My family visited Portofino, Italy, as a stop on our Mediterranean cruise in the summer of 2023. We made the most of our one day in Portofino to see interesting things and stunning views, shop, and eat incredible food. Read on for what to do in Portofino during your cruise stop in this Italian port city nestled in the lush green hills of the Italian Riviera on the Ligurian Coast.
Is Portofino Worth Visiting?
Most adults in our group of 23 found Portofino to be a favorite cruise port, so I would recommend spending a day in Portofino.
We spent a long day going to Cinque Terre for beautiful views and colorful houses nestled in green hills. We ultimately got the same thing on a smaller and much less crowded scale in Portofino.
How to get from your Cruise Ship into Portofino
Since Portofino is a small, shallow port, you must take tenders from your boat into the town. It was slow-moving for us, which is even more reason to spend your port day in Portofino just enjoying the area around Portofino.
There is a small paid toilet at the boat taxi stand. While traveling around Italy, keep a few Euro coins to use the restroom.
Things to Do in Portofino
The tender boat will let you off right in the town’s harbor. A short, flat walk to the right along the water will bring you to the town’s main square.
Grab lunch in this waterfront piazza, then head up Main Street to shop. This is a tiny town, but no cars are allowed, so it is relaxing and a perfect spot for a laid-back day.
Hike to the Lighthouse
There are many hikes in Portofino Natural Park, but we took just a short one that took us to a church, castle, and lighthouse.
The whole hike takes about 30 minutes each way, and although it has stairs, a slight incline, and uneven surfaces, it is a relatively easy and often shaded walk.
San Giorgio Church
Head up to Salita St. Giorgio, starting in the middle of town, to the church of Saint George, the town’s patron saint. This will take you about 10 minutes.
This simple church was first built in the 1200s and contains remnants of St. George brought back from the Crusades. It has a cemetery and incredible views of Portofino Harbor.
Just slightly up the trail from the church is the town’s castle, which has gardens, a cafe, and, again, excellent views.
Although this castle was first built in the Middle Ages as a Genoan fortress, the current building was a home built in the late 1800s.
There is a small fee to enter the castle. Consult the castle website for hours and costs.
Faro di Portofino
I always appreciate a lighthouse, even if I can’t tour it. The Portofino Lighthouse is still functioning, and you can’t get into it, but you can see it and get fabulous views from it. You can also grab an aperativo or snack at Portofino’s Lighthouse, an outdoor bar at the foot of the lighthouse.
Visit Santa Margherita Ligure
We had a pretty long port day in Portofino, so we were also able to spend a little time in Santa Margherita Ligure, a larger town just up the coast. We walked along the promenade in Santa Margarita Ligure, did some shopping as the prices were much more reasonable than in Portofino, and had the best meal of our trip at Santa Lucia. We enjoyed Aperol spritzes, local seafood, and homemade pasta.
There are two main ways to get to Santa Margherita Ligure from Portofino:
- Walk up the hill to the top of town and catch a taxi. There are very few cabs in town, and many people getting off the boat, so you will be lucky to catch one.
- Take a water taxi. The only problem is that the cheaper ones don’t run very often (here is the schedule), but you can also book a charter.
Go to a Beach Club
Portofino is surrounded by exclusive beach clubs such as Bagni Fiore and Parragi Bay.
Take a Tour
You can charter a boat here to enjoy your day in Portofino from the water.
As you can see, there is enough in Portofino for a full day exploring, or you can take a day slowly meandering in this upscale, colorful seaside Italian town.