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How to spend 24 hours in Porto

A delightful itinerary for one day in the city on the Douro, Porto.

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After LisbonPorto might have the reputation as Portugal’s second city, but it doesn’t entirely deserve being relegated to second best. The historic destination is one of a kind, with its rich history of wine, vertigo-inducing bridges, an enchanting maze of cobbled passageways filled with restaurants and shops, and a beautiful location above the River Douro.

Whether you take it easy in an ancient wine cellar or set sail across the Douro River, here’s how to spend one perfect day in Porto:

Morning: have a grand breakfast and stroll to the city’s sights

If you’re lucky enough to rise and shine in Porto, get ready to walk the small city to observe its architectural delights, green spaces, and cultural treasures. But first, it’s breakfast time. You’ll need your strength for the day.

Grand Café Al Porto is a beautiful spot to enjoy a simple pastry and fresh juice. This historical landmark was founded in 1803 as a watering hole for the country’s politicians and artists. After breakfast, if you’re still peckish, or perhaps you would like to load up on some edible souvenirs, near the cafe is A Pérola do Bolhão, a charming, well-stocked traditional Portuguese grocery store selling quality tinned fish, spices, cheese, baked goods, wine, and more. 

Now, it’s time to get your walking shoes on to explore Porto’s town centre. Just a five-minute walk from the deli is São Bento Railway Station. Even if you aren’t planning on taking a train, this spot is worth a visit. The interior of this station is like nothing you’ve ever seen before with its charming, intricate tiled design. 

Just five minutes around the corner is one of the city’s best cultural treasures, the 12th-century Porto Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church that dominated the city skyline. Finish off your morning of sightseeing at Bolsa Palace, which is a 10-minute walk from the cathedral. The UNESCO-listed palace was built in the 19th century, in an ornate, neoclassical design. 

If you’re short on time, simply wandering the streets is worth your while, with Porto boasting a mixture of architectural styles, from Gothic to Baroque. For an expansive view of the city below, check out Miradouro da Vitoria, which is a 10-minute uphill walk away. This viewpoint offers some of the most panoramic views of Porto, as well as countless photo opportunities.

Afternoon: set sail and drink wine

Now you have a decision to make. If you are feeling a little weary, take a long, luxurious lunch at Terra Nova or Digby Restaurante. But if you are full of energy, grab a pastry to go and set off on a Douro River cruise, which can help you move along the river and explore local vineyards and port wine cellars where you can sample the region's famous fortified beverage, Port. 

Evening: see the sunset by the riverside

Now it’s time to take it easy. If you happen to just have the night in Porto, you have come at the right time. Along the riverfront, you can see flat-bottomed barcos rabelos, used to cart port barrels along the water, charming cafes and taverns, and a number of local boutiques. The riverside is also an excellent place to watch the sunset, with the bar Wine Quay offering carafes of refreshing rose and the best spot on the waterfront. 

Once the sun has set, continue your evening at the neighbourhood bar of Aduela for a social atmosphere and a variety of affordable tapas and sangria

If you fancy spending the day in Porto (or even longer), or you would like to see even more of beautiful Portugal, join a Newmarket Holidays tour to see all the highlights.

Serena is a writer based in London. Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, she calls the UK home despite only recently acclimatising to the dearth of sunshine. Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Business Insider, South China Morning Post, i-D, Refinery29, Glamour, Vox, Metro, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. She has also published a book of aerial photography: How Women See The World. Throughout her decade-long career, Serena has told the stories of Arctic explorers, human rights activists, award-winning chefs, refugees, and the UK’s last lighthouse keepers.

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