If I wanted to create a list of cities best suited for photography, Porto would certainly be in it. A place of timeless history and irresistible charm, it’s a remarkable travel destination ideal for unique and inspiring photography. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best photo spots in Porto and give some practical tips on planning your trip to this wonderful city.
- Why Photograph Porto
- Best Photo Locations in Porto
- Planning a Photography Trip to Porto
- Recommended Camera Gear
- Final Thoughts
Why Photograph Porto
For the discerning photographer, Porto holds a unique allure. Indeed, not every city can offer such a compelling diversity. Imbued with a rich past and vibrant present, it presents a fascinating interplay of old-world charm and modern dynamism.
Porto effortlessly fuses timeless elegance with contemporary energy. Be that the narrow passages of the old town, countless quaint churches, or the lively embankment of Ribeira — there’s a plethora of compositions to explore here.
Whether you prefer landscape, architecture, or street photography, Porto has you covered. It is full of surprises and unexpected discoveries where everyone will find something enthralling to photograph.
But Porto is so much more than just a picturesque town. Portugal’s second-largest city and the birthplace of the renowned Port wine, it is a vibrant metropolis pulsating with life yet deeply rooted in its past.
In Porto, history is omnipresent — etched into the cobblestone streets, the time-worn facades, and the stoic Douro River that has witnessed Porto’s transformations over centuries. All of this creates a very special vibe, distinct from that of Lisbon or anywhere else.
Porto is a city to be visited whether or not you’re a photographer. There’s so much to do, see, and experience in Porto that it is guaranteed to earn a special place in your heart.
After all, it’s not just about capturing the beauty of Porto. It’s about feeling its pulse, tasting its flavors, and immersing yourself in its incredible atmosphere. Because that’s when the real magic of Porto reveals itself.
Best Photo Locations in Porto
With six bridges, countless churches, and numerous viewpoints, Porto has no shortage of fabulous photography locations. For this article, I have picked just a handful of the most prominent ones. But this list is by no means complete.
So I urge you to also explore and research on your own. I have found some cool places to photograph in Porto just by walking around with my camera.
And just as a quick disclaimer before we begin. Some of the spots below are located in Gaia, south of the Douro River. Though only separated from Porto by a river, Gaia is in fact a separate independent town.
So this article should technically be called “The Best Spots for Photography in Porto and Gaia”. However, since the two are so close to each other, I hope you’ll forgive me for this small generalization.
Standing proud on a hilltop overlooking the Douro River, the Cathedral of Porto, or Sé do Porto, is one of Porto’s most notable landmarks. Visible from numerous viewpoints throughout the city, it makes for an easy — yet compelling — photography subject.
When photographed from afar, the Cathedral of Porto is especially magnificent during the evening golden hour. Lit by the late sun, its yellow walls contrast beautifully with the darker skies behind.
If you prefer a more close-up shot, I find the north side of the cathedral quite rewarding. Here, a weaving road leading up to the building serves as an excellent foreground element. Early morning or the blue hour would be ideal for this composition.
And of course, don’t forget to go inside the cathedral. The monastery cloister in particular is an outstanding photo spot. The intricate arches of the passage decorated with skillfully crafted murals offer an interesting play of symmetry and depth.
Just keep in mind that the cloister gates are locked for the night and you won’t be able to get in until later in the morning. This means you might have to come to the Cathedral more than once. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an amazing structure full of grandeur and history.
São Bento Train Station
Porto’s São Bento Train Station is more than just a bustling transit hub. It’s an emblem of Porto’s art and history and a major tourist attraction. With its grand architecture and splendid tilework is also a treasure trove of opportunities for photo enthusiasts.
The station’s main hall, adorned with over 20,000 azulejos — traditional blue and white tiles — depicts historical events from Portugal’s past. The interplay of tilework and light from the arched windows creates a captivating ambiance, full of intricate patterns and shades.
São Bento is also an incredible choice for street photography where thousands of seemingly mundane yet fascinating scenes play out every day. It’s a hive of activity, providing ample moments to capture the essence of what daily life in Porto is like.
My recommendation is to be here early, right after sunrise. The station gets super busy as the day unwinds making photography difficult. Besides, the light is softer in the morning, casting long, gentle shadows ideal for a dramatic touch.
Luís I Bridge
Of Porto’s six bridges, the Ponte de Dom Luis I is undoubtedly the most famous and well-known one. Connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, it’s the subject of many photos and one of the most iconic photography locations in the city.
Luís I Bridge was built in the 19th century by Eiffel partner Teófilo Seyrig and you will instantly notice similarities to the famous Paris tower. The intricate ironwork and fascinating interplay of lines and patterns cater well for a close-up, potentially even abstract, shot.
But what you see from the bridge is equally mesmerizing. From the upper deck, you can capture sweeping views of the river, the Porto skyline, the Ribeira district, the wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, and beyond.
For a classic shot, be there at sunset. The golden light paints the city in warm soft tones creating a panorama that is so quintessentially Porto. The blue hour, as the lights flicker on and the buildings below start to glow, can yield equally stunning results.
There are plenty of other vantage points nearby to photograph Luís I Bridge from. You will easily find compelling compositions on both the Gaia promenade and the Ribeira district. Yet arguably the most popular spot is the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar viewpoint.
Miradouro da Serra do Pilar
Just past the Luís I Bridge on the Gaia side of the Douro River, is what I consider one of the absolute best spots for photography in Porto. At Miradouro da Serra do Pilar viewpoint you can capture some unbeatable sunset vistas of the entire Porto skyline.
Although you’re shooting in much the same direction as from the bridge, I do prefer this vantage point more. For one, being on the top of a hill, it’s higher. But more importantly, the bridge creates a nice foreground element that makes the photo more interesting.
Miradouro da Serra do Pilar is hugely popular and not only among photographers. Locals and tourists flock here to watch as the sun sets over Porto. As such, it often gets pretty crowded. So much so that finding a good spot for a tripod might be an issue, so arrive early.
But don’t just limit yourself to the classic composition. There are plenty of less conventional angles to explore here. From the river bank of Ribeira Gaia in the beautiful golden hour glow to a close-up of Porto’s old town as the street lights start to come on.
I highly suggest bringing your telephoto lens for a ride in this location in addition to the typical wide-angle zoom. It opens up a lot of exhilarating opportunities and I took quite a few shots in the 90-100 mm range.
The Ribeira Gaia district on the south bank of the Douro River is best known for its wine cellars, bustling cafes, and frequent street performances. But a fabulous view across the river towards the old Porto makes it a coveted spot for photographers as well.
What makes it truly stand out are the traditional Rabelo boats that are often moored along the river here. Once used to transport Port wine from the vineyards, now they add a nice touch of nostalgia and authenticity to the scene.
Work them into your composition, and you’ll get an unmistakable Porto-style shot. Somewhat cliche, perhaps, but lovely nonetheless.
Ribeira Gaia is an excellent location for blue-hour photography. There’s a unique charm to it when the light begins to fade and the street illumination kicks in. And since it’s not far from Miradouro Serra do Pilar, you can come here right after wrapping up the sunset shoot there.
Church of Saint Ildefonso
There are dozens of churches in Porto but one that I find particularly fascinating is Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso. With its classical Baroque design and intricate blue and white azulejo tiles, it is incredibly picturesque.
The church is situated in central Porto, not far from the cathedral. During the day and in the evening, the square in front is always packed with people. But come early in the morning and you might just have it all for yourself.
This is especially true in summer when the position of the church aligns well with the direction of sunrise. With some luck and enough resolve to get up early, you can capture a gorgeous photo of the burning crimson sky behind the marvelous outline of the basilica.
And once you’re happy with that shot, be sure to stroll down the neighboring Rua 31 de Janeiro street. There, you will discover an astonishing view of yet another of Porto’s many churches — Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos. You’ll need a long lens for that one!
Miradouro da Vitória
Tucked away in Porto’s historic district, Miradouro da Vitória is another excellent photography location. From there, you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic vista of the city, with landmarks like the Porto Cathedral and the Douro River both in sight.
The view is somewhat reminiscent of Lisbon with its unique mix of bright red-tile roofs and white buildings. And much like in Lisbon you can either go for a wider shot or try to concentrate on the more intimate details and patterns of the landscape.
The evening golden hour provides in my opinion the best light to photograph from Miradouro da Vitória. The setting sun paints the roofs and the buildings in front of you with a warm and soft golden glow that contrasts nicely with the colors of the sky.
This isn’t a single exact location but I want to mention it nonetheless. An essential part of the Porto photography experience is the countless amazing murals and artsy decorations that you encounter throughout the city.
A few of those already made an appearance earlier in this guide. I’m talking about the tile murals of São Bento Railway Station and the colorful facade of the Saint Ildefonso Church. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Take Capela das Almas for example. The entire chapel is covered with blue and white tiles depicting scenes from the lives of various saints. With its stark contrast to the surrounding streets, no wonder it’s a popular photo location.
Or the remarkable half-rabbit of Gaia. The massive urban sculpture made from recycled materials and trash is nothing like the tile decorations. Yet somehow, both are quintessentially Porto and fit seamlessly with the general vibe of the city.
These are just some of the most well-known ones. But there are many more in Porto and you’ll surely stumble across some of them as you walk its streets.
Capela do Senhor da Pedra
This last location is somewhat further away from central Porto. Yet if you’re into landscape photography, it is a stunner and well worth a detour in my opinion.
Capela do Senhor da Pedra is a charming and mysterious chapel, perched on a rocky outcrop along the Atlantic coast in Miramar. The best way to get there is by car or an Uber — it’s an easy 20-minute drive from central Porto.
When the conditions align, this truly is a magical place. In the evening, the silhouette of a lonely chapel stands out beautifully against the sunset sky. In the mornings, the soft light of the rising sun casts a warm glow on it, with the Atlantic Ocean providing a dramatic backdrop.
Getting the right conditions might be tricky, however. Ideally, you want to be here at high tide when the ocean cuts the chapel from the beach turning it into an island. Having an interesting sky also helps immensely.
But even when the weather leaves something to be desired, you can get some cool shots here. Especially if you have a drone. This is a fabulous place for drone photography as the chapel looks even more striking and dramatic when photographed from above.
Planning a Photography Trip to Porto
With the locations covered, let’s now talk briefly about the logistics of traveling to Porto. To be honest, it is very similar no matter if you mainly go for photography or as a typical tourist. Here are the key things to keep in mind.
When to Go to Porto
There’s no bad month to come to Porto. It’s an outstanding travel destination throughout the year, whether for photography or simply to enjoy the city. So really, I wouldn’t worry too much about the timing and just come whenever your travel plans allow it.
But if I had to be picky, the top seasons, in my opinion, are spring and autumn. The weather is warm and pleasant, and the streets don’t feel overly crowded. There’s also a fair chance of mixed conditions that often produce dramatic light so favored by photographers.
Summers in Porto are known for frequent clear blue skies that aren’t ideal for photography. Plus, it’s the peak of the tourist season with lots of visitors and elevated prices. But if that doesn’t bother you too much, it’s an all-around excellent time to be in Porto.
And then there are winters. Cooler and rainier, they nevertheless have their unique charm. The city is quieter and its rain-soaked streets are well-suited for more moody shots.
How Long to Spend in Porto
If you just want to get a quick taste of Porto and rush through its most prominent highlights, you can probably do so in a couple of days. However, to properly do justice to this marvelous city, I’d suggest allocating at least 3 to 4 days.
This would allow you to explore Porto at a more comfortable pace without constantly running from one place to another. You might even have time to revisit some of the locations and try to capture them in the best light.
But if you can swing it, even a week won’t be too long. Porto is a fabulous place to relax for a few days in. It has this special vibe that makes you feel right at home. And if you ever get bored, there are plenty of day trips to consider. The Douro Valley and Paiva Walkways are just a couple of examples.
Where to Stay in Porto
My recommendation is to stay as close to the center as possible on the Porto side. For a first-time visit, the historic Ribeira District is an excellent option. It’s right in the heart of the city with all the iconic sites like the Dom Luis I Bridge or Porto Cathedral within easy reach.
Or, consider the trendy district of Cedofeita. This vibrant area is filled with hip boutiques, cafes, and street art. Meanwhile, prominent photo locations such as the Church of Saint Ildefonso or the Clérigos Tower are just around the corner.
Lastly, the Baixa District, commonly known as downtown Porto, is a vibrant and dynamic district that encapsulates the spirit of Porto and is very close to all the major attractions and photo spots in Porto.
Getting Around Porto
The best way to get around Porto is by using a combination of walking, public transport, and Uber rides. It’s a compact city, so if you stay somewhere in the center, you can easily reach most locations on foot.
And whenever you don’t feel like walking, or the destination is too far away, take a subway or an Uber. The latter is very affordable in Porto (3-5 euros for a short ride) and I’ve used it a lot while there.
If you’re thinking of renting a car — perhaps for day trips or as part of a larger Portugal itinerary — you can. But even then I’d suggest leaving it parked and using other means to navigate around. It will be much easier than constantly searching for available parking spots.
Also, keep in mind that most hotels in the center don’t offer parking. To find ones that do, you’ll have to search a bit further away and potentially pay a little extra. So honestly, I wouldn’t bother with a car unless you absolutely need to.
Recommended Camera Gear
Photographing Porto does not require any special gear. Whatever you already have and use is probably going to do just fine. That said, here are a few things that I think might come in handy:
- A camera. I normally shoot with a full-frame Sony A7III but modern cameras are so good that it mostly doesn’t matter what you have.
- A phone. Mobile cameras have come a long way and often, a quick capture with a phone will produce a perfectly acceptable result.
- An all-around travel zoom such as 24-105mm. If I could take only one lens, that’s the one I’d pick. The range is sufficient for the majority of situations, up to the point where you might not even need anything else.
- Wide-angle zoom such as 17-28 mm for those occasions when you want to go wider than 24 mm. In Porto, there weren’t many of those, so I’d say it’s largely optional.
- A tripod is indispensable if you intend to photograph sunsets, sunrises, or during the blue hour. But otherwise, just leave it in the hotel.
- A drone (optional). Personally, I don’t feel comfortable flying in cities but if that’s not a problem for you, I can see Porto being immensely beautiful from the air.
If you’re a photographer, you’ll have a great time in Porto. It’s a charming city full of beautiful sights and unexpected discoveries. Be that azulejo-covered buildings, breathtaking vistas, or centuries-old churches, there’s plenty to both see and photograph.
But Porto isn’t just about capturing pretty images. Its true appeal lies in the unique blend of history, culture, art, traditions, and gastronomy. So don’t just focus on photography but immerse yourself in its vibrant mood and relaxed atmosphere. I guarantee you’ll love it.
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to Porto’s best photo spots and got some value out of it. If so, do me a favor and share it with your friends and on social media. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer quickly.
Before you go, be sure to check my other articles on Portugal and beyond. I think you’ll find plenty of valuable info to help you prepare for the trip. Here are a few recommendations:
- How to Experience Porto to the Fullest? 20 Fun Things to Do
- Lisbon Photography Guide: 10 Fabulous Spots to Capture
- Algarve Photography Guide: Best Locations and Practical Tips
- 10 Great Reasons Why Madeira Is a Perfect Travel Destination
- Photography Guide to Madeira: Best Locations, Tips, and More
- One Week in Scotland: A Perfect Itinerary for Photographers
- A Land of Wonders: 10 Great Reasons to Travel to Slovenia
- Top 7 locations for landscape photography on Tenerife
If you enjoyed this content, feel free to support me by treating me to a glass of ice-cold beer. Cheers, you’re a legend!
Or consider subscribing to my recently-launched newsletter. Each month I share my thoughts on travel, photography, and creativity in a way that doesn’t fit into a regular blog post. No spam, guaranteed. Unsubscribe anytime.
Not sure? Have a look through the latest issues of the newsletter over here and decide for yourself.
With that, happy travels and let’s see each other soon!