Your session has expired, please log in again.
Please choose a location
Please choose a check-in date
Please choose a check-out date
World > Portugal > Porto
City Guide Porto
General Information
Porto is the second largest city of Portugal, located near the coast in the north of the country. It is built into hills overlooking the Douro river estuary. The city proper of Porto is fairly small, with approximately 240,000 inhabitants, but the greater metropolitan area is quite large, with more than 1.5 million inhabitants. While the official name of the city is Porto, it has become common recently for people from other parts of the country to refer to it as "Oporto". This is due to its close and lengthy association with port wine and the reference to the actual product, "o porto". The people of Porto are also known to consider themselves as culturally distinct from the rest of Portugal, and they often say “o Porto é uma nação,” or ‘Porto is a nation.” The city and its surrounding offer many things to see from Portugal’s rich history, which goes back to the Romans who settled here in the 4th Century. The city is full of interesting architecture from many periods, with medieval and modern buildings side by side. The buildings and atmosphere of Porto are distinct from other Portuguese cities, mostly due to its strong mercantile roots. The downtown of the city is characterized by impressive, monumental granite edifices that also have something elegant and ornate about them.
Porto has a semi-Mediterranean climate, although it''s strongly affected by the Atlantic ocean, which makes it cooler than other Mediterranean cities. However, temperatures can rise as high as 40ºC (104ºF) in August during occasional heat waves. Normal summer temperatures average around 24 ºC (75 ºF), however. Summers are very dry in Porto meaning that the heat rarely feels opressive even when it does get unusually hot. Winters are mild and more humid, with occasional cold nights when temperatures can drop below 0ºC (32 ºF.)
The language spoken in Porto is Portuguese. Spanish is widely understood and spoken by almost all Portuguese as a second language, and many can also speak English and/or French.
The most common religion in Portugal is Roman Catholicism, with approximately 84% of the population declaring itself part of this religion. Only about 19% of those people are actively practicing Catholics, however. A small percentage of the Portuguese population is Protestant, about 1%. There is also a small number of Muslims, and very few Jews, as Jews had long been persecuted in Portugal.
The currency used in France is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01.
Tipping is important in restaurants in Porto, and it is also customary to tip hotel staff. Service charges are not included in restaurant bills, and it is common to tip 10% or possibly more if the service was really excellent. In hotel rooms, it is customary to leave a tip for the room service, figuring a euro or two for each day of your stay if the service was decent. It is also nice to give a tip of € 1 - 2 to porters who carry luggage to your room. In taxis, you can tip whatever amount you think is appropriate, and don’t have to give a percentage. Some people round up the bill to the nearest 5 euro and others tip 10% of the fare.
Value added tax (called IVA in Portugal) ranges from 8% for books and food to 17 - 19% for luxury goods. Usually the tax is already added in the displayed price of items and services. The value-added tax can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU as long as the purchase is more than € 60 (VAT included) and was purchased at one store on the same day. In order to do that, look for shops displaying the sign “Europe Tax - Free Shopping Portugal.” Ask in the store for a tax refund cheque, which displays a description of the goods and the personal information of the purchaser. At the airport, your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance before checking the luggage in. The cheques are stamped by customs and cashed on the spot by Global Refund Tax - Free Shopping staff at the airport.
To call Porto from abroad, first dial +351 for Portugal and then 22 for Porto, followed by the local number. There can be high charges on calls made from hotels, restaurants and bars and it is generally cheaper to use a calling card. Public telephone boxes take coins or phone cards for local and international calls and in some cases also credit cards.
Internet cafés are plentiful in Porto, often located in communication centres where you can also phone, fax and make photocopies. Other internet cafés are regular cafés or restaurants that offer free wifi to their customers. Many shopping malls, hotels, and libraries also have wifi.
Emergency Numbers
National emergency number for Ambulance, Police and Fire Brigade: 112
Opening Times
Shops in Porto are generally open Mon - Fri from 9 am - 1 pm and from 3 pm - 7 pm. Larger stores such as supermarkets, department stores and shops in malls will usually stay open all day without the lunch break, and also stay open later in the evening, closing at 9 or 10 pm. On Saturdays small shops are usually open from 9 pm - 1 pm, while bigger stores stay open until 5 or 7 pm. Bank hours are generally Mon - Fri from 8.30 am - 3 pm, and post offices Mon - Fri from 8 am - 10 pm and Sat from 9 am - 6 pm.
Public Holidays
On the following days, most shops, banks and museums will be closed, and public transport is likely to be more limited. January 1, New Year’s Day April 25, Day of Liberty May 1, Labour Day June 10, Day of Portugal August 15, Assumption Day October 5, Day of the Republic November 1, All Saint’s Day December 1, Restoration of Independence December 8, Day of Our Lady December 25, Christmas Day
In Porto, as in any other city, you need to be alert for potential pickpockets, and take good care that your valuables are always secure. The places where most pickpocketing occurs are usually at busy tourist attractions or on crowded public transport. Also be careful at night to walk on well-lit streets and not to walk alone if possible. Driving in Porto can be very dangerous as the laws are different from other places, and the local drivers can be rather reckless. So if you plan to drive in the city, make sure to learn the important traffic laws and try to be alert at all times.
Discovering Porto
Porto is an exciting city to explore, as its sights are varied and the different areas of the city are often quite unique from each other. There are a variety of cultural attractions such as found in any cosmopolitan city, such as great museums, galleries, concert halls and more, as well as the famous port wineries of the region, and the nearby resorts and stunning natural beauty of the coast. Within the city proper, Porto has a number of distinctive atmospheres, with a unique character from the rest of Portugal as well as distinctive ambiences in many of its neighbourhoods. The quarter along the riverside known as the Ribeira is full of narrow twisting streets with houses once painted or tiled in colorful facades, while the district around the Cathedral is full of busy streets and historical monuments. The Cordoaria quarter is full of many students and has steep streets and interesting shops and cafés. The civic center of the city is in the Central e Baixa quarter with broad avenues lined with banks and outdoor cafés, as well as in the Baixa where the the two-tiered covered daily market goes about its business. Lastly, the Boavista area is the arterial route in and out of the city, lined with blocks of apartments and hotels.
This winery is one of the last English port companies in the Porto region that is still family owned, and it has some of the most interesting wine cellars in the city to explore. The atmosphere here is more old world than in many of the more touristy wineries, and tours are not as strictly organized, so it is best to call in advance. Taylor’s ports are of the best quality, made from carefully-selected grapes, and their specialties include a port aged 40 years and some delicious Quinta wines. Opening times: Mon - Fri 10 am - 6 pm
Palácio de Bolsa
This impressive building was constructed in the late 19th century as a stock exchange, and made exceptionally ornate with the idea that it would immediately gain the confidence of investors. Today the place appears something like an abandoned royal palace, with its grand, empty rooms, opulent staircases, portrait galleries, and more. The rooms of note include the library, the “president’s room,” the domed “hall of nations,” the General Assembly room, the portraits room, and the Arabian Hall. This last is the most architecturally famous, as it is reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada and is beautifully decorated with carved woodwork, stained glass, and other loving details. Opening times: Nov - Mar: Daily 9 am - 1 pm and 2 pm - 6 pm, Apr - Oct: Daily 9 am - 7 pm Entrance prices: € 5.50 for adults, € 3 for children under 12
Torre dos Clérigos
This impressive tower is located next to the Igreja dos Clérigos church, and was built in 1754 by the renowned Italian architect Niccolò Nasoni. It is one of the tallest buildings in the north of Portugal, and has a total of six floors that reach a height of about 76 m. Visitors can climb the 225 steps to the belfry at the top of the tower, which affords one of the best views out over Porto. You can see the river and many of the city’s distinctive, landmark buildings. Opening times: Nov - Mar: Daily 10 am - 12 pm and 2 pm - 5 pm, Apr - Oct: Daily 9.30 am - 1 pm and 2 pm - 7 pm Entrance price: € 1.50
Barredo Tower
This medieval tower is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Porto. Also known as the Baixo Tower, it has undergone some changes over the centuries, but still has its original basic structure and the original windows, showing that the tower was built at the beginning of the 13th century. It has five stories and two façades, as was common in the period, and can be entered through an external stairway.
Ferreira is one of the biggest port wineries in Porto, as well as one of the oldest, dating from the early 19th century. It started out as a modest establishment with only a few vineyards, run by Dona António Adelaide Ferreira, and steadily grew to incorporate larger and larger wine estates. Eventually the vineyards stretched to the border of Spain, and at the height of her power and influence, Dona Ferreira was the richest woman in Portugal. Opening times: Daily 10.30 am - 12.30 pm and 2 pm - 6 pm
Crystal Palace and Gardens
This innovative palace was originally built in 1861, constructed from glass and steel in imitation of the London Crystal Palace. This building was replaced in 1952, however, by the Pavilhão Rosa Mota that remains today. It is also called the Pavilhão dos Desportos, and is a massive venue that seats up to 10,000 spectators, used for sports, concerts, and other events. Surrounding the pavilion are beautiful landscaped gardens full of flowers, grassy lawns, exotic plants, statues and peacocks.
Caves Ramos Pinto
This winery is one of the famous ones in the Porto/Vila de Gaia region, and is one of the best-preserved of the old 19th century wineries. It has been up and running since 1880, and is now owned and operated by Roederer, a French champagne company. Vistors are given a guided tour of the cellars and can learn all about port and its production, complete with tastings of various gourmet ports at the end of the tour. Additionally, the offices of the building house one of the largest existing collections of posters from the “Belle Epoque,” most of them ads for port. Opening times: Oct - May: Mon - Fri 9 am - 1 pm and 2 pm - 5 pm, June - Sept: Mon - Sat 10 am - 6 pm
Colher Fountain
Porto is known for its many historic fountains, and the Colher fountain is one of the oldest and most beautiful. It was built in 1491 and later reconstructed and made stronger in granite in 1629. In the centuries when it was in use, it was known for having the purest water in the city.
Igreja de São Francisco
A classic Gothic church, the Igreja de São Francisco was built between 1383 and 1410. It is situated in a very scenic location and its entrance is accessed by steps leading up from the riverside. Much of the ornate interior decoration in the church was done during the Baroque period, and includes gilding on the pillars and columns, as well as the various carved cherubs, garlands, cornucopias of fruit, and various animals that adorn the inside. The vaults of the church were used as a burial ground for centuries, and the curator of the Museum of St. Francis, attached to the church, estimates that over 30,000 people lie interred in these cellars. The church musuem contains some paintings, antiques, old money and other curios. Opening times: Daily 9 am - 6 pm
Igreja de Santa Clara
This church was built in the early 15th century and is distinctive for its interior wood artwork, most of which was completed in the 17th century. The intricate woodwork and gilding here is particularly skilled and ornate, and nearly ever bit of the church is covered with some kinds of wooden designs. There are many carved angels, saints, and cherubs, as well as beautiful abstract designs. The church is usually full of light, making the interior even more striking. Opening times: Mon - Fri 9.30 am - 11.30 amd and 3 pm - 7 pm
Sé Cathedral
This cathedral was originally built in the 13th century, yet has undergone many alterations since then, changing with the styles of the city until the middle of the 18th century. The original Romanesque structure was rather simple and sombre, but included the twin towers, the rose window, the naves and the vestry. A Gothic cloister was added a century later, decorated with beautiful mosaics illustrating the Song of Solomon. In the late 16th century the Chapel of St. Vincent was built, followed in the 17th century by the main chapel. It wasn’t until 1736 that the north façade was completed, which is now one of the most beautiful aspects of the church’s exterior. Highlights indoors include frescoes in the nave, an enormous altar, and intricate antique alterpieces. Opening times: Daily 9 am - 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm - 6 pm
Almas Chapel
A simple, yet attractive 18th century chapel, the Almas Chapel is located very near to the Bolhão Market. One of its most distinctive features is the beautiful azulejo tiling that covers the outside walls, depicting the death of St. Francis, the martyrdom of St. Catherine, and other biblical scenes.. This was added much later, in 1929, but executed in the 18th century style. In addition, the chapel has a nice domed tower and some beautiful stained glass windows.
Cordoaria Garden
This beautiful garden is also known as João Chagas Garden and is located very near to the university. It is full of lovely greenery and a variety of interesting sculptures which are considered an attraction in their own right. The garden was founded in 1865, but was dramatically re-landscaped after a tornado hit it in 1941. The garden was upgraded again when Porto became a “European Capital of Culture” in 2001.
Crystal Palace and Gardens
This innovative palace was originally built in 1861, constructed from glass and steel in imitation of the London Crystal Palace. This building was replaced in 1952, however, by the Pavilhão Rosa Mota that remains today. Surrounding the pavilion are beautiful landscaped gardens full of flowers, grassy lawns, exotic plants, statues and peacocks. There are also some beautiful views of the river and the rest of the city. Fairs and outdoor performances are occasionally held in the gardens.
Serralves Foundation Park
This famous park is one of the loveliest in the city and was originally a private estate, located right in the heart of the city. It encompasses formal gardens, a beautiful rose garden, a tranquil lake, wooded areas, a camellia garden, and more. The park as a public garden was designed between 1932- 1940 by the French architect Jacques Gréber.