Situated at the end of a narrow and treacherously winding road 5 km south of Santa Margherita, Portofino is an appealing place, tucked into a protected inlet surrounded by lush cypress- and olive-clad slopes. It’s an A-list resort that has attracted high-flying bankers, celebs and their hangers-on for years, as evidenced by the flotillas of yachts usually anchored just outside.
The best travel tips for visiting Portofino
The tiny village of Portofino manages to be both attractive and off-putting at the same time, with a quota of fancy shops, bars and restaurants that would suit somewhere twice its size, and unashamedly expensive accommodation – luxury is really the point there.
The best sandy beach is the sparkling cove at Paraggi, 2km back towards Santa Margherita on the coast road (buses will stop on request) – not exactly remote, but less formal than Portofino and with a small stretch of pebbly sand and a couple of bars set back from the water.
To get a sense of Portofino’s idyllic setting follow the footpath which heads south from the harbour up onto the headland. Northwest from the village, steeply stepped paths head through vineyards and orchards to Olmi and on to San Fruttuoso.
Five minutes from the village is the church of San Giorgio, said to contain relics of St George, and a further ten minutes up is the spectacularly located Castello Brown named after its former owner, British Consul Montague Yeats Brown, who bought it in 1867 and set about transforming it. It is now a popular venue for weddings and suchlike. The scenic path continues for a kilometre or so, down to the Faro (lighthouse) on the very tip of the promontory.
Top attractions and things to do in Portofino
From the enchanting abbey of San Fruttuoso to B, here are the best things to do in Portofino.
#1 Visit the enchanting thousand-year-old abbey of San Fruttuoso
Thousand-year-old abbey of San Fruttuoso is one of the principal draws along this stretch of the Riviera, occupying a picturesque little bay at the southern foot of Monte di Portofino. The only way to get here is on foot or by boat.
On summer weekends, the tiny pebble beach and church may be uncomfortably crowded, but out of season (or at twilight, courtesy of an overnight stay or the occasional night cruise), San Fruttuoso is a peaceful, excellent place for doing very little.
#2 Hit the beach at Paraggi
With its enticing, sparkling waters, the beautiful small sweep of sand is one of the best along the northwestern coast of Italy. Backed by a series of colourful hotels, restaurants and bars, with lines of sunshades and sunlougners uniformly laid out across the shore, you’ll have to get here early to hire one for the day but those Instagram photos? Perfect.
#3 Climb up to Castello Brown
Nestled within a hilltop Mediterranean garden adorned with blossoms, rose gardens, and pergolas, the views from this fifteenth-century castle, overlooking the harbour, are captivating.
On show inside is an array of fine craftsmanship, with marble and slate bas-reliefs, elegant furnishings, and original furniture. Gothic windows grace the first room, leading to a terrace once housing artillery, transformed by Consul Brown into a luxuriant garden offering a romantic panorama.
The stairwell hosts a medieval wooden coffered roof painted with saints and rulers, while Lombard cross vaults crown the hall on the first floor. Check ahead before you visit as it sometimes closes whilst it hosts private events.
#4 Walks around Portofino
The Portofino headland – protected as the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino and encircled by cliffs and small coves – is one of the most rewarding areas for walking on the Riviera coast. At 612m, Monte di Portofino is high enough to be interesting but not so high as to demand any specialist hiking prowess.
The trails cross slopes of wild thyme, pine and holm oak, enveloped in summer in the constant whirring of cicadas. From the summit, the view over successive headlands is breathtaking. Not many people walk these marked paths, maybe because their early stages are fairly steep – but they aren’t particularly strenuous, levelling off later and with plenty of places to stop.
Best trails in Portofino
One of the best trails skirts the whole headland, beginning in Camogli, on the western side of the promontory. The path rises gently for 1km south to San Rocco (30–40min from Camogli), then follows the coast south to a viewpoint above Punta Chiappa, before swinging east to the scenic Passo del Bacio (200m), rising to a hair-raising ridgetop and then descending gently through the olive trees and palms to San Fruttuoso (3hr from Camogli).
It continues east over a little headland and onto the wild and beautiful cliff-tops above Punta Carega, before passing through the hamlets of Prato, Olmi and Cappelletta, and down steps to Portofino (4hr 30min from Camogli).
There are plenty of shorter routes too. From San Rocco, an easier path forks inland up to Gaixella and Pietre Strette (452m), before leading down again through the foliage to San Fruttuoso (2hr 30min from Camogli).
Meanwhile, from Ruta, a tiny village 250m up on the north side of Monte di Portofino (served by buses from Camogli, Santa Margherita and Rapallo), a little-trod trailheads up to the summit of the mountain (1hr), or diverts partway along to take you across country to Olmi and on to Portofino (3hr from Ruta).
Best areas to stay in Portofino
The best hotels are just back from Portofino Harbour. They start with the five-star Splendido Mare and tend to lose a star the further away from the superyachts you get. Only down to three stars, mind.
Via del Fondaco
Further up the hill, Via del Fondaco has a couple of excellent hotels which are also eye-wateringly expensive.
Best restaurants and bars
Portofino is tiny – and don’t the restauranteurs just know it? There are some bang-average places here, charging Michelin prices. The hotels tend to sell the best grub.
Surprisingly touristy, the waterfront has lots of decent places to eat and the surrounding hotels offer some upscale fine dining options if you want to splash out.
Via del Fondaco
If you're after a budget restaurant, head up the hill near the car park. Their views are as good but the prices are much more affordable.
How to get around Portofino
Portofino is pedestrian-friendly. The car park is out of town and you’ll have to walk down to the waterside.
Portofino is best explored on foot. Strolling its charming streets and heading up to the castle.
How many days do you need in Portofino?
Portofino is a tiny village that can be explored on a day trip. That’s more than enough time to visit the castle (if it’s open), head to the beach, wander around the shops and the harbour, and get a sunset drink. Staying the night is a real treat but most people will arrive from Genoa and return the same day.
Best time to visit Portofino
Portofino enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate, characterised by warm summers and relatively mild winters, making it an appealing destination year-round.
For warm and weather, the best time to visit Portofino is during the spring and early summer months, from April to June. At this time of year, temperatures are comfortable and generally range from 18°C to 25°C (64°F to 77°F). What’s more, the crowds are not as overwhelming as during the peak summer season when they arrive by the coach and boat load.
The superyachts arrive in the summer – along with most of the tourists. In July to August temperatures of 30°C (86°F) or higher aren’t uncommon. Come autumn, though, it’s all over: Portofino practically hibernates until spring.
Find out more about the best time to visit Italy.
How to get to Portofino
Although there is a car park up the hill and out of town, most travellers will get to Portofino by bus or ferry.
Regular buses connect Portofino with nearby Santa Margherita (every 15–20 min); they’re supposed to take 15 min but can take longer.
In summer it can be quicker and easier to jump on one of the ferries linking Portofino with Santa Margherita and Rapallo
Plan your trip with our guide book to Italy.