Ultimate guide to the best day trips from Porto

If you have planned to stay in the city for more than 2 / 3 days, then I highly recommend…

Sara Riobom
3 de February de 2020

If you have planned to stay in the city for more than 2 / 3 days, then I highly recommend you to take a few day trips from Porto. Don’t get me wrong – our city is spectacular but there is SO MUCH more to explore in Northern Portugal and Porto is a fantastic base point.
I have read many articles about the best day trips from Porto and I always felt they are a bit incomplete, which is why I decided to summarise everything in a table (you can totally see I’m an engineer, right? :D).

Below the table you have information about each specific destination, what to do there and how to get there.

Destination Distance to Porto Best reached by Tours from Porto?
Aveiro 69 km / 43mi Train Yes
Douro Valley 120km / 75mi (min) Car Yes
Braga 55km / 34 mi Train Yes
Guimarães 55km / 34 mi Train Yes
Penêda Gerês 97km / 60mi Car Yes
Amarante 64km / 40 mi Car Yes
Afurada 5.5km / 3.4 mi Bicycle No
Coimbra 118 km / 73 mi Train Yes
Santiago de Compostela 237 km / 147 mi Car Yes
Quintandona 35 km / 22mi Car No

These are the best day trips from Porto:

Day trips from Porto: Aveiro

aveiro moliceiro boat canal colorful houses
Aveiro is a rather small city that was originally a fishermen village, so the city centre is very quaint and well preserved.
You can easily spend a day wandering around the city centre while trying ovos moles (an overwhelmingly traditional sweet made from egg yolks and sugar), visiting the Art Nouveau Museum or taking a moliceiro boat ride. I have already written a guide about Aveiro that you can use to plan this day trip from Porto.
If you have rented a car, I suggest you to visit also Costa Nova as you will fall in love with its stripped houses by the Atlantic ocean.
Legend says that the fishermen of Costa Nova would come back home completely drunk, enter the wrong house and sleep with the wrong woman, and so they decided to paint the houses in different colours to avoid this “innocent” mistake 😀

What to do in Aveiro:

  • Go for a moliceiro ride in the canals.
  • Visit the Art Nouveau Museum, the Museum of Ílhavo, or the Vista Alegre Museum.
  • Do some window shopping at Fórum de Aveiro (open air shopping mall).
  • Try ovos moles. You won’t like it but at least you’ve tried it!

How to get to Aveiro:

  • Book a half day tour with a moliceiro cruise departing from Porto. This is by far the most convenient and fun way to visit Aveiro as you will be picked up from your hotel in Porto and meet other like minded travelers along the way. You will also have the opportunity to visit Costa Nova.
  • Take the train from Porto. The train station is 15 / 20min walking distant from Aveiro’s city centre. This is perfectly doable and it is also the cheapest way to visit Aveiro, but you won’t have the flexibility to visit Costa Nova though.
  • Rent a car and drive to Aveiro. This way you can also visit Costa Nova.

Day trips from Porto: Douro Valley

viewpoint douro valley day trips from porto
As you probably already noticed I have a serious love affair with Douro Valley as I keep writing about this marvellous wine region, as it is definitely one of the best day trips from Porto.
It is such an amazing day trip from Porto that I even wrote a detailed guide on how to plan your trip in Douro Valley where you’ll find loads of useful information. I recommend you to read that guide if you are planning to spend some time in this region.

What to do in Douro Valley:

How to get to the Douro Valley:

I have already written an article about how to get from Porto to Douro Valley that you should read carefully. However, here is a brief summary:

  • If you are looking for a truly unforgettable experience, you should consider booking a private tour with us. We can tailor make the itinerary according to your preferences and pace as a traveler. We will pick you up from your hotel, arrange all the bookings and you will be spending the day with a guide specialised in wines. If you are interested, send me an email to sara@portoalities.com.
portoalities private tours douro valley
  • Rent a car. Riding in Douro Valley is a difficult experience (particularly if you want to move out of the tourist trail) but you will be rewarded with phenomenal views. However, you will not be able to taste wine at the vineyards – bummer!
  • Take the train. This is my least recommend option because you won’t have any flexibility to visit the vineyards that are not within walking distance from the train stations (practically all). The trip between Porto and Peso da Régua lasts between 1h44 and 2h19 depending on the train. There are also a few train connections between Porto and Pinhão and the trip lasts around 2h20. You can check the schedules on CP website.

Day trips from Porto: Braga

porta nova braga day trips from porto
Braga is probably the best day trip from Porto for those of you who love architecture. In this city you can visit buildings all the way from the Roman period (the public baths of Maximinus), medieval ages (the watchtower at the Image Museum) to the Baroque period (the stunning Raio Palace), just to mention a few.
If you prefer to do something more relaxing you can simply visit the cathedral of Braga, then check the lovely stores at Rua do Souto and enjoy a coffee at Café Brasileira, an interesting Art Deco café. In the meantime, stop by the lovely Santa Bárbara gardens.
If you have a rental car, you have to visit the magnificent Bom Jesus sanctuary as the view from there is spectacular.
Another amazing spot only accessible by car is Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães, where you can see five (five!) different types of Portuguese golden leaf.

What to do in Braga: 

  • Definitely visit the cathedral of Braga, Biscaínhos Museum and Raio Palace.
  • Take photos of Arco da Porta Nova and Praça da República.
  • Soak sunlight at Santa Bárbara Gardens.
  • If you have a car, Bom Jesus Sanctuary, Sameiro Sanctuary and Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães are a must do.

How to get to Braga:

Day trips from Porto: Guimarães

guimaraes historical center day trips from porto
© Jsome1 on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Guimarães is such. a. cutie!
(This pretty much sums up how I feel every time I visit Guimarães, and I do it quite often).
Guimarães is a small city located just North of Porto. It has a perfect medieval centre filled with tempting handcraft stores, centenary monuments and charming squares. It is most definitely my favorite city in Northern Portugal (but I will deny having said this if you ever confront me with it!).
It is such a great day trip from Porto that I have already written a detailed guide about the best things to do in Guimarães.

What to do in Guimarães:

  • Visit Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and Alberto Sampaio Museum.
  • Walk in the city centre (especially around Praça de Tourais and Praça de Oliveira). You can also do some shopping at the tempting stores of Rua de Santa Maria.
  • If you are into nature, take the cable car to Monte da Pena. It is a forest full of caves at the top of the hill.
  • Try Tortinhas de Guimarães, a traditional conventual sweet from this region.

How to get to Guimarães:

If you are not so much in the mood for visiting so many things, you should book a half day tour to Guimarães (they pick up people from hotels in Porto, do not worry!). This particular tour focus only in Guimarães, so it is shorter and it costs half the price of a full day tour.

  • Take the train, and then walk 20min to reach the city centre. There are plenty of train connections between Porto and Guimarães and the trip lasts between 1h and 1h20, depending on the train. You can check the schedules on CP website. It is not suuuuuper convenient because the train station is located 20min away from the city centre, but it is not a disaster either.

Day trips from Porto: Peneda Gerês National Park

viewpoint geres national park
traditional espigueiros geres national park
I took these pictures on two different trips and hence the difference in the season 🙂

Every now and then I head to Peneda Gerês National Park, in the border with Spain, and it never disappoints. After all, in this park you can find tons of waterfalls, natural swimming pools, well-marked trails and amazing viewpoints.
There are also cute little towns like Castro Laboreiro, Soajo and Lindoso (just to name a few) where you can photograph the famous espigueiros, which are granite structures that were used to store corn for centuries and centuries.
Peneda Gerês National Park is huuuuuuge and it has several points of entrance so ideally you rent a car to explore the region for a few days. You can use AutoEurope to check for the better prices for rental cars.
However, if you are short on time and need to visit the region on a day trip from Porto, then I highly recommend you to book a group tour to Peneda Gerês National Park as it is best to make the most of your time.

Day trips from Porto: Coimbra 

downtown coimbra day trips from porto
© aldo.crisci on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Coimbra is famous for being the city where the first Portuguese university was built, in 1290 (true story). And indeed when you visit this Coimbta on a day trip from Porto you feel that it combines the weight of its academic history with its lively gardens and squares, usually filled with students.
There are plenty of monuments to visit in this city so you could easily spend a couple of days there. But if you have a single day I focus on walking Rua Sofia, a street protected by Unesco where you can visit Santa Cruz church. From there you are walking distant to the old cathedral of Coimbra, the university and also the stunning Joanine Library.
Closeby you can find the Botanical gardens and the nostalgic Sereia gardens. In between these two it is a square called Praça da República where you can grab a drink.

What to do in Coimbra:

  • If you are passionate about history then definitely visit Joanine Library and the University of Coimbra. Machado de Castro National Museum is also a must visit.
  • Soak sunlight at the Coimbra Botanical garden or Sereia garden.
  • Spot the students’ houses called Repúblicas as they are very iconic and unique to Coimbra.
  • For more great ideas, make sure to read this detailed guide of what to do in Coimbra.

How to get to Coimbra:

  • Take a group tour. There is a really nice group tour to Coimbra and Fátima shrine and you get to be picked up from any hotel in Porto or Gaia.
  • Take the train, but bare in mind that you need to walk 40min to reach the city centre. There are plenty of train connections between Porto and Coimbra and the trip lasts between 1h20 and 2h40, depending on the train. You can check the schedules on CP website.
  • Rent a car. As the train station is not in the city centre, renting a car is a good option.

Day trips from Porto: Santiago de Compostela

santiago compostela city center day trip from porto
© Visual Hunt

I remember going to Santiago de Compostela with my parents when I was a little kid, and for me it remains one of the best day trips from Porto.
Santiago is best known for the Caminhos de Santiago (St. James Way) pilgrim trail following the cult of St. James. But it is also a great destination to do some street shopping at the Casco Histórico (the medieval city centre) and try the Spanish tapas.
You can also take the time to visit the less known Galician Center of Contemporary Art as it was designed by our beloved Álvaro Siza Vieira.

What to do in Santiago de Compostela:

  • Visit the cathedral of Santiago is a must do. If you are a fan of religious monuments, then don’t skip the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario.
  • Wander around Casco Histórico and the lovely square Praza do Obradoiro.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, try tarta de Santiago (an almond pie decorated with powder sugar in the shape of the Cross of Saint James).

How to get to Santiago de Compostela:

  • Book a full day group tour to Santiago de Compostela, with pick up in Porto. This particular tour is very interesting because besides going to Santiago de Compostela, you’ll also get to meet Valença do Minho, a cute little town in Northern Portugal.
  • Rent a car. It is a bit of a long ride (2h30, as I wrote above), but there are a few interesting stops that you can make along the way, like the Spanish city of Vigo.

Day trips from Porto: Amarante

sao goncalo church amarante
Amarante is my second favourite city in Northern Portugal (again, you never heard me say this) and there are so many interesting things to do there that it provides a perfect day trip from Porto.
Amarante has an interesting museum dedicated to Amadeo Souza Cardoso that regularly features temporary exhibitions by other artists.
Right next to the museum lies the beautiful S. Gonçalo de Amarante church and in front of it the beautiful bridge of São Gonçalo.
Cross it and immediately enter the first pastry shop that you’ll see on your left-hand side, called Confeitaria da Ponte, to try the best conventual sweets in Portugal.

What to do in Amarante:

  • Go for a short boat ride in the river Tâmega. It is such a romantic activity 🙂
  • If you enjoy art museums, Amadeo Souza Cardoso’s is a must go.
  • Try any conventual sweets you can grab at Confeitaria da Ponte. You’ll probably feel sick afterwards but that’s part of the deal 😀

How to get to Amarante:

  • Book a full day group tour to Amarante. There is a lovely tour to Amarante and Vila Real that departures from Porto. It is one of my favourite day trips from Porto as you’ll be able to see not only Amarante but also the Mateus Palace in Vila Real, and taste some Green Wine along the way.
  • Rent a car. Unfortunately there is no train connection to Amarante.

Day trips from Porto: Ponte de Lima

ponte lima riverside
Another great day trip from Porto is Ponte de Lima, an ancient village in Northern Portugal. In fact, Ponte de Lima is so proud of being the oldest village in Portugal that it refused to be turned into a city. True story.
Besides visiting its cute little historical centre (I reckon you can do this in a couple of hours), you can walk by the riverside or by the lagoons of Bertiandos and S. Pedro de Arcos.
If you are not so much into walking, consider appreciating the view from Santo Ovidio Viewpoint, it is stunning.

What to do in Ponte de Lima:

  • Check the medieval bridge, the gothic Misericórdia’s church and charming Largo de Camões square.
  • If you are into museums, if you are travelling with kids or simply if it is raining, check the Toys’ museum (it is SO CUTE!).
  • Try Arroz de Sarrabulho (chicken rice cooked with blood, vinegar and cummins) at Restaurante Alameda. Trust me on this and thank me later.

How to get to Ponte de Lima:

  • Rent a car. Unfortunately there is no train connection to Ponte de Lima.

Vila do Conde

nau quinhentista vila conde portugal
Tourists and locals alike tend to overlook the beautiful city of Vila do Conde but it is truly a pity.
In Vila do Conde you can check the Roman Aqueduct of Santa Clara, which is right next to the convent with the same name, from where you have a great view of the city.
If you keep moving West by the riverside you will reach Nau Quinhentista, a replica of a sixteenth century boat that incorporates the ancestral knowledge of the carpenters and caulkers of the shipyards from Vila do Conde.
If you happen to be in Porto in July and happen to be a cinema nerd like me, make sure to go to Curtas – the best short movies’ festival in Portugal. I go there every single year and I highly recommend it.

What to do in Vila do Conde:

  • Take photos of the Aqueduct of Santa Clara, Nau Quinhentista and the fabulous convent of Santa Clara.
  • Enjoy the best sushi in Porto at Romando Sushi Caffé, by the riverside.

How to get to Vila do Conde: 

Take the subway of Porto – red line, direction Póvoa do Varzim. Leave at Santa Clara or Vila do Conde stations.

Day trips from Porto: Afurada

clothes rope drying afurada near porto
I am not even quite sure if I should consider Afurada a day trip from Porto since the only thing you need to get there is literally cross the famous Luiz I bridge and then either walk for 40min or take a 15min cab ride 😀
However, both locals and tourists love this picturesque (and minuscule, I must say) fishermen village and if you have lunch there you can easily spend 3h there, so it is perfect for a half day trip.

What to do in Afurada: 

How to get to Afurada: 

You can either walk from Luiz I bridge or rent a bike in Ribeira or in Cais de Gaia. If you are feeling really lazy you can simply take an Uber there.

Day trips from Porto: Quintandona

quintandona village portugal xist houses
© VortexMag

Quintandona is a picturesque village where the lovely schist houses make you feel as if you are walking in a fairy tale.
There is not much to do there besides strolling around and having a great meal at the wine bar Casa da Viúva. As it is a very – very! – popular spot among locals make sure to make reservations ahead of time.

How to get to Quintandona:

  • Rent a car. There is no other way of getting to this hidden gem 🙂

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