If You Had One Day In Porto, Portugal

a city by a river at night

Let’s get back to our “If you had one day in…” series where readers help each other with the best tips for a destination.  Recommend only the top things you would do if you had just one day.  We’re not looking for run-of-the-mill.  We’ve already covered:

This week, what would you do if you had one day in Porto, Portugal?  I had just that recently, and did a really poor job planning it.  Flying by the seat of my pants has had hit or miss results over the years, as you can imagine.  On this one, where I finished my planning on the flight over, I think it was more hit than miss.

I landed at 6am and headed to my hotel, the Sheraton Porto.  I’ll be reviewing the hotel in the future, but it was a perfectly nice hotel in Europe with plenty of space.  I was at the hotel by 6:30.  However, the hotel was sold out the night before so I didn’t have a room to check-in to, despite my Your24 benefit as a SPG 100 night Platinum.  I sat in the lobby to do some work.  The problem with short redeye flights from the East Coast?  They’re too short, I can’t get enough sleep.  I promptly passed out sitting up on a pretty comfy couch in the lobby.  I woke up a few hours later.  

One Day In Porto

After an hour of burning through some work, I had a room ready.  A quick shower and I was off to see the sights.  I started at the Gardens of Crystal Palace.  There are some picturesque areas to hang out if you’re looking to spend some quiet time with a significant other.  And, the views of the city aren’t too bad, either.

a large building with a crane in the background
Crystal Palace Gardens
a stone path with trees and a stone wall
Wandering The Crystal Palace Gardens

a park with a stone walkway and trees

a city next to a body of water
Looking Over The Douro River

From there I was off to Livraria Lello.  It’s a bookstore in the heart of Porto.  Rumor has it that JK Rowling hung out there when she lived in Porto.  I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan but everyone else in my family is.  When I heard that some of the inspiration for Hogwarts might have come from this little bookstore, I had to grab some pictures for Michelle and the kids.  

I had read that they charged a few dollars to enter the bookstore given the popularity of Harry Potter.  The fee was offset against a book purchase if you really were there for the books, not the staircase.  That seemed reasonable to me.  I was expecting a fee at the door, but I wasn’t expecting a line that stretched down the block.  All in all, I waited almost an hour in line.  The things we do for our kids!

As we got near the front of the line the people around me started pulling tickets out of their pockets.  Did I make a mistake not grabbing my ticket early?  I hoped not.  Thankfully, I was able to purchase a ticket on their website in the matter of 5 minutes, though it turned out to be 5 Euro plus some tax.  I was glad not to get shut out, but don’t make the same mistake I did.

a room with a staircase and a large window

people standing on a spiral staircase in a library
a group of people on a spiral staircase
JK Rowling Was Here….

From there, I ventured to the Sao Bento train station.  I had heard there were marvelous tile “paintings” on the wall of this historical station.  Like many urban train stations in Europe, it’s carved out between rows of buildings and dwellings.  

a building with many windows and a street with cars and people walking
Sao Bento Train Station

a mural on a wall

a blue and white tile wall

a clock on a window
Old And New

a wall with a mural of a scene

a train station with people walking around


From there I walked to the Ponte Luis to catch an evening view of the city.  It had a very “Old World” feel, right up until the Metro breezed through.  Still, a pretty sight.  

a city with a river and a ferris wheel
Nightfall on the Douro

I walked back to the center of the city to hop a Metro ride back to my hotel.  For less than 2 Euro I had a clean, safe ride back.  A short walk later, I was at my hotel.  Where are the pictures of my meals?  Well, I grabbed a ham and cheese sandwich before I got in line at Livraria Lello because I was starving.  From there, exhaustion set in and I was ready for sleep.

My bonus Porto recommendation would be Tidal pools of Leça da Palmeira .  I hoofed it out there the following morning on my way back to the airport.  The pictures I saw online reminded me of Bondi Beach in Australia. 

And, I can imagine that’s what it looks like….when it’s not winter time.  Oopsie.  Here was my view:

a rocky beach with a body of water
Need To Come Back When It’s Warm!

Alas, unlike Bondi, the pools close early in Porto.  A definite must stop if you’re there in warmer weather.

That’s my one day in Porto. 

What would you do with one day in Porto?

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  1. Hop across the Douro to Gaia and taste some port. (Technically, Porto/Oporto is only on the north side of the Douro. Gaia is the much smaller city on the south side.) The Douro valley is the only place in the world where port is made (similar to champagne being only from the Champagne region of France.) The Taylor facility is walking distance from Porto and has both a great tour and a really great (but $$$) restaurant that overlooks the river.

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