One thing you need to know about getting around Porto is that it’s hilly. Fascinating and beautiful too, but be prepared for some steep slopes and steps. Maps don’t show where these sneaky inclines are so unless you’re very familiar with the city, your sightseeing route could easily involve an unanticipated workout.
That’s why it’s worth finding out the best ways to explore Porto, be that on foot, by public transport or using one of the myriad of Porto tours on offer.
Check out my 40 Of The Most Amazing Things To Do In Porto post for some great ideas for your itinerary.
Self-guided walking tour of Porto
Check out my self-guided Porto walking tour if you prefer to be independent and like walking. I’ve done my best to keep the hills to a minimum with this route, which is designed to take you to the must sees and some lesser known sights.
It’s flexible enough that you can take one or two days to complete the route so you can go at your own pace and choose your sights as you see fit.
If the mere thought of walking around Porto brings you out in a sweat, you’ll be relieved to hear that there are plenty of ways of getting around beyond taxis and public transport.
How to get around Porto using tours that include transport
Depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, there’s bound to be a tour that suits you. This carefully selected range of Porto tours ranges from totally relaxed to slightly exhilarating.
Take a Porto Private Electric Tuk Tuk Sightseeing Tour, travel the city with ease and see Porto’s historic centre.
Save your legs and see the city’s highlights on a Porto Segway Tour. They’re really quite fun once you get the hang of them.
If that sounds a bit unnerving but you still don’t want to do much walking, you could opt for a minivan tour like this one: Full Day Minibus Tour With Wine Tasting, Lunch and River Cruise, which also takes you out to the beach at Foz.
Porto Magic Train Tour and Port Wine Cellars allows you to visit the old port wine cellars of Real Companhia Velha.
This version of the train tour includes the 6 bridges Douro River cruise.
Make it easy to get around the main sights with a hop on, hop off tour bus service, with optional river cruise and wine tasting.
Don’t expect the ride of your life – the cable car journey from the top of the Dom Luis bridge down to the end of the Vila Nova de Gaia waterfront is short but gives you a different perspective of the city.
How to get around Porto by public transport
If you are staying in the very heart of Porto’s historical district and intend to focus on nearby sights, you may not need to use public transport so read this and think about what you want to see and do before buying any travel cards.
The metro system is clean, efficient and safe and is the easiest way to get from the airport to the city centre. Unfortunately, it isn’t much use in the hilly historical centre or for getting to Foz. Trams and buses are better for these.
Find maps and timetables for Porto’s Metro system on the website. Porto metro is also pretty good when it comes to accessibility. This map gives a breakdown of partial and complete accessibility.
Use the Andante card or Porto Card (see below) to pay for metro journeys.
A recent, and welcome, new method of payment on the metro is contactless. Any Visa contactless card works and it can make journey planning less frustrating. Trying to fathom out which zone your planned journey takes you to can be a challenge and standing at the ticket machine trying to work this out is stressful. With a contactless card you can just make your way to the platform without this worry.
Remember to swipe your card as you begin your journey at one of the touch-in, touch-out posts as you enter the platform or station. Be careful with these; you can only activate your card on the special contactless readers, (with the usual contactless logo we’re all familiar with), not the normal ones for travelcards. At the moment, there are only a few of these around so you may need to search a little. Use the same card at the end of your journey to touch-out.
The Andante cards also work on the city’s bus service, which, along with the metro, is integrated with Google Maps so if you have internet, you can easily find out the best way to get around Porto by public transport. There’s free wifi onboard, too.
You can pay the driver if you haven’t managed to get an Andante card sorted out. It costs a bit more but for one or two trips, it could be worth it to save you the hassle of getting a card.
Paying for trips using the Andante card
The integrated payment system for Porto public transport is called Andante. You buy a card from a machine or ticket office which you then credit with journeys. To be honest, the system gets rather confusing because of the different zones in the Greater Porto area and the fact that you can’t change the zone until your card is ’empty’ of trips.
So if you’re taking the metro from the airport into the city centre (an easy 30 minute journey), just buy one ticket for that journey. Once you’ve used that, if you want to use the same card for city centre journeys, it is available for use in different zones.
If you think you’ll be using the public transport system a lot, it may be easier to get either a 1 day or 3 day Andante Tour card or a Porto Card that gives you discounts on attractions as well as unlimited public transport.
Just don’t forget to validate your card by swiping it on the sensor before you travel.
Porto trams and funiculars
For the network of trams in Porto, you can pay on board (€2 per journey) or, if you are going to be using the trams a lot over 1 or 2 days, buy a 2-day tram ticket (€10) on board or from hotels, tourist kiosks or travel agencies. Find out more about tram tours of Porto.
Save your legs by taking the Guindais funicular uphill from the Ribeira river front to the city centre. It leaves from the base of the Dom Luis bridge and takes you to Batalha. The funicular is not part of the Andante system so check the metro website for funicular prices and timetable. Last time I used it the fare was €2.50 one way.
A great help when using public transportation is an app you can download that gives real-time information on routes and waiting times. City Move covers all of the Porto Metropolitan Area not only STCP and Porto Metro but also the other public transport companies such as AVMINHO, TRANSDEV.
Porto by bike
Perhaps you have far more energy than me and are not phased by a little exercise. If the idea of exploring on two wheels appeals, there are a range of Porto bike tours to suit your availability and need for adventure.
If you’re quite confident about hiring a bike and doing your own thing, check out these bike rental options.
Driving in Porto
I really wouldn’t recommend driving in the city centre unless you’ve got GPS and don’t get phased by driving in strange cities. The number of one way streets and lack of helpful road signs make it quite stressful, I find.
Luckily, there are so many more entertaining options that you’re unlikely to need a car. If you do, there are plenty of taxis around if you need one and they don’t cost much. Uber works here too.
See my tips on renting a car in Portugal
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Must say I enjoyed your website.
Which beach is the best to go to for sunbathing from the city centre and how do we get there ?
Also we would like to go to Aveiro, again how please ?
Hi Julie – Loved reading your one day adventure as a “pilgrim”. I am a South African embarking on the Portuguese Way from Lisbon to Santiago in June / July 2014. I have a 13 and 14 year old daughter who will join me from Porto but I am battling to figure out the cheapest but safest option of travel for the two of them from Lisbon to Porto. They will fly into Lisbon and then head up to Porto. It is a little nerve wrecking as they are so young still, an option is for me to work my way back to Lisbon to meet up with them and then we travel together to Porto however the South Africa Rand : Euro exchange rate is crazy mad and I am watching every penny to make this trip possible for the three of us. My questions are: firstly is it safe for the two girls to travel from Lisbon to Porto on their own? Would it be better for me to fly them to Porto (a little expensive) or train them to Porto. I have googled RENFE time tables but cant seem to work out the route as I cannot find a direct train from Lisbon to Porto. If you are able to guide me on this I would be so very grateful. Another question is – what would be the cheapest option of getting from Santiago back to Lisbon at the end of the our walk as we fly back to South Africa from Lisbon. I have planned two days in Lisbon on our return leg to enjoy some of Lisbon’s highlights and if you can recommend a hotel centrally located it would also be appreciated. THANKS MILLIONS, regards Michelle
Hi Michelle, Sounds like a great adventure you and your girls have got planned. It’s really easy to get the train from Lisbon to Porto and your girls should be fine. They can catch the metro from the airport to Oriente train station then catch either an Intercidade (IC) or Alfa Pendular (AP) train directly to Porto Campanha station. If you book more than a week ahead (online) you can get cheaper tickets but they are for set times and non-refundable so if their flight is delayed, they’d have to buy a new ticket from the booths at the train station. IC trains are slightly cheaper and take about 30 minutes longer than the more luxurious AP trains but both are of a decent standard and reliable. The Portuguese train service is Comboios Portugal (CP) http://www.cp.pt and you can book tickets online and even get the ticket sent directly to a cell phone although I’d be inclined to print it in this case for added peace of mind.
I’m not sure about transport from Santiago. It might be possible to fly from Vigo to Lisbon but that probably won’t be the cheapest option. I’d check out the coach operators. For Portugal, try http://www.rede-expressos.pt/ ALSA are a Spanish coach company with an extensive network. This is what they charge for your route: https://www.alsa.es/portal/site/Alsa/template.PAGE/menuitem.a2b8c42c4264a03c66c766c7421000e5/?javax.portlet.tpst=28b12525bd34c9fec845c845421000e5&javax.portlet.prp_28b12525bd34c9fec845c845421000e5=_spageview%3D%252FSearchExpeditions.do%26_kraview%3D1&javax.portlet.begCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken&javax.portlet.endCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken
As far as hotels are concerned, you should try Booking.com http://www.booking.com/index.html?aid=360419. I always use them to find a hotel that suits my requirements and budget and have stayed in several different places in Lisbon through them. You can refine your search and the reviews are verified ones from people who have actually stayed at the hotel. I haven’t had any problems in the 5+ years I’ve been using them. If you can, try to find somewhere around Avenida Liberdade / Marques do Pombal / Rossio or Baixa so that you can walk or take advantage of public transport to see the main sites.
Have a wonderful trip!
Hi Olívia, thanks for stopping by – I love your blog!
Thanks Julie 🙂 See you around!
I find the gallery perfect 😉 and the photos too 🙂
Cheers Angela 🙂
Thank you 🙂
Oporto (Portugal in general) was a highlight of my time in Western Europe. A compact though hilly city with a pleasant riverfront providing for excellent shots of the red roofs and the arch bridge. Although neither of us spoke Portuguese (I still don’t know how to pronounce pão…), I helped an elderly Japanese woman wander around the bodegas and find a local restaurant to savor copious amounts of olive oil, potatoes and of course, bacalhau.
Have you been noticing an increase in Brasilian tourists in Porto?
Glad you had such a good time in Porto; it really is a great place to explore and have little adventures. Can’t say I’ve noticed an influx of Brazilian tourists, but I haven’t really been looking, either!
Thanks for this – I’ll be there in Feb so will see how many I can manage to use!
I’d be especially interested to know what the Segway is like! If you try it before I do, let me know 🙂
Truly a beautiful Porto,some as hilly as San Francisco,California-USA,also I like it nice trams on the streets.Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday!
Love the segway.
What an excellent guide to getting around Porto, Julie. I have yet to visit this beautiful city. Hopefully in 2013 🙂
Thanks, Marianne. I hope you make it to Porto soon 🙂