When to fly to Porto
Summer is the most popular time to visit Porto and the beaches in the surrounding areas.
If you do not mind rain, pack the wet gear and come in winter. The weather is on the cool side of mild, and, when the rain eases off in March, everything is in bloom.
Porto 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 boasts some of the best seafood markets in the country. Porto’s historic city centre is an 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. Flights to Porto take a few hours from the UK.
Porto is warmest in July and August when the temperature is around 35 or 40 degrees. Summer also has low humidity, cooling breezes, and little rain. Mid-September is the beginning of the rainy season, and the amount of rainfall peaks in December which has an average rainfall of 45cm (18 inches). The rain continues into May, although it eases off in March. Winters are mild.
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, thanks 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.
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 center 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.