Porto has quickly become a hotspot in European tourism in the last 10 years. And, there are good reasons for it, Porto is a beautiful travel destination, with a beautiful historic center, a long interesting history, and delicious gastronomy. Yet, it’s also an excellent base to do a few Porto day trips.
Here we will explore the best day trips from Porto, explaining why you should take them, how much time does it take, and the best way to get there. These Porto day trips are a great way to get to know the north and center of Portugal.
We have excluded every destination that would take you more than 2 hours to reach because, in our opinion, it doesn’t make much sense doing such long day trips.
Best Day Trips From Porto
Guimarães is the first capital of Portugal and usually dubbed as the birthplace of the nation. The long history of the town reflects on its main attractions and old town. Unesco considers Guimarães a World heritage site since 2001.
While doing a day trip to Guimarães, you have plenty of places to visit, and luckily they are almost within walking distance, making this trip very pleasant. Our favorite things to do on a day trip to Guimarães include:
- Guimarães Castle – Built in the 10th century and one of the most impressive (and essential) castles in Portugal;
- Palace of the Dukes – A manor house built in the 15th century with some striking architectonic features, like the 16 chimneys;
- Old Quarter – a beautifully preserved area of the city where the cobbled streets, narrow alleys and ancient buildings make travel back in time;
- Penha Mountain – A Hilltop sanctuary located very close to the town where there are incredible views and a nice park to hike and have a picnic;
At about 40 km from Porto, Guimarães is perfectly located for a day trip. It takes about one hour from the center of Porto to the center of Guimarães, and you can easily do it by train, bus, driving or on a tour. Though, if you are only going to the city center, it probably won’t be worth it to drive.
Braga is slightly further north than Guimarães, but it’s a similarly easy (and entertaining) day trip from Porto. You can reach Braga by train, bus, or you can drive yourself. Some people do Guimarães and Braga on the same day trip, but unless you don’t have enough time it may be too much to see in a day trip. It’s probably a better idea if you do it separately, or spend the night in one of the cities.
The city of Braga is very pleasant and easily one of the best day trips from Porto. Despite being one of the largest cities in Portugal the center of Braga is rather small and even calm. It can easily be visited on foot. Within the center, you shouldn’t miss:
- The Gothic Cathedral – This is one of the most beautiful gothic buildings in the North, the main attraction in the city center.
- Santa Barbara Gardens – one of the most beautiful gardens in Portugal
- Biscainhos Palace and gardens – it houses a museum and another pleasant garden.
- Santa Cruz Square – one of the main squares of Braga and where you can find two other interesting churches – Igreja de Santa Cruz and Igreja de São Marcos.
When visiting Braga you need to go to Bom Jesus do Monte, a huge religious complex that has been awarded as a UNESCO heritage site in 2019. Though this is outside the center, and you’ll need to take a bus and then de funicular. Allow at least 2 hours for this.
#3 Peneda Geres National Park
Located in the extreme north of Portugal, Peneda Geres National park is the only national park in Portugal. This park is the answer for those tired of urban vacations, history, and imposing buildings. In Geres, you can find beautiful waterfalls, beautiful lakes, exciting trails, gorgeous forests, and many adventure activities.
Geres National Park covers a big area, and you won’t be able to see it all in one day trip (even 2 or 3…), but you can visit some of the best parts and enjoy nature at its best. If you are only doing a day trip we recommend visiting:
- Portela do Homem waterfall – small but gorgeous waterfall. It may be crowded in summer, as it’s very easy to reach;
- Pedra Bela lookout – Probably the most beautiful lookout in Geres, and a strong contender the most beautiful in Portugal;
- Albergaria Forest – the heart of the park is this dense, magical forest with an abundant variety of local fauna and flora;
- Geira – the old Roman road that crossed the area where the park is now located;
- Caniçada Dam Lake – the main lake in Geres is humanmade, but it’s a delightful place to dive in and swim;
Geres is slightly less than 100km from Porto and can be reached in about one hour and a half by car. The roads are relatively good, which means that this is an easy day trip if you don’t mind driving. On the downside, we don’t recommend doing this day trip from Porto, if you want to use public transports… We have never done it, and it’ll probably take you the full day.
The good news for those who don’t want to drive is that there are plenty of operators doing day tours to Geres from Porto.
#4 Passadiços dos Paiva – Paiva Walkways
This is the day trip to take if you want to hike. The walkways are 8 km long and have lots of steps, making the hike a bit hard, but still perfectly doable by families and children.
These Walkways are fairly recent but quickly became one of the most famous in Portugal due to the extraordinary beauty and because you can safely hike through the mountains while experiencing the Arouca Geopark, recognized by UNESCO as a Geological Heritage of Humanity.
The Paiva Walkways are located in the municipality of Arouca, running along the left bank of Paiva River. The route goes between the river beaches of Areinho and Espiunca, and you still have another beach about halfway, vau beach.
From Porto to the walkways, it takes between 1 hour and 1 hour and a half, despite being only 65 km. The only way of doing this day trip from Porto is by driving or on a tour; there are no public transports that will allow you to go and return on a day trip.
#5 Douro Valley
The Douro valley is considered one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. And there are reasons for it… The Douro river snakes through the mountains covered with huge fields of vineyards. The riverbanks of the Douro are the birthplace of the renown Port wine – a rich, intense, and fortified wine with very persistent aromas and flavor produced with the grapes of the region.
This region has such an important history that it was inscribed on UNESCO’s heritage list in 2001. As UNESCO states: “Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world-famous for its quality. This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social, and economic evolution.”
A day trip to the Douro Valley is almost mandatory for anyone visiting Porto. One great thing about doing a day trip from Porto to the Douro valley is that you have several different ways of doing it. You can drive, take a scenic train, do a boat cruise or even a heli tour. The Douro valley cruise is probably the most popular option because it’s so easy to do and such a relaxing way of enjoying this wonderful region.
#6 Foz Coa Prehistoric Site
Remember when we said that all these day trips from Porto were less than 2 hours away…? Well, this is the exception, the Foz Coa prehistoric art sites are about 200km from Porto and should take at between 2h and 2h30 to get there.
Foz Coa is located on the mouth of the Coa river, very close to the Border with Spain. The art sites are located by the river and you should note that you can’t visit them without a guide, so make sure to book an official tour, or you’ll be very disappointed. Despite being very far from other tourist attractions, the tours often sell out!
The Foz Coa Prehistoric site is one of the most important open-air Palaeolithic rock art sites in the world, with thousands of engraved rock drawings of horses, bovines and other animals, human and abstract figures, dated from 22,000 to 10,000 years B.C. Since 1998 they are also a World Heritage site.
A Foz Coa tour is very interesting and fun and should take about 2 hours, including a 4×4 short ride and a walk. There are 3 different tours, with different levels of difficulty. Some tours are very easy and can be done by everyone, others are a little harder, but not too bad. Confirm how hard the tour is before booking if you have mobility problems.
Aveiro is sometimes called the Portuguese Venice because of its many canals, bridges, and boats. Located about 75 km south of Porto, it’s a very pleasant city to explore on foot or on a boat cruise. This is a very easy day trip from Porto because you can reach the center in 30 minutes to 1h15, depending on what transport you take. There are lots of trains during the day, but you can also reach it by bus or driving, obviously.
In fact, we suggest you do both… Start by strolling around the many canals and bridges, enjoy the city life, and the art nouveau buildings for a while and then take one of many boat cruises and see the town from a different view. And who doesn’t love a wonderful boat trip?
Aveiro is also home to one of the most famous Portuguese desserts, Ovos Moles. These are simply a cream made with sugar and egg yolks. So, it’s very sweet and eggy, but it’s also freaking delicious… Anyone with a sweet tooth will have the time of their life eating these.
Finally, outside town, there’s one short trip you need to do, going to Costa Nova Beach. Costa Nova is a very picture and Instagram friendly small village with its colorful striped houses. The beaches in Costa Nova are also nice, so you could take the chance and go to the beach for a while.
If Aveiro is 75 Km South of Porto, Viana do Castelo is about 75 Km north, but it takes slightly more time to reach. Yet, it should be about one hour by car and between 1h30 and 2h by train. So, it’s perfectly doable either way.
#8 Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is on the mouth of Lima river and close to several nice rugged beaches. The town itself has two attractions you shouldn’t miss. First, Gil Eanes, a hospital boat, converted into a museum. It may sound weird at first, but it’s cool and rather unique. In Gil Eanes, you can see the history of the Portuguese cod fishing fleet in the northern Atlantic and how difficult it was.
The Second attraction is Santa Luzia Basilica, located high on Santa Luzia mount. The Basilica is lovely and worth visiting, but the panoramic views you get from there are the star attractions here.
Caminha is located even further north than Viana do Castelo, on the mouth of Rio Minho, bordering Spain and about 100km from Porto. If you have a car, you can probably do Viana do Castelo and Caminha on the same day trip from Porto. It will be a long day, but we believe it’s worth it.
Caminha is a very small town with a charming city center, but nothing out of this world. However, it’s located in a very nice natural setting with the lovely Minho River, the sea and Santa Tecla Mount on Spain’s side.
Caminha is also very popular among Portuguese travelers because it has some wonderful beaches, particularly Moledo and Caminha beaches. Both have long stretches of sand and are located in front of Insua island, which gives them a very unique character.
We believe that these are the two best beaches in northern Portugal. However, we mention that the water is very cold… surprisingly cold if you are not aware of the upwelling phenomenon that occurs in northern Portugal.
Upwelling basically means that the water is colder (and richer) than it should because the wind and currents bring the cold water from deep ocean to the surface. Have a look here for a full explanation of how the upwelling works.
Coimbra is the most southern day trip from Porto on this list. In fact, you can easily do Coimbra as a day trip from Lisbon also. Coimbra is the most important city in central Portugal, it’s a university town which obviously gives it a lot of life. In fact, the university is one of the biggest attractions in Coimbra as it’s both one of the oldest in the world and a UNESCO heritage site.
In Coimbra, the main attractions to visit in a Porto day trip are the Botanical gardens, the river area, the cathedral and obviously the University quarter and Rua Sofia. You can easily spend a full day only walking around the old center and visiting the university.
The university is the most popular attraction in Coimbra, and within the university, the library (Biblioteca Joanina) is the most famous attraction. Besides the peculiar library, you should visit the tower, the exam room, the arms room, Capelos room, the chapel, and the academic and medieval prison.
It’s very easy to reach Coimbra by bus and by train. We love traveling by train, so we suggest you take the train from Porto and within 1h30 minutes, you’ll be in Coimbra. It’s also budget-friendly as it costs about 8 euros.
#11 Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim
Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim are the shortest day trips from Porto on our list. In fact, they are so close they can be reached using Porto’s metro system, which means they are also the cheapest and easiest to do using Public transportation.
Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim are two different towns, located very close to each other, so close they could be one big city. Yet, they are very different… While Póvoa de Varzim is more condensed, with higher buildings and very lively (particularly in summer), Vila do Conde is much more relaxed and calm.
You can also use the Metro to travel from Vila do Conde to Povoa de Varzim, but you should note that there’s a walkway right in front of the beach, which makes a very pleasant walk (though it’s about 5-6km) and an even better bike ride!
The beaches are the main attraction of both town and the reason why they get so many tourists (mainly Portuguese though) during summertime. Póvoa has a bigger beach and usually with many more people and a party vibe during peak season (July and August).
Vila do Conde also comes to life and receives beachgoers in Summer, but it always feels less crowded and more relaxed. In Vila do Conde, you have more than a beach, the Ave river with the impressive Convent of Santa Clara alongside it give Vila do Conde a different vibe. You should also take a look at the old city hall and the Saint John’s church next to it.
#12 Ponte de Lima
Ponte de Lima is located about 80 km north o Porto, and it should take you about 1h to get there by car. It is possible to get there using public transport, but we don’t advise it. It would take too long, and without a car, you’ll only be able to visit the center.
Ponte de Lima has a nice old center, with cobbled streets, small alleys and old buildings, but this is a small village, and you can visit it rather quickly. One of the most striking things about Ponte de Lima is its old roman bridge that you can cross and enjoy the views of the river and village.
If you choose to visit Ponte de Lima, you should know that it’s one of the best places to eat in Portugal. It has a rich gastronomy and many good restaurants with traditional northern Portuguese food. In Ponte de Lima, you need to try the Arroz de Sarrabulho, which is made with several types of meats, Pork’s blood, and many spices. It’s a bit different (even weird) but very good, and a must-try for any foodie.
Where to stay in Porto?
As we said above Porto is a great base for exploring the north of Portugal. However, it’s important to choose wisely where to stay in Porto. We suggest you choose a place in downtown Porto (Ribeira, Sé, Santo Ildefonso, Baixa), close to a metro station. This way, you can easily reach the train stations to do the day trips and when you return at night, you can still have some fun.
- InterContinental – the best 5-star experience in Porto. it’s located in a palace (Palácio das Cardosas), only 5 minutes from everything. Obviously, luxurious and expensive.
- Portobay Hotel Teatro – Amazing hotel built in a former theater. It’s a themed hotel created with beautiful details. Luxurious, but not as expensive as the Intercontinental.
- B the Guest downtown – Small boutique hotel with only 10 rooms. It’s very well located for day trips or days in town. A very good offer at a middle-range price but with high standards.
- Zero Box lodge – probably one of the best value for money options in downtown. It’s less expensive than any of the above and still offers everything you really need.
- Garden House hostel – one of our favorite hostels in Porto. Very cheap and a nice experience with a big garden and a common kitchen.