Porto is an absolutely breathtaking city, one of my favorite destinations in Europe. Dating back to pre-Roman times it oozes history, culture and natural beauty, not to mention the warmth of its people. You could spend months here admiring historical landmarks and centuries-old architecture, but there are so many other equally beautiful destinations close to the city worth seeing. Some are a stone’s throw away, while others require an hour or so to get there, but they are all worth the effort.
I made a list of some of the best places close to Porto, some of which are among the most incredible hidden gems in Europe. Please enjoy these 20 unique day trips from Porto!
Unique day trips from Porto
Situated only 50 kilometres away from Porto, the historic city of Braga is an obvious choice for a one-day trip from Porto, taking less than hour by car or train. Founded around 300 BC, Braga is bursting with historical buildings ranging from castles, cathedrals, palaces, monuments, fountains, and exquisite gardens.
Must-see places include the 11-13th century Braga Cathedral. Built in a mix of architectural styles, it houses tons of artworks and religious treasures. I was gobsmacked by the intricate gold-plated carvings and the monumental organs in the chapel. Equally impressive was the Archbishop’s Palace next door, offering views of the colourful Santa Barbara Gardens. The Bom Jesus Sanctuary stole the show, impressing me with its beauty and stunning views of the city spread our below.
The city centre is bustling with shops, cafes and restaurants ans streets decorated with colourful flowers everywhere I looked. I recommend stopping at Bira dos Namorados for some incredibly tasty burgers. These were hands-down the best burgers I’ve ever eaten!
To get to Braga, I recommend booking a tour from Porto. It includes transport to Braga and Guimaraes and stops to the main tourist attractions.
19. Douro Valley
Just 120 kilometres away, Douro Valley provides one of the most memorable day trips from Porto. You can go by bus, train, boat, car or on an organised day tour. It’s Portugal’s premier wine-producing region, with a breathtaking landscape of green hills and valleys carpeted by terraced vineyards, charming villages and the blue Douro River meandering in between. One of the prettiest places in Portugal.
I chose to take a day tour, allowing me to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery along the entire trip. The day included visits to a few wineries, wine tastings, a sumptuous Portuguese lunch, a relaxing cruise on the river and stops to some of the most stunning viewpoints in Europe.
For more info the tour I chose, click here.
This is the birthplace and first capital of Portugal. A historic and cultural-rich city, Guimaraes provides one of the best destinations near Porto. Being less than an hour’s drive away to the northeast, it’s also one of the best cities near Porto.
Founded in the 4th century, Guimaraes is a fairy-tale town, with narrow cobbled streets, buildings dating back to the 12th century, elaborate public squares and monuments surrounded by cafes and stunning architecture. No cars are allowed in the historic city centre, helping to retain its medieval charm.
Amongst the famous landmarks is the hilltop 10th century Guimaraes Castle overlooking the town and the beautifully restored Ducal Palace/ museum, encircled by a wooded park.
For the best views of the town, I took the advice of the locals and rode the cable car up to the Sanctuary of Penha atop the 600 metre high mountain. I were not disappointed. Massive boulders scattered within the forest with sweeping views of the town spread out far below.
For a place that I never knew existed, Guimaraes was one of the best hidden gems near Porto.
17. Costa Nova
If you’re looking for places to visit near Porto, near the beach, head to Costa Nova. It’s less than an hour’s drive south of the city. Situated between the picturesque Aveiro Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean, Costa Nova is a white-sand beach stretching for miles south of the estuary.
If there is one thing I love about Costa Nova, is its incredible colors. I loved the striped colorful houses, bringing joy to every tourist admiring them. They are known as “palheiros” and they were used by fishermen to store their fishing nets. Nowadays, they have been transformed into holiday homes.
If you’re looking for the best Porto day trips, you should include Barcelos on your itinerary, a city situated along the blue Calvados River. Barcelos was founded around the 12th century on an old Roman colony, a site inhabited since prehistoric times.
The 14th century bridge across the river, the remains of the city walls, the 15th century castle-palace complex, and the 13th century Romanesque-Gothic Santa Maria Church, are must-sees. Many other historic buildings and monuments ensure Barcelos retains its medieval charm.
Barcelos is also famous for its unique pottery and is synonymous with the bright-coloured Barcelos Rooster, which became the symbol of Portugal. Unfortunately, I missed the fantastic open-air market they hold every Thursday, which is one of the largest in Europe. Apart from the local fresh produce on sale, it’s the best place to find unique gifts and souvenirs.
15. Geres National Park canyoning
If want to combine stunning natural scenery with a little adventure, then Geres National Park may just provide the best day trip from Porto. Situated 107 kilometres northeast from the city, this 700 km ² wilderness consists of forest-covered mountains and steep ravines, deep valleys and lush fields, rivers and waterfalls, with Roman roads, bridges and ancient tombs in between.
Tour operators provide thrilling canyoning adventures, abseiling waterfalls, zip-lining through canyons, navigating rivers and swimming through streams and water pools with experienced guides. All safety equipment and gear is provided.
For more info on a fun-filled day, click here.
14. Foz de Douro
What was once a small fishing village, is now one of the poshest beachfront districts of Porto, dotted with luxurious houses, shops and fancy restaurants overlooking the ocean. There is so much to admire here. The rugged and rocky shoreline also has miles of beaches to enjoy, but is usually pounded by strong waves.
A beautiful place to walk along, from the historic lighthouse on the harbour wall, passing by fishermen hoping for a bite, to the northern end some three kilometres away.
Along the way, I passed two historic forts, before reaching the aquarium, pausing for a bite and a few cocktails, while watching waves crashing on the shore, and the setting sun sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. A most photogenic and romantic spot, if you’re ever wondering what to do around Porto, without traveling anywhere.
13. Viana do Castelo
The charming town of Viana do Castelo is one of the best Porto day trips. Situated on the mouth of the River Lima, it’s surrounded by rolling hills, pristine beaches and a modern waterfront.
The city centre provides a rich mix of history and culture, with cobblestone streets and great medieval architecture. Amongst its must-see landmarks, is the fortress at the river mouth, the Cathedral of Viana do Castelo and exquisite Igreja da Misericórdia church, almost next door.
For a panoramic view of the city, estuary and coastline, head to the top of the 228 metre high Monte de Santa Luzia Hill. Atop the hill is a Byzantine church that is absolutely breathtaking and beautifully decorated, making it the symbol of the city. This was hands-down the highlight of my day trip from Porto.
12. Ponte de Lima
Just 20 kilometres along the river, is Ponte de Lima, another hidden gem close to Porto. Tons of historical buildings, museums, pretty gardens, quaint restaurants and its iconic bridge, all contribute to its charming medieval character.
The bridge was originally built by the Romans and then rebuilt in the 14th century. Legend has it that the Roman soldiers feared losing their memories if they crossed the river. The commander persuaded them by crossing the river himself and calling them out by name from the other side. Just in case you’re wondering why there are beautiful wooden statues of Roman soldiers at the riverside park. You just gotta walk on this historic bridge.
11. Paiva Walkways and Arouca Bridge
If you have energy to spare, love to be amongst nature and you’re not afraid of heights, head to Arouca just southeast of Porto for what could be your best day trip from Porto. I was a little apprehensive to book a guided-tour here, but I discovered some of the most dramatic scenery I’ve ever seen.
The scenic trail of Paiva Walkways involves 8 kilometres of zigzagging paths along the gorge. Arouca Bridge is the world’s longest suspension footbridge, located 175 metres above the Paiva River. The bridge is 516 metres long with a see-through mesh deck enough to make you catch your breath every step of the way. It’s one of those places perfect for daredevils.
You gotta do this! Book your guided tour here, for a hassle-free experience!
10. Off-road buggy adventure
If you have any adrenaline left over and want to get down and dirty, there are no better day tours from Porto, than an off-road buggy adventure on the mountains just outside the city.
Spend the day off-road riding through the scenic wilderness of the Serras de Porto National Park, taking in breathtaking scenery and learning about Portugal’s history. You’ll visit Roman ruins and the unique Quintandona Village.
A most exciting and informative day, set amongst stunning scenery. Bring a change of clothing. There will be mud and you will get dirty.
Dubbed as the Venice of Portugal, it seems strange that so few tourists visit Aveiro, which in my opinion, stands amongst the best places to visit from Porto. In under an hour, you can be strolling along the picturesque canals or cruising aboard their brightly coloured Moliceiros (Portuguese version of Venetian Gondolas), admiring the scenic wharfs lined with monuments, cafes and stunning architecture.
Situated on the banks of the lagoon, Aveiro also offers scenic hikes and birdwatching amongst wooded sand dunes. In the charming town centre you’ll find numerous art museums, beautiful churches, historic landmarks and quaint restaurants serving delicious locally-caught seafood.
A little jewel that certainly earned its place on my list of best places to visit near Porto. If you’d like to visit Aveiro with an organized tour, this tour is one of the best!
8. Bucaco National Forest
Just 40 kilometres southeast of Aveiro, Bucaco National Forest is another day-trip destination from Porto, perfect to escape from the hustle and bustle. Dubbed the enchanted forest of Portugal, this 250 acre forest is home to hundreds of local flora species and hundreds more brought from all corners of the world during the Portuguese age of exploration.
Created by monks around 1628, you could spend the entire day on the numerous trails surrounded by nature, fountains, lakes, historical ruins and picnic tables dotted around the forest. In the heart of the forest the flamboyant Manueline-Gothic style Bussaco Palace Hotel, is so beautiful, you’ll think you’re in a fairy tale.
There are also many historical buildings and a museum within this little Garden of Eden.
Closer to Lisbon than Porto, Nazare can be reached by car or, as I chose, by train. Although the train ride takes and extra hour or so, it takes out the stress of driving, allowing you to enjoy the lovely countryside. For us it was one of the best day trips from Porto by train.
This little seaside town has the normal medieval charms found elsewhere in Portugal, but its fame comes from its dramatic coastline, being among the most dangerous in the world. Nowhere better to witness the might of the ocean, than from the cliff-top fort and lighthouse, overlooking giant waves crashing onto the rugged shoreline.
Watching surfing dare-devils riding ridiculous waves and playing with their lives, is an awesome experience for anyone. A few years ago a German surfer rode a 26.2 metre monster, making it the biggest wave ever surfed. Yes, people die here.Nuts, if you ask me!
Just 120 kilometres to the southeast, the city of Viseu, also lists amongst the best places close to Porto, and it can be easily visited on a day-tour. Its origins lie in pre-Roman times, and is known for its medieval architecture, local handicraft, pristine mountainous landscape, and, most importantly, its delectable wines.
Amongst the famous landmarks, is the beautiful cathedral with its splendid ceiling and golden altar, the Grao Vasco Museum bursting with Renaissance treasures, and its narrow cobblestone streets lined with charming restaurants serving genuine Portuguese dishes and their local wines.
A most serene and romantic place to visit.
5. Santiago de Compostela
For one of the best Porto day trips, book yourself the tour of a lifetime. Get driven across the border into Spain and arrive at the majestic Santiago de Campostela Cathedral, which is one of the most significant religious landmarks in Spain.
Built over 1000 years ago, it marks the end of the famous 790 kilometre pilgrimage trail, Camino de Santiago, and it’s said to hold the remains of the Apostle James. You have the opportunity to attend mass and to witness the famous Botafumeiro. Weighing 100 kgs, it’s one of the biggest swinging incense dispensers in the world! Swinging back and forth at breakneck speeds 20 metres above your heads, it’s a sight to behold.
After visiting the city centre, you’ll visit the historical village of Valenca do Minho on the border before brought going back to Porto. You can book your tour here.
Situated on the banks of Montego River, about 100 kilometres southeast of Porto, Coimbra makes a perfect day-trip by train or road. Eighteen trains leave for Coimbra every day and the trip takes about 90 minutes.
Dubbed the city of students, its 13th century university is amongst the oldest in Europe and is the jewel of the city. Usually, the first stop for tourists is the bell tower, providing panoramic views of the city. The Baroque organ in the chapel and the library are breathtaking too.
Amongst other attractions of this medieval city, is the 12th century fortress-like cathedral, the magnificent 11th century Monastery of Santa Cruz, and countless museums, historical buildings and gardens dotted everywhere. The little ones will love the Portugal dos Pequinitos, a park with miniature Portuguese landmarks. A river boat ride is also an absolute must.
If ever there was a hidden gem near Porto, this is it. Hidden in a valley close to the Peneda Geres Park, the beautifully terraced slopes have earned the village of Sistelo the nickname of Portugal’s Tibet. Far from modern civilization, there is only raw natural beauty here, as you step back in time.
Spend the day on one of the many hiking trails, around the village, going from one scenic spot to another. A few quaint churches and a castle stand amongst this natural wonder in Portugal. Restaurants in the village serve authentic local dishes not found elsewhere.
You will not regret this trip, although it takes some time covering the 100 kilometre trip from Porto.
Just 50 kilometres east of Porto, Amarante is one of the hidden gems in Portugal. Famous for its rich mix of Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, it will transport you back to medieval times the moment you arrive.
The most impressive sight is the arched Sao Goncalo Bridge. Rebuilt around 1790, the bridge was located where the town was defended against Napoleon’s retreating armies in 1809. A stroll across the bridge is a must. The wooded banks of the Tamega River, are lined with quaint restaurants, coffee and pastry shops offering fantastic riverside views.
Amongst the town’s attractions are the ornately decorated Sao Goncalo and Sao Domingo churches and the municipal museum. I was mesmerised by the buildings rising straight up with their balconies overhanging the river.
Enough said. Absolutely beautiful!
1. Peneda-Geres Park 4×4 tour
Imagine exploring the remote and rugged wilderness of the Peneda-Geres National Park from the comfort of an air-conditioned 4×4 land rover. Within this 700 km² landscape, you will be taken to the best viewpoints, witnessing towering peaks, deep valleys, gorgeous lakes, stunning waterfalls and gorgeous lagoons. Wildlife that roam freely in the park include deer, wild boar, otter, and if you’re lucky, wild horses.
Included in the trip, is a visit to a traditional village where you’ll be served a sumptuous Portuguese lunch with green wine. Yes green. You can book your tour here.
Where to stay in Porto
If you’re looking for an affordable yet comfortable place for your stay in Porto, I’ve got you covered! Here are my recommendations for every budget.
- Budget – Oporto Chic & Cozy – great location, modern apartment, good amenities
- Mid-Budget – Catalonia Hotel – great location, spacious and clean rooms, great amenities, super-comfortable beds, friendly staff
- Luxury – Infante Sangres Hotel – excellent location, breakfast included, beautiful pool, luxurious rooms, and excellent amenities
Although Porto has enough beautiful and fascinating sights to keep you captivated for months, I found so many hidden gems close to Porto that are worth visiting! Make sure to add least a couple of them on your itinerary!