Portugal is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Tourists from all over the world flock to Lisbon, Porto, and the beaches to bake under the sun. Thus, it can get very crowded in the high season. Besides, summer can be too hot in Portugal. Don’t get us wrong: any time is perfect to visit Portugal’s second-biggest city. We’ve visited the country in all seasons and had a blast.
Remember that Porto is not on the Mediterranean but the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, the water is never that warm. In summer it’s around 65 F (18°C), while in winter 58 F (14°C). Though we’ve been in summer, we’ve never bathed in Porto! What we are trying to say is that Porto is perfect for a vacation in winter. The city looks lovely, and no one will block your pictures!
- 1 Why you should Visit Porto in Winter
- 2 Things to Do in Porto in Winter
- 2.1 1 Enjoy the Views from Dom Luis I Bridge
- 2.2 2 Taste Famed Port Wine in One of the Wineries
- 2.3 3 Search for the Street Art
- 2.4 4 Visit the Porto Stock Exchange
- 2.5 5 Explore Religious Architecture
- 2.6 6 Discover Porto’s Awesome Art Deco
- 2.7 7 Shop in One of Portugal’s Oldest Bookstores
- 2.8 8 Admire a Historic Train Station
- 2.9 9 Try Delicious Sweets in a Traditional Confectionary
- 2.10 10 Watch a Concert in a Contemporary Palace
- 3 Where to Stay in Porto
Are you planning your trip to Porto last minute?
Top Hotels in Porto
Hotel Moov Porto Centro – Art Deco hotel in the center
Pestana Porto A Brasileira – great luxury hotel
Condes De Azevedo Palace Apartments – studios and apartments
Top Tours and Experiences in Porto
Palácio da Bolsa Guided Tour (from 10 eur)
Cálem Cellar Tour, Fado Show & Wine Tasting (from 23 eur)
Full-Day Douro Wine Tour with Lunch and River Cruise (from 90 eur)
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Why you should Visit Porto in Winter
Splendid Weather is Everything
Temperatures in Porto in winter are mild. Especially when compared to other European cities. The average temperature in Porto in December and January is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C). These are the coldest months, and it never snows. Temperatures in Porto start going up in February and March and can reach 60 F (15.5°C). All you need is a warm jacket, and you’ll be fine.
That said, winter is the rainy season. With an average of 7.7 inches (19.6 cm) of rain, December is the wettest month. From January to February, the average rainfall drops and gets to only 3.5 inches (9 cm) in March. However, it rains at the most for a couple of days. Besides, there is always sun in Porto, even in December. Grab an umbrella and get your camera ready for the sun!
The population in the Municipality of Porto is around 230,000 people. As you can see, it’s not a big city. However, the metropolitan area has a population of over 1,500,000 people. We don’t know exactly how many tourists visit the city during the year. We know that over 27 million tourist visited the country in 2019. We believe that just like in Spain, the summer months get the biggest share of visitors.
What to do in Porto depends on your interests. You can shop, walk, rest, eat delicious food, drink wine, dance the night away, and visit museums, cathedrals, and a UNESCO Old Town in winter. And all of that with a lot of space! The only thing you can’t do is bathe in the ocean. You will fall in love with this gorgeous city and its lovely people!
From June to August is the high season in Porto. We mean high because of the number of people and the high prices! During the last decade, Portugal experienced a tourism boom. No wonder, since the country is beautiful. Besides, following the financial crisis of 2010, the government decided to develop its tourism industry. Add fabulous beaches, and you get crowded summers.
As you can imagine, prices go up in summer. This is particularly true regarding hotels. Hotels fill up in summer but have to lower prices to attract visitors in winter. The same applies to tours and restaurants. You’ll have a better selection to choose from, and you won’t have to elbow yourself to enjoy the delicious local cuisine. If you are into wine, prepare to be dazzled!
Things to Do in Porto in Winter
1 Enjoy the Views from Dom Luis I Bridge
Porto is known around the world for its elegant bridges. The grandest of them all is Dom Luis I Bridge. The two-deck metal beauty crosses the Douro River. Completed in 1886, it’s 279 ft tall (85 meters), 26 ft wide (8 meters), and spans for as much as 1297 ft (326 meters). At that time, it was the longest bridge in the world.
Even today, its size and beauty will take your breath away. The first thing you have to do in winter in Porto is walk along the bridge. The views from the pedestrian path are the best in the city. You can also take the tram that travels on the upper deck. The bridge links Porto center and Vila Nova da Gaia, or Gaia as locals call it.
2 Taste Famed Port Wine in One of the Wineries
We have to be honest, we don’t know much about wine. However, even we knew about the famous Port wine. We tried it in the city a long time ago, and now we love it. Considering the weather in Porto and Portugal in winter, visiting the cities best wineries is a great idea. You’ll get to try the best wines and learn about this traditional elixir.
Explore cellars, taste wine, and listen to live Fado at an authentic winery on the River Douro. Calem Porto has been producing top-quality Port wine for over 150 years. Nearby is WOW Porto, a collection of old and new warehouses entirely dedicated to food and wine. We are talking about museums, cellars, shops, and restaurants offering wine, delicious food, and epic views.
3 Search for the Street Art
As soon as you walk around the city, you will notice its stunning street art. Though nowadays you can find cool graffiti in every major European city, the ones in Porto are in a league of their own. What’s bizarre is that in the early 2000s, the mayor hated graffiti and cleaned the city. Locals were appalled but could do little.
Fortunately, things changed in 2014, when the government commissioned some of the best graffiti you can see today. The most famous local artist is Hazul Luzah. His faceless girls are all around Porto. Most graffiti is in downtown Porto. Walk along Paraiso and Camoes in search of graffiti. Continue along Rua Bon Jardim, and loop around Rua Miguel Bombarda.
4 Visit the Porto Stock Exchange
Queen Mary II of Portugal symbolizes the history of the country through the 19th century. The daughter of the First Emperor of Brazil, King Pedro, and Leopoldine of Austria, was the only monarch in Europe born out of the continent in Rio de Janeiro. She donated the land where the Stock Exchange is to the city’s merchants.
Construction of the magnificent building began in 1840 and took 20 years to complete. However, the interior was finished in 1910! Visit the building, and you’ll understand why. Portugal’s most celebrated artists embellished the building. Walk around the building and its patios to experience the rich history of one of the biggest European empires that ever existed.
5 Explore Religious Architecture
As you probably know, Portugal has always been a Catholic country. The city has countless churches. At least 30 are considered important. You will see beautiful churches on every corner. The oldest is the Church of Saint Martinho de Cedofeita, built in 1087. The biggest is Clerigos Church. You can see its 246 ft (75 m) tall bell tower from all over the city. Go up to the tower for 360 views of the city.
Obviously, you have to visit Porto’s Cathedral. Built from 1110 to 1737, it’s one of the most important Romanesque buildings in the world. Church Carmo and Church Carmelitas are next to each other and for sure worth your time. For the most impressive tile façade, visit the Chapel of Santa Catarina.
6 Discover Porto’s Awesome Art Deco
Porto has superb architecture from every historical period. Some of Europe’s best Art Deco buildings dot the city. The Armazens Cunhas store is probably the grandest of them all. You will recognize it from its beautiful peacock on the façade. The architect converted three old buildings into one amazing art deco palace. Go inside and prepare to be dazzled.
Another of our favorites is the Estaçao de Serviço Passos Manuel. It’s a car park from 1939. Don’t forget to check the cultural center and restaurant on top. In front is the Coliseu, an impressive 4000 seat theatre that hosts some of the city’s best events. A 4-minute walk takes you to Cinema Batalha, an Art Deco masterpiece from 1937. It is now a cultural center dedicated to movies.
7 Shop in One of Portugal’s Oldest Bookstores
Since Eitan is an avid reader, everywhere we visit we search for the coolest bookstores. Porto has one of the most fantastic bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello. Even if you are not into books, you have to check it out. The shop opened in 1881 and is still a bookstore. The building is unique because it combines three architectural styles: Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco.
If you think the exterior is beautiful, wait till you go inside. As soon as you enter, you’ll see the grand staircase that takes you to the second floor. Notice the huge stained window with the phrase Dignity in Work (Decus in Labore). Raise your head, and you will see one of the most beautiful glass ceilings in the world. You have to pay an entrance fee. However, for every book purchased you get a free ticket.
8 Admire a Historic Train Station
The São Bento Station presides over Almeida Garret square, where Alfonso Enrique Avenue ends, and the Aliados Boulevard begins. It’s in the heart of Porto’s Old Town, listed by UNESCO in its World Heritage Site List. Opened in 1916, the station is still in use today. In fact, from the station, you can go to the city’s airport.
The station is entirely done in granite. Though the outside is monumental and beautiful, it is the interior that will take your breath away. Some of the best tile murals in the world decorate its lavish lounges. We are talking about 20000 hand-painted tiles! Renowned Portuguese artist Jorge Colao took 11 years to complete his masterpiece. The tiles depict the country’s history.
9 Try Delicious Sweets in a Traditional Confectionary
The Portuguese have quite a sweet tooth. And so do we! Their delicious custard pies have conquered the world. What we like about them is that their simple yet tasty. Don’t expect super creamy or extra sugary cakes. Portuguese sweets are based on natural flavors. Thus, you can eat as many as you want. The best place to have them is in the Confeitaria do Bolhao.
The coffee shop has been serving top-quality products since 1896. Not much has changed since those days. Both the exterior and interior of the shop remain the same. Likewise, they still use their traditional recipes. Today, you can have breakfast, dinner, lunch, or stop for a coffee. Check out their shop too. They offer an incredible array of wines and local products.
10 Watch a Concert in a Contemporary Palace
Not everything is old and grand in Porto. The city has incredible contemporary architecture too. We love the Casa da Musica. The building opened in 2005 to critical acclaim. Many consider it Rem Koolhaas’s best project. We are talking about a massive building of 409000 sq ft (38000 sq m). However, it looks ethereal.
The Casa hosts some of the city’s best musicians. In fact, it has an educational program for musicians from all over the world. Check their website in advance and see if you can catch a concert. If you can’t, you can stop by the coffee shop or restaurant. Don’t forget to check the rooftop terrace for stunning views.
Where to Stay in Porto
As you know, we love to stay in hotels that tell a story. Hotel Moov Porto Centro is in the heart of the city, within walking distance to most attractions. The original building was a theatre from 1899. However, the Art Deco façade we see today is from 1928. Today, it homes a stylish hotel with modern-day conveniences and loads of character.
The Pestana Porto A Brasileira is the newest luxury hotel in the city. The building is the historic A Brasileira coffee shop, which opened in 1903. It’s where the city’s love affair with coffee began. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best hotels in Porto. The Condes De Azevedo Palace Apartments offers the best fully equipped studios and apartments in Porto. The building is from the 13th century. However, the rooms are super comfortable and include modern-day conveniences. The service is impeccable!