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You could easily spend a couple of days just soaking up the dreamy Old World vibe of the Ribeira, Porto’s protected waterfront area, and we certainly recommend doing just that – but the city also has some heavyweight cultural institutions outside the area that command attention. Plus, you definitely can’t leave the town without spending an afternoon (or more) sampling port at the source, at one of the dozens of lodges that produce it here.

Things to do in Porto

Café Majestic

Take a coffee break at the star of Porto’s café scene, where intricate Belle Epoque interiors boast an illustrious past that dates back to 1920s. Be prepared for steep prices.

Rua Santa Catarina 112, 011-351-22-200-3887, www.cafemajestic.com
Tags: smart splurge | things to do | culture | architecture | history

Casa da Musica

Attend a classical, jazz, or multimedia performance at this new city icon designed by star Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in his signature style of offbeat colors, textures, and patterns.

Avenida da Boavista, 011-351-22-012-0220, www.casadamusica.com
Tags: things to do | culture | architecture

Casa do Infante

Fifteenth-century explorer Henry the Navigator was apparently born in this ancient house that’s now a small history museum displaying medieval parchments and drawings.

Rua da Alfândega 10, 011-351-22-608-1000
Tags: things to do | culture | history | free

Cathedral (Sé)

Soaring over the skyline with its hodgepodge of architectural elements from Romanesque to Gothic and Baroque periods, Porto’s landmark cathedral (also known as Sé) doubles as a reference point if you get lost in the city’s tousled web of streets.

Terreiro da Sé, 011-351-22-205-9028
Tags: art | things to do | architecture | history

Fundaçao de Serralves

Take in the frequently changing exhibits of Portuguese and international contemporary art at Porto’s cultural powerhouse, found in a striking modern structure amidst 44 landscaped acres dotted with sculptures, fountains and art installations.

Rua Don João de Castro 210, www.serralves.pt
Tags: art | things to do | outdoors | culture | architecture

Helicopter tour

Rise above Porto’s enchanting streetscapes in a helicopter for a bird’s-eye view of the hilltop town, the river, and its six bridges across the Douro.

Porto Tours, Torre Medieval, Calçada D. Pedro Pitões, 15, 011-351-222-000-073, www.portotours.com
Tags: smart splurge | things to do | tour

Igreja da São Francisco

Check out this marvelous Gothic church with gilded carvings, gold-leaf motifs and other lavish ecclesiastical decorations in its Baroque interiors; the vault museum houses a small display of religious paintings, human skulls, and other random artifacts.

Rua do Infante D. Henrique, 011-351-22-206-2100
Tags: art | things to do | architecture | history

Learn about port wine

You can’t leave Portugal without tasting porto, the sweet, fortified wine produced at the wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia across the Douro River from Porto; the best tour is offered by Sandeman, a distillery founded in 1790 and housed in a former convent.

Sandeman, Largo Miguel Bombarda 3, www.sandeman.com
Tags: things to do | history | tour | culinary

Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis

This national museum inside the majestic Palácio dos Carrancas displays a collection of 18th- and 19th-century Portuguese masterpieces, including works by renowned local sculptor António Soares dos Reis.

Rua D. Manuel II, www.ipmuseus.pt
Tags: art | things to do | culture | architecture

Palácio da Bolsa

Book a guided tour of this neoclassical palace built in the 19th century to house the stock exchange to see its elaborately decked-out rooms; the oval-shaped Arabian Hall has ornate woodwork and stained-glass windows.

Rua Ferreira Borges, 011-351-223-399-000, www.palaciodabolsa.pt
Tags: things to do | architecture | history

Sail the Douro River

Board a boat on the Douro to see Porto majestically rising uphill; trips range from 50-minute cruises of the six bridges, including the Gustav Eiffel-designed Dona Maria Pia, to moonlit dinner sailings and day excursions to the Douro Valley.

Douro Azul, Waterfront, 011-351-223-402-500, www.douroazul.pt
Tags: cruise | things to do | tour

São Bento

Take a peek at the magnificent entrance hall of Porto's grand train station elaborately covered with 20,000 azulejos (Portugal's quintessential decorative tiles), depicting various scenes from history.

Praça Almeida Garrett, 011-351-22-201-9517
Tags: art | things to do | architecture | history

Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman

Less touristy than Sandeman, this wonderfully atmospheric lodge has been around since 1692 and features top-notch vintage brands; it’s quite a hike up the hill, but the tour is very informative.

Rua do Choupelo 250, www.taylor.pt
Tags: things to do | history | tour | culinary | free

Torre dos Clérigos

For panoramic city vistas, climb up the 225 steps to the belfry of this 18th-century Baroque tower with Rococo carvings (but no elevator).

Rua San Filipe de Nery, 011-351-22-200-1729
Tags: art | things to do | architecture | history

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