When to fly to Porto
Summer is the most popular time to take a flight to Porto and spend sunny days exploring the city or on the beaches in the surrounding areas. Average temperatures are comfortable, between 16 and 27 degrees Celsius, however, it can rise to a scorching 40 degrees, so make sure you pack some sunscreen. Summer also has low humidity, cooling breezes, although occasionally there are showers and a haze can be noticed across the city. Other peak seasons to consider when booking flights include school holiday periods when beaches will be packed and during major annual events, which usually see an influx of people. June, when the cultural calendar is in full swing, is a great month and popular time to visit. Long preparations are made throughout the whole month, for the celebration of Sao Joao, Saint John, on the night of the 23 June. Residents of Porto, Portuguese natives and tourists from all over the world, flock to the city to enjoy one of the liveliest street parties and longest nights of the year in Porto. There are also free concerts in the City Park and the historical city centre, as well as an impressive fireworks display. August also hosts a large celebration for Assumption Day, which is marked by parades and street parties which continue from morning to night.
Mid-September is the beginning of the rainy season, but the rain usually sets in during October and peaks in December. The rainfall continues into May, but eases off slightly in March/April, which sees beautiful flowers and trees bloom. Winters are mild in Porto, with temperatures generally ranging between 5 and 15 degrees and rarely dipping below 0 at night. There are still sunny periods to be enjoyed throughout winter. If you don’t mind rain, pack the wet weather gear and visit during the winter months. This is also the off season so you are more likely to find a cheap flight to Porto and better rates on accommodation.
Why take a flight to Porto?
Porto (or Oporto) is Portugal’s second-largest city and home to many of the country's most important exports. It’s where port wine was first stored, where travellers can find the best pottery in Portugal, and it boasts some of the best seafood markets in the country. Porto’s historic city centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site and arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal. Wine cellars are lined up along the river banks and restaurants and bars are strategically placed along the riverfront.
Walk through the city centre and pay close attention to Porto’s buildings. They may look faded, but their coloured tiles and murals add to their authentic beauty. Exquisite hand-painted tiles can be found on church walls and inside many of Porto’s buildings.
Stop by Oporto Cathedral to see its complex gold-gilded ornamentation and statues. This astounding style is repeated in many churches around the city, even those built in different eras, and some have beguiling appearances like the Do Carmo Church with its intricate mosaics on its outside walls. This level of detail and artisanship extends to many other Oporto buildings too, such as the Livraria Lello, a 19th-century bookshop considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
The Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis displays the work of Porto-born sculptor Soares dos Reis. The museum opened in 1840 and also displays work by Dutch, Italian, French and Flemish masters. A large display of Portuguese works includes ceramics, glassware, furniture and gold and silverwork.
The church of St. Francis dates back to 1383 and has a beautifully decorated Baroque interior from the 17th and 18th centuries. Gold-gilded cherubs, flower garlands, animals and fruit cornucopia garnish the pillars and columns and wide, marble Gothic arches make for a beautiful sight.
Oporto is famous for its port wine and the best place to sample all of the region’s offerings is the Solar Vinho do Porto in the Quinta de Macieirinha. Knowledgeable hosts will offer you tastes of port, complimentary snacks and some history about the port-making process. The atmosphere is relaxed and upscale, with roses covering the villa. You can also explore a museum displaying a small collection of paintings and 18th century furniture.
Oporto’s suburb Vila Nova de Gaia is home to more than 50 wine companies. The companies operate in lodges that offer tours and tastings. One of the best known is Sandemans, which occupies a 16th-century convent. The city sits on the south bank of the River Douro on top of an ancient fortified village.
Porto has a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
Getting around Porto
The public transport system in Porto is cheap and easy, but many tourists enjoy walking or biking, especially in the old section of town, where the sights are close together. Don’t worry about getting lost in the narrow streets, just ask a resident to point you in the right direction. Buses, trams and the metro will get you around the city quickly, and the funiculars can take you from the Ribeira to the city’s centre. Local trains can take you to the outer edges of the city and to the beaches. Avoid travelling during rush hour, as public transport can get very crowded. Look for discount or multiple-trip tickets such as the Passe Turistico, bulhete diario (day pass) and the rechargeable Andante Card to save money. You can hail, call or pick up a taxi from a stand 24 hours a day.
Driving can be very difficult, due to heavy traffic and a maze of one-way streets. With all the transport system options in Porto, renting a car isn’t worth the hassle.
Getting from the airport
Porto Airport or Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) is 7 miles (11 km) from the centre of Porto. The metro and local buses serve the airport. Taxis and car rental companies are also available, but again it’s advised to book your car early to avoid disappointment, preferably booking your flight tickets to Oporto.
Porto insider information
- Porto is the capital of Port, the country’s most famous wine region. A visit to the Port lodges in Vila Nova da Gaia, where the wines are aged, is a must. Vila Nova da Gaialies opposite Oporto, across the river Douro. The city is also known for the "Barcos Rabelos", the flat-bottomed boats that used to ship the Port from the vineyards. The boats take part in a thrilling race (in June each year), part of the Festival de Sao Joao do Porto (feast of St. John).
- The funicular railway that runs up the hill from the riverside to the Praca da Batalha is a great way to see the city.
- Porto's historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Praca da Ribeira is a popular meeting place. Ribeira's Quay is the original port. The area is charming with cobbled streets, brightly painted houses, small shops, cafes and restaurants. A walk along the Ribeira Quay leads to the Dom Luis Bridge, which links Porto with Vila Nova da Gaia. The bridge was built in the 1880s by Teophile Seyrig, a Belgian engineer who studied with Eiffel. The bridge with its iron structure owes much to the Eiffel Tower.
- Porto Cathedral was started in the 13th century, added to at the end of the 14th (Gothic cloister) and 16th centuries (Chapel of St. Vincent) and the main chapel was added in the 17th century. In 1736, Nicolau Nasoni, the baroque Italian architect added the north facade. The cathedral is located on the hill above the grand Sao Bento train station. The views from the cathedral of the old quarter are beautiful.
- The Sao Francisco Church is one of Porto’s last remaining medieval buildings, and the only Gothic church in the city.