Free Things To Do in Porto

If you have extra time, Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens) is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Porto
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    #1 in Porto
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    This iconic arching iron bridge straddles the Douro River, connecting Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. Though Porto is known for having quite a few bridges, the Dom Luís I Bridge is especially renowned because it was designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, the mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Plus, at the time of its completion in 1886, this bridge was the longest iron arch in the world. The bridge accommodates cars on its lower level and Porto's metro on its upper level; pedestrians can walk along the bridge on both levels. Stroll along the upper deck of the bridge and you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the edifices built into the hillside cliffs that line the river.

    Admiring the bridge's composition and the views it offers is something all visitors to Porto must do, according to recent travelers. "This bridge has got to be one of the most amazing pieces of architecture," swooned one TripAdvisor user. "Be sure to walk both top and bottom levels if you can, views are excellent!" A visit here would pair well with a stop at some of Porto's nearby wineries across the bridge in Vila Nova de Gaia. Another option would be to hop on a Douro River cruise or boat tour, which would allow you to see all six bridges in one go.

  • #2
    Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)
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    #2 in Porto
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Perched on a hilltop standing watch over the city, the Porto Cathedral (known as the Sé) was originally built between the 12th and 13th centuries, and features a variety of architectural styles, including Romanesque, baroque and gothic. The fortress-like church is the largest in the city and one of Porto's oldest monuments; it's flanked by twin towers and has a rather plain stone facade. But inside the Sé you'll find a beautiful stained-glass rose window, a collection of centuries-old sculptures and a silver altarpiece that was once used as the bishop's study. Meanwhile, the cloister boasts cobalt and white ceramic tiles that depict different scenes from religious history. Most travelers say visiting the church and cloister is absolutely worth an hour or two, noting that the exterior is remarkable but the interior is exquisite.

    This particular attraction is also popular with visitors thanks to its vantage point. You can meander along the terrace outside the church and admire the views (and take photos) of Porto's terra cotta-colored rooftops below.

  • #3
    Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace Gardens)
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    #3 in Porto
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Crystal Palace Gardens boast green shrubbery, winding walkways, bright flora and bubbling fountains. Bring your camera along because you'll find plenty of photo opportunities here: Everything from the flower varieties to the expansive views of the Douro River beckons for your attention. (And if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the peacocks that roam the gardens.) The park's name comes from the Crystal Palace that once stood here, though it was torn down in 1956 and replaced with a domed pavilion that houses a sporting arena and a multi-purpose events center. Recent visitors say the pavilion is not worth a visit, but the park should be experienced.

    The best way to get to the Crystal Palace Gardens is via metro to the Aliados stop on the D (yellow) line or the Carolina Michaelis stop, which services the A, B, C, E and F (blue, red, green, purple and orange) lines. You could also pick up the No. 200 bus toward Bolhão or No. 207 bus toward Campanha along Rua do Campo Alegre and get off at the Palacio stop; the 12M bus also services the Palacio stop on its way from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. The gardens are open daily until dark and are free to explore.

  • #4
    Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies)
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    #4 in Porto
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Porto's main thoroughfare, Avenida dos Aliados, features a smattering of cafes, hotels, banks and boutiques all housed in architecturally impressive buildings. Located in the heart of Porto, just southeast of the famous Bolhão Market, this wide avenue is named to honor the Allies of World War I. Most of the buildings showcase intricate design in their cupolas and cornices. Points of interests include Porto's granite and marble town hall (which sits at the northern end of Avenida dos Aliados), General Humberto Delgado Square (marked by a few trees and situated in the center of the avenue) and Liberdade Square (which serves as the anchor to the avenue and is marked by a statue of King Pedro IV riding a horse). The central portion of the boulevard often hosts artists, street performers and festivals.

    The best way to enjoy Avenida dos Aliados is by strolling along the street to revel in its buzzing atmosphere, and pick a cozy spot to order some cafe (coffee). "The architecture that surrounds this plaza allows for some excellent photographs — go on a sunny day!" said one TripAdvisor user. "At the north end, small chairs … allow for some lounging and people-watching."

  • #6
    Estação de São Bento (São Bento Railway Station)
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    #6 in Porto
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Built on the former site of a Benedictine monastery, the São Bento Railway Station was inaugurated in 1916; today, trains pass through here carrying travelers between Porto and many of its northern suburbs. But you likely won't be visiting here to hop a train anywhere. What's notable about this landmark is its 20,000-some painted blue and white tile panels (known as azulejos) that highlight the history of Portugal. Portuguese artist Jorge Colaço is the mastermind behind this azulejo piece; its tiles were mounted over the course of a decade — from 1905 to 1916. Some of the most impressive scenes include King João I and Queen Philippa standing near the city's cathedral in 1387 and a depiction of the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez.

    While it may seem unusual to see such detailed artwork in a train station, one TripAdvisor user goes as far to say a visit to Porto just isn't complete until you step inside. "The architecture and beautifully painted tiles speak to the heavy religious influences in Porto. Take your time and enjoy … the clock and the intricate steel structure once inside too."

  • #7
    Mercado do Bolhão (Bolhão Market)
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    #7 in Porto
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Scents of sweet fruit, freshly baked bread and aromatic cheeses greet visitors as soon as they enter the Mercado do Bolhão. This open-air market is reminiscent of many you'll find in Europe, with vendors hawking a variety of fresh goods and homemade wares at very affordable prices. The market, which dates back to 1850, is housed behind a neoclassical facade in a two-story building in the heart of Porto. While some recent visitors say the building is in need of some renovations, they note the bustling energy of the market and delectable treats make up for the aging facility.

    Bolhão Market is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entry is free, but you should bring along some cash to spend on the fresh food that may tickle your fancy. You can reach the market by taking metro line A, B, C, E or F (blue, red, green, purple or orange) to the Bolhão stop. For more information, visit the Porto tourism board website.

  • #8
    Porto Beaches
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    #8 in Porto
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Porto's location along Portugal's northwestern coast grants the city access to some prime beachfront. If you find yourself experiencing a sunny day, visiting Portugal's northwest coast is a great way to pass the time. In Foz, located east of the city center along Avenida do Brasil, you'll find a handful of small beaches, like Praia do Molhe and Praia de Gondarém. Though picturesque, the terrain just offshore is a little rocky, so swimming isn't advised. But you can still bring a towel to lie on the sand, soak up the sun and dip your feet in the cool Atlantic for a little refreshment. Speaking of refreshment, this area of Porto is also packed with plenty of beachfront bars, restaurants and cafes — it's quite a popular place to enjoy the outdoors both day and night.

    Meanwhile in the town just south of the Porto city center, Vila Nova de Gaia, you'll happen upon beaches with soft white sand and conditions more suitable for swimming. The beaches of Vila Nova de Gaia are known for their impeccable water quality, environmental awareness and safety — awarded and recognized with blue flags — making them some of the most impressive in Portugal. Madalena, Lavadores, Salgueiros and Miramar are some examples of beaches you can travel to from Porto. Both active types and those looking for a little R&R will find a day at one of these beaches enjoyable: The shorelines here feature amenities like volleyball nets, bike paths and shaded cabanas.

  • #10
    Livraria Lello & Irmão (Lello Bookstore)
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    #10 in Porto
    Cafes, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    A bookstore may not seem like one of the most necessary things to see in a new city, but when it's consistently named one of the world's most beautiful, it's worth a look. Situated among the cafes and shops along Rua das Carmelitas in downtown Porto, Livraria Lello easily stands out with its chalk white, neo-gothic facade featuring intricate carvings and two painted ladies (representing science and art). Step inside and you'll be even more impressed. The bookstore's interior is adorned with rich wooden paneling and colorful stained glass windows, and boasts a regal ruby red staircase. As for the books, you can peruse an assortment of Portuguese fiction and non-fiction works, as well as a selection of books in English and French.

    Travelers are often impressed by Livraria Lello's allure and say visitors should take a peek inside. Most visitors commend the charming atmosphere and exceptional artistry evident in the Livraria Lello's architecture, but also warn that photos are not allowed. You can purchase professional photos on site for around €5 EUR (about $7 USD), or stay awhile to grab a coffee, take in this bookstore's beauty and commit the image to memory.

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