Porto Ribeira Waterfront Aerial View, Portugal

Porto Cruise Port to City Centre: DIY Shore Excursion Guide

Docked in Porto and ready to explore? This DIY shore excursion guide has you covered! Discover the best ways to get from the cruise port to the city centre, uncover must-see attractions, savor local flavours, and make the most of your day in this charming Portuguese city. 

Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for stunning views, Porto has something to captivate every traveler. Let’s set sail on an unforgettable adventure!

Interested in tasting Port Wine? Then here’s my Porto Food Guide: A Culinary Adventure for Every Foodie. I give you all my recommendations for port wine tastings, francesinhas and pastel del bacalhaus, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.

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Porto Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? 😎😎😎😎 (Smooth Sailing)

Porto is a fantastically easy port for a DIY excursion and here’s why I rated it 😎😎😎😎 (Smooth Sailing):

  • Effortless Access to the City Centre: The metro station is conveniently located just a short walk from the port gate, making it a breeze to reach Porto’s heart in less than 30 minutes.
  • Alternative Transportation Options: If the metro isn’t your style, buses are a reliable backup, also minutes from the port gate. Once in the city centre, electric tuk-tuks offer a fun and unique way to explore the hilly terrain.
  • Scenic River Cruises: For a break from walking, hop on a Douro River cruise and admire the city’s iconic six bridges from a different perspective!

While Porto’s hills may seem quite a bit of effort – I definitely don’t like hills! – there are ways to get around it, so you’re walking downhill most of the time. So read on for all my tips if hills are not your thing either. Plus, I cover how to catch a nice tram ride & bus combo for an alternative scenic way back to the port, after your sightseeing in the city centre!

Porto Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need To Know

  • Porto Cruise Port Address: Porto Leixões Cruise Terminal, Porto de Leixões, Matosinhos, Portugal – I’ve marked this in my Porto cruise port map below 👇
  • Currency: Euros
  • Language: Portuguese
  • Official websites: Porto Leixões has official cruise ship arrivals & departures schedule, Visit Porto is the official tourism website. Metro do Porto has metro maps and timetables. STCP runs the trams in Porto – I’ll talk about the tram tours below.
  • Recommended Transport App: I prefer Citymapper to navigate the metro but Google Maps also worked fine!
  • eSIM for roaming in Portugal: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when you’re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout
  • My Porto Cruise Port Map: 👇 Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. Use buttons on bottom left to zoom in/out. (If the map isn’t loading correctly, click here to see it directly on Google Maps).

Porto Cruise Port to Porto City Centre: Your Options

Porto cruise port is located about 10km (~6 miles) away from Porto’s city centre. Walking along the pier is prohibited, so once you disembark your ship, you’ll be herded to a shuttle bus to the port gates – marked on my map above.

Here’s your DIY options for getting to the city centre:

  • Metro (recommended):
    • Walk to Matosinhos Sul Metro Station: Exit the port gates and turn right towards the roundabout. Walk along Avenue de Republica for 5-8 minutes to Matosinhos Sul metro stop on Line A (Blue Line). It looks more like a tram than a metro, as the tracks are above ground.
    • Tickets: One-way tickets to City Centre is €1.80 (Z3 fare zone) + €0.60 for the rechargeable paper ticket. Don’t throw this ticket away, as you can buy your return ticket on it. Purchase tickets at machine before boarding and don’t forget to validate tickets at the yellow readers!
      • Plan to travel a lot? A 24-hour metro only ticket is €6.65 (Z3 fare zone) + €0.60 for the rechargeable ticket.
    • City Centre Stop: Trindade” is the main stop for the city centre. Depending on your itinerary, you can also change to Line D for São Bento station.
    • Journey Time: Takes roughly 30 minutes
  • Bus (backup option):
    • Walk to Bus Stop: Exit the port gates and keep walking Godinho street for two blocks – see “Godinho” stop marked on my map above.
    • Bus 500: Bus 500 will take you directly to São Bento station (last stop).
    • Bus Timetables: Typically every 15 minutes or so on weekdays, slightly less frequently on weekends – click here to see timetables
    • Tickets: Tickets onboard buses are cash only. €1.80 (Z3 fare zone) + €0.60 for rechargeable paper ticket.
    • Journey Time: Buses are slower than the metro. Takes about an hour to get to São Bento.

Top Things to See in Porto

Important Note: Porto is built on hills! I’ll do my best to tell you where the steepest climbs are and where possible, point you to elevators and funiculars to make the DIY trip more enjoyable. After all, you’re here to enjoy the views, not train for a marathon! 😅

1. Ribeira District: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Historic riverside Ribeira District, UNESCO Heritage listed, Porto, Portugal

This historic riverside district, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets, colourful houses and picturesque squares. Ribeira has been the bustling centre of activity since medieval times. Note that Porto (in general) is hilly, so wear comfortable shoes to walk around. Don’t miss these landmarks in Ribeira:

  • Casa do Infante (House of the Prince): The Prince in question was Prince Henry the Navigator, born 1394 in Porto, who sponsored and financed countless expeditions to explore the African coast, map new territories and establish trade routes. Despite many renovations and changes over the centuries, there’s still medieval features such as Gothic windows, with intricate stone tracery. Closed Mondays. Open 10am to 5:30pm Tuesday to Sunday. €4 entrance.
  • Praça da Ribeira: This is the main square in Ribeira and a great place to enjoy views of the Douro River. There are lots of cafes and bars with outdoor seating to enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Igreja do Convento de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francisco): Classified as a National Monument, the church was constructed in the 14th century as part of a Franciscan monastery. Outside, it’s all Gothic architecture, with pointed arches, ribbed vaults and a sense of verticality. But inside, there’s an astonishing amount of gilded woodwork in the Baroque style, created in the 17th-18th centuries. Open daily 9am to 8pm. Church is free to enter but I recall a museum which involves an entry fee.
  • Palacio Da Bolsa (Bolso Palace): This grand 19th century building, “Stock Exchange Palace” was the city’s Commercial Association HQ. The interior is beautiful, with rooms adored with gilded stucco, ornate chandeliers and exquisite woodwork. Guided 30 minutes tours only; pre-book here. Otherwise, you may need to wait for the next English tour. €12 adults and free for kids up to 12.
  • Muralha Fernandina (Fernandine Walls of Porto): Large sections of this medieval wall were demolished in the 18th/19th centuries to make way for new streets and building but bits of the wall survived.
  • Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral): Constructed over several centuries, it’s a fascinating mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque style architecture. Open daily 9:30am to 6:30pm April to October. Closes at 5:30pm from November to March. Church is free to enter but there’s a small charge to enter the cloister.

How To Get There: From Porto cruise port, change to metro Line D at Trindade station for 1 stop and exit at São Bento metro station. São Bento metro station is sandwiched between two streets – R. das Flores & (a wider) R. de Mouzinho da Silveira. Both are streets heading downhill towards the Ribeira District.

Tip: If you’d like to see São Bento station (see below), then it’s best to start at São Bento and then you’ll be walking downhill towards the Riberia district.

Not good with hills? Or just want a leisurely tour? Then use local tuks tuks! Because Porto is built on a hill, tuks tuks are very popular on the tourist route! Join an electric tuk tuk tour outside São Bento station for a tour, followed by a relaxing cruise on the Douro River to see the “Six Bridges”, of which one of them is Dom Luís I Bridge, to avoid having to tackle hills on either side of the bridge.

2. São Bento Railway Station (Porto São Bento)

Painted ceramic tiles artwork inside San Bento railway station, Porto, Portugal

São Bento is often referred to as an art gallery in disguise. Its claim to fame is its awe-inspiring azulejo (painted ceramic tile) panels that adorn the walls of its grand atrium. There’s over 20,000 tiles depicting scenes from Portugal’s rich history and was created by artist Jorge Colaço.

  • How to Get There: From Porto cruise port, change to metro Line D at Trindade station for 1 stop and exit at São Bento metro station. Then follow signs to the main railway station.
  • Opening Hours: Open from dawn till dusk. Free entry.

3. Torre do Clerigos

If you love climbing bell towers, here’s another one to check off the list! The Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) definitely sticks out in the Porto skyline. This majestic bell tower stands at 76 metres (~250 feet). It’s a 240-step spiral staircase to get up the top but you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Porto and the Douro River. The museum portion tells the story of the Brotherhood of Clérigos, its history and charitable work in the city.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 7pm. Last entrance is 30 minutes before closing time.
  • Tickets: €8 adults, free for kids under 10. Due to limited capacity, queues are inevitable during summer months. Pre-book online to skip the line and go through a separate entrance to save sightseeing time.

4. Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore)

Interior of Livraria Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal
Photo by Aviv Perets

Often dubbed the “most beautiful bookstore in the world”, Livraria Lello was founded in 1906 by brothers. Its stunning interior, designed by architect Xavier Esteves, showcases a harmonious blend of Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau styles.

Livraria Lello is rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling, who lived in Porto in the early 1990s, during the conception of the Harry Potter series. The bookstore’s secret corners, and whimsical details certainly evoke the spirit of Hogwarts!

  • How to Get There: Walk 5-10 minutes from São Bento metro or rail station or if you’re coming directly from the cruise port, you can also walk from Aliados metro station.
  • Opening Hours: 9am to 7:30pm daily.
  • Tickets: Due to its popularity, you need a dated and timed “voucher” to enter the store. The face value of the voucher is redeemable against purchases in the store. Alternatively, you can purchase a book online and you get to enter the store for free to pick it up. There are books in English, Spanish and Portuguese and limited selection in French, Italian and Japanese. Book a timed ticket here.
  • Tip: It does get busy here. Come here as late and as close to the store’s closing time as your itinerary allows for fewer crowds. As this is an easy walk back to São Bento metro, this is the ideal last stop too from a logistical perspective.

5. Dom Luís I Bridge

Pedestrian-friendly double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto, Portugal
Pedestrian-friendly double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge

This double-decker iron bridge spans 385 metres (~1,250 feet) and is a soaring 45 metres (~150 feet) above the Douro River. There’s two decks and both decks have pavements for pedestrians to walk across:

  • Lower Deck: This is the easier deck to access if you’ve just been strolling along the Ribeira district or heading towards the river for port tasting.
  • Upper Deck: The metro line lines on the upper deck. You’ll obviously have better views (as you’re higher up) but if you’re heading for port tasting, you’ll need to walk back down the hill on the other side of the Douro River. Here are three easy options to avoid having to hike up the hill:
    • Funicular: From the Ribeira District side of the Douro River, the Funicular dos Guidais will take you up to Batalha station for €4 but will save you having to walk up the hill! There are also stairs to walk up! (There’s also the Elevador da Ribeira but it seems that it’s often out of action atm).
    • Metro to Jardim do Morro: If you’re not in the Riberia District, you can also take the metro to Jardim do Morro station, located on the opposite side of the bridge. From there, you can walk on flat ground across the upper deck of the bridge back to the Riberia District.
    • Reverse Your Itinerary: From São Bento station, walk down Av. Dom Afonso Henriques – this is the widest street in the interaction. While sloping slightly uphill, the uphill portion is only a minute or so. It’s all downhill from there, leading you straight to the upper deck of the bridge. Once you’ve finished taking in the views, walk downhill and cross back to the Riberia side using the lower deck and continue your sightseeing there.

Is walking on the upper deck worth it? Yes, absolutely! The best viewpoint is “Cais da Riberia de Gaia“, turn right after you’ve crossed the bridge – marked on my Porto cruise port map above 🗺️📍☝️. This is the view from Cais da Riberia de Gaia.

View of Porto from Cais da Riberia de Gaia viewpoint with Dom Luis bridge, Porto, Portugal

Want to see the “Six Bridges of Porto”? There are six bridges connecting Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro River. Architecture fans, you’ll see everything from the arch bridge Ponte da Arrábida, to the cable-stayed bridges of Ponte do Freixo and Ponte do Infante and the railway bridges of Ponte de São João & Ponte D. Maria Pia, in addition to passing underneath the Dom Luís I Bridge.

Hop on the river cruise from the pier at the waterfront promenade in Ribeira District, straight in front of the main square. The cruise is about an hour and will return to the same pier. The cruises operate with the original boats used to transport the Port Wine barrels from the Douro Region to Gaia and Porto, so they look like open tug boats! Very kids friendly. Pre-book during summer months to guarantee a cruise, as it often gets sold out. Otherwise, queue up – the cruises leave on the hour. Tickets are €18 adults and €9 for kids.

6. Vintage Tram Ride

Vintage Porto Tram, Portugal
Photo by Ali Cuhadaroglu

Porto’s iconic yellow trams, with their rattling wooden interiors and nostalgic charm, have been trundling through Porto’s streets since the last 19th century. And they’re still working today! There are still a few tram lines but Linha 1 (Line 1) is undoubtedly the most popular! It takes you on a scenic journey along the Douro River, starting from the Infante terminus near the São Francisco Church and ending at Passeio Alegre in Foz do Douro. The tram route is along the waterfront, so you’ll get good views all along the ride. The last stop is close to the Porto Tram Museum. See the stops marked on my Porto cruise port map above 🗺️📍☝️.

  • Tram Timetables: Trams start to depart from the Infante terminus starting at 9am daily and leaves every 20 minutes. Tram timetables here.
  • Journey Time: Entire route, if you travel to the last stop, is about 25 minutes.
  • Tickets: Single trip €6 adults €3.50 kids. Return tickets are cheaper if you intend to take the tram back. Purchase tickets from the conductor onboard the tram. Note that the metro day pass is not valid on trams.
  • How to Return to City Centre: If you don’t want to return via the tram, then use Bus 500 to get back – it’s faster. Yes, it’s the same Bus #500 that runs from the cruise port to the city centre. This means that you can also easily return to the cruise port after your tram ride, if that’s how you’ve planned your itinerary. The bus stop is a minutes’ walk away from the tram stop – see it marked on my Porto cruise port map above 🗺️📍☝️

Featured Photo by Sergei Gussev

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