I had such a fun trip to Porto! Yes, it’s filled with just as much sunshine and sightseeing as I’ve experienced in many other European cities but I left feeling very passionate about the experiences I had there. Since returning, I haven’t stopped raving about these amazing things to do in Porto and I strongly recommend you check them out as well!
Note: this guide was originally published in January 2017 but was updated in April 2018.
Heading to Porto? Don’t miss my full city guide here!
1. The Worst Tour
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed The Worst Tour! I’m normally not a city tour kind of traveller but their website had me convinced it would be something pretty different – and it was. Guided by activist architects, this tour takes you outside the touristy medieval area and into the parts where the locals live, providing visitors with an understanding of so many aspects of Porto, such as: how the town grew to become the city it is now; how urban planning developed and shaped the housing; how the financial crisis and the influx of tourism has affected the people who live here. Sounds pretty serious, huh? Well, it was such an adventure with us being led through people’s gardens and wandering into abandoned train tunnels. If you do one thing in Porto, this is it. Book yourself in for your first full day as it is a real intro to the city – but make sure you have nothing planned for the evening as I was exhausted after walking nearly 10km around the city!
2. Jardim das Virtudes
This was a recommendation from lovely Gui from The Worst Tour and it’s unlike any garden I’ve ever visited. Whilst the nearby Jardins do Palacio de Cristal were bustling with visitors on the sunny Sunday, this park was practically empty – despite being right in the centre of the city and really gorgeous. It features a series of tiered levels built into the hillside, with incredible panoramic views of the Douro River. It’s so peaceful and dreamy, I couldn’t believe there were bars and restaurants a block or two away. When you want some sun but don’t fancy the beach or if everything is shut on Sundays and you just want to read a book, pack a picnic and come here.
3. Church of São Francisco & the catacombs
Apparently, the further north you go in Portugal the more churches you’ll find. So believe me when I say Porto is FULL of churches – and amazing ones too! Most of them I was pretty satisfied by looking at their wondrous/crazy/spooky/beautiful exterior but, although the Church of São Francisco is featured on many essential Porto guides, it isn’t that impressive on the outside. So I decided it was worth a look inside – and WOW! It’s insanely opulent! All gold, marble and carved wood. I haven’t found any pictures that really do this incredibly OTT church justice but maybe that’s because you’re not allowed take any pictures. So you will just have to see it for yourself! Tickets cost about €4, which also includes entrance to the museum/catacombs that are equally fascinating. Look out for the window in the floor where you can see the hundreds of bones that lie beneath the basement level.
I spotted Godmess‘ work all around Porto and I loved it! Keep your eyes peeled for their iconic work.
5. Groove Ball
Fabulous party on at Maus Habitos. Unsure if it is monthly or every once in a while, but definitely worth checking out.
Every couple of months you can find these guys at Passos Manuel (see below) where they have been aerobic style party nights since 2008.
I spotted this poster everywhere for their NYE party when I visited in January and looked them up. Check them out online as it looks like they throw some fun nights with a pretty mixed crowd.
8. Porto Drag Festival
This festival has been running for about 4 years now and is headed up by local bearded drag icon, Natasha Semmynova. Usually held in late January at Café Lusitano (see below), there will also be another one held mid-year in June 2017 apparently. www.facebook.com/portodragfestival
9. NOS Primavera Sound
Sister festival to the one in Barcelona, this year’s lineup includes Aphex Twin, Justice, Metronomy, Angel Olsen and Sleaford Mods. The festival site is also pretty close to the city itself, so you can actually stay somewhere nice and not bother with all the camping baloney.
10. Shuggah Lickurs
If you like serious slices of pop and hip hop, then look out for parties run by this pair. They are on monthly at Maus Habitos (see below) plus a few other venues around the city.
11. Maus Habitos
The entrance to this restaurant/bar/gallery/club isn’t very impressive. There’s a sign leading you into a carpark and then you have to walk up about five floors to the rooftop where you’ll find this hidden wonder. Come to Maus Hábitos (meaning Bad Habits) for a late afternoon lunch or an early drink and you can easily spend the rest of your day here. The food is lovely and the restaurant bar area is quite spacious with great views over the city. There’s also an outdoor terrace that is saturated in sunshine, a gallery space and on Thursday-Sunday there are parties most nights, attracting fun, quirky and fabulous performers and DJs. This is one place you shouldn’t miss in Porto.
12. Passos Manuel
Directly across the road from Maus Habitos is this cinema that also throws great parties on the weekends too.
13. Café Lusitano
Stylish cafe/bar that attracts a very LGBT+ crowd. More upscale than the above venues but it does host the Drag Festival (see above) plus other nights such as their Flashgirl parties.
Heading to Porto? Don’t miss my full city guide here!
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