Seeing the sights of Porto requires some legwork, but your discoveries will compensate you for the effort. The tourist office suggests that you take at least 3 days to explore Porto, but most visitors spend only a day.
For those on a short schedule, the most famous things to do are visiting a wine lodge at Vila Nova de Gaia; taking in the panorama from the Torre dos Clérigos, with its view of the Douro; visiting the Sé (cathedral); strolling through the most important museum, the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis; walking through Ribeira, the old quarter; and, if time remains, seeing the Church of São Francisco, with its stunning and richly gilded baroque interior.
Sampling Port & Touring The Lodges
No other city in Portugal is as devoted to port wine as Porto. The history of the city itself is largely dependent on this product, and hundreds of locals labor to promote the product in markets throughout the world.
The actual port-wine lodges (Taylor's Port, Sandeman, Ferreira, Porto Cálem, and Ramos Pinto) lie across the river from Porto at Vila Nova de Gaia. Like the sherry makers at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, these places are hospitable and run free tours for visitors. You'll find more about the history of Port and the best places to try it, in our Restaurants section.
Harry Potter in Porto
Was Harry Potter made in Porto? The answer is a mystery, but it is sure Scottish author J. K. Rowling, creator of the world's most famous boy wizard, spent almost two years living in the city in the early 1990s, while she was working on the manuscript of what would become the first Potter novel.
She taught English and was briefly married to a Portuguese journalist. They say Rowling jotted down key chapters of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" while sipping coffee at the marble tables of the 1920's Cafe Majestic, where she was a regular customer. The marvelous Lello bookshop is said to have inspired Flourish and Blotts, the fictional store where junior sorcerers browse for volumes of spells. Lello's seemingly endless staircase is supposed to be the model for the moving stairs of Hogwarts school.
The school uniforms of Hogwarts bear an uncanny resemblance to the traditional black suits and capes worn by Portuguese university students. There's a story that Rowling got the idea for Gryffindor house from the Fonte dos Leões fountain, featuring four winged lions cast in bronze, just up the hill from Lello.
Some say the broom sticks used in the game of Quidditch may just have entered the writer's imagination at the Escovaria de Belomonte a 90-year-old store selling a baffling array of handmade brooms and brushes. The sinister wizard Salazar Slytherin could have been named for Portugal's long-lasting dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.
How much of this is urban legend is not clear. Rowling certainly frequented the Majestic and Lello, but doesn't talk much about her years in Porto that were economically and emotionally tough. Potter, however, has been good for the city, as fans seek out the sorcerer’s roots. Thousands besieged Lello when the bookshop organized a late-night launch of the latest volume, "Harry Potter and The Cursed Child", in the summer of 2016. Enterprising guides offer tours through Harry-related haunts around the city: www.withlocals.com
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.