First time in Porto: things you should know

Every time I visit a new city, my first instinct is to research everything that I can about it. This…

Sara Riobom
25 de February de 2024

Every time I visit a new city, my first instinct is to research everything that I can about it. This way I’ll be surer of what to expect and so I’ll be able to enjoy my stay better.

And so, to make your first time in Porto as enjoyable as it can be, here’s a list of the things you should know about the city. Make sure to also check my Ultimate bucket list of Porto, as you’ll find even more suggestions there! 🙂

First time in Porto: the things you should know

When is the best time to visit Porto?

The best time to visit Porto really depends on your age, who you are travelling with and your preferences. But there are a couple of things you should know if this is your first time in Porto:

April and May are a great time to visit Porto as there are not as many tourists as during Summer. Late August and September are the best months for wine lovers, as the harvest in Douro Valley takes place during that time.

If you are a party animal, then I recommend you come in June as it is when we celebrate São João festival in Porto, or the New Year’s Eve.

During July and August the city is completely packed with tourists – it actually gets a little bit depressing for the locals as you cannot hear Portuguese anywhere! During these months there are queues for every monument and the prices are higher.

If you want to avoid tourists, then I recommend you to visit between November and February – yes, it is colder and rainy, but it might pay off and everything is cheaper – including flights and hotels.

How is the weather like in Porto?

Usually foreigners have this glossy idea of Portugal being a beach, sunny destination but, dear friends, Porto is in the north of the country, and hence there is a loooooooot of rainy, windy days. In general, it rains in Porto from November to April but, with climate change, more and more the summer is extending almost until November.

In general, this is what you should expect of the weather in Porto:

  • plenty of rainy days between November and April (make sure to read my guide of what to do in Porto on rainy days)
  • plenty of wind, even during summer time. Make sure to bring a scarf, regardless of the time when you are visiting Porto.
  • a loooooot of humidity. This is something that my boyfriend, who is a Belgian, struggles a lot with 😛 This means that, besides raining a lot, in summer you will sweat a lot more. It also means that if you have breathing allergies like me, you will be in a world of pain if you come here during the winter months.
  • cold nights, even during summer. Make sure to bring an appropriate jacket.

Therefore, regardless of the month when you are traveling to Porto, I recommend you to bring comfortable shoes, a raincoat, a warm sweater and a scarf to protect you from the wind. Trust me, you’ll eventually need all of them. 😛

How to get from Porto’s airport to the city centre

subway carriage first time porto
© Filipa Brito

If this is your first time in Porto you are probably wondering how to get from Porto’s airport to the city centre.

In my opinion, the most logical and environment-friendly way of getting to the city centre from Porto’s airport is to take the subway.

When you arrive at Porto’s airport you take the stairs or the escalator to Floor -1. There you have to acquire an Andante card, which is a transport card that you can use on the subway as well as on the buses in Porto.

Each person must buy an Andante card and charge it with one Z4 trip (currently it costs 2,25€), which is enough to get you to the city centre. Then, just validate it, enter the subway and you’re ready to go! (If this sounds confusing read my guide to the subway of Porto, where I explain everything in detail).

If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, with kids or with people with disabilities, then you might prefer to get a private transfer from Porto’s airport to the city centre. It costs 25€ which is very reasonable.

If this is expensive for you then I recommend you to get a shared transfer from Porto’s airport to the city centre as it only costs 12€.

How to get around in Porto

bike tour porto
Even if it is your first time in Porto you’ll find it quite easy to get around in the city.

Porto’s city centre is very hilly but it is very compact as well. The main monuments, such as the Clérigos tower, the Lello bookshop, the cathedral of Porto and São Bento train station are close to each other.

Therefore you can easily walk around – with some effort due to the steepness of the streets, but not to worry about if you are in reasonable physical shape.

In general, I would use these rules to decide how to get around in Porto:

  • City centre: walk or take the subway (main stations: Trindade, São Bento, Aliados).
  • Ribeira and Foz: these neighbourhoods do not have subway stations, and as they are very close to the river it takes some effort to get from there to the city centre. The best way to get there is walking. However, these are the flattest areas in the city, so I recommend you to rent a bike and ride from there all the way to Passeio Alegre, to Castelo do Queijo or even to Matosinhos. 🙂
  • Boavista: this is the area where Casa da Música and the synagogue of Porto are located. To get there, you should go to the subway station Casa da Musica. If you are planning to visit Serralves’ contemporary art museum, you should get an Uber from that particular subway station (you can also take a bus).
hop on hop off bus porto
© Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours

If you just want to get a general view over the city, I recommend you to buy the ticket to the Hop On Hop Off bus in Porto. If you want to make a smart choice you can get the combo ticket to the Hop On Hop Off bus in Porto, 6 Bridges Cruise and Port wine cellar as it allows you to save a lot more money than if you purchased each activity separately.

Is Porto a safe city?

The answer is: YES! Portugal as a whole has consistently been ranked as one of the Top 10 safest countries in the world. Porto, in particular, is VERY safe. It is a medium sized city of ~200.000 inhabitants with around 700 homeless people. I have lived here my entire life and I have only been robbed once (and most of my friends have never been robbed at all). I park the car wherever I want, I can come home alone at any time of the day, and it is perfectly safe to use jewellery and to use your mobile in public (unlike many other countries in the world!).

Moreover, Portuguese people are known to be extremely kind and helpful, and they will go above and beyond to make sure you have a nice stay in their country (and, as a Portuguese person myself, I only started noticing this when I lived abroad).

What to see in Porto: which tickets to buy in advance

On your first time in Porto you’ll probably want to hit all the relevant monuments in the city. Some monuments are always packed with people so you should buy the online tickets in advance to save you some time & money.

You should definitely buy the online ticket to watch a Fado show as this is very popular in Porto and it runs out fast. You can buy the ticket to a 1h Fado show at Casa da Guitarra, but you can also combine the Fado show with a visit & tasting at a Port wine cellar. If you like this idea, don’t forget to buy the online ticket to listen to Fado at Cálem’s Port wine cellar.

fado calem port wine cellars
© Fado In Porto

You should also buy the ticket to the 6 bridges Cruise as this is one of the most relaxing activities in Porto and one of the most popular ones.

portoalities tour grahams port wine lodge porto

Make sure to book your wine tastings at one of the best Port wine lodges in Porto. They are extremely popular and you most likely won’t be able to get a place if you show up unannounced. My favourite Port wine lodges are Graham’s (it has a well structured tour AND the best view of the douro river), Cockburn’s (it is the most beautiful lodge, and you will see their team of coppers working!) and Calém (the only Port wine lodge where you can watch a fado show while drinking wine).

What NOT to do in Porto

As I said before, I have lived in Porto my entire life and there are things I do NOT recommend doing in the city.

One of them is (surprise surprise!) to visit the Lello bookstore. Yes, it is pretty bla bla bla but it is SO full of people ALL the time. You can skip the excruciatingly long lines of this monument by getting the onlike skip the line ticket, but when you get inside Lello bookstore you will soon realise that you can barely move, given the ridiculous amount of people they let in at the same time. It is really not worth it!

private tour porto clerigos tower

Another thing that I don’t particularly recommend is to climb the Clérigos tower. Don’t get me wrong, the it is a landmark of Porto and the view from the top is quite pretty, but oh boy it takes such a long time to get there! First you need to face the long queue and then you will have to climb veeeery slowly, because the steps are quite narrow and there are always people going up and down at the same time. It’s a nightmare!

    Private tours in Porto: A great way to discover the city

    private tour porto group friends
    One of the funniest tours we did recently, with a group of friends from NYC 🙂

    The more I travel the more I realise that it is wonderful to discover a new place with a local person.
    Yes, we can plan our trip extensively and read about the history of the monuments, but only a local person can unveils the traditions, the behaviour and the collective mindset of a place.
    This is exactly why I started conducting tours in Porto more than four years ago – to be able to show my city to everyone willing to know it!
    Therefore, make sure to read about my half day private tour of Porto and my full day private tour of Porto. Our private Jewish heritage tour of Porto is also very popular. You can also assess the quality of our tours by reading the reviews of our clients on TripAdvisor.

    Where to Stay in Porto

    the yeatman hotel porto swimming pool
    © The Yeatman Hotel

    I have already written about the best neighborhoods to stay in Porto, to help you on your first time in Porto, but I can summarise it here for you:

    Cedofeita | Santo Ildefonso

    Romantic neighborhood in Porto. It is full of art galleries and restaurants. It is close enough to the main monuments but quieter.

    Sé | Vitória | Miragaia

    The busiest neighborhood in Porto, where the main monuments are located and where the nightlife district is. It has plenty of transportation options

    Ribeira (S. Nicolau, Lordelo do Ouro e Massarelos)

    The touristy area in Porto. Close to the Douro river, the Luiz I bridge and the tram line. Not too many transport options but it is great for a bike ride.

    Cais de Gaia

    This is in Gaia, not in Porto. It is the perfect location for those wishing to explore the Port wine cellars.


    Corporate neighborhood in Porto filled with business hotels. It is close to Casa da Música, the synagogue of Porto and Serralves’ museum. It has plenty of public transport’s options, and quick access to the highway.

    First time in Porto: the food you shouldn’t miss

    woman eating francesinhas santa francesinha restaurant porto

    If there is one thing I learned from my Belgian boyfriend is that we, the Portuguese, are OBSESSED about food 😀 So worry not, my foodie friend!, your palate will be delighted with your trip to Porto.

    Traditional Portuguese food is quite heavy and the portions are very large. In Porto, a coastal city, you will be able to find not only fantastic meat dishes but also great fish and seafood restaurants. If you are a vegetarian, worry not: there are plenty of good options for you, too.

    These are probably the dishes you should try in our city:

    And, naturally, don’t forget to dive deep into the best traditional restaurants of Porto.

    Save this article for later:

    first time in porto clerigos tower
    first time in porto gardens sunset

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