To take a winter break in Porto is a great option for those of you looking to save money and to avoid the Summer crowds.
Hopefully it will be sunny once you arrive in town, but if not, worry not! There’s plenty to do even when it’s cold, rainy or foggy in Porto 🙂
Weather and Climate in Porto during Winter
The first thing you should know is that the weather in Porto is… temperamental. It can be rainy in the morning and sunshine during the afternoon, and the temperatures dramatically drop and rise from one day to the other. We also have our fair amount of wind throughout the year, which is why I don’t even bother to use an umbrella during the Autumn and Winter’s months.
The temperatures, however, are usually very pleasant even during Winter – at least compared to other European countries! We (the Portuguese people) like to complain a lot about the cold, but the truth is that in December we rarely get below 10C / 50F during the day and aboslutely no snow in Porto (thanks God, or I’d migrate to another country).
Therefore, there is absolutely no excuse for not planning a great Winter break in Porto, and on this article you’ll discover the best things to do in the city even if it’s rainy and (moderately) cold. Don’t worry, I got you covered 🙂
What to do on a Winter break in Porto?
The answer is… shopping malls! 😀 (I AM KIDDING, ok? Everyone knows about my resolution not to do any sort of shopping in shopping malls).
There are actually plenty of things to do during a Winter break in Porto, and here are my recommendations:
Visit a Port wine lodge
It would be a pity to visit Porto and don’t go to the Port wine lodges. Even if you’re a wine connoisseur or even a humble appreciator, you should go there because a visit to a Port wine lodge is much more than about wine. It’s about a major industry that shapes an entire Portuguese region, that says a lot about our history and hence is worth to know.
Usually a visit to a Port wine lodge includes a guided tour in the lodge itself, where you’ll hear about the production process of the famous wine and see the beautiful barrels, followed by a wine tasting.
If you go to the Port wine lodges by the riverside you’ll be rushed out – I recommend you to visit either Graham’s or Churchill’s, as its tour guides are extremely professional and friendly, and where you can stay for as long as you want.
Visit one of the interesting Porto’s museums
I cannot think of a Winter break in Porto that doesn’t include a visit to one of the city’s fabulous museums.
Usually the museums in Portugal are free or fairly inexpensive, so its an affordable activity that will keep you entertained whilst the rain falls outside.
My favourite museums in Porto are:
Hall of Biodiversity – this amazing museum explain important ecological concepts in a fun and interactive way that is suitable for both adults and children. Therefore it’s not only recommended for rainy days but for families travelling in Porto. Moreover, this museum of Porto sits beautifully side by side with the botanic garden which is also worth seeing.
- Serralves Contemporary art museum – I’ve already written about this museum of Porto a gazillion times, because every time I go there I find something else to fall in love with. This elegant museum, designed by the famous architect Siza Vieira, always displays exhibitions from both national and internationally acclaimed artists. Moreover, it has a small bookstore, a tea house and the most stunning gardens in the city. You can buy the the online ticket to Serralves’ contemporary art museum, and this way you’ll save time on the queues.
- National Museum of Soares dos Reis – is the first public art museum in the country, founded in 1833. It was destined to collect the confiscated goods of the convents of Porto that were abandoned during the Civil War, and from the extinct convents outside the city. This museum of Porto is quite big as it has varied sections, ranging from painting to decorative arts, sculpture and archeology, jewellery and much more.
- MMIPO – it is a very interesting religious museum mostly dedicated to the history of Santa Casa da Misericórdia, a catholic institution in Portugal. Moreover, the museological space includes a church and a stunning gallery that is a great example of the iron and glass architecture in the city. You can also get the online tickets to MMIPO.
Visit one of the stunning churches of Porto
There are many churches in Porto (36, to be precise), but in my opinion there are three that easily stand out:
- The cathedral of Porto, located precisely where the city started to be founded many centuries ago. It’s free of charge.
- The Clérigos church – usually tourist wait on this reeeeeeeeeally long queue to buy the tickets to climb to the Clérigos tower, but I honestly prefer to simply visit the church. It’s simply stunning, in its pink marble and golden leaf tones, and plenty of natural light. The church is completely free of charge. You should try to get there at midday, as it has a free pipe organ concert every day. It’s superb!
- The St Francis Church, the only gothic building left in Porto. It’s a remarkable example of gothic structure combined with a baroque decor. You can also visit the catacombs – don’t forget to look down and see all the skeletons down below!
Watch a concert at Casa da Música
Casa da Música, designed by Rem Koollhaas, it’s a perfect combination between traditional elements (those blue tiles!) contemporary architecture. In my opinion you should try to watch a concert there as the acoustic is superb. Otherwise you can always go for a guided tour on the building, as they are very well structured and informative.
If you’re not so much into cultural activities, you can simply go for brunch / beer / wine
Sometimes one just feels lazy and in the mood to sit down and quietly write postcards, or read a decent book (I do this on all my trips, much to the dismay of my friends. Savages!).
In Porto there are plenty of cute places to go for brunch, or to grab a beer, or to enjoy a glass of wine. Therefore, I suggest you to read my article on:
If you’re travelling with kids during your Winter break in Porto:
First thing: don’t panic! Just because the weather doesn’t look fantastic it doesn’t mean that you cannot have a great time in Porto with your kids.
You can start by reading my top 9 activities in Porto for families with kids, but in general there are three great covered places for kids:
- SEA LIFE Porto – the names says it all!
- The World of Discoveries, where you and your family will be able to learn, in an interactive and fun way, about the Portuguese discoveries. Don’t forget to get the online tickets to the World of Discoveries to avoid the queues outside.
- The Hall of Diversity, that I’ve already mentioned above.
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What to AVOID doing on your Winter break in Porto
There are things in Porto that I would definitely skip if it’s raining or too windy. Please note that I specifically wrote raining, not cold. Naturally these are very personal thoughts, based on my experience, but I believe I should share them with you:
- Don’t go for the 6 bridges cruise! If it’s rainy, foggy or windy them simply skip this activity in Porto as it will be very unpleasant. Yes, the boats have a covered deck, but it’s very uncomfortable to stay inside and you’ll miss most of the views, which is the main reason to take this cruise anyway.
- Don’t cross the upper deck of Luiz bridge – yes, it’s super cute on warm days, but up there it’s VERY windy and it can be a bit scary during Winter days.
- Forget about climbing the Clérigos tower – if it’s raining the stairs will be very slippery and once you arrived at the top, you’ll be like a sardine in a can – completely wet and packed with other unwise travellers 😛
- Don’t go all Indiana-Jones-like trying to take National Geographic pictures on Felgueiras lighthouse. It’s dangerous people. The waves are gigantic and every year people are dragged into the water.
What to bring to your Winter break in Porto
I like to keep it very simple: bring water proof shoes (no high wheels, ladies!), a warm scarf and a pretty rain coat. No umbrella, unless it’s VERY resistant – trust me on this, the bad ones won’t last a couple of hours in moody-rainy-Porto.
Above all, have fun! 🙂