The Perfect Porto Itinerary 4 Days For City Breakers

Porto itinerary 4 days
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis
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Welcome to our perfect Porto Itinerary, 4 days of exploring the urban jewel of northern Portugal. This travel plan is tailored for fly-in, fly-out city breakers who want to check off all the must-see sights of the country’s second-largest city. It’s aims to distil all the top draws of the town and the region into one quick hit of art, culture, and – of course – good wine.

Over the course of 96 hours, we’ll whisk you through UNESCO World Heritage districts and Baroque churches. We’ll take you to wild beaches where there’s a chance to get on the fabled Portuguese waves, and out to rustic wineries which have hundreds of years of port-making prowess to their back.

We haven’t included details on places to eat or stay in our Porto itinerary 4 days. That’s mainly because this town is riddled with awesome options, from spice-plumed curry houses to traditional north-Portuguese seafood taverns, not to mention chic aparthotels and beachside condos alike. Our only tip would be to stay within easy public transport links of the Ribeira area, since that’s where we begin our sightseeing on the very first morning.

When’s the best time to do our Porto 4 day itinerary?

A street in Porto
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

We think there’s a sweet spot for our Porto itinerary that falls either side of the summer months in the late spring and the early fall. The months of May and June, and then September and early October, are the best options here. We say that because they tend to remain relatively warm (around 20 C/66 F in spring and 24 C/75 F in fall), don’t have too much rain, but see just a fraction of the peak season crowds that flood the town from July onwards.

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It’s a good idea to seek out a time of year that’s pretty balmy and dry since we include jaunts to beaches on the final day of our trip. You’ll also spend time in the Douro Valley, where the vineyards are certainly better enjoyed while the sun is shining.

Winter itineraries in Porto are doable. However, many of the wineries can be totally closed in the low season and there’s a good chance it will be far too cold to hit the sands (this isn’t the Algarve!). The flip side is that trips between November and December will cost a whole load less!

Where to stay for our Porto itinerary?

Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

We’ve made sure that all the things that you do during our planned four days either take place in the historic center of Porto or begin and end there. One of the main reasons for that is so you can make use of the sheer abundance of fantastic hotels that make their home in the downtown of the city.

You’ll notice that there’s a lot of aparthotels in Porto these days, but there’s also a good mix of traditional B&Bs and chain hotels for those after a bit of luxury. Remember that accommodation is likely to be your single biggest expense, so it’s a good idea to choose somewhere to stay in line with your budget.

Here’s a look at just a few of the hotels in Porto that we can recommend:

  • Torel Avantgarde ($$$) – Five-star luxury on the side of the Douro River with an infinity pool that gazes down the waterway to the old town.
  • Memoria Porto FLH Hotels ($$-$$$) – Minimalist and Scandi-cool, this hotel is a fantastic new addition to the historic center for aesthetically discerning travelers.
  • Mouzinho 160 ($$-$$$) – Housed in a recently renovated mansion from the 1800s, this block of uber-stylo apartments promises a pad in the very heart of town.
  • Selina Porto ($-$$) – A well-known hostel chain that cut their teeth on surf camps also offers this boho-cool pad in the backstreets of the town, close to the main nightlife area.

Day 1 – The Ribeira and the old city

Central Porto
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Day one of our perfect Porto itinerary 4 days is all about exploring the heart of this incredible Portuguese town. Thankfully, it’s not as sprawling as the capital down in Lisbon, so you can check off most of the main sights within a single session. What’s more, the whole thing is walkable, though there are always historic trams at the ready if you want to take a bit of stress off the feet.

Start in the Ribeira. This is the UNESCO World Heritage Site heart of Porto. A maze of streets and alleys that wind and wiggle and weave along a steep bank on the north side of the river, it’s packed with oodles of striking history and cultural sites.

You should start at water level, down on the bustling Cais da Ribeira walkway. It’s a hubbub of life and street entertainers, with bars that look right out over the Douro. From there, move up through the alleys to Porto Cathedral, a 12th-century church that sports a stunning Romanesque façade. That’s right next to Paço Episcopal do Porto, a onetime residence for important bishops, and the Miradouro da Rua das Aldas, where you’ll get a sweeping view of the whole old town from above.

A couple of steps deeper into the city is the legendary São Bento Station. It’s not just an interchange for trains. It’s a veritable work of art, with gorgeous tile murals imprinted on the main terminal building. From there, head down R. das Flores to cut through the heart of the shopping district. This is the perfect place to score souvenirs.

Finally, break into the Vitória area. It’s hip and happening, with more bars and cocktail joints than you can shake a guidebook at. It’s also packed with eye-catching churches like the Igreja dos Clérigos and Igreja do Carmo, which both have elaborate Portuguese Baroque designs. Stick around for dinner here – there are plenty of options.

Day 2 – The Douro Valley

Douro Valley
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

No perfect Porto itinerary, 4 days or 20 days, could possibly miss out on the greater Douro Valley. A UNESCO-designated wine region that’s famous all around the globe, it starts just to the east of the city and extends a good way towards the Spanish-Portuguese border higher up in the mountains. We think you’ll need at least a whole day to explore it properly, since there are so many small towns and vineyards on the menu. That said, you could easily spend a whole week in these parts, so folks with extra time might want to consider expanding this part of the plan.

The best way to go about visiting the Douro region is to have your own car (the other choice is a boat trip direct from central Porto, but that will limit how far you can go in a single day). Leave nice and early – the drive to the start of the most beautiful part of the area is at least an hour. It’s an easy trip to make, going directly along the N108 or N222 roads that hug the whole length of the winding river.

Like we said, you could spend a whole week exploring this lovely part of Portugal, so there are oodles of things that you might want to add to your itinerary for the day. We’ve whittled it down to just a handful of the top, top highlights below, starting with the places that are closest to Porto city…

  • Miradouro de Mosteirô (1h12 from Porto) – A dramatic lookout point that takes in one of the steepest-sided parts of the Douro River.
  • Miradouro de São Silvestre do Cimo do Douro (1h20 from Porto) – Another lookout point, this time encompassing the patchwork of vineyards that feather off the sides of the Douro River.
  • Douro Museum (about 1.5 hours’ drive from Porto) – Learn all about the agricultural history of this amazing region at this informative museum.
  • Quinta da Pacheca (about 1.5 hours’ drive from Porto) – Considered one of the oldest wine estates in the Douro Valley, this one has been making premier port and wine since the 1730s!

Day 3 – Another day in the city

Viewpoint in Porto
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

There’s still plenty to get through in the city center of Porto, you know? One day simply isn’t enough to ensure you’ve checked off all the history and immersive neighborhoods. So, to begin day three, head down to the area known as Bolhão. This is more the lived-in, modern part of the downtown core, with shopping strips and big malls.

To get started, hit the Bolhão Market. It’s one of the oldest traditional produce markets in town; a place to shop through stacks of muddy tomatoes and pungent fish plucked straight from the Atlantic Ocean. The main drag of Rua Santa Catarina is just a block or two over from there. Welcome to Porto’s bustling high street, where brand names rub shoulders with roadside cafes that are always packed with patrons.

Next, make your way back to the river but don’t drop down to the promenades on the banks. One of the city’s most iconic lookout points and sites awaits on high: The Luís I Bridge. It was once one of the longest metal-construction arch bridges on the planet and is now something of an icon for the town. Careful as you walk along – it’s used by both trams and pedestrians.

Across the far side is the district of Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s similarly historic to the northern banks but comes with tighter, quieter alleyways that are all cobblestone from tip to toe. Down by the Duoro River is where you can see the range of historic port cellars, which offer tasting sessions of the town’s namesake tipple – a sweet, potent fortified wine.

For sunset, be sure to head back up to the Jardim do Morro. It’s a compact park that sits on the south side of the Luís I Bridge, offering sweeping 180-degree panoramas of the whole river estuary running all the way to the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It’s a cracking place for a cold Super Bock beer at the golden hour, when you’ll share the seating with families and students and street musicians

Day 4 – Porto’s beaches and surf spots

Beaches in Porto
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

The grand finale of our Porto itinerary 4 days is all about slowing things down and getting a taste of the coast. You’ve got options here. You could stick to the urban beaches between Praia do Molhe and Matosinhos. They are really easy to reach from basically anywhere in the town and are backed by suburbs of Porto that have unique, easy-going coastal characters.

Thing is, doing that would be a bit of a shame if you ask us. There are loads of excellent beaches and beach towns running south of the city that are far better than what’s offer in the center. They are also pretty easy to get to, even without a car. Just head to the lovely São Bento Station and hop on a train going to Campanha Station. There, you can change for trains running directly south along the coastal railway line.

They can connect you to all manner of beaches. Some of the best that are all within an hour’s transfer of central Porto include:

  • Praia da Granja – Little-visited Praia da Granja has golden sands and patches of salty rock reef. It’s not the best for swimming but has nice coastal restaurants and boardwalks.
  • Espinho – Something of a summer escape for Porto locals, Espinho is a surf town with two big breaks and developed beaches that get really busy in the summer. 
  • Esmoriz – There are more remote surf breaks to be had in Esmoriz.

If you have your own wheels, then you could also head north to the region that’s known as the Green Coast. Doing that will take you close to the border with Spanish Galicia. It’s generally quieter, with beaches like lovely Praia da Azurara coming up trumps for surfers and sunbathers who don’t like crowds.

Where to go after Porto?

Canals in Aveiro
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

So, that’s it, you’ve done and dusted our Porto 4 day itinerary. If you don’t have to hightail it back to the airport just yet, then we’ve got some good news: There are oodles of places in northern and central Portugal that are crying out to be explored next. They range from wave-battered surf towns on the Silver Coast to enchanting highland villages in the sierras, from historic cities with UNESCO sites to charming villages filled with old-school tavernas.

Here are just a few suggestions on where you could travel to next including how long they take to reach from Porto:

  • Aveiro (around 50 minutes from Porto by bus or train) – The obvious next pitstop on a Portuguese adventure from Porto is the town of Aveiro. It’s hailed as the Venice of Portugal for its lovely canals but also has an alluring medieval monastery.
  • The Silver Coast (Starting about 1.2 hours from Porto) – One of the longest sections of coast in the country, starting at Ovar in the north and ending at Estoril near Lisbon. The region has LOADS to see, especially for surfers. The wave towns of Peniche, Nazare, and Ericeira are all within.
  • Lisbon (3-4 hours in the train) – Fast – and rather scenic, mind you – trains now link Porto with Lisbon in just three hours. We think it’s a cracking choice of where to go next, offering a glimpse at the lively capital with its multiple neighbourhoods and lookout bars on the Tagus Estuary.
  • Coimbra (1.5 hours in the car) Coimbra is a truly enchanting place. Set between the rising hills about25 miles in from the coast, it’s famed for its historic university and Baroque architecture. It was even once the capital of Portugal.
  • Galicia (2.5 hours) – Going north can take you over the border and into Spain. Your own car is a good idea for this one. The reward is a lush coastline of mountain-backed beaches that have pretty epic surf and taste-bud-tingling seafood traditions.
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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.