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Free Things To Do in Porto
- #1View all Photos#1 in Porto1.4 miles to city centerFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND1.4 miles to city centerFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME 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 Luis 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, travelers consistently attest. 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.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Porto1.2 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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. It 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, noting that the exterior is remarkable but the interior is exquisite, say visiting the church and cloister is absolutely worth an hour or two. 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.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Porto0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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, which was refurbished in 2019.
Visitors routinely rave about the panoramic views afforded from this hilltop park.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Porto1 mile to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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 an alliance between Portugal and England forged in the 14th century. 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 café (coffee). Be sure to bring your camera or phone to snap some scenes of daily life in Porto.
- #6View all Photos#6 in PortoZoos and Aquariums, Free, Parks and Gardens, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and Aquariums, Free, Parks and Gardens, SportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Parque da Cidade do Porto, or Porto City Park, ranks as one of the largest parks in northern Portugal at more than 200 acres. It has more than 6 miles of trails for biking and walking, and it is a popular spot for picnics and other outdoor activities, particularly on weekends. In addition to lakes and lawns and diverse flora and fauna, the park contains the Sea Life Porto, a privately run aquarium with thousands of marine animals, and the Pavilhão da Água (Water Pavilion), which was originally part of Expo 98 in Lisbon, but was reconstructed in the park and emphasizes the importance of water to Portugal's history and culture.
The park extends to the Atlantic Ocean and affords access to the area's beaches, a much-appreciated feature. Parkgoers describe Parque da Cidade as well-organized and well-maintained. As would be expected, adults and children alike love the park.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Porto1.1 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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 azulejo) that highlight the history of Portugal. Portuguese artist Jorge Colaco 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 Joao 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, travelers consistently describe it as mightily impressive and not to be missed.
- #8View all PhotosfreeCapela das Almas#8 in PortoFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
While the Igreja do Carmo features imagery made from blue- and white-painted tiles on one side, the Capela das Almas (also known as the Chapel of Souls or St. Catherine Chapel), has such tiles on a side wall as well as its front facade – 16,000 tiles in all. Like Igreja do Carmo, Capela das Almas dates back to the 18th century, though the colorful tilework was added in the early 20th century. The azulejo, as the tiles are known, here depict episodes from the lives of the saints, including the martyrdom of its dedicatee, St. Catherine. The stained-glass windows date back to the 19th century.
As with the other similarly decorated church, the Capela das Almas earns enthusiastic praise for its attention-grabbing external tiles. Even so, it's worth peeking inside too.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Porto1.1 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME 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 the mid-1800s, is housed behind a neoclassical facade in a two-story building in the heart of Porto that opened in 1914.
Previously, visitors said the building was in need of some renovations, even as others found its well-worn condition part of its charm and noted that the bustling energy of the market and delectable treats made up for the aging facility. However, the space began renovations in mid-2018; they are expected to take a few years to complete. In the meantime, the market has been relocated to a temporary spot near the original.
- #10View all PhotosfreePorto Beaches#10 in Porto2.9 miles to city centerBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND2.9 miles to city centerBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME 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 do Douro, 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 Gondarem. Close to the Praia do Molhe you'll find the Pergola da Foz, a neoclassical pergola modeled after the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France; it's the perfect spot for watching the sunset. 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. 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.
- #17View all PhotosfreeClérigos Church#17 in PortoFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Clérigos Church, an 18th-century baroque building topped by the nearly 250-foot Torre dos Clérigos (or Clérigos Tower), offers unrivalled views of the Douro River and Porto's old town. The Torre is the tallest bell tower in the city and boasts 49 resonant bells. The structure also houses a museum, the House of the Brotherhood, with artifacts related to the clerics who founded the church.
While the museum and church are generally deemed worth seeing, the sweeping city views from the tower are what travelers deem as the best part of the visit. Note, there are more than 200 steps to climb to reach the top, so it takes some effort see the sights and snap your photos. Also note that this is a popular spot and the viewing area can get crowded. As such, many recommend heading here early so you won't have to deal with too long of a line, if any.
- #18View all PhotosfreeCais da Ribeira#18 in PortoFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Cais da Ribeira, a riverfront promenade along the Douro in the vicinity of the Dom Luis I Bridge, is considered one of the liveliest parts of town. During the day, it's an ideal spot to see the neatly stacked pastel-colored houses facing the water. Many restaurants in the area have terraces from which you can enjoy the nighttime views of the river and the bridge along with traditional cuisine as well.
While many people find this area a pleasant place to walk, dine, sightsee and people-watch, some find it overrun with tourists and deem its eateries correspondingly overpriced. Most agree, however, that the spectacular views make a stop here essential.
- #19View all PhotosfreeIgreja do Carmo#19 in PortoFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The rococo Igreja do Carmo, or Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, built in the mid-18th century, houses numerous oil paintings and several elaborate gilt altars. The exterior boasts a tile mosaic, added in the early 20th century, depicting scenes relating to the founding of the Carmelite Order. (Another, older church, the Igreja dos Carmelitas, sits almost immediately next door, separated only by a very narrow residence, evidently intended to keep the monks and nuns from the respective churches from interacting in any untoward way. Popular destinations like Livraria Lello bookshop and Clérigos Church and Tower are also nearby.)
Visitors say the blue and white azulejo tiles adorning the outside of the church are particularly impressive. That doesn't mean you shouldn't venture inside, however, as the sculptures, altars and decorations are judged to be quite striking as well.
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