Strolling from the Chapel of Souls to the Majestic Cafe, you’ll find yourself on the busy, pedestrianized Rua Santa Catarina.
This is where you’ll find Porto’s most popular shopping, as well as plenty of cafes and restaurants catering to tourists.
By far the most memorable of them is the stunning Majestic Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote part of the first Harry Potter book.
The cafe’s beauty combined with its fame means that prices are, to put it mildly, incredibly high, but we found the coffee and desserts delicious (order the apple cake) and the experience worth the cost… once.
Admire the Porto Cathedral (and nearby views).
Completed in the 1700s after several centuries of effort, the massive Porto Cathedral features soaring architecture and–you guessed it–beautiful azulejos.
There’s a small fee to visit the cloisters, but they are one of the most beautiful parts of the cathedral, and well worth stepping into.
In front of the cathedral, you’ll also find plenty of beautiful viewpoints over Porto!
The Miradouro da Rua das Aldas is particularly gorgeous.
Head down to the Ribeira Promenade.
There are essentially 3 ways to get from the Porto Cathedral to the famous Ribeira Promenade.
The first is the Funicular dos Guindais (2.5 Euro).
The second is the Lada Elevator (free).
The third is the least efficient but certainly fun option of simply winding your way down the maze of streets until you hit the riverfront.
Whichever way you choose to get there, the colorful, vibrant Ribeira Promenade will be waiting to impress you once you get there!
Stroll across the Ponte Luis I.
After meandering up and down the riverfront for a bit, it’s time to cross the Duoro River!
There are two ways to cross the Ponte Luis I: on the bottom (which you’ll do now) and on the top (more on that later).
As you cross, you’ll be moving from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, home of gorgeous views and the many traditional port wine lodges.
Enjoy a port tasting or Duoro River cruise (or both).
Depending on your travel tastes, there are two wonderful things to do in Porto that you can take advantage of when you cross the river!
Option one: a beautiful river cruise through the 6 bridges of Porto, on a traditional boat that–up until the 1960s–was responsible for bringing wine from the Duoro Valley to Porto.
Option two: head directly to a port wine lodge for a tour and tasting! We toured Quinta dos Corvos and couldn’t have loved the experience more.
Option three: squeeze them both in–it’s doable with an early start and keeping an eye on the time!
No matter what you choose, you’re bound to have an unforgettable Porto travel experience.
Book your Porto River Cruise today!
Take the cable car up to the top of the Ponte Luis I.
Odds are very high that after a long day of sightseeing and a possible port tasting, you aren’t going to be in the mood to climb a huge hill!
Luckily, there’s a much better solution.
The Teleferico de Gaia will deliver you from the riverfront right up to the upper edge of the Ponte Luis I while offering some of the best views of Porto along the way!
Enjoy the sun setting over your day in Porto.
Before making your way back across the bridge, consider pausing to enjoy the sunset!
The nearby Serro di Pilar Monastery, the Jardim do Morro Park, and the Ponte Luis I itself are all fantastic sunset spots in the immediate area.
Tuck into a francesinha for dinner.
Of course no Porto itinerary would be complete without a francesinha!
Bread, ham, sausage, steak, more sausage, cheese, more bread, all smothered in a tomato and beer sauce: these are the general ingredients behind Porto’s iconic francesinha sandwich.
The sandwich is generally served with french fries and sometimes topped with a fried egg–and yes, it’s quite gluttonous.
It’s also fairly new: despite its fame, the sandwich was only invented in the 1950s by a French-Belgian emigrant who was adapting a French croque-monsieur.
Where to Stay in Porto, Portugal
With only one day in Porto, we highly recommend staying in a centrally located hotel on the Porto side of the Duoro River, within walking distance of some of the city’s best attractions.
Luckily, Porto’s compact size and generally affordable rates make this pretty simple to accomplish!
Here are a few highly-rated, well-located places to stay in Porto, including the hotel we adored.
Zero Box Lodge Porto — Housed in a former bank, the wildly popular Zero Box Lodge offers you the chance to visit Porto on a budget… by staying in a box. In a good way!
This unique concept accommodation offers amenities like a rooftop terrace and prime location just a few steps off the Rua Santa Catarina, plus the chance to stay somewhere truly memorable during your time in Porto.
Catalonia Porto — With sleek, modern rooms, a beautiful garden, and an outdoor swimming pool, there’s a reason that Catalonia Porto is such a popular place to stay!
The fabulous breakfast buffet is included with some rates, and the hotel’s prime location less than a 5-minute walk from the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso are also both excellent reasons to check in.
Pestana Porto – A Brasileira — We absolutely adored our (self-funded, as always) stay in this 5-star property in the heart of Porto!
The location inside a historic building is perfect, the high-end espresso machines available on each floor were incredible, and the above and beyond customer service ensured we had an incredible stay.
Our favorite touch was the dog bed and bowls provided for Ranger, though the snacks left in our room one night were a close second.
The Porto Card: Is it Worth the Money?
However, for this one day Porto itinerary, you likely won’t come out ahead on using it.
Many of the popular attractions included here, for example, the cloisters at the Porto Cathedral are only discounted (in this case, 35% off of a 3 Euro fee), not included.
If you plan to visit popular attractions that are not included on this Porto itinerary, such as the Church of Sao Francisco, and/or you’re staying from the city center and will need to use public transportation to get around, it’s worth running the numbers on.
If you’re staying in a central area, there is a cheaper version of the Porto Card without transportation available, too.
Generally speaking, though, sightseeing in Porto is extremely affordable and the city is very walkable, so unless you’re planning to visit a few of the 6 included museums, it’s likely that the math won’t work out in your favor.
More than one day in Porto?
One day in Porto, Portugal can’t possibly hope to cover all the city has to offer!
If you have 2 or 3 days to explore the best things to do in Porto, be sure to also climb the Clerigos Tower, visit the Church of Sao Francisco (home to the most stunning church interior in Porto), and tour the Bolsa Palace.
Soaking in the views from the Serro di Pilar Monastery (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site) is also a great experience.
With extra time in Porto, you can’t beat the opportunity to take a day trip to the Duoro Valley to sample port wine at its source, ride in a beautiful Rabelo boat, and soak in the absolutely stunning scenery of the region.
And, don’t forget to grab a sandwich at the rightfully famous Casa Guedes: the roasted pork and soft cheese sandwich is sublime.
Getting Around During One Day in Porto, Portugal
If you choose a centrally-located hotel on the Porto side of the Duoro River, you’ll easily be able to walk almost anywhere you need to go during your 24 hours in Porto!
Some exceptions include possibly taking the funicular or elevator the Ribeira Promenade, and taking the cable car back up to the top of the Ponte Luis I.
If you’re arriving in Porto by train, you’ll likely arrive at the Campanha Train Station and need to catch a 4-minute train to Sao Bento, which will deposit you right in the middle of the action.