Porto is half the size of Lisbon, and twice as wonderful. It sits perched on the hillside on the north bank of the Rio Douro and has a historic center that would take two days minimum for only a casual stroll. If you plan on having a rest day, this is the town to do it in. If you had not planned on a rest day but had a long walk into Porto keep in mind that they way out of town is an arduous one too.
In Porto the buildings to see are the Igreja do Sao Pedro dos Clerigos and it's adjoining tower (4€, but the view from the top is unparalleled and 360°; don't bring your backpack with you as the 200 steps to the top are a tight enough squeeze as it is), the Igreja do Carmo (unassuming from the outside but spectacular inside), and of course the Sé do Porto (the Cathedral of Porto is one of the oldest surviving building in the city).
If you entered town along the upper bridge crossing you will have missed the Cais da Ribeira, the riverside boardwalk popular with tourists and locals alike. Somewhat overpriced but the atmosphere makes up for it.
Before you set off be certain to pick up a pilgrim’s credencial if you have not already done so. It can be found at the Sé Cathedral. This accordion-fold booklet is your passport to the camino and will become your most cherished souvenir of the trip. It is a required document in most pilgrim-specific accommodation, earns you pilgrim prices in many museums, and will serve as proof of your journey when presented to the Pilgrim Office in Santiago if you are planning on getting your Compostela Certificate.
As large towns go, Porto is no different when it comes to finding the camino. In fact, it is complicated somewhat by the fact that there are three different caminos between here and Santiago, be aware that you may see signs indicating the ‘Coastal Route’ or the ‘Braga Route,’ or the ‘Central Route’; amongst others.
Between Porto and the border with Spain the camino splits into three distinct routes. They are known as the Central Way, The Coastal Way, and The Braga Way. Additionally, there are several paths that connect each of these options, creating a network of trails that can sometimes seem confusing. The best plan is to pick one of the options and simply follow it to its natural end.
THE CENTRAL WAY: The Central Way is currently the most popular and well developed option. As the name implies, the route continues due north from Porto up the center of Portugal. It crosses into Spain at Valença/Túi and continues from there through Redondela to Santiago. This route is shown on the maps in GREEN.
THE COASTAL WAY: The Coastal Way is gaining in popularity as the infrastructure and signage improves. It is sometimes referred to as the Senda Litoral, although this name is technically reserved for the very first section of the route described in this guide from Porto to Vila do Conde. Various other guidebooks and maps may show the first day of walking from Porto to follow the Central Way before turning west towards the coast, other guidebooks might show it to follow the Central Way for several days before turning west to Fão. Neither of these options is incorrect, but I have chosen to describe The Coastal Way in a manner which follows the coast for as much as possible, beginning in Porto. This route is shown on the maps in BLUE.
THE BRAGA WAY: Some would consider this the original way, as it passes through the city of Braga where many of the churches earliest decisions regarding Santiago were made. It was the former capital of Galicia and an influential city. These days the infrastructure has not kept pace with the needs of pilgrims and the route is seldom traveled. Please note that this route is not included in this guide.
OPTIONS which deviate from the Green and Blue lines (which are the basis for all measurements shown) are shown in Red. These can sometimes indicate a previous camino route but are more commonly simple deviations through busy city centers.
There are two additional routes which connect the Central Way to the Coastal way, and they are indicated by a MAGENTA line on the maps for reference only. Services along these two routes are not given. Be advised that the markers for these trails are scarce and in many cases have been deliberately removed to prevent confusion among pilgrims.
Porto has a nice nickname among Portugues historians, who call it The Unvanquished City for having resisted the unlawful siege by King Miguel I. He wasn’t too keen on implementing the liberal constitution that was drafted after a local rebellion but after 18 months of attacking the city he abdicated the throne and the constitution was restored. It was a victory for the Enlightenment and those who sought to distance themselves from the traditional Roman Catholic values.